Thursday, January 28, 2016

Make every inch be a profit center

I took a service call the other day that very quickly turned into a productivity conversation.  The customer had a large oven that was not functioning as it should and they wanted to repair it.  The oven needed a few parts and it would run as it was designed.  That repair bill totaled about $750.  However, the conversation with that customer quickly changed once he explained more about his business.  He bought the oven at a bargain.  He only ran one automatic and one manual and the oven at full capacity was more than he needed and took up most of his shop.  That got the two of us running through some numbers.

Square footage costs
Large ovens are for
high production volume

Any business owner can tell you that square footage cost is a major expense in their monthly budget.  In certain sections of the country the cost per square foot is so prohibitive that each item placed in the space is calculated for its ROI.

ROI should be analyzed for every item on a shop floor.

Let's take a look at the shop that I mentioned earlier.  That customer was in Los Angeles and he was in a lesser expensive industrial park.  His cost per square foot was $11.50. 
  • Automatic 12'x12' $1,656 per month
  • Manual 8' x 8' $736 per month
  • Current oven  $1,035 per month
If he changed to an oven that was appropriate for his production his space usage cost would drop to $621 per month. A payout of $4,968 per year.

Match your volume with
your production but give your shop
a little growth room.

Power consumption

I understand that this customer was not going to move and that ROI on the space was not his concern.  However, I also mentioned the power consumption of a machine that is not producing goods to its full capacity.

  • Current oven  480V, 85A  with the presumption that the power cycles 50% of the time, his cost per hour to run the oven is approximately $5.  For a full year, his cost is approximately $9,800
Now let's say he installs an oven that is production appropriate.  
  • New oven  240V, 85A  with the presumption that the power cycles 50% of the time, his cost per hour to run the oven is approximately $2.5.  For a full year, his cost is approximately $5,000
His annual power savings on the oven is $4,800.

Potential lost production
Numbering systems are
just one of many ways
to increase revenue

So it was agreed that this customer was not moving, so he could not understand the lost ROI on the floor space.  He did concede the power issue and that he could pay for a new oven in 1.5 years.  

We did get back to his floor space ROI when he mentioned that he was missing out on the opportunity of producing athletic jerseys.  I suggested that the floor space that the current oven was using could be converted to a number printing location, then he understood the ROI on that space.

Athletic numbers offer a value per unit of about $2.50.  He was currently not producing any because he did not have the space or the equipment.  With either a transfer machine or a small numbering system, the floor space would then produce goods instead of costing him space.  
  • Transfers cost $1.50 per jersey
  • Net increased potential revenue of $1.00 per jersey.
  • Potential production of 30 per hour equals a potential ROI of $30 per hour.  A yearly potential ROI of $60,000.

When to switch?

Every shop has a "good enough" item.  In this case, the oven was good enough when the customer purchased it.  However, should he fix it?  I do not think so.  There is too much potential income and too much wasted costs with the unit he has.

Every shop should look at how their floor space is allocated.  It is producing revenue or costing the shop profits.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New and renew for 2015

2015 was a great ride.

That is a heading that all businesses hope to post at the end of each year.  We can say that every year, however, 2015 has been unusual and especially exciting.  We expanded product lines, client demographics and industries affected.  We learned new technologies, new customer requirements and new industrial applications.  All of this is refreshing and inspiring us for 2016.

Expanded and enhanced products.

FY2x27-45 curing system
FireFly™ Curing Systems.

These units continue to excite the industry with their innovation and applications into multiple curing situations.  These machines are unique in their design because they are the only curing system using thermal imaging camera to constantly monitor the substrate to maintain perfect surface temperature.  These units offer proprietary software technology for immediate regulation of temperature and time calculations for optimal cure.  Amazing patent pending technology.

LED2931SD exposure unit

LED Exposure systems.

What excites our sales staff is that our engineers did not just accept off-the-shelf LED bulbs and build an exposure system.  They spent time analyzing bulb spectrum, distances and optimal designs so that our LED exposure unit offers the optimal light usage for our industrial requirements.  LED bulbs create perfect exposures with no heat, no bulb fade and years of consistency.  These have changed the time spent in prepress and moved this industry forward.


NP611LL with NPQ1218 
The NumberPrinter has been a patented mainstay of our business for over 25 years.  This is the premium numbering system in the industry.  Brown has enhanced this product with the addition of Sniper LazerLoad™ technology.  The operator now has laser registration lines on the platen for quicker load of all garments.  These laser can be adjusted to accommodate all numbering spacing specifications.  

New customers.

The FireFly has allowed us to connect with companies that produce other products besides screen printed garments. With the features of this software, other curing applications have been presented as challenges in industrial settings.  These have been fun and interesting puzzles to solve and we look forward to what the future will bring.

New products.

The Vega™ was presented at SGIA.  Shown was a prototype UV curing system using LED bulb technology.  This unit is still in the development stage however the customer interest is very high.  Entering the UV curing market has our engineering staff excited to learn more and design new.  We look forward to where this product line will lead us in 2016.

2016, so what's next.

We are please to say that our sales and engineering staff is full of creative people who want to design new products and expand into new industries.  So keep watch for the new and interesting.

What will not change is our commitment to our customers.  Brown Mfg was built on its relationship with community printers.  We value our past customers with the same enthusiasm as we look forward to new connections.   We look forward to serving all of our customer's needs and expectations in 2016 and in the coming years.  

We wish the same success that we have enjoyed for all of our customers and look forward to discussing how Brown can help your business innovate, expand and grow.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

SGIA Product of the Year and Product introduction

SGIA Expo is going on as I write.  It is the largest show in the United States for specialty graphics.  This show is very diverse in its offerings and its reach.  It features printing for circuit boards, shirts, signage and many other challenging substrates.  The attendees that walk the floor are international and can have much of this product diversity within their own production environment.  It is often where new products are introduced and changing technologies are discussed.

Vega™ LEDuv curing system

This is our first venture into UV curing systems.  With the advent of LED technology and our FireFly software we have taken our 30+ years of printing experience into a new realm.  UV printing is an untouched area of decoration for our machinery line.  
However, many of our staff have years of understand of printing and ink systems.  Combining this knowledge of UV inks and our engineers LED light technology Brown Manufacturing Group has developed the Vega line of LEDuv curing systems.  This is a first offering of this product and details are to follow.  However, this is an exciting expansion of the Brown product line and we look forward to meeting new customers within this industry.

SGIA Product of the Year

Also at this expo, SGIA offers Product of the Year categories.  The awards have been presented to an impressive array of products.  The FireFly™ and the Linx™ products were contenders in their respective competitions and we think that their money and time saving technology should have placed them near the top.

FireFly Product of the Year presentation
Linx Product of the Year presentation

These product lines have presented exciting challenges and new adventures to the Brown staff.  Our years of printing experience have aided in our understanding of constant change curing requirements within a production environment.  Our engineer's thorough understanding of curing technology is shown in all aspects of the design of the FireFly.

Our 2015 show season closes on a high note with the SGIA experience.  We look forward to the months ahead where we can expand our understanding of the UV production environment and the special needs that those curing systems require.  Our FireFly technology will continue to advance as we deliver new units and new curing challenges are presented.  We look forward to the show season of 2016 and to showing the customers from those regional markets all of the new possibilities that Brown has to offer.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Employee training to reduce down time

An installers view

Our technicians and our sales people travel the globe installing machinery into screen printing shops that are both large and small.  While we are securing the machinery for proper operation we train the users on the operation and maintenance of their new purchases.  We often suggest some changes to the shop flow and to the tools that the operators have on hand.

As a rule of good customer service, we will stop back into the customer's location some time after the initial installation.  We do this to answer questions that will come up after they have been running for awhile.  These questions are typically about unusual jobs and how to print them.  Sometimes we will need to review maintenance so that the machines run to the optimal level.

What happens next is when this gets interesting.

Brown Manufacturing Group offers unlimited phone support.  This can be to the main office or to a cell phone.  Sales people and technicians take calls 24/7 in an effort to keep our customers on time for job deliveries.  The questions we hear are, very often, not related to the machinery that we installed.  

As an example, a call came in yesterday concerning the cure of a job.  A customer had a very short production run returned with under cured ink issues.  Every shop has been in that situation and it is one that you want to solve immediately.  After confirming that the oven was operating correctly, the conversation turned to understanding curing of plastisol inks.  Many times we are talking to a shop owner and this information stays with the shop but often it is with a production person.  

How much information does or should a shop employee have?

Studies suggest that employees need in-depth training to stay interested and involved in what they do.  Also, they should be encouraged to gather additional information that is beneficial and stay current on  new technology.  So, we have conversations with shop employees about curing or screen processing or any other facet of shop production.  

In a recent shop visit, a customer was having trouble with screen exposure.  This shop employee repeated, often, "I have been doing it like this since I started.  This is how I was trained."  Well, that initial training was great.  What was never taught was that bulbs fade, emulsion is temperamental to humidity and mesh counts make a difference.  So, productivity was down for more than a week while additional information was taught and the machinery was updated.  If this employee had been given technical information as they continued to stay on the job, then much of the interruption would have been avoided.

So what do you do?

Technical information and shop maintenance are a full shop necessity.  If employees and shop owners understand how things process then they will have a stronger link to keeping it moving.  Good places to expand knowledge are trade shows.  

At each of these, these are classes taught on all aspects of production.  Also, part of walking the floor of a show is to talk to experts.  Stop in a booth and ask questions and learn about how the process works.  This should only take a day.  Employees should be assigned tasks of what information they are to gather.  Don't just wander in without a plan.  That is like sending a group of middle school kids to a museum without an assignment.  They wander around, too shy to talk to people, and randomly grab literature while playing on their phones.  When everyone returns to the shop, a quick walk through of what people learned would then spread the information to all.  

Yes, this sounds expensive and maybe wasteful of a day's production.  But in the long term it is beneficial for many reasons.
  • empowerment -- yes a buzz word.  But really, informed employees are usually interested employees
  • Problem prevention -- new information will allow the employees to look at what they do with a deeper understanding and they may be able to fix issues before they impact production
  • Respect -- if your employees think you are willing to invest in their education, then they may invest more into your shop
All of this is a win-win.  

And remember, after all of this effort.  Brown is still available for 24/7 support to keep your shop running smooth and productive.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The right machine for the task and for your shop.

Bigger is better, right? 

ElectraPrint™ Stealth Series
In this SuperSized economic model it does appear that most companies believe this.  Growth and production is supposed to involve bigger and faster machinery.  We are in the machinery business and many people would think that Brown is only concerned with the ElectraPrint automatic and the FireFly big machinery projects.

Well, that is a qualified NO.

Yes, we are really loving our new FireFly™.  Yes, the ElectraPrint is a mainstay in our product line.  Yes, we sell and service big machines.  

However, how did most of these printers get to the production level that needed these higher volume machines?  They did it with manual Brown equipment.  Every day we talk with new printing entrepreneurs and we go over their options.  Many of these businesses are not going for large, high volume.  Most of these conversations concern community printing of short run jobs.  This is a major market all over the world.

So just what kind of equipment can make one of these smaller scale ventures profitable?  The conversation returns to the basics.  How much do you want to produce?  How much space is available?  What is the budget?  If the answers to these questions are considered thoroughly, small community printers can make a nice profit.

The oven is the start.

AirPony Dryer
Yes, most people want to worry about the printer.  However, the printer does not determine the rate of your production, your space requirement or your big cost.  The curing system is the key to all of those concerns.  Large scale or small, the production rate of the oven is the driver to profitable production.

Most community printers are running jobs of 36 - 100 pieces.  Many of these businesses only want to produce 2-3 of these jobs daily.  Often, there are other production areas that have to be considered in the daily goals.  Keeping that goal in mind, small ovens that produce 60 - 150 per hour are the right fit.  They are small, yes, but they cure shirts as well as the larger units.  Time and temperature are the same.  320°F and 60 seconds.  Small chambers only mean fewer pieces per hour.

Then the printer.

MidLine Printer
This is really a space, budget and gadgets issue.  Similar to buying a car, if you want more you pay more and they take up more space.  An inexpensive car will get you down the road.  However, ones with air conditioning and cruise control are nicer to ride in.

So when looking for a t-shirt printing machine keep your budget soundly in mind.  However, don't go so low in price that you end up with a lightweight press.  These may not need all the gadgets, but they need to be solid in their construction because they take a beating every day.

All the other stuff.

Yes, these is other stuff.  Yes, the new LED exposure units are cool.  They are also more expensive.  The older technology has worked well for a lot of years.  Stay in your budget.
Florence Black-lite

Flash cure units and transfer machines are essentials.  However, mid to low priced units certainly get the job done.

Don't forget a sink.  This part may sound like an extravagance, but containing water in a small space is essential.  Inexpensive industrial sinks are worth the investment.  

So how much should you invest in machinery?


Shops prices can range from $5000 up to $500,000.  If the shop is less than $5000, then production is very limited and this is really a hobby.  Which is a good side job money maker as well.  

Many people will shake their heads that $5000 will buy a productive shop.  But it will.  As long as you are planning on short run, quick turn jobs then this is a profitable set-up.

If you are looking at starting a community printing operation, then consider all your options.  Bigger is not necessarily better.  Smaller may suit your plans and Brown has the solution you are looking for.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Machinery maintenance

Almost daily, a customer will ask us for a maintenance schedule for one of their pieces of Brown machinery.  This call is a positive sign of customer preparedness and we are happy to answer any questions.

However, on this question, most callers are dumbfounded as to our answer.  Keep the machine clean.  Which, for most manual shops is the only maintenance necessary.

This appears to be a simplistic approach to maintenance but it is the one basic necessity and it is not as commonly followed as you think.

But let us give you some examples.  All of these photos are from machinery that we have taken in on trade.  Many of these pieces are within 10 year old.

Based on these photos of registration gates of manual and automatic presses, how are the machines supposed to hold register when the gates are full of lint, spray adhesive and rust?  Since the registration and the pivot sections of the print head are the most vital parts, these should be clean and greased.  

The other sections of any textile printer that needs maintenance are the micro registration areas and the screen clamps.  These parts are touched by the operator during a print run and they should be kept clean so that the shirts do not get ink or dirt transferred to them.  Also, if the micro systems are kept clean and greased, then they will be more functional and the set up time for the operator will be less.

Think of the money you will save on operator time and finished product packaging!

Here are photos from ovens.  Oh, my....
Let's start with the fan filter.  All of the electronics need to be cooled using air flow.  If the fans and air ducts are full of lint, what happens to these controls?  They burn out.  That is expensive.

Then comes the heat baffle.  If this is an indication of the whole shop, how does anything run through the oven without getting dirty.  Wiping the lint off flat surfaces doesn't take much time and will save garments.  

The oven frame full of lint is very common for us to see.  The clean dryer belt that is pictured is unusual.  A monthly run of a shop vacuum on any of these machines will keep the lint under control.  Also, if the dryer frame looks like this, what life will the drive motor assembly have?  A short one.  And that is also an expensive package to purchase.

Clean means money saved.

We do get clean trade-ins.  These machines are retired after 15-20 years of production.   The machines were wiped down on a scheduled basis and all of the moving parts were greased.  They are nice to see and they will be great buys for other printers in their second life.  The one pictured below is much newer, but it is a sign of how well this shop maintains their machinery investments. 

Can you blame it on the spray adhesive?

Spray adhesive does coat a machine with sticky residue.  This residue attracts the lint from the shirts and presses can quickly become fuzzy.  A quick wipe down at the end of each week is all that is needed to keep that from happening. 

The lint that is found on and in ovens is not spray adhesive related.  That is just a build up of lint from product run on the belt.  It is the easiest to clean up.  Once a week with a shop vac and it is gone.  Every 6 months it is wise to open the control panel and clean out any lint that may have settled in through the vents.

One industry change that is helping keep shops clean is the reduction of spray adhesive.  Many shops have switched to spreadable platen glue.  This reduces airborne particles that stick to the machinery.  The adhesive is water based, so it wipes off printers quite easy.

So what should you do?

Take a step back and look at your print area.  Does your machinery look like it has cotton candy stuck to it?  Or is there fur?  Then pick up a broom, shop vac, and cleaning rag.  You will have longer lasting equipment, easier set ups and a nicer looking finished product if you do.