Monday, July 20, 2020

Who's hot! Reading the field.

After spending a weekend watching lacrosse games, I was impressed by the goalies and the communication on the field.  We all know that the team who communicates the best has a higher chance of winning.  This communication gives direction for both the offense and the defense.  But what really caught my attention is how relevant this process is to our current climate.  There is a phrase that I have only heard on the lacrosse field.  "Who's Hot". 

Who's hot

This is a shout out from a goalie to look for the shooter.  Because that information can change rapidly on a field the team must adjust to the fast changing situation.  Isn't that the same in selling and reacting to customer needs?  A few months ago we would have said that the spring sports and tourism market was next to be hot.  We geared up for teams and beaches, for school camps and 5k runs.  But none of that happened.  

What did happen was an explosion of digital printing on par with Black Friday.  And it did not let up.  Those who answered the call for on-demand production, they are working huge hours to keep up with demand.  They would not have foreseen this would be one of the top volume quarters in the year.  What they need to consider is whether there are tools to manage these orders that will make the process smooth from web order to shipping. 

The other explosion was the requirement for masks.  The mandates that have been issued have made these standard attire and customization is a massive opportunity.  Large orders with corporate logos or small orders for bars and restaurants are flooding in.  Attachments that will hold these items without spray adhesive are necessary.  

Tools to respond to the call.

On the sports field, the defensive players slide and rotate to block any shot but the offense is constantly moving the ball for the best shot at the goalie.  And in this ever changing global situation, decorators must do the same.  We cannot be defenders and hope to ride it out.  We must be on the offense looking for any opportunity to capture our market share.  So we need the best tools available.

On-demand printing tools

Linx is a production management software that connects your online store through your art room and onto your DTG devices.  It moves those products into ShipStation and allows tracking of orders from beginning to end with file conversion and a rules engine to manage print and cure parameters.  

Mask Printing

The mandates for masks has taken this once disposable product and put it into the mainstay of fashion.  Corporate logos, fancy pattern, political causes and many other designs are in hot demand.  However, many of these masks are 2-ply and they cannot be held to the platen with adhesive.  Additionally, who wants to put adhesive on their face.  So a 2-ply hold down for manual or automatic presses is a necessity.
2-ply Mask hold down

Who's Hot

This is not a question of temperature in the room but a question of "are we taking advantage of the opportunities that are presenting themselves".  Do we have our best people with the right tools to get this done.  The winning lacrosse team creates opening for the hottest shooter.  Pick the tool best to help your move forward in the current climate.  Potential sales are there if your team keeps eyes open and connects together to take advantage of what is available on the field.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Linx software is a solution for production management

Orders come in and orders go out.  In many shops that means that there are pieces of paper following that order through all through the production process.  Some shops place those in plastic protective sleeves to keep them from flying about, but most just stack them on top of shirt piles and move them along with the goods.  With today's technology, why would anyone do that?  Because, it has always been done that way and it works.  Most of the time.

But there must be something better.

Ok, sounds catchy.  But what does it do?

Linx is a production management software that pulls orders from your online site, sends them to preset stations and pushes them into shipping.  The only thing that is printed is a barcode sticker that is attached to the garment.  It gives all departments including the artist, purchasing, production and shipping access to the order with the ability to sort all orders by the information that is relevant to that department.

The Linx app keeps all departments connected and can be integrated into most parts of the imprintables industry.  This system can be connected to DTG, laser engravers, plotters, and many other decorating operations.  

With this available, why would you want all that paper?

Monday, February 24, 2020

Set-n-Go. Go where? No, go faster.

Every manufacturer of printing equipment touts a pre-registration system.  This is not one of those "do you want fries with this" kind of items.  It is a serious tool and we think that it is a necessary piece of equipment whether you are printing manually or on an automatic.  Old school printers and many do-it-yourselfers will say that this is unnecessary because they are so fast in set up, but experts disagree.  These systems have gotten so elaborate that you can purchase printers to put the art exactly on a screen so that press registration upon set up is perfect.  These high end systems would not be developed if they did not have major benefits that offset the costs.  They will cut your screen set up time on a multi-color job down to 5 minutes.

Time is money

Speed and accuracy, my friend.  Speed and accuracy.  Hypothetically, if artwork were always placed in the exact same spot.  If screens were loaded into the press in the exact same spot.  If artists registered the art to the final garment each time.  Then job set up would be so perfect that press adjustments would not happen.  Imagine the speed.
  • Little to no micro or macro adjustment of the press
  • no platen adjustment
  • no checking of the artwork location on the garment and adjusting to fit
  • straight prints all the time without hassle
Yes, some of you will say that you never do any of these things.  Seriously, we know you do.  That is why we put all of these adjustments on a press.  However, we know that all of these adjustments will cause set up for every multi-color job to be a minimum of 15 minutes.  

How does it help?

By starting back at the art department, a set of predefined art locations will cause the artwork to land on the correct location on each garment without adjusting the platen or the garment upon load.  

If the Horizon line of your artwork represents the collar of the garment, the the artist has a good starting point of knowing where to place the art.  General rule is that there is a 3" gap between the collar and the top of the art.  Also, if the Horizon line is also the top edge of the platen on the press, then you can say that all garments load so that the collar just falls off the platen.  If the artist and the printer match, then the operator only needs to load the screens a to the preset stops and the platen will not need adjustment.  This is the same for all art locations.  Preset the location of the pocket or the back print and allow the collar to always just fall off the shirt board.  This simple rule of preregistration systems saves time on every job.  No more guessing of platen location.  No testing of shirt load location.  No wondering this run will match the previous run of the same job.

How do you get the screens exposed correctly.  

Let's think through the next steps of the process.  The artwork comes from the art room with horizon lines and registration marks on each film.  The platens are fixed in location.  Now if every screen is burned using a fixture that matches a fixture on press, then set up is a breeze.  And by fixture, we do not mean a t-square.  We are looking to speed things up, not slow them down.

The screens go on a jig, the art matches the jig.  Process the screens and then load them against the jig that is on the press.  Sounds clean and simple, right?  Ok, let's slow this down and list this out.  The artwork is set against a standard registration template so that template should be affixed to the screen box.  In some systems, there are pins that the artwork sits on.  In some, the fixtures are on the exposure glass.  In ours, the template is adhered to the yellow box.  The screen seats agains the guide pins and then the art is taped on while matching the template.

Once the screen has been processed, the screen is set into the press against a guide pin bracket.  This bracket flips down so that it stays on the press but is out of the way of the operator.  Check out this video for a quick "how it's done".

Yes there will be some short term time spent on learning new steps.  However, if the press set up time drops to under 5 minutes, then the value of the system is justified.  The faster we move a job through the shop the higher the profits.