Wednesday, January 5, 2022

POD production? It's where the world is.

Our roller coaster world has made traditional printing businesses  take another look on how they generate orders.  When schools and restaurants were closed, many of our community printers had to consider other avenues for revenue generation.  The world of online shopping became essential for all decorators, whether one off orders or bulk.  These orders can be challenging to pull into standard community printing production management.  

The old school paper production tickets are messy and confusing for small orders.  Barcode systems that can function for both small and bulk orders are cleaner and more efficient than sheets of paper floating around a production floor.  Scanners at each workstation can pull up all order details within seconds and connect directly with shipping software.  With Linx Production software, the barcode will also drive the printers, laser engravers and sublimation systems.  

Wait, what?  It can connect my online to my production machine and back to my shipping software?

Yes, Linx Production software can do all that and with additional modules it can connect to QuickBooks® and manage inventory and purchasing and print bulk orders.  That is a lot of features that every shop needs in the world of POD.  

While much of the US is opened back up schools, businesses and events, the online store is now a required element to a business.  Many businesses who used to allow sales people in their doors are now preferring to look online and connect through teleconference platforms.  These options allow higher time flexibility for the buyer and keeps additional people out of their workspace.  With the latest variant wave, this is a required element.

So how does Linx Production software do all that?

Beginning at a web store, information for an order is pulled into Linx and a barcode is assigned. This information includes garment data as well as art and print locations. The PNG artwork is ripped for the DTG as well as scaled for garment size and print location. For other print mediums, the art is converted to match the requirements of the output device.  The operator loads the item, scans the code and the output device has all the information needed for production. Print specifications are preset by the user as well as pretreat and cure requirements.

Orders can be sorted by all major factors. This aids in purchasing, product picking, pretreat scheduling and customer management. At shipping, a binning system allows for gathering of multiple items of an order with notifications when an order is complete. In the QC department, if a product does not pass inspection, the barcode returns to th production schedule for a reprint.


A QuickBook plug in will also connect your orders directly to your billing department. Inventory modules are available for small and large users.  Custom API connections are available to give full flexibility to your production needs.

How do you  get started?

Lins Production Software
Call BrownDigital today for information on pricing and how this system can be used in  your shop.  It is quick to install, simple to learn and will speed up order processing for small or bulk orders.


Friday, August 13, 2021

So many decorating options.


Brown did some recent DTG print testing and I had some thoughts.  This particular test involved a print run of about 72 shirts ranging from youth medium to adult 3xl.  It has a white crest print and a multi-color full back on a dark shirt.  A typical order for a community printer.  And a profitable one if handled correctly for your shop.  

What is correctly?

DTG

This run was done with a digital printer and our Synergy pretreat and FireFly cure systems.  At 72 shirts with a white under-base, this job took almost 2 hours.  The image quality was fine but it did look like a digital print. They are clean but they do not pop.  The estimate on the cost of each garment includes time and materials.

Shirt $2
Ink $0.95
Pretreat $0.30
Shop time cost  $1.66
Labor $0.83

Total cost per shirt $5.74     

The positive to DTG  printing is that once the art is approved there is no additional processing of the art to print.  A quick conversation from the PNG and it is ready.  Also, employee training is minimal.  Everything is determined by the Linx program within the machines and the operator only loads and unloads.  Additionally, the software will resize the art to the size of the garment, the job is easily repeatable and there is no clean up at the end.


Screen Print on an automatic

So, what would happen if it were printed on an ElectraPrint auto press?  Front and back, this job would be finished in less than an hour.  The look would be crisp and it would pop off the shirt.  The size of the print on the youth would be the same size as on the 3XL, which is a negative.  There is set up and clean up.  The art needs to be separated and screens need to be made.  Presuming that this design could be printed with 6 colors, this is the estimated cost per garment.

Shirt $2
Ink $0.06
Films/screens $0.08
Shop time cost $0.83
Labor $0.42

Total cost per shirt $3.31


Screen Print on an manual

So, what would happen if it were printed on an MasterPrinter manual press?  Front and back, this job would be finished in about 2 hours.  The look would be crisp and it would pop off the shirt.  The size of the print on the youth would be the same size as on the 3XL, which is a negative.  There is set up and clean up.  The art needs to be separated and screens need to be made.  Presuming that this design could be printed with 6 colors, this is the estimated cost per garment.

Shirt $2
Ink $0.06
Films/screens $0.08
Shop time cost $1.66
Labor $0.83

Total cost per shirt $4.63 

Is cost the only factor in the production path?

Well, we can all say "no" to that answer.   But there is $2.50 per shirt here in profit.  So COGS cannot be ignored.

COGS is a significant factor.  That calculation has to include machine time, shop time and labor time.  However, judging the flow of your shop, the availability of your staff and their skill sets, and the print preferences of the final customer will sway the final production decision.   If they want "pop" then they will want screen print.  If they prefer a soft feel, then DTG is a good plan.

So the real answer is that there is not a "correct" way to do this except to follow some basic guidelines.

  1. Is the customer happy with the finished product?
  2. Did you deliver on time?
  3. Did you make a profit margin that you would want repeat the job?
  4. Did this job delay other jobs that were more profitable?
If your answers are yes, yes, yes and no, then you have chosen wisely within the parameters of your production facility.  If any other answer comes up, then reconsider for future jobs what needs to shift.  Was the print accepted, was job late, or did you not make enough of a profit margin?  Because in the end, it is a happy customer with a solid bottom line that we are all striving to achieve.


Monday, June 14, 2021

New web site launch

We are excited to announce the launch of new web sites.

brownmfg.net is our main catalog site for Brown equipment.  

This site features the products for screen printing, from screen room to final cure for all production levels.  Additional content will be added as it becomes available and this site is more mobile friendly than our previous site.

On this site you will still find the popular ElectraPrint automatic printers.  These are the only fully electric machines on the market.  There are suggested parts list for many of the machines as well as cut sheets for installation.

From this page you will find links to the associated products such as the Set-N-Go and the QuartzAir flash.  

Set N Go

Within this site you will also find information on all of our t-shirt ovens as well.  This includes the TRX series, the UltraCure x-series, the PonyDryer and the Sierra dryer.  It is a comprehensives site that will provide all the details to help choose the right one for your shop and to help plan for the installation.


brownmfgdigital.com is our main site for BrownDigital products.

dragonair crimson
This site features the products designed for DTG decorators.  Direct to Garment printing has different requirements for preprint and curing than screen print and these products will speed up the workflow for all levels of production.  

On this site you will find the DragonAir Crimson which is a small DTG dryer designed to cure DTG prints at a faster rate and higher quality than a heat press.  

Also on this site, is the Linx Control System integration software.  This app takes your web store orders and integrates them directly with your DTG printers and through to your shipping department.  This is all run on a barcode system that keeps production flowing smooth and creates consistency within your final products.  



We invite you to peruse these sites.  You will find something that will help you shop with its production flow, product quality, or bottom line.



Thursday, May 20, 2021

When to update to new stuff?

Tech changes every day.  Our fast paced world is presenting us with new, and better, ways to accomplish most things on an hourly basis.  Some of this is very intriguing such as electric vehicles or 3D printers.  I do get annoyed, however, being told that I have peeled a carrot wrong my whole life and this new hack or tool will be the only answer.  And though I am sure that my carrot peeling skills are just fine, at what point does the machinery in my shop need to upgrade?  When is the new really better than the old?

What can the new tech do?

If the new gadget is cooler looking than the old one you might be inclined to switch.  Aesthetics in an automobile are important.  We all like new, shiny things.  However there are certain requirements that make a new device worth adding to a shop.

  • does it make a process faster?
  • does it reduce costs?
  • does it make a final product better?
  • does use less floor space for the same results?
  • does it require less power for the same production?
  • is it easier to use?
There could be more to the list, but the idea is that a new gadget needs to improve production either with cost or quality or time.  If it does not do any of these things, just wait.  Another version will.

What does the new tech NOT do?

Yes that is important.  If the new item does go faster or reduce costs but it makes an inferior product it is probably not worth the investment.  If it goes faster and makes a great product but the cost makes the RIO low, then it is not worth the financial outlay.  If it does not do all the steps in production that the current version can do, then this is not a gain.  New is not always better.

When should the old tech go, no matter what?

I say that with some wisdom.  As a manufacturing company who has produced machinery since 1979, we help people every day fix stuff.  We offer free phone service and with the use of digital photos, Zoom and FaceTime we are able to fix most old machines.  Many times that repair is priced quite reasonable and the customer keeps using a machine from the 80's.  

However, sometimes old is old.  Broken is broken.  And being thrifty (read cheap) does NOT help your bottom line.  Maybe you can get the parts for a 1984 machine.  However, how long were you down waiting for them?  How long did you have to search for a supplier for them?  Are they the direct replacement or did you have to modify the machine to make them work?  All of those items cost money.  Down time means late production.  Your search time means you did not spend time making sales or managing your production.  Modifications to old stuff takes both your time and down time and they are never quite what you needed.  Is that cost beneficial?

We do understand small business and the need to keep costs down.  We understand budgets.  We also know that if you have big equipment with big repair bills you have a hard time paying, then your really needed smaller equipment to suit your space and revenue.  Crunch those numbers sometime.  You might be surprised to find out that that big stuff you bought at a great price is costing you more than you make and newer smaller stuff would make you more profitable.  Hard to fathom sometimes but it is true.

How can we help you figure it out?

Most people do not like to discuss financial situations with sales people.  But the truth is, good sales people want to see their customers succeed and make money.  Think about your own style.  You want to have return business and you treat a customer with the goal of seeing them again.  Capital goods sales people are the same.  We would like you to buy well so you do well.  Then call us again for the next cool tech item that you are interested in.  So consider sales people as allies who gain when you gain.  Ask them if it is worth it to keep with what you have or go new.  Yes they will pitch new as hard as they can.  They have kids to feed, just like you.  But good ones will help crank the numbers to see if the justification is there for your shop.

You might be surprised by what you learn.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Trade shows have restarted. Are you coming?

 Our first show of the 2021 season is fast approaching.  We are truly excited.  There are so many positives to the trade show experience that it is hard to list them all.  Most importantly is the direct connection we get with our customers.  We are on the phone all day, we have many emails, and we have taken full advantage of new tech with FaceTime and TeamViewer and Zoom.  But there is a different connection when the interaction is face to face.  Or mask to mask as these will be.  

It is also better for our customers.  It is harder to determine what is the right path when purchasing a capital good if you cannot touch the product.  Consumables are easier, but hard goods are similar to buying a car or a house.  The user needs to be in direct contact with the product to understand all of the benefits and how they will affect their personal production floor.  We find that very fitting with manual screen presses.  These are certainly a "feel" item.  The operator has to like how the press flows with their hands.

So now both the exhibitor and the attendee have new opportunities. Visit us in Irving and in Indianapolis.  We can't wait to see you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Time to reconnect and restart

Are you ready?

Even in Michigan we are beginning to see the world shifting back.  It was with great celebration that our own John Ball Zoo opened to the public and that the local little league signed up for t-ball.  There is more work to do, but now is the time to connect with those customers who limited their ad dollars to survive the past year.  Restaurants, event venues and tourist businesses will be eager to see creative new marketing suggestions to restart in the post-COVID arena.

So what new do you have for them?

The same old-same old will feel comforting.  Yes, we could all use a little pre-vid ease.  However, since EVERYONE will be trying to get attention, what will you bring to the table that is new and interesting?  We have had plenty of time to think about that.
  • Can you offer longer runs at better prices?  An ElectaPrint can help with that.
  • Do you chase the athletic market the is back in full swing?  Screen printed number are less expensive and nicer for the athlete than heat seal.  But you need to be equipped for that.  There are lots of options.  Check out the Slider.
  • Looking for short run customization? DTG is a great source for new work.  The DragonAir Crimson could be just what you need to cure those goods.
  • Do you offer super fast turn around?  The a FastFlash would speed you up.  Is yours hot and ready?

  • Can you reduce your set-up fee because you are making screens quicker?  An LED exposure unit would give you this capability.
BrownMfg

Go for the close.  Give them a reason to return.

People talk big, but it is the repeated on-time delivery of quality goods that keeps them coming back.  It is creative thinking of new ideas that generates new revenue.  It is the commitment to internal growth and change with complete follow through that grows businesses.  Doing the same work each day should create a smooth flow of production and a quality product.  However, if you do this for too long it will also cause stagnation.  The end of the pandemic offers each business an opportunity to add something new that will generate a buzz of excitement.


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Start your engines. The season is about to begin.

 Are you ready?

The season is about to begin.  It has been a long time coming but it is finally here.  Are you ready?

What exactly does that mean?  Are your machines ready for all the action about to happen?  Let's go over what you should be doing now so you are ready for all the orders that are coming your way.

Check under the hood.

Conveyor ovens

Your curing system is the most important machine in the building.  You can print in any number of ways.  But getting a shirt cured has limited resources.  So keep your conveyor ovens at optimal performance levels.  How do you do that?
  • Clean it.  Yes, it is the most important thing.  Get all the fuzz off of it and out of the control panel and fan systems.  The biggest reason for oven failure is overheating due to lint build up and fan functionality.  So get out the shop vac, open the control panel and clean it out.
  • Replace stuff.  We understand that in low times, the cost of replacement parts can seem prohibitive. However, if you are down during the busy times due to lack of maintenance, the cost to the business is higher.  Cooling fans, old drive motors and dirty or torn conveyor belts are quick to change and will reduce down time during high volume months.
  • Have commons part parts on hand.  Some items are low cost and quick change.  Having these items on hand will lower any downtime. Relays, heater connectors, fans and fuses are small and inexpensive.  These are highly recommended to stock on your shelf.
  • Check out the drive system.  Worn sprockets and chains will cause power spikes that will damage a motor control.  This will double your replacement cost.

Automatic printer

Unless you want to manually pull a squeegee on the long run you have, you should spend a little time making sure that your Electraprint is running well.  There is a reason that it asks every time it turns on, "Have your greased me today".  It is important that all the moving parts on the machine have lithium grease applied and lint removed.  This includes squeegee carriages, head side rails, cheese wheels and lift mechanisms.  There are a few other items on the press to check.
  • Squeegees and floodbars need to be sharp and smooth.  No nicks or dull edges.  
  • Have some extra squeegees because color changes just slow you down.  A squeegee for each color group is a great investment.
  • Platens are clean and the rubber coating doesn't have bubbles or tears.  A great print happens on a flat, smooth surface.  Don't skip on the basics.
  • Chains and motors and sprockets do wear.  These are what drive the print heads.  Check now while you have time for a sprocket change.
  • Clean it up.  Seriously, clean shirts come off clean printers.  And it is the cheapest way to keep a press run smoothly.

What should be in on your parts shelf in case of a pit stop?

Each machine has some essential items that cannot be bypassed.  And many of these are inexpensive so having them immediately available is like having a spare set of tires ready when the car rolls into the pit.

Dryers

This is all about moving electricity.  Simple parts will keep an oven rolling until bigger items can arrive.  
  • Fuses or panel breakers
  • Power breakers
  • Relays
  • Terminal blocks for older heat chambers

ElectraPrint Automatics

  • Photo eyes -- there are a couple of types, so have one of each
  • Safety switches
  • Flash controls
  • Head cable set

What tools are needed for the pit stops.

It surprises us often that many of our customers own industrial equipment but do not think to have a basic tool box anywhere in their shop.  This does not need to be an extensive set of tools, but some basics are needed to keep a shop rolling through a pit stop.
  • Open end wrench set
  • Socket set 
  • Screwdriver set
  • Nut driver with 1/4" socket
  • Basic multi meter.  Our phone techs can teach you to use one, but they are really handy when working on anything electrical.

So get ready to race.

Order some inks, get your screens stripped and coated and set out your print stations.  There is business in the air and the race to the finish will be a wild one.  Let's not have any crashes into the wall.  We will all get to the finish line.