Thursday, August 19, 2010

Your auto is on the way! Now what?

How exciting.  You have ordered your first auto.  You have arranged for the fork lift to take it off the truck and place it in your building.  You have scheduled the technician to assemble and calibrate the machine.  You have the electrician on call and prepared for the install.  You think you are ready.

But, you still have the jitters.  Why?  Because you have forgotten something.  You have to be prepared to print.  You have to be prepared to personally spend time with your machine and the tech uninterrupted.  You have to be involved.  HUH?

Be prepared, mechanically and physically.
The assembly and calibration of the machine will need a little manual labor.  That means you and your staff.  The technician will need a bit of help lifting heads into position and bolting them secure.  It would be a good idea for you to stick around and watch and ask questions of what your tech is doing.  Your machine will come out of calibration with use and you should learn to maintain the press after he leaves. Take a look at what tools he uses from his tool box.  If you do not have these, make them part of your next hardware store visit.  If he has a check list, make a copy for your future use.

Keep in mind that you spent a lot of money and you should spend some time as well.  You will need to be prepared to turn off your phone and have your employees available or self-directed while the tech is in your building.  He is only there for a short time and it will cost you more money to get him back, so stay put.  I know for some of you this sound like obvious advice.  Trust me, the staff involvement is essential and often skipped.

Be prepared to print.
Okay, you have stayed with your tech.  You are one-with-the-press in a zen like trance.  You are so excited that your palms sweat.  Maybe the sweat is from the manual labor.  What next?  Printing!

Please remember that you can set-up, print and tear down a 100 piece job in an hour.  You will need multiple jobs to get comfortable with the process and put the machine through its paces.  So....
  • Screens coated for the press.  (many for many jobs)
  • Ink
  • shirts (don't laugh, we have had to go buy them from Wal-mart when a customer wasn't prepared)
  • Artwork already on film or vellum.
We would suggest a minimum of 500 shirts total to print.  Multiple jobs of multiple colors.

What about the huge job that you bought the printer for?
That job is not the technician's responsibility.  No it is not the job he should print.  It should be the last job that you set up before he leaves.  Printing 5000 pieces is your job, not his.

Stay excited.
Be excited and be involved.  This is a great adventure and it was a good buy.  You will make more money and have more free time.  That was the point, wasn't it?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Setting up shop.

As I mentioned last time, I want to go over the best way to prepare for your equipment to arrive.  I went over the tools required and preparing for the truck, but what about inside the building?

Let's start with the screen room.  
To begin with, no matter what you have heard, you do not need a darkroom.  What you do need is light, heat and humidity control.  You also need power and water.

To start with, your machinery manufacturer should be able to give you dimensions for plumbing the drain to your sink.  You will need some flexibility in connecting all this so have a plumber ready.  Not just a guy who owns a wrench, but someone who has done real plumbing and understands that leaks are a problem.  You will also need incoming water in both a garden hose and power washer form.  Cold water is all you need. 

For the screen prep, make sure that you have a work table and your coated screens need a flat, dry, dark place to dry and store.  This could be a professional cabinet from the manufacturer or a rack that you constructed with a fan in it. 

The power requirement for the screen room is pretty simple.  Most items will need a standard 120V outlet.  The only item that may need special wiring is your exposure unit.  Confirm with the manufacturer the amp draw on the unit and whether it has a plug installed.  If no plug, you will need an electrician.  I will get to that person later.

The printing room.
For a manual print shop, you will need space and time.  Have the tools available and a person with some mechanical skills and patience ready to assemble and level the press.  This is where keeping the manual is important.  Presses need to be level to themselves, not to the ground.  So do not use a bubble level and follow the press leveling steps in the manual.  Unless you have followed all the steps, your press will not register.  No matter who you bought the press from.

For an auto shop, you will probably have a technician to help install.  Have all the parts uncrated and ready for the installer.  Then stay out of the way until they are ready for you.  However, when they say that you are needed, be prepared.  I will list the items necessary for this adventure in my next blog.

The dryer will need to have its legs attached, the exhaust fan vented and a hard wire cut-off breaker installed.  This is where I get to vent about electricians.  I am not talking about Uncle Buddy who fixed your lamp when your were in high school.  I am not talking about a guy who has worked on his garage.  I am not talking about a house electrician who has installed a few outlets.  I am talking about a person who installed industrial equipment.  One who has a multi-meter and understands how to use it.  One who has heard of 3 phase power and understands how it works.  Pay the money for the real guy.  You spent this much on equipment, now get it installed correctly.

Make sure you have the power specs from  the manufacturer.  All these dryers need a 4 line system for single phase.  All these dryers will need to be hard wired.  They do not come with a plug.  An industrial electrician will understand that.

Supplies are required.
I will list in my next post what you must have for the first day to get running.  Many shops come with a start up kit but these are just to get started and you will need more.

We want to make sure that our customers start on the right footing.  We want them to be successful.  We understand that starting a new shop can be frustrating but let's make sure that the frustration is not from being  ill-prepared.  Have the people and items that you need ready and available and the manufacturers and their representatives will help you get through.