Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Wow, what a year. Big challenges with huge accomplishments.

 Seriously, murder hornets?

We are printing the annual shirt give away for our staff and we wanted to commemorate all that we have accomplished and we referenced all that has encumbered us.  2020 is a year full of challenges.  When the list was drawn up, it amazed people that there were so many challenges that they did not remember all of them.  And we had to remove some from the list because the list got too long. 

However, the important items on this list are the accomplishments.  These are made more impressive because it is 2020 but our staff has pulled off some simply amazing things.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Used versus Reconditioned. What's the difference?

One thing that 2020 has created is opportunity.  No, we don't hear that very often right now, but 2020 created expansion in some sectors.  The POD (print on demand) market is exploding and that benefits the direct to garment decorator.  Masks are a new product all-together with a need for everyone to own many, so corporate branding is essential on these.  This benefits both the DTG printer as well as the direct screen printer.  

One other market that is growing is the used equipment market.  With the rapid shifting in the global economy, many printers are dumping their current machines due to loss of business or change of direction.  These machines are both manual and automatic printers and curing systems for large and small. Much of the local business is still available and new small printers are looking at that opportunity with the idea low overhead by working without store fronts or from home.

Do you buy Used?

Used machines are like used cars.  They are being sold for a reason.  And even when the current owner says, "it ran great yesterday" there are issues.  Many times these issues are easily fixed if the cost of the machine is within budget.  When buying, each machine type has different functionality to pay attention to.

Manual Printers

When looking at manual printers, most things are fixable at reasonable cost.  Just make sure the cost of the press is minimal.
  • Are the platens in good condition?
  • How clean is it?
  • Do the print heads come down and seat tight within the registration gate?  And if not, is the gate adjustable?
  • Do the micros work?
  • Are the head lifts strong, springs or gas shocks?  And if not, are they still available?

Automatic Printers

When looking at auto printers, replacement parts are costlier.  Also, if you have never set one up and want a tech, make sure one is available and that you are aware of that cost.  Covid-19 has limited travel and increased these prices.
  • Are the platens in good condition?
  • How clean is it?
  • Do the print heads come down and seat tight within the registration gate?  And if not, is the gate adjustable?
  • Do the micros work?
  • Are the motors or air cylinders in good condition?  This can be a very expensive fix.
  • Are there squeegee and floodbar sets?
  • Does the flash work and what power is required?
  • If this is an air driven machine, do you have the power to run the compressor?

Curing Systems

Dryers are the mainstay of production.  Used ones are available everywhere.  And these are tricky to determine if they are fully functioning.
  • How clean is it?
  • Do all the heaters turn on?
  • Does the belt run and how old is the drive assembly?
  • What is the condition of the belt?
  • Does the air system function?
  • Does the oven have digital controls?  If so, these are more expensive to repair.
  • Is this manufacturer still in business?  If not, replacement heaters will be difficult to find.

What does Reconditioned mean and is it worth the cost difference?

Reconditioned machinery from Brown has been inspected from top to bottom.  We will admit that we do not clean used machines as we do not want to charge for labor that the end customer can do themselves.  However, all machines are inspected and repaired for all specifications.  Parts that are marginal are replaced.  Wiring in all ovens is inspected and replaced, if necessary, through the heater rack and into the controls.  Heaters and motors are replaced if they are not functioning.  Control panels are rewired and updated to current technology.  

What is all of this worth?  That is up to the buyer.  Our machines are more money than used ones.  However, we know they will work when you get them and Brown provides a 30 day warranty on the complete machine as well as a 1 year on any item we replaced.  That is a reassurance that pays off in production time and your potential profits.

If you are looking at a used machine, contact us to see if that machine is priced where it should be.  Ask us for the potential repair parts costs.  And then see if we have a comparable item that is reconditioned.  You can determine what value that is to you  But we believe that downtime costs more than any up-charge of refurbished.

Monday, September 28, 2020

The new marketplace economy, does it apply to all sectors?

 In our whirlwind of 2020, everyone is adapting.  On demand commerce is bigger than ever.  One-off garment demand has not slowed.  And now Amazon is in the mix with their latest addition.  

Amazon to Buy $400M in Kornit Digital Printing Equipment, Open New Merch by Amazon Facility

Our BrownDigital line of machinery is a solution for a production issue within DTG printing and Brown has benefited from the on-demand increase.  However, our smaller community printers have been highly impacted.  Their business is face-to-face and relies on local events, schools and tourism.  Thanks for the gradual reopening in some states we are seeing those customers printing again.   They have gotten a small boost from the mask mandates and this is a new product line for many of them.  Brown's new mask platen is a nice solution to making this a profitable product.

One of the largest issues that has affected industrial goods is how to show people what is available.  Trade shows have become virtual.  Online video presentations do a nice job.  But, like buying any large item, many people would prefer to personally see an item run.  As an example, in a recent car purchase there were 2 vehicles.  They were the same cars, only a sedan versus a hatchback.  They were similar mileage and the same age and the same price.  The hatchback would have been preferred and if we could only have purchased sight unseen it is what we would have chosen.  However, we were able to drive both and the sedan was a better choice.  So when selling large ticket items, most people would prefer to see what they are buying.

Brown and BrownDigital have spent time establishing customer connections so that there is confidence that what we manufacture is well designed and will be well supported.  However, we are looking forward to in-person sales events.  Contracts for these events are signed and we know that the hosts are spending time creating a safe environment for visitors.  But will they come?

The pondering of this whole conversation is how to move either back to in-person sales events or how to present large ticket items in a remote world.  As time passes and more time becomes available, Brown will be presenting more video information for both new items and repair tips.  Let us know what you would like to see.



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.