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The Unexpected Ways Your Business Will Change After Your First Automatic Press

So you made the plunge and ordered up an automatic press. You’ve been briefed on what will be needed to ready your work space, electrical specs, air compressor and placement of the equipment. Finally! The excitement is building, thought patterns drift toward increased production, more free personal time or simply cutting down hours spent in the workplace.

After bragging for months that you’re growing, adding new equipment to increase production is the only just the first step.

It’s time to ask yourself: What else has to change?

You Need To Hire More Employees

Typically, with your first automatic, it will take a team of at least three people to get the most efficiency. It can be done with less, but ideally three works best. Automatic machines require press operators, plus additional support.

Here’s the team I’d suggest:

1. Lead Screen Printer
Runs the press at the load position, fine tuning all adjustments.
Needs a good knowledge-base of the most common print processes (Spot Color, Simulated Process, 4 Color Process, and Water Based Printing), not to mention a good deal of knowledge on different inks and their usage. Basically, the lead screen printer is a production manager that will be calling the shots, plus running print jobs.

2. Screen Room Tech
Specializes in getting screens burned and processed to the production area.
Screen tech could also be the off-loader, checking for print inconsistencies (pin holes, screen break down or loading fresh ink).

3. Floater or Helper
A go to person to pre stage or mix ink prior to production or pre stack and count out the raw stock. Help in reclaiming screens. Someone who will fill in the when needed.
A good floater is invaluable. They could also catch and fold the shirts as they come off the conveyor, serve as a second checkpoint for inconsistencies that got missed by the offloader, and keep track of sizes and final counts per job.

When you’re starting out with your first automatic, all three positions should be cross trained. As your business grows, these roles can turn into dedicated positions: Lead Press Operator, Ink Specialist, Screen Tech, Production Manager, and so on…

You Need To Implement New Processes

Before you start your printing for the week, you need to get a good plan of attack. Maybe it was okay in the past that your old way of passing information to workers was a spreadsheet stapled to a folder file with instructions, but a growing company will require more structure in the way information is delivered.

1. Software
Invest in a good in-house management software to streamline the workflow. PRINTAVO, TEECAL and TEECHIMP all offer great solutions and are worth checking out.

2. Scheduling
I know this sounds like a no brainer, but it’s important when you have more than one employee. Schedule out employee hours, and (more importantly) schedule out your upcoming jobs. Most business work from a template that will outline a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly agenda. Projects that were hot may be delayed or visa versa, so it is important to update and share frequently to keep everyone on the same page.

3. Communication
Implement a Monday morning production meeting with all team members. It’s a good way to review the schedule and set up the rest of the week. Discuss what is ready to go and what is on deck. You would be surprised how many shops do not communicate, but it’s important to include ALL team members and share vital information. Projects often start out with one direction and quickly change to another. Prevent mistakes by keeping everyone in the loop.

Here are some ideas to help you communicate better as a team:

  • Hang a giant white board that reflects timelines for upcoming projects, a roadmap for the production team.
  • The digital age is here! hang a large screen TV that is tied in with inhouse management software, updates can now be in real time.
  • Distribute tablets or a computer near print stations, printers can make notes on changes that have occurred. Print orders, color notes, print issues, timestamps for logging print run durations.

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