Disaster readiness

The thumbnail version:

  • Are you disaster-ready?
  • Disasters can strike anywhere at any time
  • There are measures you should take now

The full version:

Fires, hail storms, floods, hurricanes, and even tornadoes occur regularly in different parts of Canada. And every time one of these disasters happen, there are losses, both personal and business.

This is one reason why we insure our possessions—to minimize the losses should we become a victim of a disaster. But the claim process can be exhausting and contentious so it pays to be prepared. Trust me, I speak from experience.

To prepare for the possibility of your shop being the victim of a disaster, here’s a list of measures that you would be wise to take seriously:

  • Your business insurance should be current and paid up to date.
  • You should assess your shop for fire safety and fire prevention (more than one textile screen printing shop in Canada has gone up in flames)
  • You should have a fire and water-proof safe or similar container to secure important documents, back-up USB sticks, etc.
  • You should have a remote daily back-up service for your shop’s computers.
  • You should have a photographic record of the the equipment, materials, furniture etc. updated regularly and kept off premises such as in a bank safety deposit box.
  • You should have copies (certified or notarized, if necessary) of important documents such as leases, agreements, and other legal documents stored safely off site.
  • You should have records of your various passwords stored safely off site or lodged with a remote service.

Make a point of attending to this now. Disasters arrive without warning.

Bio-degradable polyester?

The thumbnail version:

  • Carrington Textiles of the UK wins an award for its biodegradable polyester fibres
  • The impact of biodegradable polyester on textile screen printing is still unknown

The full version:

Polyester, that substrate that can give both printers and environmentalists headaches. Printers, because it can “bleed” dye into a print and change its colour and environmentalists because microscopic polyester fibers are released in the wash and can ultimately end up in rivers and oceans. And the garments can end up in landfills, basically forever.

Well, Carrington Textiles, has won an award for being the first on the workwear market to include polyester fibres that biodegrade. This may provide some relief for the environmentalists’ but whether it does anything for printers is still unknown.

Using CiCLO textile technology (CiCLO™ textile technology allows polyester and other synthetic materials to biodegrade like natural materials do in wastewater treatment plant sludge, sea water and landfill conditions) Carrington manufactures two fabrics, Hawksbill and Orca. Hawksbill is composed of 65 percent CiCLO polyester and 35% organic cotton. Orca is composed of 25% recycled CiCLO polyester, 29% virgin CiCLO polyester, and 35% Better Cotton (sustainable cotton).

So essentially these fabrics are not 100 percent polyester but are closer to 50/50 garments. There has been no mention yet of whether biodegradable polyester will have any impact on the usual “bleeding” problem.

Return calls

The thumbnail version:

  • A real, live person to answer the phone is the best option
  • Voice mail is the next best thing after a live person
  • Unanswered calls should be returned promptly
  • Potential customers are impatient enough to go elsewhere

The full version:

This is not an new topic but it’s one of those basic things that so many smaller businesses still seem to have trouble with. And it is a big deal because it can be costly when your potential customer becomes someone else’s actual customer.

Having a real, live person pick up the phone as soon as it rings and politely and helpfully deal with the caller is obviously a good business practice. If it’s not possible to do internally, then an answering service can do it for you. Failing those two options, voice mail is the next best thing—not a good thing, but better than nothing, such as not answering at all would be.

However, voice mails have to be handled properly. And properly means getting back to the caller as soon as possible. In today’s environment people are impatient so they’re not going to wait too long (if they wait at all) before calling your competitor. And if their call to your competitor is answered right away by a live, polite, helpful person, you’ve likely lost a potential customer. Frankly, it’s what you’d deserve for a bad business practice.

And if you don’t think this is a big deal, consider what a business owner told me recently when I asked him what his competitive advantage was . . .  “We return phone calls.”

Thinking of adding DTG to your screen printing shop?

The thumbnail version:

  • Costing a DTG print involves many elements

The full version:

You may be thinking of adding a DTG printer for sampling and small orders that can’t justify the set-up time and cost of screen printing. if so, an article in the June edition of Images Magazine by Charlotte Darling should be a bit of an eye-opener for those textile screen printers who are inclined to set their prices according to the what-the-other-guy-charges-less-a-bit formula.

They shouldn’t of course be setting prices this way for screen printing and they should definitely not be doing it this way either if they acquire a DTG printer.

If you are thinking of acquiring a DTG printer you should read her article before you do so to be reminded that all of these items have to be taken into account in costing and pricing DTG prints:

  • The ink for the print
  • The pre-treatment
  • All labour costs from printing to delivery
  • The cost of cleaning solutions and accessories
  • The cost of ink in head cleans
  • The cost of ink when the DTG is standing idle
  • The cost of power when working and standing idle

All of these items make sense and you’d overlook them at your peril.

And if you’re considering a DTG printer, call Stanley’s and ask about Roland’s BT-12.

The mental health of business owners is an ongoing issue

The thumbnail version:

  • Business owners’ mental health has widespread concern
  • Prominent organizations like Shopify and BDC have recently addressed it

The full version:

Last month I addressed this topic after Shopify published an article encouraging business owners to take care of their mental health, particularly as it has become a focus issue as a result of COVID. Now BDC has cast more light on the topic that is worth repeating.

In the latest survey, BDC found that while most Canadian small business owners (66 percent) felt that they had things under control, certain business-owner groups appeared to be more vulnerable to mental health issues, for instance, members of the LGBTQ community, women, and the under-35s.

When asked about what stresses them most, the top answer was “generating enough revenue.” But in addition to that, two growing concerns are the disrupted supply chain and getting customers back to physical locations.

The latest survey also reveals that people are coping by taking time out for walks and some are planning vacations now that travel restrictions are lifting. Though the latter might be a bit optimistic—I met someone who flew from Hawaii to Halifax a week ago and it took him thirty-seven hours due to cancelled and delayed flights. If that doesn’t make your stress levels rise, nothing will.

But back to your own mental health . . . Manage it with care and seek professional help if necessary as more and more business owners are apparently doing.

Let’s say it again . . . all is not gold that glitters!

The thumbnail version:

  • Images Magazine’s June edition included an article promoting glitter prints
  • Glitter is harmful to the environment

The full version:

I was disappointed to see that Images Magazine published an article in their June edition promoting glitter prints. I think this was inappropriate given how the fashion industry has been singled out lately for environmental insensitivities and how glitter has been shown to be damaging to the environment.

As I have written twice in the past year, recent research has shown how glitter is adding to the microplastic problem in the oceans as far away as the Arctic. At 1 percent it’s not a significant part of the overall microplastic problem but we have to start somewhere and glitter is one of the easiest to start with—just stop using it. There are plenty of other ideas and materials for creating special effects prints.

Here’s an interesting and alarming number regarding how plastic has found its way into our food . . . We humans now ingest an average of about five grams of plastic a week—the equivalent of a credit card. Every week.

So why contribute to the problem with glitter when it can so easily be remedied?

Call Stanley’s for the materials you can use for special-effects prints without resorting to glitter.

Dumping unprofitable products

The thumbnail version:

  • Holding onto unprofitable products can hurt your business
  • Analyzing the financial impact of individual products is a good business practice

The full version:

Some products could be costing you money and you may not even be aware of it. Products are like so many other aspects of a business—unless you make the effort to specifically examine them from time to time, they can meander on while hiding the fact that they are costly or unprofitable.

So when it comes to specific products or lines, they need to be examined and if determined to be unprofitable, you have to ask a few questions. For example:

  • Can you raise prices?
  • Do you have to keep this underperforming product as a strategic imperative?
  • Can you find a better, less-costly way to to produce the product?
  • Can you, and do you have to eliminate the product entirely?

When last have you looked at your individual product offering s in this way?

Summer humidity and your screens

The thumbnail version:

  • It’s time again to consider the impact  of summer humidity of your screens
  • Humid  weather requires special precautions before shooting screens.

The full version:

It’s time again to be aware of the impact of hot, humid weather on your screen room and to deal with it. You need to remember to take extra measures to dry your coated screens and then keep them dry. This is particularly applicable if you are in one of the regions of Canada where the humidity rises sharply in summer.

A must-have is a hygrometer which will allow you to monitor the humidity in the coated screen storage area. It should not be allowed to rise above 40% relative humidity. The reason is that dry emulsion-coated screens are susceptible to re-hydration. And this is to be avoided because if you shoot damp or re-hydrated screens, you will end up with the same effect as underexposed screens. Screens are only resistant to humidity after exposure.

You cannot underestimate the potential hassles if you do not dry screens properly after coating or if you allow them to re-hydrate before shooting. Pinholes, stencil breakdown, reclaiming difficulties, and ghosting after reclaiming, are all possible. And these are not the kind of additional problems you need in the busy summer season.

The solutions to this annual headache include dehumidifiers, exhaust vents, and air conditioning. In most cases though, a dehumidifier should do the job. And to be sure that a screen is suitably dry before exposure, a moisture meter can be very useful.

Recycling what you supply?

The thumbnail version:

  • The issue of sustainability in the fashion industry is here to stay
  • Some creative garment decorators are turning it into a business advantage

The full version:

The fashion industry (which includes textile screen printing, of course) is under relentless pressure to conduct business more sustainably. By now, all the adverse publicity over the past few years about how the industry is a major polluter, has resulted in much greater awareness among the buying public.

Consequently, enterprising businesses have been coming up with ways to differentiate themselves by demonstrating measures to address the sustainability concerns. Undoubtedly, a hoped-for benefit is a favourable reaction from the buying public that will lead to business growth. In short, adopting a more sustainable business model makes business sense.

An example of this is a U.K. garment decorator, The Funky Peach, recently profiled by Images Magazine. The Funky Peach has apparently partnered with a recycling business in order that they may offer their customers a recycling program for any workwear they have supplied. The garments are recycled into insulating material which is a much better solution than the landfill alternative.

So, if it can be done in the U.K., why not here? And if another shop can do this, why can’t yours?

Reading yet?

The thumbnail version:

  • This is an important topic worth a revisit.
  • You need to remember that books are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.

The full version:

I saw an article in one of the online newsfeeds today about the fact that children are tending to read less nowadays. It reminded me that todays’ adults have the same problem. And this in turn reminded me that I haven’t yet given you my annual reminder to read more, particularly stuff that will be helpful in growing your business and managing it better.

Business owners (and this of course includes all textile shop owners) can’t exist in an information bubble. If you’re not in touch with what’s being written about your industry specifically, and business management generally, your business will lag behind. It’s a fast-moving world.

And, as I’ve written before, if you don’t like reading entire books or think you don’t have time to read entire books, there’s a solution for you. Soundview has a service whereby they reduce business books to 10-minute summaries. Check them out here. 

Let me remind you what Charles W. Eliot said: “Books are the quietest and most consistent of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

And here is more evidence for the reading case from two names you’ll recognize . . .  Mark Zuckerberg, “Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today.” And Bill Gates, “Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”

Making your dryers more energy efficient

The thumbnail version:

  • Energy costs keep rising.
  • Dryers chew energy.
  • There are ways to reduce a dryer’s energy consumption.

The full version:

The new generation of dryers are being made to be much more energy efficient which is of course the right way to go in view of rising energy costs and a growing emphasis on sustainability. But what if you have an older less energy-efficient dryer and with no plan (or budget) to buy a new one anytime soon?

Well, an article in the May edition of Images Magazine has a few suggestions for running your older less-efficient dryer more efficiently. One suggestion is to ditch the dryer completely and use air-dry inks with a catalyst that allows them to air-cure after 48 hours. Since this is quite a drastic change and probably completely impractical for most Canadian textile printers, let’s move onto two other suggestions.

The first concerns using lower-curing plastisol ink. For instance, ink that cures at 130 to 135 degrees Celsius as opposed to the more common range of 160 to 165 degrees.

The second suggestion is about not running the dryer all day but to instead flash your prints, accumulate them, and then run them all through the dryer at once close to the end of the day. This is even more appealing if you’re in a jurisdiction with lower rates later in the day or in the evening.

The above suggestions could help you keep your energy bills in check until you have to buy a new dryer. That then becomes a whole new ball game in which you’re going to inquire in depth about energy-saving features built into each of the models you’re considering.

Shop in Toronto triples sales producing PPE during pandemic

The thumbnail version:

  • A  business lesson from the pandemic.
  • A bit of creativity and effort can go a long way.

The full version:

When the pandemic hit two years ago, I heard of an owner of  a textile screen shop in Alberta who said that when he had cleared the order board of pre-pandemic orders, he may as well shut up shop. A the time I suggested that that struck me as a defeatist attitude. At the very least, textile screen shops were in a good position to produce Personal Protection Equipment such as masks for which there was a huge demand.

Recently I heard of a shop in Ontario that did switch to producing PPE and, as a consequence, tripled its business. Among the many things we learned during the pandemic, there’s a business lesson—a little creativity and ingenuity can give credence to that old saying about making lemonade when handed a lemon.

If you missed the boat this time, keep this lesson in mind for next time. And whether it’s another virus, a climate change related episode, or something else we haven’t anticipated, there will be a next time.

Mental health

The thumbnail version:

  • Shop owners and employees face mental health issues just like anyone else.
  • Owners in particular are subject to stress affecting mental health.

The full version:

May 2nd to May 8th was Mental Health Week in Canada hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association (May was mental health month in the U.S.).

Shopify published an article highlighting the issue of mental health and entrepreneurs: “Entrepreneurs face mental health challenges just like everyone else. And on top of that, there are stressors that uniquely arise when the buck stops with you—like making tough decisions, wearing all of the hats, and struggling to know when it’s OK to simply take a break.”

I devoted a chapter in Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business to the topic because over the years I saw the devastating impact of mental health problems first hand in our industry—three of them ended in suicides.

The purpose in raising this again is to urge you to take care of your mental health, starting with not hesitating to take a break (an hour, a day, a week, or a month) when you instinctively sense that you need one. And if a break doesn’t do it, seek professional help.

The FESPA focus on sustainability

The thumbnail version:

  • The focus on sustainability continues to intensify.
  • 42 sessions in FESPA’s Sustainability Spotlight program speaks volumes.

The full version:

FESPA’s Global Print Expo 2022 in Germany from May 31st to June 3rd, is featuring Sustainability Spotlight. It’s a focus on sustainability and consists of 42 individual sessions to help all elements of the print community operate in a more environmentally responsible way.

I mention this because for some time now the broader print industry (in our case the fashion industry too) has been urged to take sustainability and environmental issues seriously. The fact that FESPA has placed such a big emphasis on sustainability underscores the importance of the tropic and how it is being taken seriously at the highest levels.

There’s no going back or even sitting still anymore; every individual in every textile screen shop needs to think and act sustainably.

The prepress bottleneck

The thumbnail version:

  • Tony Palmer writing for Images Magazine pinpoints a typical bottleneck.

The full version:

Tony Palmer writes a regular column on technical matters for Images Magazine. In the May edition he responds to a question from a printer about where production bottlenecks most commonly occur in a textile screen shop.

As the title to this post suggests, Palmer points to prepress as the most common bottleneck he sees while visiting shops in the course of his consultancy practice. He mentions approval of the art, outputting the films, screen preparation, and mixing of the colours in particular where things tend to not be planned well. The result is that the start of a scheduled job, if delayed, is most likely to be because of holdups in those prepress processes.

Having mentioned the various aspects of prepress activity, he tags screen preparation as the most likely bottleneck, that is, stencil preparation. Alarmingly, he points out that while automation of this activity can solve the problem, the cost can exceed the cost of automating the application of prints on garments. For most Canadian shops that would not be an option.

So, it’s back to better planning and perhaps some relatively inexpensive planning software.

The emerging digital divide

The thumbnail version:

  • A BDC paper includes startling findings on cyberattacks against small and medium-sized Canadian businesses.

The full version:

This is about another BDC paper that deserves to be read by every Canadian business owner. The title to this one is, Seize the Technological Advantage. There will be more posts based on the paper but the purpose of this post is to focus on three statistics that should ring alarm bells followed immediately by preventative action:

  1. 18% of small and medium-sized businesses experienced at least one cyberattack in 2021.
  2. The average damage of these attacks? $49,470.
  3. Only 55% of businesses train their employees on the topic of cyberattacks.

If you’ve never known of a business owner who has been the subject of a cyberattack, you do now. My business’s e-commerce site was hacked fifteen years ago—we were down for two months while the wrecked files were restored at a cost of $8,000.00. Cyberattacks are real. Protect your business.

Your website – the importance of SEO

The thumbnail version:

  • SEO is designed to boost your website visits.

The full version:

Search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo analyze every page of your website by means of algorithms so that they can potentially list your site as having answers to queries they receive. In other words, if someone enters “high density screen printing” on a search engine, and it is one of the things that you promote on your website, you’d want your website to come up.

The way your site is going to come up in the example above, is if your site is search engine optimized to attract the attention of the search engine algorithms. And the way to do this is to either pay an expert to set it up and maintain it for you (it’s an ongoing exercise) or to subscribe to a service such as Yoast (they’re relatively inexpensive) and use their “templates” (usually in the form of a plug in) and set up and manage your own SEO.

The online world is incredibly competitive and crowded, so any solution to the challenge of elbowing your way to the front, should be considered. SEO is one such solution.

You have homework to do.

Seven steps to creating a website that works for your shop

The thumbnail version:

  • BDC puts out good business-boosting material.
  • This seven-step process is an example.

The full version:

The Business Development Bank of Canada puts out some very good business-boosting material for small businesses in particular. A recent example of such an article lists seven steps for creating a website. Here it is, edited lightly and in summary . . .

  1. The first step is to ask yourself three questions. Who are you targeting with the site? What information will your targets want to see? How will your targets prefer to navigate your site? To answer these questions you need to describe your target customer.
  2. Know what the site is for. Are you going to sell on the site, or is it for gathering contacts, or is it just an information site?
  3. Choose a platform. For instance, a Shopify site or a WordPress site? Usually it’s best to engage an experienced developer at this stage if you’re serious about developing a serious site.
  4. Establish a budget. A well-thought out cost-benefit analysis is a good idea at this stage.
  5. Request proposals from a few developers; quotes can vary greatly. Get references; competence can vary greatly.
  6. Develop the appropriate content for the site. High-resolution images, well-written text, and well-produced videos, could all constitute appropriate content.
  7. Once launched, maintain the site. Keep it fresh. Promote your site (that famous line from Field of Dreams, “Build it and they will come”, is not true of websites).

And finally, do more work and research on the above seven steps; this has just been an overview.

A free webinar: wide-format, signage, textiles, and apparel.

The thumbnail version:

  • A webinar by Ultraflex on new trends and new products.
  • Suitable for both textile and sign shops.

The full version:

Ultraflex is offering this seminar on new technologies and trends of interest to both the textile and sign industries. Webinars such as this one are well worth registering for. Not only do they cost nothing but time, but if the content doesn’t live up to the billing you can just bail out.

Technological developments come quickly nowadays and these webinars are a great way to stay on the cutting edge. So register for this one by clicking here. It’s at 1.00 pm ET on 17th May. And do so because your competitors will probably be attending too.

Reinventing textile screen printing shops

The thumbnail version:

  • Are textile screen printing shops going to have to reinvent themselves?

The full version:

About a year ago I raised this question in response to a discussion I had with an oil industry expert who said that oil companies were going to have to reinvent themselves as energy companies. Climate change, regulations, and public opinion were the main drivers behind his argument.

I thought about textile screen printing shops in that context and realized that they too were beginning to experience similar circumstances. Sustainability is an obvious pressure point but what about encroachment from other businesses outside the textile industry driven by changes in technology?

Direct-to-garment digital printing is gradually gaining ground and that technology is being acquired by businesses familiar with it.  And they are using it to access the textile market. For instance, Roland DGA, traditionally a supplier of equipment to the sign industry, has a direct-to-garment textile printer. So it wouldn’t be surprising to see their sign shop customers follow them into the textile market. In fact, they are being encouraged to do so as a diversification strategy.

Kornit, an already big but still rapidly-growing manufacturer of direct-to-garment technology now has 3D textile printing equipment.  In McKinsey’s state of the fashion industry report of 2021they wrote: “In this highly tempestuous and increasingly competitive market environment, players across the board will need to reflect carefully (but swiftly) on their next moves.” Those players obviously include textile screen printers.

Do you have your finger on the pulse of the industry and how much thought have you given to how to adapt as the pulse changes?

Ecologically sustainable garments from seaweed

The thumbnail version:

  • Another sustainability option
  • But it comes at a cost

The full version:

Last year I posted an article about a small start-up in England that was making tees and sweats from mostly seaweed. I recently visited their website (https://inlandsea.co.uk) to see how they were progressing. It seems that things are going well and the range has grown. For anyone concerned about the poor sustainability record of our industry, any new idea to improve things is a good idea.

However, there is a downside—price. GBP25.00 for a plain white, no-print Tee is a bit much for a potential customer who can pick up a printed Tee at Walmart for under CAD10.  Okay, so there’s an obvious quality difference, but it’s still only a Tee.

So, while we always need to encourage any advancement in sustainability in our industry, it would make things a whole lot easier if sustainability didn’t come at such a high price. This doesn’t mean that we give up the quest for a more sustainable industry, but let’s recognize that price is a very real stumbling block and that we need to work on making it easier for customers to buy into sustainable Tees.

What is your shop doing about it?

Special effects re-visited

The thumbnail version:

  • Special effects can give you an edge over the competition
  • Special effects speak to the technical ability of your shop

The full version:

I was reading an analysis of a special effects print in Images Magazine when I wondered why i don’t see more of it in Canada.

It’s true that special effects inks have been in short supply locally as a result of the pandemic, but the supply chain is recovering and it seems like a good time to again consider special effects prints. First of all, there is a shortage of special effects prints in the retail market and, secondly, you can once again access the materials to fill that vacuum.

The print I referred to combined high density, glow-in-the-dark, and discharge to create a great result. There are many combination possibilities given the range of available special effects inks.

Think about it.

After-sale communication

The thumbnail version:

  • Communication is an obvious but sadly neglected sales weapon

The full version:

In the previous post I wrote about the importance of communication with your customers if you expect them to visit your website. Now I’m going add that routine day-to-day communication is also vitally important to holding your customer base together with the ultimate objective of ensuring repeat business.

And here’s an idea that I know works very well . . . Thank every customer with a follow-up email after every sale. It’s easy, it’s inexpensive, and it’s appreciated. Remember that people like to do business with people they like, and people like people who apparently care about them and the business that they bring.

If you build it they will come. Or will they?

The thumbnail version:

  • This is about your website and traffic

The full version:

There is that famous line from the 1989 baseball movie, Field of Dreams: “If you build it they will come.” It’s a great line and may even be true for some things, but unless and until you’re an Amazon.com, it’s not true of websites. Not even if your SEO is properly set up and maintained.

Building your website is only half the job, the other half is continuously promoting it, even to long-standing users. People are busy and people forget. If you don’t remind them to visit your site, they mostly don’t. Oh, some will if they really need something and they know that you have it, but you need to interact with your customers more frequently than occasionally if you are to maintain that all-important bond with them.

And potential customers who don’t know about you and don’t know about your website have to be told about it and encouraged to visit. Building it, parking it on the web, and waiting for visits is not an economically-viable strategy.

How do I know this? Well, because I know that it’s extremely likely that the only reason you’re reading this post is because you were prompted to visit by the monthly reminder email.

Discharge printing revisited

The thumbnail version:

  • Discharge printing offers a great print with a beautifully soft hand
  • There are technical issues to take into account

The full version:

A common misconception about discharge printing is that it is a bleaching process. But bleach damages fibers and discharge inks do not. According to Paul Woodward of Magna (now an Avient company) quoted in Images Magazine, discharge inks “work by removing the dyed areas of reactive dyed garments to create a different colour in its place.”

Before proceeding with a discharge printing job the garments have to be tested because not all fabrics can be discharge printed. According to Woodward, “only cellulosic fibers like cotton can be printed with discharge inks and they need to be dyed with reactive dyestuffs.” He does however point out that printing poly blends can create interesting effects when the poly doesn’t discharge.

The full article is well worth a read and may prompt you to revisit discharge printing. It give you an edge on the competition. Talk to the crew at Stanley’s for more information on discharge printing.

 

Taping your screens . . . is there an alternative?

The thumbnail version:

  • Is there an alternative to the old practice of taping screens?
  • Tony Palmer writing for Images Magazine addresses the question

The full version:

An Images Magazine reader posed this question: “I hate seeing the guys taping up screens, it’s been a bugbear for me for years. Surely there must be a better solution?”

Taping has been a standard practice for a very long time but two things seem to have prompted this to-tape-or-not-to-tape discussion. The first is that tape is becoming expensive and the second is an environmental concern, namely sending all the used tape to the landfill.

Palmer (who admits to still using tape himself, albeit sparingly) offers an alternative that involves extending the glue that holds the mesh to the frame to serve as an ink barrier in the way tape does. It apparently requires a slightly wider scoop coater and an adjustment to the coating technique. Regardless, this wouldn’t apply to retensionable frames.

After considerable discussion of the pros and cons of taping and the process of coating screens, it seems that the answer to the question is, not really.

COVID and your mental health

The thumbnail version:

  • This post is a repeat from the Stanley’s Digital blog
  • It is being reproduced here because it is an important topic

The full version:

Since there’s no guarantee that textile printers will check out the digital blog (even though there’s a lot of crossover nowadays), this post is being repeated here because it is a very important topic . . .

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote about the impact of COVID on mental health as the pandemic dragged on. Well, it’s now a year later and in spite of the optimistic view of governments, it is still dragging on (there is now a concern about a possible “spring spike” in Canada).

So, it’s worth repeating  the message of a year ago . . .

“The impact of stress can creep up on one, particularly over a period of continual stress as has been endured by many business owners and managers over the past year. In my chapter, Healthcare Professional, in Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business, I wrote, “Even among small business owners who handle stress quite well, there are those—particularly men—who are foolishly macho about their health and seek help from a healthcare professional long after they should have, if they seek it all. Don’t be one of those people.””

It’s as valid today as when I wrote it four years ago. Don’t be one of those people.

Toronto National Imprint Canada Show update

The thumbnail version:

  • Apparent enthusiasm for the show in April
  • Registrations said to be “skyrocketing”
  • Doctors call for caution

The full version:

An update issued by Imprint Canada paints an optimistic picture of the the upcoming show on 22nd and 23rd April at the Toronto Congress Centre. Apparently more than 4,400 people have registered to attend and that number is expected to rise. The update also lists almost 110 exhibitors.

Shows make an essential contribution to the industry. Attendance to meet, greet, and keep up to date on the latest developments in the industry should be on every serious shop owner’s calendar. And the COVID disruption of the past two years has understandably caused a pent-up desire for a “normal” show.

However, while Imprint Canada’s update points to a “dramatically improved health situation in Ontario”, today health officials quoted in the press and interviewed on TV were reminding us that the pandemic is far from over.  Today the latest numbers from Ontario are up in positive tests, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions. Some of the doctors interviewed are urging the use of masks in indoor settings regardless of the lifting of the mask mandates. Some are prediciting a spring spike in Ontario.

If you plan to exhibit or attend the show, please keep this mind and be cautious.

Your smart devices may be spying on you

The thumbnail version:

  • Businesses with smart devices connected to the internet are vulnerable to spying

The full version:

According to RGCS of Edinburgh, providers of IT and cloud services to businesses, IOT (Internet of Things) devices now in common use in businesses large and small, represent a spying risk.

What are these devices? Anything with an IP address connected to the internet. This can include CCTV cameras, industrial controllers, building energy systems, smart thermostats, Wi-Fi routers, and computers.

What are the risks? Hackers can take control of these devices and misuse them or use them to spy. According to RGCS: “Some IoT devices have pre-set, default and unchangeable passwords, which, if discovered by cyber-criminals can enable the device to be taken over and misused.”

What can be done?  There are many measures and it wouldn’t hurt to involve your IT resource in planning your security, but here are some suggested by RGCS:

  • Secure your router by changing the default settings.
  • Change the default settings on IoT devices that connect to your router.
  • Do not share passwords between devices.
  • Determine what each device collects  and how it collects it. You can then make informed choices about turning off things like smart speakers or cameras for privacy.
  • Regularly update each device’s firmware.
  • Take advantage of extra security features such as “three strikes, and you’re out.”

What does all of this means for your business? The IoT brings a lot of advantages but it also poses security risks. Your challenge is to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks.

And finally, do you still think this is just a big business issue? Well, you’d be wrong. I once had an e-commerce site hacked, and while the hackers didn’t get any valuable information, they wrecked the site. It cost my small business $8,000 to fix. We hadn’t planned for that in our budgeting. Have you?

Supply chain disruption update (it’s getting better)

The thumbnail version:

  • Finally there is light at the end of the tunnel

The full version:

While we are warned that generally the global supply chain is still somewhat dysfunctional, things are looking up for Canadian textile screen printers.

Avient, who dominate the North American textile ink market through it’s major brands including Wilflex, Rutalnd, Union, and QCM, are relaxing the rationing of deliveries. In a recent release, Avient refers to 2021 as “a year of unprecedented supply chain challenges.”

The same announcement mentions “new portfolios across all Avient Specialty Ink plastisol brands.” At this time it’s not clear what this means for Canadian textile screen printers but apparently we’ll know soon.

Stanley’s will make announcements about ink availability and other changes as they occur. In the meantime, feel free to call any of the branches with your supply questions and concerns. As has been the case throughout the supply chain disruption, Stanley’s has been focused on keeping Canadian presses turning.

It has been an exhausting juggling act that will hopefully be over soon.