Social media and your T-shirt line (again)

Another customer finding you on social media.

Last year about this time I quoted an article about the importance of considering social media for selling your T-shirt line. And if you don’t have your own line, some of your customers likely do, which affords you an opportunity to offer some added value by passing on this idea to them.

Now it’s time to follow up and check how much progress you’ve made over the past year. Very little, you say? Oh come on, you’re missing a great opportunity to get on board with the shift to a rapidly-advancing digital market place. But like anything else in business there are bad, good and better ways to sell online.

One of the better better ways is to set up your web site with a service like Shopify ( https://www.shopify.ca/ ). There are others but I’m familiar with Shopify and have nothing bad to say about them. Do a little research and you’ll find that setting up online is a lot easier than it’s ever been. Then you can extend your digital reach by directing customers to your web site using other social media platforms.

So in case you need more convincing, I’ll repeat the six points I mentioned a year ago . . .

  1. A social media strategy is now fundamental to the growth and success of almost any new or existing business.
  2. The good news about an item of clothing (say, a T-shirt) is that it’s a colourful, visual item  perfectly suited to social media where images, pictures and videos are shared.
  3. Social media appeals to the same demographic that’s interested in fashion.
  4. With social media you can quickly reach billions of people all over the world.
  5. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube are still the most widely-used social networks but it won’t necessarily stay that way.
  6. Pinterest (100 million active monthly users), Vine (200 million active monthly users) and Snapchat (100 million daily users) are good marketing resources and are growing.

A tip for you

Only use spot remover chemical in your spot remover gun!

 

 

 

Do not use anything but a legitimate spot remover such as Tekmar’s TS3 in your spot remover gun. A printer was using a liquid tape remover instead of spot remover and then couldn’t understand why the gun gummed up. Aside from other problems, this will void your gun warranty.

Hey boss, do you care how you’re perceived?

Perceived as dislikeable? Do something about it for the sake of your screen shop.

As with any small business, bosses of textile screen shops range from very likeable to very dislikeable. Where do you fit on the likeable-to-dislikeable scale?

“Does it matter?” you might be wondering. Well, it’s worth keeping in mind that people prefer to do business and work with people they like. If this is true – and it’s widely believed to be so – then it makes sense that a small business with a likeable boss is more likely to succeed than one with a dislikeable boss.

‘Succeed” in this instance would mean attracting and retaining employees, suppliers, and customers. It follows therefore that the businesses of bosses perceived to be dislikeable, have something to gain by making themselves more likeable. And let’s not confuse “likeable” with “soft touch”. A boss doesn’t have to be a dislikeable tyrant to be an assertive, smart, decisive businessperson. He or she can be all that and still be likeable.

So when is a boss perceived to be dislikeable? For starters, when he or she harshly criticises employees in front of their co-workers. A good example is the boss who held up a sweat shirt in front of the entire staff on their lunch break and asked who’d printed it. The reason for asking was obvious – instead of the print being on the chest of the garment it was on the stomach area. When the responsible employee raised his hand, the boss, in typical fashion, called him a f*****g idiot. This is not likeable and not the way to build a happy, productive environment.

If a boss is perceived to be dislikeable by his or her employees, the chances are that the customers and suppliers see it the same way. And this is bad for business.

So if you’re perceived as dislikeable, you should care about it and mend your ways for the sake of your business. It’s not easy though – no easier than dieting or giving up smoking. But it’s worth it.

 

A tip for you

Keep an eye on the sustainability in fashion movement.

Keep an eye on the sustainability in fashion movement. It’s going to affect textile screen printing as it gains momentum. At some point (perhaps sooner rather than later) you may be able to position your textile screen printing shop to take advantage of it; some already are.

References for prospective customers

Checking references by email.

Prospective customers can review you web site, brochures, catalogues, portfolios and other promotional material but there will always be that lingering concern about how objective the information may be. After all, your company prepared it and surely wouldn’t have included anything but favourable material – so the objectivity question is inevitable.

This isn’t to say that a web site, catalogues, brochures and portfolios are not necessary business tools – they absolutely are. But when you move beyond the this-is-who-we are stage and have to convince a prospective customer that you deliver what you promise, references can speak volumes. If a present or past customer is willing to vouch for you, what more could a prospective customer want? Well, for one thing, to be assured that the reference is genuine and objective. And therein lies the a problem with quotes from present and past customers or even letters from them – their authenticity could be questioned.

The answer to the authenticity dilemma lies in direct contact between the prospective customer and the past or present customers willing to vouch for you. But, according to Scott’s Directories, even this has to be done in a particular way to be effective. The common practice of handing your prospect a list of phone numbers to call is not necessarily the best way to go about it. People find that calling references is laborious, particularly if it degenerates into a game of telephone tag. They may not even bother.

A better way to do it is to encourage emailing and to be proactive about it. Provide the prospect with a list of references before they even ask. In fact, strongly urge that they check your references. And better still, provide them with a draft email with appropriate questions. This will build trust right away and demonstrate that you have nothing to hide.

Depending upon circumstances, and even though you’d have been given permission to include them on a list of references, you may as a matter of courtesy let reference providers know that they might be contacted by your prospect.

 

 

 

A tip for you

Regular cleaning, maintenance and servicing of your equipment is a big dollar saver.

 

The popular expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, may make sense when referring to governments (it was coined by T. Bert Lance, Director of the Office of Management and Budget in Jimmy Carter’s administration in 1977) but it makes no sense in the context of your screen shop equipment, particularly automatic presses. But regular cleaning, maintenance and service do make sense if you want to avoid the cost and inconvenience of, “Dang, it’s broke.”

A water-based ink vs plastisol incident.

Unlike harmful plastisol inks, water-based inks are durable, feel soft and are low-impact on the environment.

Last week I received an online newsletter from an organization dedicated to improved sustainability in the fashion and textile industries. To cut a long story short, they had done a magnificent job of producing a Tee that was as organic, eco-friendly, and sustainability-compliant as you could hope for.

It was an impressive effort, except for one thing. They claimed that part of the sustainability excellence was that the Tee had been screen printed in a manual shop using water-based inks because: “Unlike harmful plastisol inks, water-based inks are durable, feel soft and are low-impact on the environment.”

Some investigation and an exchange of emails with the newsletter editor and the printer, revealed that the water-based ink was from a small foreign manufacturer.

It has long been a problem that people assume the word “water” suggests that water-based ink is environmentally superior. Well, we drink water so it must be okay, right? No, wrong! Some water-based inks also contain nasty chemicals. And you won’t know the truth until you examine at least the MSDS.

Anyway, below is my final email on the topic which casts some light on the whole water-based ink versus plastisol issue and how some manufacturers can misrepresent the differences. Since it’s not my intention to denigrate anyone but just present information, I’ve omitted names.

Good morning Xxxxxxx:

Thank you for the response.

I have been in contact with Xxxxxxxxx and it seems that we have a mutual concern for sustainability in the fashion and textile industries. She seems to have gone to a lot of trouble to search out environmentally friendly products for her screen shop, including Xxxxxxxx water-based ink.

I dealt with ink companies for over twenty years and have to tell you that some salespeople and web sites will say anything to sell their product. I don’t believe in taking anything at face value. For instance, the only way to confirm that Xxxxxxxx’s ink has GOTS certification is to ask for the registration number and then search it on the GOTS site. I’d be interested in having this if it can be located because we’ve been unable to find them on the list of GOTS-certified manufacturers.

I visited Xxxxxxxx’s web site and have the following comments:

  • The claims about water-based ink versus plastisol are a bit misleading by virtue of the information omitted. It makes mention of plastisol containing PVC and Phthalates but fails to mention that plastisols without either of these elements have been available for years.
  • It mentions that their water-based ink doesn’t contain lead—leading plastisol brands haven’t contained lead for over thirty years.
  • It refers to plastisol ink being linked to numerous medical disorders but fails to mention those were associated with Phthalate plasticisers, which is why manufacturers moved to non-Phthalate plasticisers.
  • The non-Phthalate brand of plastisol my company carried—Wilflex Epic—is certified to Oekotex 100 (Eco-Passport) so are free of the same problems that Xxxxxxxx claims to be free of by virtue of compliance. You’ll probably find this to be true of most leading plastisol brands.
  • The site implies that plastisol can only be cleaned up by nasty chemicals. This was once true, particularly when textile printers here in Canada didn’t care (many still don’t) and used cheap, nasty solvents extensively. Now there are much safer cleanup chemicals on the market.
  • The site claims that water-based ink can be cleaned out of screens with water. This is mostly true, and it may be still be true even once the ink has dried, if you let the screens soak to soften the ink (and provided no cross-linker has been added). But here’s my concern about what’s been left out of the discussion about cleaning water-based ink screens with water . . .  It implies that you can just wash it all down the drain (but remember those pigment particles too fine for many filter systems?). In many jurisdictions, local water treatment providers make the decision on whether your ink residue is permissible in their water recovery system.  If you don’t have it checked, you run the risk of getting caught and fined if any contaminants are found coming from your facility.
  • The better ink companies offer downloadable MSDS from their web sites. I couldn’t find such a facility on the Xxxxxxxx site.

I didn’t mean to open a can of worms but since we’re all concerned about the environment and the sustainability of the fashion and textile industries, I thought it worth pursuing the topic. And I don’t mean to imply that I’m advocating for plastisol over water-based inks—I’m not (personally, I much prefer my water-based Tees). I just believe that if we are to make informed decisions about environmentally friendly printing, we need to explore the facts and not rely on salespeople and web sites with vested interests.

Regards,

Michael.

A tip for you.

Match the right ink with the right fabric!.

Match the right ink with the right fabric. Until Wilflex makes their one-white-fits-all available to the market, you take a huge chance using the wrong ink. Bleeding, peeling, and cracking, can cost you lot of money in re-runs for failing to match the ink made for a particular fabric with that fabric.

Long Beach show report.

The Long Beach Convention Centre.

Judging by new products on display at the Long Beach show, the textile screen printing industry seems to be slowly progressing toward a more echo-responsible standing.

It’s hard to know what’s driving it, legislation in the U.S., demand by the big users like Nike and Adidas, or something else. One thing is for sure, it’s not the textile screen printers in Canada who are mostly slow to embrace environmentally friendly alternatives.

Wilflex was showing their new Non-PVC ink system which included a white and a mixing system with seventeen PANTONE®-approved printable mixing colours. CCI was showing their more eco-friendly Enviroline products that include a stripper, ink remover, screen wash, and a haze remover. Now all we have to figure out is how to convince Canadian textile screen printers that environmental considerations are important. The fashion and textile industries are huge polluters world-wide and we need to address it a lot more urgently than we have been doing.

In other news from the show, there appears to be a drive to better economy as well. Kiwo was showing their new one-fits-all emulsion and Wilflex is bringing out a one-fits-all white ink that will work on cotton, cotton/poly blends, and 100 percent Polyester. It will cure at just 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wendy and Doug attended the show and will be happy to tell you more about it.

A tip for you.

 

Create a record of your stuff now!

 

 

 

Have you documented all your possessions at home and at the shop? Have you photographed them? Do you know that there are apps for recording your possessions? Do it before disaster strikes and it will make the insurance claim process so much easier and more complete.

Wilflex preview of the ISS Long Beach show 20th to 22nd January.

This morning I sat in on the Wilflex webex preview of the ISS show. If you are going to the show (and you really should be) you’ll definitely want to visit the Wilflex booth. It’s number 1517 next door to M&R.

A screen shot of an artist’s impression of the Wilflex booth at the 2017 ISS Long Beach show.

Wilflex has made it particularly enticing for you to visit their booth with some special features:

  • They will be displaying 60 prints to show off every type of ink.
  • A special video titled, The “I” in Ink, has been prepared for the show. It will focus on a number of concepts all beginning with the letter “i” such as imagination, innovation, and inspire.
  • New ink products such as Epic Rio will be on display.
  • Representatives will be available to show products and answer questions.
  • There will be handouts.
  • And last, but by no means least, at 3.30 pm to 5.00 pm on Friday (20th) and Saturday (21st) the booth will be transformed into a “bistro” to host a happy hour. There will be drinks, eats, and giveaways.

Here’s a tip concerning the sample prints on display . . . they search far and wide for prints excellent in both technical rendering and design (they obviously want to show off their ink as advantageously as possible) which means that you get to see ideas from all over the world – ideas you can take back to your shop. For instance, they have a print from Russia that seems pretty interesting.

Doug and Wendy will be at the show and the Wilflex booth would be a good place to leave messages for them, meet with them, and enjoy Wilflex’s hospitality at the Friday and Saturday evening happy hours.

Enjoy the show, but if you can’t attend, feel free to call them when they’re back and ask for an update on what’s new.

A tip for you . . .

Water-based pallet adhesive is better than aerosol spray for many reasons.

 

 

A 1-quart container of water-based pallet adhesive can replace 36 cans of aerosol spray. Your lungs, the environment, and your bank account will thank you. If you’re going to be at the Long Beach show this week, visit the Tekmar booth and ask about it.

To be announced at Long Beach – the only emulsion you may ever need.

Yes! Finally! A one-fits-all emulsion!

Kiwo will be showing their new emulsion, Kiwocol Poly Plus MP, at the Long Beach Show on the 20th to the 22nd of this month.

The “MP” stands for “Multi-Purpose”. Multi purpose because it’s a high resolution, diazo-photopolymer, dual-cure, emulsion for use with all textile and graphic inks including the newest water-based and discharge systems.

All inks you ask? Yes, all inks! Plastisol, water-based, discharge, UV, and solvent-based inks. The whole lot! And that’s not all. It has high solids for quick build-up and smooth stencils, excellent resolution and exposure latitude, high mechanical resistance, and is easily reclaimed.

If you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around this, think of it in terms of that old printers’ bugaboo – white plastisol. Imagine only ever having to keep one white ink in your shop that will print on every conceivable fabric, is 100% bleed resistant, is nice and creamy to work with, will go through any mesh, and will give a nice soft hand. That’s what this emulsion appears to be – the ultimate all-purpose emulsion the world has been waiting for. One emulsion for all your printing.

Now, the big question on your mind is likely the one about price. We’ve been conditioned to expect new and amazing products to break the budget and so you’re probably expecting the worst.  Well, it will please you to know that it’s about mid-range among all the emulsions you likely use for different printing applications. This adds up to a great technological advancement and a great convenience, and all at no extra cost.

Doug and Wendy of Stanley’s will be acquainting themselves with Kiwocol Ploy-Plus MP at Long Beach later his month. If you’re not going to be fortunate enough to be at the show, wait until they get back and then ask them about it.

 

A tip for you . . .

Go to Long Beach!

 

 

 

 

Go to the ISS Long Beach show. It’s on the 20th to the 22nd of January and it’s the best show for textile screen printers in North America, by far. You still have time to book tickets. Stay ahead of your competition, see what’s new, gather ideas, make contacts, and enjoy some warmer weather for a few days too.

Generosity is smart business.

I was recently dismayed to discover that my favourite art supply store was no longer offering free cookies. My first stop in the store was always the cookie plate intended for the pleasure of customers, art class attendees, and staff. Now, sadly, it has disappeared.

Obviously I made inquiries and discovered that the owner had canned the cookie plate because she felt that the store staff were overdoing it a bit. Now, I should point out that these were not gourmet cookies. At about $3.00 for a pack of 44 cookies they were among the cheapest on the shelf at the close-by grocery store. But that’s not the point – we liked them anyway. I think I can speak for the customers, art students, and staff alike when I say that it is the gesture we miss, not just the cookies. Something for free (doesn’t matter what it is or how small it is) gives pleasure and creates a feeling of well-being. It reflects well on the giver, in this case, the art store.

Buying goodwill for very little cost.

I think the art store owner has made a mistake. For a mere $90 a month (less than a dinner out for her and her husband) she has forgone the opportunity to generate goodwill among her customers, students, and staff. If she put out just one pack a day and reminded the staff that, while they were invited to help themselves, it was not intended as a meal substitute and was for the pleasure of customers and students too, I bet they’d govern themselves. And for anyone arriving after the cookies for the day were all gone, an empty plate still speaks to generosity whereas, no plate at all, does the opposite.

So how can I be so sure of this? Well, for about twenty years my business included cookies and chocolate bars with every shipment. Among other derived benefits, it differentiated us from the competition and created a lot of goodwill. People are quirky, and part of that quirkiness is the pleasure of receiving something for nothing, particularly something that can be eaten.

What do you do in your screen shop to take advantage of this quirkiness? If you’re not, for what you perceive to be economic reasons, you may be missing an opportunity by committing false economy.

A tip for you . . .

Listen, this works . . .

 

Sore muscles, back and feet after a hectic New Year celebration? Remind you of a tough day on the shop floor? Run a deep tub of warm water. Dissolve two cups of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) in the water. Set your drink up where you can reach it and slide into the tub. Relax, sip your drink and soak for at least fifteen minutes. You’ll feel so good when you get out that you’ll wonder why the stuff isn’t illegal!

The ghosts on the back of Tees.

No need to call Ghostbusters. Just change the way you stack.

It can happen that when you’re printing with a low-bleed or bleed-resistant white on dark Tees, you can end up with “ghost” images on the back of the garments.

Most people assume right away that the print has somehow penetrated all the way through the Tee to the back. Usually that’s not the case at all. What often happens is that the garments are stacked as they emerge from the dryer. Because the dye-block ink film is still hot and therefore the dye-block chemicals are still active, they “bleach” the dye in the back of the shirt stacked on top. The result is a “ghost” image on the back of the shirt.

The solution is quite simple and only requires a change in the stacking routine at the end of the dryer. Instead of building a single stack and completing it before starting a new stack, have five or six stacks going at once and stack them in a rotating pattern. In other words, the first garment goes on stack number one, next one on stack number two, next one on stack number three, and so on. By the time you’re back at stack number one the last print will have cooled off enough so as not to “bleach” the back of the next shirt on the stack.

No need to call Ghostbusters.

A tip for you . . .

You must understand the impact of your pricing.

If you’re thinking of leaving your screen printing job and opening your own shop, there’s something you need to know about pricing. Don’t make the mistake others have made when leaving a job to open their own shop. You can’t just charge for a print what your former boss charged or what the competition down the road is charging. Your new shop probably has a whole different cost structure (leases, rent, and other overheads) from the shop where you worked. And the guy down the road may be mindlessly low-balling his prices – do you want to follow him down the path to failure? Calculate your prices according to your circumstances and then see if you can be competitive, not the other way around.

Don’t light the lint!

As observed in earlier posts, this is the time of the year when there’s finally time in Canadian textile screen shops to attend to things postponed during the busy season. One such thing is the accumulation of lint, not only because it’s untidy but because it can be dangerous – as in lint fires.

Clean up that lint before it starts a fire!

Do you remember those old cowboy movies where the bad guy lays down a trail of gunpowder, strikes a match tough-guy style on the sole of his boot, lights the end of the trail, and the flame takes off like Usain Bolt? Well, that’s exactly what can happen if an accumulation of lint is lit.

The owner of a Vancouver textile screen shop once told me that lint had accumulated like a furry trail on the steel pillars and ceiling beams of their shop until one day, somehow, it was lit. The flame scurried up the closest pillar and back and forth across the ceiling beams. By the time the fire department arrived it had burnt itself out but they sustained a lot of smoke damage.

In another incident, this time in Calgary, a can of aerosol adhesive exploded in a dryer chamber and cause a lint fire in the exhaust system. I remember that in this case the shop was closed for some time for repairs.

So, the lesson in this? Take time to clean up the lint, not only where you can see it but in out-of-sight places too.

Closing for the holidays.

Feet up for the holidays.

Your blog editor (i.e. me) will be putting his feet up on the 23rd and won’t be back until the 3rd of January. Not news I suppose because you’re likely to be doing exactly the same thing.

Same goes for all four of the Stanley’s locations. So, keep this in mind for any orders you intend placing before the holidays. If your order has to be delivered, remember to leave enough time for that to happen.

A tip for you . . .

Pay attention . . don’t discount until you’ve crunched the numbers!

 

Don’t discount without first understanding what you’re really doing. Let’s use a simple example and say you sell an item for $1.00 and your cost is 70 cents. Your profit is therefore 30 cents. You have been selling 10 of these month in and month out which means a total monthly profit of $3.00. You want to sell more to make more at the end of the month, say you want $3.75 profit at the end of the month (25% more than before). So you offer a 10% discount to attract more sales. Now you’re making a net 20 cent profit per item. So to make $3.75 at the end of the month you have to sell about 19 items. That means working 90% harder to make 25% more. To make just what you were making before, you’d have to work 50% harder. . .  See why you have to think about it before you offer a discount to boost sales?

Preventing it from all coming out in the wash . . .

Damn! I should have wash-tested those prints!

Look, we all know that no matter how many washing labels we hang or print on a T-shirt about washing in cool water with mild detergent on the gentle cycle, that Tee is going to be tossed into the wash with the towels, socks, and dog’s blanket on the heavy cycle in hot water.

And we also know that if the print on the Tee wasn’t properly cured, some or all of it, along with your reputation as a textile screen printer and whatever washes out of the dog’s blanket, is going down the drain.

So, you need to do two things to ensure that all your prints are properly cured. First, test your dryer at least a couple of times a day to ensure that it is still reaching cure temperature. The best way to do this is with a Thermoprobe  (see post of November 24th). The second thing to do is a wash test, particularly on critical jobs when there may be a lot at stake in terms of money and reputation.

A good way to do a wash test is to cut the print in half. Wash one half with three heavy bath towels in hot water and liquid detergent. Tumble-dry the load on high for thirty minutes. When you compare the washed half with the unwashed half, there should be no cracking or loss of part or all of the print. If there is, the print wasn’t properly cured. Then you can establish the cause and correct it.

It’s much better to have a failure in your washing machine before the Tees are delivered, than afterwards in the customer’s customers’ washing machines.

A tip for you . . .

Project the shelf life of your transfers like this . . .

 

 

To test the shelf life of your transfer prints, place the transfer in a hot box or a hot room for 100 hours at a temperature of 50 degrees C (120 F). This simulates a year of aging on the shelf. After the 100 hours, take it out and allow it to cool to room temperature and transfer it in the usual manner in a heat press. How it transfers will give you insight into performance after a year on the shelf.

Time to pay attention to the tension on your screens?

For most Canadian textile screen printers the slower winter season is here. This means that there is time to do some maintenance tasks usually neglected in the busy summer season.

One of those tasks is attending to under-tensioned stretch-and-glue screens. When production is going full tilt it’s too tempting to use under-tensioned screens and get away with a few more jobs before facing the cost and hassle of re-stretching. Sooner or later you have to deal with it though because of the direct correlation between screen tension and print quality.

Tension meter

So why not schedule a screen tension testing project for the slower season? All you need is a tension meter – if you don’t have this vital item of basic textile screen shop equipment, now would be a good time to talk to Stanley’s about getting one.

Go through all your screens, note their tensions, and mark or put aside the ones in need of re-stretching. You don’t have to have them all re-stretched at once but going through this exercise will give you a much better idea of the state of your screen inventory and enable you to develop a plan to bring it up to snuff.

An inventory of properly-tensioned screens will be another step taken in the pursuit of excellent prints.

A tip for you . . .

Use your lids.

Use your lids.

In all the discussions about getting the most out of the ink dollar, something that’s incredibly important but hardly ever mentioned, is the container lid. Leave it off a water-based ink and you risk evaporation and contamination. And while plastisol ink doesn’t evaporate, it will certainly become contaminated with all the stuff that floats around in a textile shop. And then there are those clumsy spills that can end up in an open ink bucket. Oh, and what about the company pet? Do you really need colourful paw prints on your new office carpet? It’s easier to just make a rule that lids always go on containers.

The importance of monitoring curing temperatures.

I’m going to take issue with a piece in this month’s Images magazine that advocates using a laser temperature gun for checking the curing temperature of ink.

The author recommends using the gun to check the temperature of the ink film as the garment exits the dryer. I’m suggesting that by then the film of ink is already cooling and is no longer at the optimum curing temperature the manufacture recommends that it must reach for proper curing.

Notice the three components of a Thermoprobe - Digital unit, donut, and long wire. The only truly reliable way to test ink film temperature for proper curing.

Notice the three components of a Thermoprobe – Digital unit, donut, and long wire. The only truly reliable way to test ink film temperature for proper curing.

There’s a better way to do it – a way that will tell you when and where in the dryer the ink film reaches the required curing temperature. And that certainly won’t be once it’s out the chamber. The better way of monitoring the temperature of the ink film is to use a donut probe (commonly known as a Thermoprobe) rather than a laser infrared temperature gun, temperature strips, or any other method.

Not only will a Thermoprobe confirm the temperatures encountered by the ink film as the garment progresses through the dryer, but it will also indicate cool spots in the dryer. A laser temperature gun will not do all that for you, particularly if you’re checking the temperature as the garment exits the chamber. How do I know this? Well, if you use a Thermoprobe to plot the ink film temperature every 5 seconds as it moves through the dryer, you’ll end up with a bell curve which is turning down by the time the garment is exiting the chamber.

A Thermoprobe has a “donut” across which is strung two thin wires in a cross formation. The donut connects to a digital readout by a long wire. You place the donut on the ink film with the cross wires on the ink surface (the critical temperature measurement is that of the ink film) and monitor temperature on the digital readout as the garment moves through the dryer.

Now, of course, the Thermoprobe can be about four times more expensive than an infrared laser temperature gun so the decision is yours – do it cheaply or do it properly. But either way, do it regularly. At least two or three tests a day will help avoid curing problems.

A tip for you . . .

Don't unplug the Roland . . .

Don’t unplug the Roland . . .

 

If you’re lucky enough to have a Roland printer/cutter in your shop, do this now. Make two signs that say “DO NOT unplug this machine!” Take no chances – attach one sign to the machine where it is in full view, and attach the other to the power cord where it plugs into the wall. Why? Because even when you’re closed for the holidays and the Roland is idle, it recycles the ink every twelve or thirteen hours to prevent clogging. If someone unplugs the power, it can’t recycle the ink and you could come back to clogged jets. A couple of signs could save you a lot of hassle and expense.

Are you like the drunk looking for his keys?

The keys to cost control are not always in the most convenient places.

The keys to cost control are not always in the most convenient places.

Sometimes when I discuss money management with screen printers they remind me of the story about the drunk crawling around under a street lamp outside a pub. A cop turns up and asks him what he’s doing. The drunk points down the road and says that he dropped his car keys somewhere in the dark and that he’s looking for them. The cop asks why he’s not looking for the keys where he dropped them, and the drunk replies that he can see better under the street lamp.

So when printers obsess about the cost of ink (which is a minor expense in the overall scheme of things) instead of examining the big ticket items like labour cost, maintenance, rent and other overhead expenses, they’re kidding themselves by looking where it’s easier to see.

But if you feel that you have the cost of your big ticket items optimized and now want to check your ink costs, Dave Roper offers three steps for calculating your per-print ink cost in this month’s Images magazine. He says: (1) establish the per-gram cost of the ink; (2) weigh the garment before printing; and (3) after printing but before curing, weigh the garment again.

The difference between the weights in grams taken at steps (3) and (2) is the weight of the ink used. Multiply that weight by the cost per gram determined in step (1) and you have the cost of ink per print.

Now, for the big question . . .  When you find out how little the ink per print really is, ask yourself why you’d risk using a cheap ink when a great ink will still be a very low cost per print.

The cost of your ink per print will never be the difference between business success or failure. But uncontrolled big expense items could be.

The keys to cost control probably aren’t in the light – try looking in the darker places. It might take more effort but it will yield better results.

Looking for a new profit centre?

Off in a corner printing money . . .

Off in a corner of the textile screen shop printing money . . .

Many years ago, I had a large manufacturer of wood cabinets as a client. They had a factory (probably about 15,000 square feet) full of woodworking machines and stacks of wood. It was a noisy, dusty and dangerous place. Have you ever climbed in and out of a helicopter while the engines are running and the main and tail rotor blades are turning? Well, the wood factory was noisy, dusty and dangerous in a similar way.

But off in one relatively quiet corner of the factory, away from the main activity, stood a solid, metal, heavy-looking machine about the size of a small car. It had a slot just over four feet wide at about waist height into which an attendant fed thin sheets of what looked like 8 x 4 plywood. The machine sucked in the sheet of wood at the rate of about a foot at a time.

Inside the machine a heavy metal dye thunked down on the sheet of wood. After every thunk, about a hundred wooden ice-lolly sticks slid down a chute into a container and another foot of wooden sheet was sucked into the machine. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. It continued relentlessly all day without a pause.

Wooden ice-lolly sticks was not my client’s primary business, but it was his best profit centre. He had a market for hundreds of thousands of lolly sticks with a few ice cream factories. The machine was as ridiculously profitable as it was simple to operate.

So what has this got to do with textile screen printing? Well, what if you could have a small, self-contained machine standing off to one side printing say, labels, gloves, sleeves, or socks? It wouldn’t interfere with any of your existing profit centres but could be the most productive few square feet of your shop. It could open up a whole new niche market for you.

Worth looking into, don’t you think?

Give Stanley’s a call; ask them about the idea.