Your lungs will thank you

The post a week ago on the 20th extolled the virtues of PMI Dual-tack Pallet Tape. Something we took for granted and should have mentioned is that before attempting to apply the tape to your pallets, they must obviously be in new-condition clean.

If a pallet is not cleaned properly and has any substance such ink traces, cleaning chemical residue, or even a hint of dampness on it, no masking material including PMI Dual-tack Pallet Tape will stick to it. Failure to stick is more likely to be a problem with the pallet surface rather than the tape being applied.

It’s worth cleaning your pallets properly to make the PMI dual-tack Pallet Tape work for your shop—a product that gets rid of aerosol adhesives is good idea for any lungs in the shop.

Cyber security — upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10

Make life as difficult as you can for this character.

Today Berthold Halm of Antares Computers gave an eye-opening presentation on computer and cyber security for the Bridgewater Chamber of Commerce in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.

Before dealing with the critical issue of passwords (we’ll get to this later) he dealt with the matter of upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10. He pointed out that while Microsoft will not provide further updates and will not fix problems and security vulnerabilities for Windows 7, technically one can still use Windows 7 for some time because everything you’re running now will continue to work. However, the key concern is security. If you do online banking or if you’re a business user, you should upgrade to Windows 10.

And when you upgrade it’s advisable to not just impose Windows 10 on Windows 7 but to do a clean installation. Unfortunately this means having to reinstall all programs. A pain in the neck? Of course it is, but the consequences of vulnerable security can be a much bigger pain in the neck.

Our post next Thursday (30th January), will address the critical password aspect of Berthold Halm’s presentation. Don’t miss it.

 

Dual-tack pallet tape . . . the ultimate answer!

Stanley’s is excited to let you know that they now have PMI Dual-tack Pallet Tape.

Why is this exciting? Because this PMI Dual-tack Pallet Tape is a brilliant answer to three long-standing printing issues: (1) consistent, uninterrupted, effective adhesion of the garment to the pallet; (2) breathing air-borne aerosol adhesive particles; and (3) getting adhesive and lint all over the equipment and floor.

PMI has a short video on their site that explains this product better than we could do here. Do yourself a favour, take just a minute and watch this video.

The answer to your pallet adhesive challenges, right? Okay, so why wait? Call Stanley’s for more information, pricing and to order: Edmonton 780-424-4141; Calgary 403-243-7722; Cambridge 519-620-7342; Richmond 604-873-2451; or call Alfred Gunness directly at 416-832-3162. 

Health in the swamp

Printing shouldn’t make you sick.

It’s a story I’ve told many times when the topic has turned to health in textile screen shops.

I was at a gathering of about a dozen or so screen printers discussing the latest developments in plastisol ink. This was some years back when it was still news that lead and Phthalates had been removed from leading brands of ink. The point being made was that printers should be pleased that ink was now ‘healthier’ to work with.

One shop owner startled us (and perhaps put things in perspective) by saying that on his way out of his shop to meet with us (this was a medium-sized Canadian shop with a two automatics and a few manual presses) he walked by the swamp where a mixture of water and chemicals was being sprayed in all directions and hung like a fog in the air. The two people cleaning the screens were in shorts and Tees and wearing none of the provided protective gear at all.

His point was that he couldn’t see why he should care about a bit of lead and phthalates in ink when his staff didn’t care about working in a fog of chemicals in the swamp. Of course we could add pallet aerosol adhesive to this argument too.

So, the question for your shop is how much do you and your staff care about working in a healthy environment where product safety and safe application matter? What precautions do you take to safeguard everyone’s health?

A 2020 resolution to read

If you plan to stick to just one New Year’s resolution let it be one to read 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 in today’s fast-moving world, your business will lag behind.

Consider 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.”

Okay, so maybe you don’t like reading entire books or think you don’t have time to read entire books. Well, there’s a solution for you. Soundview has a service whereby they reduce business books to 10-minute summaries. Check them out here. 

Keep an eye open . . .

There is something that any forward-looking textile print shop owner should be aware of. It’s about bridging the distinction between textile-only shops and sign-only (digital and graphics) shops.

Until recently there has mostly been a fairly clear distinction between these two types of print shops, except possibly in smaller or rural communities. The smaller rural shop tends to do a bit of everything because the demand isn’t big enough in any one particular activity; they’ll do Tees, signs, and just about any other type of printing you might need.

However, now there are suggestions in sign industry literature that sign shops are eyeing expansion into textile printing. Consider that in a recent article, Roland’s product manager for textiles (known primarily as a sign industry equipment manufacturer) was quoted as saying: “What I hear all the time is ‘I know I have to get into fabric printing’ because it will help them with short runs or expanding into other markets.”  He was discussing multi-purpose machines being developed to print on various surfaces, including textiles.

Who knows how or even how quickly this might unfold?

A good strategy for a textile shop owner might be to keep an eye open for the other industry planning to eat your lunch.

A good example for kicking off 2020

Screen printing shops, like any other small or medium-sized businesses, can make contributions to their local communities in inexpensive but significant ways. We should all make it a resolution for 2020. Not only is it a way of exercising civil responsibility but, let’s face it, there’s a selfish reason too—it’s good for business.

Recently a great example of this was reported from Australia. The manager of a Samsung Electronics store allowed a young boy who did not have access to WiFi at home, to come by each day and access his homework assignments online using the store’s equipment and WiFi. Someone became aware of it and told the world of this act of kindness.

It needn’t cost much in time or money to make a contribution to the local community in this way. But it could be a win-win for everyone and everything involved—the recipient, the donor, and the identity and morale of the business.

What can your shop do along these lines in 2020?

 

The critical importance of the pre-press area

The focus of the “Swamp’s” job!

Often disingenuously referred to as “the Swamp”, the pre-press area is critical to the quality of the print.

But don’t take my word for it, instead click here and spend a few minutes reading Tony Palmer’s article , Pre-press Pointers, in the November issue of Images Magazine. Tony is an expert with 30 years of experience who now consults to printers under his company name, Palmprint Consultants.

You’re never too experienced to learn something new about a critical aspect of a successful print shop. And, just as an aside, when you read the article notice the image of the “Swamp”—organized and clean as a whistle!

Interacting with your suppliers

Maintain good relationships with your suppliers.

Your suppliers are among the key holders to the success or failure of your shop. How you interact with them, and they with you, must be carefully managed to maintain amicable relationships.

This month Images Magazine included an excerpt from the “Supplier” chapter of Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business. You can see it by clicking here and, while there, page through the rest of this excellent online magazine—you’re bound to learn something new.

Textile screen printing outgoing technology?

Ever since direct-to-garment digital printing came along we’ve been hearing that textile screen printing’s days are numbered. D-to-G promoters like to claim that screen printing is cumbersome, messy, noisy and on the way out.

Well, If ever there’s a visual argument for why the imminent demise of textile screen printing as a viable garment decoration technology is greatly exaggerated, then this must be it . . .

Oval sROQUE oval printers handling 20 colours and with 20 flash cure units.

Mass production textile screen printing technology is not going away anytime soon.

Image credit: Jorge Fernandes, SROQUE MTL SA, via LinkedIn

Showtime again!

Set aside January 10th and 11th for the National Imprint Canada Show at the Toronto Congress Center.

Okay, so this show is not as big as say, the Long Beach Show (which we highly recommend for textile garment decorators), but it’s the biggest in Canada. And if you’re in Ontario, particularly the GTA, you’ll need a really good excuse to not attend.

More than a month ago they already had over 120 confirmed exhibitors with a promise of “thousands of new products and cutting edge ideas.” If you’re in the textile decorating business (screen printing and other methods), and particularly if you’re new to the industry, you need to attend. It’s at shows where you’re exposed to the most in the shortest period of time.

Some shows are better than others, but it’s seldom that you can say a show wasn’t worth attending at all. Even just one new concept or idea can make a huge difference to your business.

So mark this one on your calendar (it’s just a month away) and attend with an open mind.

Upsurge in online scams targeting the industry

Everybody in your business must be able to spot this guy!

Online scams seem to accelerate at this time of the year as we approach the holiday season. It’s interesting though that some are now targeting the textile screen printing industry directly.

Some are general and express an interest in wanting a quote for “your products/services” but some are quite specific by asking for a quote for “10,000 shirts with the print ‘Peace on Earth.'”

They’re usually easy to spot because of unusual requests, bad spelling and grammar, and unusual email addresses. They often ask which credit cards you accept and also mention that they’ll arrange their own shipping. Who knows where it would lead if you answered the questions and provided the information they ask for? One thing is for sure though; it won’t lead anywhere good.

Now, as a shop owner you are probably aware of this and know how to handle or ignore it. But, and here’s the big question, do all of your employees?

It can’t do any harm to have a quick chat with them about this from time to time just to make sure that nobody inadvertently gets taken in by one of these online fraudsters and costs your shop money.

Slow period stuff to do – sharpen squeegees

How did you get such a sharp print!

A publication by Fimor notes that, “Just because a squeegee prints with no major visual flaws, doesn’t mean that the image has not changed between the first and last print. This quality difference may be acceptable to the printer, but not to a customer looking for uniformity from print to print. Furthermore, some image flaws (often mistaken as symptoms of mechanical problems) may actually be related to the squeegee blade and not the printing equipment.”

This is good information that draws attention to the often-overlooked importance of the squeegee in the printing process. And they follow it up by pointing out that replacing a squeegee blade can be 5 to 50 times more expensive than simply sharpening it.

So, as we enter the slower period of the year for most textile screen printers, it would make sense to make a date with your squeegee blades for an inspection and sharpening. And you can do this up to 50 times before you have to replace the squeegee. If you don’t have a squeegee sharpening machine, find out who offers a sharpening service and get it done!

Stanley’s holiday closing dates

The holiday period – time to put the feet up and relax!

The crew at Stanley’s want you to know that they have enjoyed serving you this past year and that they appreciate your business.

And as we get ready to head into the new year, they also want you to know that they welcome inquires about new products or technologies in the industry at any time. If they don’t know the answer right away they have a great selection of brand-name manufactures from whom they can get answers quickly.

In the meantime, if you’re going to need supplies in the December-January holiday period, please keep in mind that all four branches will be closed from noon on Tuesday the 24th of December until Monday morning, the 6th of January. 

If you are going to require a courier delivery, please check with the Stanley’s office in your area well in advance of the holidays to make sure that a courier service will be available closer to the 24th.

 

Pricing—something to think about

What am I going to do with my pricing?

Textile screen printing is a competitive market, particularly in the bigger centers. One view is, as Beth Buelow puts it in her book The Introvert Entrepreneur: “There is truth to the idea that if your prices aren’t low enough, people won’t buy.”

However, then she goes on to point out: “But that’s not the only truth. There’s also the possibility that:

  • If your prices are too low, people will devalue your product; can what you have to offer be good if it’s that cheap?
  • If you start low and train clients or customers to expect low prices it’ll be difficult to raise them later.
  • If you start higher, you can always offer discounts later.
  • You’re starting with low prices because you have doubts about your value. If you doubt it, others will as well.
  • You can find a mid-range of price points that stretch both you and your customer in a positive way.”

How much thought have you given to your pricing in your particular market? And are you pricing to reward yourself adequately for the effort you have to put into your shop and the risks you have to take?

 

Hitting targets with sample Tees

I loved that Tee you sent me. Thanks! Let’s talk about what you can do for our upcoming golf tournament.

I just read a post on LinkedIn titled, “Why losing money on a sale can be beneficial.” It’s about a small soap producer that has found that sampler kits, while a loss leader, actually generate profitable business. This got me thinking.

If a textile screen shop printed sample Tees, packaged them one at a time in an attractive tube or box (take a lesson from Apple) and sent them with a note about their shop and why their design work, printing, and customer service was superior to targeted potential customers . . .

The package and contents would of course have to be superior and eye-catching or the concept wouldn’t work. Significant potential customers like corporate PR departments, retailers, event organizers etc. would be good targets. And if it doesn’t work at first, repeat periodically until it does (in advertising repetition is essential).

You’re hesitating because of what, the cost? Oh, come on! You know how low the cost of tees and prints are on a batch of samples printed in slow times would together add up to a pretty inexpensive and potentially hugely effective form of promotion.

The key condition though would be quality work of course.

Your shop can’t exist in a bubble

He said: ” The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” If Mark Twain were still with us today I’m pretty sure he’d say “man or woman” and just “man,” and would agree that by “good books” he also means digital books and articles.

You may not like reading or have the time to read, but neither you nor your shop can afford to exist in a bubble cut off from all learning. Nowadays there are other ways to access information if you don’t like reading books—You Tube, audio books, and blogs are some examples.

It’s less important what your preferred way might be to access information, ideas, or concepts than it is to make a point of actually accessing information.

The burglar and his buddies

Your shop is under constant threat from people looking for opportunities to rip it off in one way or another. This is unfortunately true of any small business—it’s just a fact of life and you ignore it at your peril.

This is the topic of the excerpt from Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business  in the November edition of Images Magazine. It’s a must-read and can be found by clicking here.

And while there, cruise around Europe’s premier textile decorating magazine—it’s not only entertaining but informative too.

Stanley’s has Apolan squeegees

Stanley’s is pleased to announce that they now have Apolan squeegee blades for both textile and graphics printers.

The range of profiles and durometers is extensive. There’s a squeegee for every requirement including special squeegees with a composite soft edge/rigid shaft and a fiberglass insert.

The Stanley’s staff at all four branches can tell you what you need to know about Apolan squeegee blades and help find the ones best suited to your needs, both standard and special.

Call any of Stanley’s 4 branches and ask about Apolan squeegees: Edmonton 780-424-4141; Calgary 403-243-7722; Cambridge 519-620-7342; Richmond 604-873-2451; or call Alfred Gunness directly at 416-832-3162. 

Because Monday’s suck!

Here’s a great attention-grabbing idea to demonstrate how a bit of creative thought can charm customers and encourage loyalty.

Chester, Nova Scotia (image credit: Marinas.com)

The village of Chester, Nova Scotia (population of entire district, just over 2,000 people), has a car wash with a single do-it-yourself bay and two standard coin-operated vacuums.

So here’s what’s different, creative and charming about this village car wash . . . On Mondays the vacuums are free (they return your coins). Customers love it.

The free-vacuums-on-Mondays concept was introduced by the owner “because Mondays suck!”

So what creative ideas can you introduce to charm customers and differentiate your shop from the competition?

If you already use one or more creative ideas to charm your customers, let me know at michael.best@michaelbest.ca and we’ll give you some coverage by posting it here.

What’s technically possible doesn’t always make sense

Question whether new technologies make sense.

A recent exchange of views on LinkedIn demonstrated how announcements about “technological advancements” shouldn’t just be taken at face value. It’s a good idea to put them through the “does-it-make-sense?” filter.

For example, an industry consultant was encouraging the use of direct-to-garment printing in conjunction with screen printing (as part of the production cycle). He called it “digital embellishment” and demonstrated with a print.

Here’s some of the conversation that followed . . .

Skeptical printer #1: “Is slowing your production by 1/2 worth the digital print?”

Consultant (backtracking a bit): “The pure digital ran at 160 per hour, the digital embellishment only added ten seconds to the existing print. How the technology is applied is subjective. If it doesn’t fit your model then it’s not the solution you are looking for.”

Skeptical printer #1: “Yeah, right!”

Skeptical printer #2: ” Yeah, ROI (return on investment) not there . . . Could have used 4 color process to achieve the same thing.”

The moral of the story? Question everything to see if it makes sense. Ask if it’s necessary. We live in an age of technologies in search of applications as opposed to the more sesnsible approach of applications in search of technologies.

Ink and pallet solutions to nylon jacket frustrations

Why did I take this nylon jacket job!

Printers have been known to turn down print jobs involving nylon jackets because of the production-unfriendly hassle of dealing with the waterproofing treatment associated with many of them. On top of this, some are multi-layered garments that provide an unwanted multi-coloured registration challenge.

Nowhere is it written that every print shop should take every job that comes through the door—in fact, in some cases it can be smart business to avoid jobs that don’t meet your criteria for economically or technically viable jobs. But, if you do want to accept a multi-coloured print job on a multi-layered jacket, there are three things you should keep in mind (two technical, one financial).

First the two technical things . . .  You must remove the water proofing treatment from the print area (rub with Isopropyl Alcohol) and then you should use a plastisol ink developed for nylon substrates (this usually means mixing in a catalyst to facilitate adhesion). To overcome the registration issue with multi-layered jackets you can use a special platen that holds down all four sides of the print area and keeps the surface taught.

Now the financial thing . . . you must be compensated for the extra work, so price accordingly—it’s just good business sense.

Money, health and pallet adhesive.

I shouldn’t have to wear a mask just to print Tees!

By now it should be well known that a quart of water-based pallet adhesive (available from Stanley’s for about $33) will do the job of 36 cans of spray adhesive (cost of about $420). So from a purely economic perspective it’s a mystery why anyone still uses spray pallet adhesive.

But there’s another aspect to consider—printer’s health. Aerosol sprays by their nature put airborne particles into the air for anyone close enough to breathe in. This means that anyone using aerosol pallet adhesive should at least wear a mask.

Stanley’s will soon have a pallet tape that will also be an alternative to aerosol . An announcement will be made here. In the meantime though, the downside of aerosol adhesive shouldn’t be ignored.

The angry printer and the spot remover gun

I want another spot remover gun!

An angry printer called the spot remover gun manufacturer to ask for a free replacement of his gun “that wasn’t working.”

The manufacturer’s rep replied that obviously if the gun wasn’t working and it was still under warranty, he’d replace it right away. And then he asked, as one would expect, what the problem was.

The angry printer beat about the bush a bit but eventually admitted that he’d used a water-based cleaning fluid in the gun (not the recommended solvent-based cleaning chemical) and that the spray mechanism had gummed up.

So the manufacturer’s rep said that he wouldn’t replace the gun because the warranty was voided by the use of the wrong fluid, but if the printer sent the gun back he’d repair it free of charge. After some more angry responses from the printer the rest of the story emerged—he couldn’t send the gun back for repairs because he’d thrown it on floor and smashed it to pieces.

The manufacturer’s rep said that he obviously couldn’t replace the gun free of charge but what he could do was recommend an anger management course.

The moral of this true story? Use the right chemicals for the right job in the right equipment. And a quick side note . . .  if you’re using a spot remover gun be sure to ventilate properly.

Emulsions in winter

I’m cute and all that but don’t put me in charge of your emulsion!

It’s that time of the year again when we need to remind printers that, unlike plastisol ink and most cleaning chemicals, emulsions are destroyed by freezing.

The components separate when frozen and the emulsion cannot be restored to its original state no matter how much or how vigorously you mix it.

This is important to know because freezing can happen quickly in the Canadian winter. Forget that bucket in the vehicle overnight or ship emulsion in winter by non-heated shipment (not all shippers or couriers offer heated service), and it could be lost.

Take no chances. Even if you receive a delivery of emulsion by what is supposed to be a heated shipment, check the contents before you sign the waybill. This advice is based on the experience of once taking delivery of 2 x 55 gallon drums of emulsion frozen solid on what was supposed to be a heated truck.

Equipment maintenance – is it time?

Clean and good as new.

It’s not the most fun you can have in a screen shop but neglect this task and it could cost you money and downtime. And that will definitely not be fun.

We are of course talking about equipment maintenance. Manual, automatic, old, new, big small – it doesn’t matter. Equipment needs to maintained. This means regular cleaning, lubricating, part replacement, and anything else a particular piece of equipment needs to keep it in as close to new condition as possible.

This doesn’t just make operational sense, it also makes financial sense.

So, how’s your equipment maintenance schedule looking?

Is staff training worth it?

Walking out with your training investment.

Recently there was a post on LinkedIn about a conversation between two executives that went something like this:

CFO: “What if we spend this money on training the staff and they leave?”

CEO: “What if we don’t spend the money on training them and they stay?”

This conversation should resonate with shop owners who have struggled with this dilemma in the textile printing industry. You spend time and money training someone to print to your standards and then they leave for another shop or to open their own. On the one hand, you can’t run your shop with untrained staff but, on the other hand, the train-and-leave routine can be frustrating and costly.

So what’s the answer? Well, there isn’t an easy one except to suggest that if you run a great place to work where people are well trained and encouraged to stay, you’ll have a better chance of recovering your investment in training.

How much have you invested in redundant ink inventory?

Mixing the exact quantity of ink required for a job.

Your accountant probably expenses all your ink purchases which means that ink left over from long since completed jobs has no value in your books. But, in reality, any redundant ink colours in partially-full buckets never likely to be taken off the shelf again, represents cash.

If you do a count and apply an average mixed-ink price to the total gallons, you may be in for a bit of shock. This will represent cash that you could have sitting in your bank account instead of on your redundant ink shelf.

Smart shops use at least one of two obvious ways to overcome the cash-tied-up-in-redundant-ink problem. Some use both.

The first is to offer a standard, limited-choice ink chart to customers so that you’ll never have one-off colours that you’ll never use again.

The second, and probably most efficient way, is to mix all colours in house and only in the quantity needed for a particular job. Wilflex’s mixing system with its supporting and precise software makes this possible.

Ask Stanley’s about Wilflex’s mixing systems and stop investing money in redundant ink.

Another black eye for the Canadian clothing industry

We need to balance ethics and profit

When a member of the garment industry (of which we textile decorators are part) receives bad publicity, we should take note and learn from it. Our industry is already known as one of the biggest soil and water polluters, we don’t need our reputation further sullied by questionable business practices.

MSN.com recently reported that while Lululemom launched a partnership with the UN to reduce the stress levels and promote the mental health of aid workers, things are not so rosy at one of their manufacturers in Bangladesh.

Aside from the reports about ill treatment and harassment of workers, this is perhaps the most startling line in the article: “Some labourers are paid 9,100 taka a month ($142) – less than the price of one pair of their (Lululemon) leggings, which can sell for as much as $158.”

We all have a responsibility to our industry to do business ethically. After all, who wants to work in a disreputable industry?

May we mention special effects, again?

If you look back through this site you’ll notice that at about this time each year as the slower winter season approaches, we raise the matter of special effects.

Why? Because while special effects will never be your core activity, it has the potential to add to both your reputation as a skilled shop and your bottom line.

It does however require that you practice , experiment and become skillful at special effects printing. And what better time of the year to have some fun and invest a few hours in this but the slower winter season?

So here’s an idea . . . go through the past posts on special effects printing (just type “special effects” into the search box) then call Stanley’s for the materials you’ll need (special emulsion, high density ink, special effects inks etc.) and add a new dimension to your shop’s skill set.