Diversifying into bags?

A recent article about a T-shirt shop that has refocused on bags got me thinking . . . More and more jurisdictions in Canada have or are planning to ban plastic shopping bags so isn’t this presenting an opportunity for textile screen printers?

It may just be the opportunity you have been waiting for. The t-shirt market has been a “red ocean” for a long time now, isn’t it time to strike out for a “blue ocean”? Can an expected upsurge in the demand for  non-plastic bags be that “blue ocean’? It was for the shop I was reading about.

Are you wondering what the “red ocean” / “blue ocean” thing is all about? Well, you should buy or download Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

In any case, I’ll be mentioning this book again in the next post. It’s too important to remain unread.

Manually creating a simulated process colour separation

Robert Hewitt’s design used in the Images article.

Robert Hewitt of Red Oak Roller in the UK, has written a detailed article, “Let’s Separate”, for Images complete with great illustrations to explain how he created a simulated process colour separation using a piece of his own art.

The artists and art directors out there definitely don’t want to miss this article. Contributions of this caliber to the ongoing learning process in the industry should be appreciated and taken seriously. And even if you’re well versed in the topic already, it’s seldom that you can’t learn something new from another expert.

You can see Hewitt’s article here.

After a tragic fire — a reminder to all shops

Hogan’s Printing of Windsor, Ontario, burnt down in the early hours yesterday, 9th February. We’re very sorry to hear this as we would be to hear about any tragedy that befell a member of the industry. This one is particularly tough because it’s the second time it has happened to them in two years. We wish Hogan’s a speedy recovery.

Keep fire-fighting equipment serviced and ready.

Regardless of what the cause might have been, it can still serve as a reminder to the rest of the shops in the industry that fire is a real risk in print shops. Accumulated lint and exploding aerosol cans carelessly knocked onto dryer belts, are just two examples of known causes of textile shop fires.

The reminder here is to keep the shop clean (including hidden areas such as ventilation shafts), handle and store flammable materials with care, and have fire-fighting equipment serviced and readily available in prominent places throughout the shop.


Two pieces of good advice on one page

Integrating good advice to help drive your shop

The February online edition of the industry’s biggest and best magazine, Images, has two short but good pieces of business advice on one page.

First there’s advice from Andrew Langridge on In-store marketing.

And just below that is an excerpt about partnerships from Characters Who Can Make Or Break Your Small Business.

You can link directly to these pieces in Images-magazine.com here.


Cyber security – setting up passwords

Help frustrate a hacker for two centuries!

In the last post on 30th January, we listed the time it takes for hackers with access to sophisticated technology to crack passwords of different length and complexity.  Now, as promised, we’ll deal with a method for setting up passwords unlikely to be cracked.

As Berthold Holm of Antares Computers pointed out in his presentation in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, weak passwords are those that are logical, recognizable and short. For example, “Rover”, “26June88”, “MaryJ!” and so forth. These can be cracked in minutes, some of the weaker ones, in seconds. Much stronger passwords follow no logical pattern, make no apparent sense, and are longer. For example, “H7q!Jyd8g0Gc” or “nM4Rgx2dQ$3o”. These are the 12-character passwords that can take two centuries to crack.

But, the big question is how do you remember such a password? Well, Berthold suggests using a sentence as a memory aid. His example is: “My dog Rosie was born in 2015 and weighs 120#”. Use the bolded characters as follows: My dog Rosie was born in 2015 and weighs 120#, and you have the following password: MdRwbi2015aw120#.

Help frustrate a hacker for two centuries!

Cyber security — passwords

Make life difficult for this character. Set secure passwords.

Two posts ago on the 23rd, we mentioned an eye-opening presentation by Berthold Halm of Antares Computers in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. One of his topics was about password security.

The bad guys have become incredibly efficient at cracking passwords primarily by using high-speed, high-volume super computers and a method known as “brute forcing.” Passwords of 8 characters that were considered “strong” a few years ago can now be cracked in minutes. Fewer than 8 characters can be cracked in seconds.

Two things matter in setting up more secure passwords—length and complexity. And just a few extra characters make all the difference. Consider this:

Time to crack a password with just letters and no special characters:

  • 9 characters  – 2 minutes
  • 10 characters – 2 hours
  • 11 characters – 6 days
  • 12 characters – 1 year

Time to crack a password if you add a special character to the letters:

  • 9 characters  – 2 hours
  • 10 characters – 1 week
  • 11 characters – 2 years
  • 12 characters – 2 centuries

You know what you have to do to avoid becoming a victim to a growing wave of online crime.

The next post on Monday, February 3rd will deal with a method for setting up passwords unlikely to be cracked.



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.