A nice, firm, even, but not too high pressure is best when coating screens with a hand-held trough.
When coating screens using a hand-held trough, consistent pressure is better than maximum pressure. In fact, if the pressure is to high you can damage the mesh. But if the pressure is too low, you could end up with an uneven coat. So, a consistent, firm (but not too high), pressure is best for an even coat.
Screen cleaning is possibly the most unpopular job in a textile screen shop performed in possibly the most despised location — the “swamp”. For many years now dip tanks have been promoted as a means of making life easier and more efficient for swamp dwellers, but do dip tanks live up the hype?
A CCI dip tank.
It’s generally assumed that a shop should be “larger” before a dip tank can be justified. This is not necessarily true as dip tanks can be bought in a variety of sizes so that even small textile shops can consider one — which is most of the Canadian textile screen printing industry. The more important consideration is efficiency and labour time. The primary purpose of the tank is to soften up the stencil and ink at the same time so that while screen one is being rinsed, screen two is soaking and will be ready for rinsing when screen one is done. This obviously makes sense and is bound to make screen reclaiming more efficient. But there are other considerations.
Before ordering a tank, weigh the cost of it against the number of screens your shop recycles in, say, a year. Of course you may hate the screen-cleaning process so much that you’d pay a premium to make it easier — it’s your choice but at least be aware of the cost-benefit aspect. Then there are issues such whether the dip tank costs less in chemical consumption, whether the tank chemistry is safe to discharge into the sewer system, and how long the chemicals in the tank remain powerful enough to truly make it an effective dip-soak-and-rinse process (if the tank doesn’t consistently meet this standard then there’s not much point in having it).
Ask for contact information for dip tank users before buying one. Ask the tough questions. A dip tank could be a useful addition to the efficiency of your textile shop, but do your homework before deciding. Any one of Stanley’s branches can help point you in the right direction: Cambridge 1 877 205 9218 ; Calgary 1 877 661 1553; Edmonton 1 888 424 7446; Richmond 604 873 2451.
Don’t leave the screens in your dip tank.
Save some money. If you use a dip tank, don’t leave the screens in for longer than, say, three minutes (until the stencil starts to break away). Take them out and pressure wash. If you leave the screens in until all the ink and emulsion comes off, you’ll be going through a lot of unnecessary top-up chemical.
It may be illegal and almost definitely unconscionable.
This is not a popular topic, but it is a necessary one . . . What may your textile screen printing shop pour down the drain and what may it not?
We’re talking about chemicals here — the kind of stuff used in the screen reclaiming process in particular. And it doesn’t matter whether your shop uses a dip tank or a bucket and brush, the safety and pollution issues are the same. In fact, some printers erroneously believe that dip tank chemistry is more drain safe than bucket and brush chemistry.
And, most importantly, labels can’t be relied on to keep you on the right side of your conscience and the law. Just because a container is labelled “drain safe” it doesn’t mean that it is flushable in your jurisdiction. It all depends on local laws. It’s therefore your responsibility to find out whether the chemicals you use are allowed to be flushed into the sewer system.
If the chemicals in question are not flushable into your local sewer system, you have decisions to make if you are to stay on the right side of the law (and there’s also the matter of conscience). You will have to either change chemicals or find an alternative method of disposal. This is of course likely to result in additional expenditure, but consider the alternative – – fines, potential forced downtime etc.
Let’s not kid ourselves. While it’s a lot better than it used to be, we all know that the textile screen printing process relies on certain chemicals, some of which can be pretty nasty. To be safe and compliant, it’s best to establish with the local authorities what your shop can and cannot dump into the sewer system.
It’s true! A one-white-fits-all ink is on its way.
It’s on its way! Wilflex is releasing a white that can pretty much serve as your all-purpose, one-white-for-everything, low-cure ink. It’s a response to today’s tri-blend, 100% Polyesters and other challenging fabrics. Stanley’s is expecting to have it soon.
A lot has been written about why you should blog for your business. The obvious benefits usually include:
- Being found by search engines;
- Credibility with your customers, suppliers, and others;
- Keeping your customers engaged;
- Positioning your shop as an industry leader;
- Generating leads.
Blog to engage your customers.
But before you rush off and start typing, there are some do’s and don’ts you can’t ignore. The do’s are intended to ensure that your blog engages readers, creates curiosity, and expands your business. The don’ts will turn people off and defeat the object of blogging.
Here are the do’s:
- Incorporate different elements such as graphics, videos, and podcasts.
- Include images, at least one per post.
- When appropriate, include a call to action, suggest what your readers should do next.
- Leverage your blog with other social media platforms.
- Aim to make your readers (customers) feel that there is a point to every post, something relevant to your relationship (in your case Tees).
- Link to other relevant content around the web.
- Be relaxed and informal – avoid stuffy formality (stuffy formality is not a Tee’s thing).
Avoid these don’ts:
- Negativity – it’s a huge turnoff.
- Selling – according to conventional blogging wisdom, if readers feel that the blog is only pitching sales, they’ll avoid it.
- Jargon – keep the language simple and engaging.
- Misleading headlines – they should truthfully reflect the content of the post.
- Lack of focus – stick to content relevant to your business and your readership (in your case, matters pertaining to imprinted Tees)
- Lack of attention to design elements – keep paragraphs short, add interesting and relevant graphics.
Now you’re ready to add a blog to your web site and start engaging your customers with useful information.
Don’t give away chunks of your margins..
Think about this. if you quote on a job to make your normal margin of, say, 30%, but the customer demands a 10% discount, this is what happens . . . The customer gains 10% of what he or she was going to pay but you give up 33% of what you were going to make. If you do it, please be sure there’s a good reason.
Textile screen printing is a tough market place. Per-print prices in the major centres like the GTA are so low sometimes that you wonder whether the printer understands anything at all about costs, mark-ups, margins, and overheads. You wonder why a printer would want to own a print shop, deal with all the responsibilities and hassles ownership involves, and work for less than minimum wage. Yet, it’s happening and, in the process, messing up the market for everyone else.
Look, I have a fair idea of the cost of ink, chemicals, emulsion, screens, artwork, screen preparation labour, printing labour, quality control and packing labour, shipping labour, reclaiming screen labour, face-to-face time with the customer, admin (invoicing, collecting money etc.), accounting, dealing with come-back rejects, and overheads ( rent, equipment leases, utilities etc.). I also know that you have to know what those expenses amount to if you have to know what to charge for your work to cover your expenses and make profit.
Stupid pricing is self-destructive
What I don’t know is how anyone can take all that into account and still think it’s okay to quote 35 cents for a six-colour print even if it’s a “big” run. It reminds me of a book I once read in which the author said that he’d always been fascinated by how the change machines in airport buildings made any money. He’d put in a five-dollar bill and get back five loonies. One day he saw a technician working on one of the machines and asked him how they made any profit if the machine always gave back the same value it received. The answer? “On volume!” That’s about as smart as making no money on a print but banking on making it up on volume!
At least think about it.
Don’t make your high-density stencils too thick.
High-density prints can look really cool and wow customers. But you must avoid the temptation to make the stencil too thick. 200-micron film can give you great high-density prints. Any thicker and it becomes difficult to print sharp edges and fine details because of light scatter during exposure.
This is the latest of a few similar emails I’ve received lately via one of my business websites . . . “I just found a $122.66 charge on my credit card originating from mphhotels.com I never ordered anything from you so what is happening? Please check the card statement below and let me know what to do to get my money back: (odd-looking link inserted here) Thank you Abraham Eubanks”
Don’t open suspicious emails!
Clearly the object of the exercise with these emails is to get you to click on the link which, according to experts I’ve consulted, will likely plant malware on your computer capable of accessing personal information, passwords etc. It could also try to engage you in a phishing exercise with the objective of asking you to disclose sensitive information.
I mention this because I know of cases where small businesses have lost money responding to this type of email. It’s easy to see how it can happen. If a bookkeeper or other employee receives the email they may think it looks legitimate and, especially if they’re not on top of your bookkeeping, may assume that it is a legitimate charge and pay it to avoid problems. Even if they intend questioning it later, it will be too late.
The answer is to not respond to unexpected emails, trash emails with names and addresses you don’t recognise without opening them, and don’t click on suspicious-looking links in suspicious-looking emails.
Here are seven points from securitymetrics.com to help you recognise a phishing email:
- Legit companies don’t request your sensitive information via email
- Legit companies call you by your name
- Legit companies have domain emails
- Legit companies know how to spell
- Legit companies don’t force you to their website
- Legit companies don’t send unsolicited attachments
- Legit company links match legitimate URLs
Always stir plastisol before using it.
Plastisol ink has been known to print beautifully even after being in storage for over ten years. So, use up your older ink if you can but always stir it well. False body can build up over a long period of storage but a good stir will take care of it.
Following up on leads.
You own a textile screen print shop. It could use more business. It’s a small shop in which you’re pretty much the chief cook and bottle washer, which means if you don’t find new business, new business will not be found. But you’re not a natural salesperson. Perhaps you’re an introvert and maybe you’re shy too and the thought of pounding the pavement making cold calls sounds like a fate worse than death. So what to do?
Well, first and foremost make sure that your work is technically excellent and that your customer service is brilliant. The combination of these two things serves as a defensive and offensive mechanism. It’s a defense against competitors poaching your customers and it’s an offensive measure if your good reputation spreads and new customers are drawn in by word of mouth. But you also need to promote proactively.
A recent article by Darren Rabie in Scott’s Directories contains some excellent advice for focussing on where to find new leads. For instance, unlike many business writers, he doesn’t insist that you must attend networking events. He recognizes that some people are not suited to this. He writes: “If you are not comfortable cold networking (talking to strangers), this is NOT a forum for you. Don’t waste your night eating veggie and dip in the corner.”
He also points out that while you may be comfortable on LinkedIn and other social media tools, don’t rely on them too much. People tend to spend way too much time on them for minimal results. You need to contact people directly because in the end “people still buy from people.” So find ways to do it comfortably.
Here are suggestions: ask your customers for referrals and then call them; consider exhibiting at trade shows and then follow up on the leads; diarize all leads and check in with them regularly; take the initiative and suggest promotional programs to your leads; and keep your shop in the lead’s mind by regularly feeding useful tips and information about T-shirts and what they can do to promote business.
These are just some alternatives to the dreaded cold call. Use them and others that work for you because doing nothing other than waiting for referrals will not be enough to grow your business to its full potential.
Don’t put those small plastisol ink containers on the flash cure units and dryers.
Avoid placing those small plastisol ink containers on flash cure units or dryers. Take the extra trouble and place them in the coolest place – the floor. It might not always be convenient when you’re really busy but if the ink warms up it’s going to gel and become thick and unusable.
Is it your job to print whatever the customer brings – assuming it’s technically possible of course – even if you have reservations about the job?
Is it your responsibility to shut up and print or explain “inappropriate” to the customer?
In the past we’ve discussed reservations related to designs. What if the print is “inappropriate” in some way. Should you be concerned about your business being associated with something like this? Should you be party to enabling something “inappropriate”? A number of past examples come to mind such as racist messages and images, material offensive to one or other religious group, foul language, and so forth. Is it your responsibility to raise this with the customer or should you just shut up and print the job? And what if it’s a perfectly fine or even a magnificent design but the garment is “inappropriate”?
An “inappropriate” garment? What’s that? Well, how about a garment that contributes to sea pollution? Do you have a responsibility to point out to a customer that the garment they want you to print on is a polluter of oceans? And what are these garments?
A recent Associated Press report points out that yoga pants and various cozy clothes may be major sources of ocean pollution. According to the report, yoga pants, fleece jackets, and sweat-wicking athletic wear are among garments made from synthetic materials that shed microscopic plastic fibres when laundered. These microfibers escape most filtration systems, flush into waterways and eventually end up in the ocean. There they’ve been found to pollute marine life, including the fish we eat. So, the question here too is whether you discuss appropriate fabric types with your customer or simply shut up and print the job.
How far does your responsibility extend as a textile screen printer? I guess only you can decide that. But next time you order fish, think about this question.
Store your plastisol inks in a cool place.
As the warm weather of summer approaches remember to keep plastisol inks (especially fast-flashing and lower cure inks) away from heat sources like warm outside walls. Heat can trigger the gelling process in the bucket.
Its’ time to ask this question again. Does your doctor own a stethoscope?
I’ll bet he or she does. We all know that a doctor wouldn’t be able to do the job without such a basic but vital piece of equipment. How would your doctor know what’s going on inside your chest cavity without a stethoscope? And wouldn’t it be alarming if your doctor didn’t have a stethoscope because he or she didn’t want to shell out the few hundred dollars it would take to be properly set up to do the job?
So now let’s ask another question. Do you own a Thermoprobe or a heat gun?
How can a textile screen printer do the job properly without some way to accurately confirm the curing temperature in the dryer? How do you know what’s going on inside the dryer cavity – i.e. locate hot or cold spots – if you don’t have a Thermoprobe? Isn’t it alarming that many textile screen printers have no way of accurately testing the curing temperature inside their dryers because they don’t want to shell out a few hundred dollars for this vital piece of equipment?
And just as doctors have choices between expensive and less-expensive stethoscopes, textile screen printers have options too. Infra-red temperature guns are less expensive than Thermoprobes but Thermoprobes are more accurate. And while an infra-red gun might work well enough in smaller dryers, only Thermoprobes can find hot or cold spots in a dryer.
Test your curing temperatures. What you use is your choice, but use something. Don’t take unnecessary risks with curing!
Use a light box to inspect your screens.
When you inspect your screens both before and after coating, a light box with yellow safelight sleeves is a good way to do it.
Just a week ago I wrote about EZGrip’s revolutionary new squeegee handle. Since then the inventor, Ron Sievert, has sent us a link to a You Tube video of the EZGrip in action. You can see it here. But come back after watching the video because there’s more to this story.
A much healthier way to grip a squeegee.
Okay, so after watching the video and reading the last post, I don’t have to tell you why Stanley’s is excited about being able to offer the EZGrip squeegee handle. At $33.95 (Canadian) you can’t go wrong. But, as so often happens, great ideas attract copy cats.
Today I received an email notice of another two-handle squeegee that’s just hit the market. However, after looking at it I’m wondering why this BADASS squeegee (that’s its name, no kidding) was released at all. It’s much heavier than the EZGrip, it still uses the old screw technology so you can’t flip the rubber around, and the handles don’t appear to be nearly as ergonomically positioned as the EZGrip’s handles.
But the biggest difference is price. Stanley’s is selling the EZGip for $33.95 (Canadian) and the BADASS price on the email I received is $145.00 (U.S.), that’s about $190.00 (Canadian). In other words, you can get almost 6 EZGrips for 1 BADASS. Now what have you got to lose by buying one EZGrip (except of course carpal tunnel syndrome)? And when you’ve tried it and want more, Stanley’s will have them waiting.
So, as we said last week, Give Stanley’s a call at 1 800 661 1553 and ask about the EZGrip squeegee handle – carpal tunnel syndrome corrective surgery is no joke.
Use a concentrated degreaser and degrease the screen properly..
Don’t neglect the de-greasing stage of screen preparation – even if you’re in a hurry. And use a soft nylon brush to apply and work the degreaser over the mesh. Using a scourer is not a good idea. Oh, and use a concentrated degreaser made for the job, not dishwashing degreaser.
A much healthier way to grip a squeegee.
Doug is pleased to announce that Stanley’s has landed the sole Canadian distributorship for the new EZGrip squeegee handle. They are now available from Stanley’s for just $33.95 (Canadian), which is remarkable value when you consider the benefits over conventional squeegees.
Let’s start with the manual printer’s nightmare, carpal tunnel syndrome. The EZGrip handle vastly minimises that worry. According to the inventor of the EZGrip squeegee, Ron Sievert, the National Institute of Health in the U.S. has stated that the power grip used in the EZGrip does not primarily or exclusively use the muscles affected by carpal tunnel syndrome.
This seems to be confirmed by a user who says, “I have been manually printing T-shirts for over twenty years and suffered nerve damage from repetitive motion injury. Switching to EZGrip handles has literally changed the game for me. I can feel my fingers again!” The Occupation Safety and Health Administration in the U.S. is also quoted as pointing out that a pinch grip (as in conventional squeegees) should never be used when a power grip can be used instead (as in the EZGrip squeegee).
Rubber replacement quick and easy without screws.
Then there are other features too such as: it’s a self-standing unit in and out of the screen; it’s a one-piece construction that only weighs just over seven ounces; and it has a smooth chemical-resistant finish that allows for easy cleaning.
The handle will hold any durometer rubber from 5″ to 14″ in width. The rubber easily clips in firmly so there’s no messing with screws which means you can flip the rubber around and use the other end without having to worry about screw holes.
Give Stanley’s a call at 1 800 661 1553 and ask about the EZGrip squeegee handle – carpal tunnel syndrome corrective surgery is no joke.
Keep your coated screens dry.
Keep your screens in a dry environment after coating and before exposing; over 40% humidity is too high. If the coated screen absorbs moisture before exposing it will not expose properly and then you can expect pin holes, stencil break-down and other problems.
Email marketing can be very effective if you pay attention to technique.
In the last post we dealt with the Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) as it pertains to commercial electronic messages (CEM). So assuming we’re in compliance by obtaining express permission from every recipient listed in our email distribution list, we can now look at technique – ways to maximize the effectiveness of our email marketing effort.
The first thing you’re going to do is make sure that the recipient receives a personally-addressed email. Email program plug-ins that allow this have been around for years but services like Mail Chimp are more flexible (allows graphics etc.) and are growing in popularity. But whatever method you use to personalize mass email mail-outs, do not, again, do not, send out an email with a hundred or so recipients showing. First of all, it tells the recipient that they’re just one of many receiving a generic email and therefore nobody special to you – exactly the opposite of the impression you want to give. And secondly, why would you want to disclose one of you major intangible assets, your customer list, to the world at large?
There are also other important considerations: a subject line that entices the recipient to open the email; content that is relevant and of benefit to the recipient; encouragement to visit the other elements of your online presence such as your web site, Face Book page, and blog; timing such as the best day of the week, week of the month, or month of the quarter to send an email; and additional items of interest such as images.
Oh, and an important final thought – keep your email list up to date by constantly recruiting new recipients (with their permission of course) and paying attention to bounce-backs.
Dry your screens before coating.
Before coating with emulsion always make sure that the screen is completely dry if you want to avoid fisheyes.
Email marketing can be very effective, but you must have permission to send.
E-mail marketing is still a viable tool for textile screen printers in spite of Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) introduced in 2014. The major hurdle imposed by the legislation is the requirement that recipients of commercial electronic messages (CEM) must give express consent to receive such messages.
The obvious answer to the express consent requirement is to request your customers and potential customers for permission to send them CEMs. If you think about it, in addition to complying with the law, it’s a good targeting measure – why would you waste time and kid yourself by sending promotional material to anyone who doesn’t want it? Wouldn’t you rather know that the recipients have expressed an interest in receiving it by giving you express permission to send it?
The legislation came into effect on July 1, 2014 and you had a 36-month grace period until 30 June, 2017 during which you could continue to use email lists of customers from whom you had prior express or implied consent (for instance, you had previously provided your products or services to them and they hadn’t told you to stop sending CEMs). But by 1 July 2017 (yes, it’s almost here), you must have express permission from recipients of CEMs.
And if you don’t think the government is serious about enforcing CASL, you should know that Kellogg Canada Inc. agreed to pay a fine of $60,000 for a violation.
In the next post we’ll deal with email marketing and technique.
Care for your screens properly.
If you are new to textile screen printing, minimise your challenges by investing in a good high-pressure washer and a proper chemical system for reclaiming your screens. Good prints pretty much begin and end with your screens – care for them properly. A garden hose and bleach doesn’t cut it.
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 . . .
- A social media strategy is now fundamental to the growth and success of almost any new or existing business.
- 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.
- Social media appeals to the same demographic that’s interested in fashion.
- With social media you can quickly reach billions of people all over the world.
- Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube are still the most widely-used social networks but it won’t necessarily stay that way.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.