Dealing With Press Downtime

By charting all the times your presses stop and why they’ve stopped, you can dramatically increase your productivity.

I’ve done many seminars on the task of doubling production in 30 days or less. As you might imagine, press operators are quick to point out that they can’t print twice as fast as they are now. In most cases, it isn’t a matter of printing faster. Instead, for most shops, it’s simply a case of reducing press downtime.

At an onsite consultation once, a shop owner told me he didn’t have time to implement my ideas. “I’m not a startup operation. I have millions of dollars of production to do right now. I don’t have the luxury of shutting down to implement your ideas,” he said. I looked around and said: “It looks as if you’re already shut down.”

Almost like clouds parting to reveal the sun, this business owner looked across his production floor and realized that not a single press was running. Every machine was idle. The employees were all busy, but busy digging through and deciphering piles of paperwork when someone questioned the ink color after the first batch of shirts were printed, looking for the missing product from orders pulled incorrectly, and a dozen other reasons. This owner was so used to not hearing presses running, the production floor seemed perfectly normal until pointed out to him. Needless to say, he immediately bought in to the concept of resolving his downtime issues.

The beauty is that finding and resolving downtime issues is fairly simple. Your job is to create a form (see below). Provide a stack to each machine on your floor. Each instance of downtime will require its own form. For one week, the operator or inspector at the end of the belt will keep track of ALL downtime. This will feel like a chore to production staff, but it’s one that will yield positive results. As stumbling blocks are eliminated, the frustration level of production floor employees will also begin to disappear.

After a week of tracking, collect the downtime forms and separate them by category. You’ll have a stack for screen issues, a stack for product issues, etc. Now, under each category, sort by similar reasons within the category. Product pulled incorrectly, for instance. Tally up the downtime for each category and similar reason, and chart these times.

Note that this form is meant to track how often the press is stopped in the middle of production. Setup and breakdown time aren’t included, but you’ll want to study your setup and breakdown processes to determine how you can speed up those steps as well.

Don’t try to attack every downtime issue at once. Look at your lost production time chart and select the one category and issue that cost the most time. Go on the floor and find a solution to that particular problem. After you’re satisfied that you’re moving in a positive direction, go back to your chart and select the next consumer of your production time.

Follow this process and you’ll set yourself apart from you competition in your ability to turn pieces more productively, and in turn more profitably.

Sample Production Downtime Form

Your downtime-tracking form will look something like this:

  • Graphic
  • Screens
  • Product
  • Ink
  • Machine
  • Inspector
  • Other
  • Circle one of the above

Specific Reason:




Total Downtime Minutes:


Terry Combs is a 35-plus-year veteran of the garment-printing industry and has managed production shops across the United States. He is currently in sales and training with Equipment Zone, Franklin Lakes, NJ, working from Scottsdale, AZ.