Last month we looked at policies and procedures that a manager can implement to save time and eliminate inefficiencies. This month, to conclude the article, here are some technical fixes and production floor changes.
Use Job Carts For Better Staging: Order staging is critical. You don’t want employees looking around for screens and ink for the next job. A simple rolling cart should be used that has all of the ink, screens, clean squeegees and even shirts (if they will fit). If the order is too large, the shirts should be laid out on job carts by size. When a job is done, the cart is used for dirty screens, squeegees and ink.
Do Regular Press Maintenance: This does not have to be a big deal. If someone spends an hour every Monday morning checking registration guides, platens, dryer temperatures and other critical areas, there will be less downtime related to silly things like misprinted shirts because a little nylon bolt worked loose.
Use an All-Arms-Down Press: This will not help for short runs but can greatly increase production on runs of a few hundred shirts or more. By using a press that allows multiple arms to come down for printing, it means that you can have more than one person printing on a press at the same time. Not all presses have this feature, because a lot of shops have only one person operating a manual press at a time. But it can be well worth it; I have seen shops go from 100 four-color prints per hour to over 200 per hour by adding one more person to the production crew. Yes, it increased the body count, but the idea here is to increase production. There is a lot of controversy over this and many manufacturers state you don’t need it. And, in many cases you don’t/won’t need it until you have a large job with a tight deadline – and no automatic press. Plus, most equipment manufacturers charge extra for this feature.
Know Your Mesh and Ink: I like to say I can solve most problems with changes to “mesh and ink.” If you are hand printing, don’t be afraid to get the ink smooth and creamy. An addition of a small amount of curable reducer (not soft hand) will make the ink easier to print and will also greatly reduce the amount of buildup on the bottom of the screens. Also, you can go to higher mesh counts with reduced ink to get a softer hand, use less ink, reduce buildup, hold halftone dots better and so on. For basic one-color, move higher than normal and use a 156 mesh. For simple multicolor prints, use 156 to 200 mesh. For a detailed print with halftones, use 230 mesh. For a process print, use 305.
Use a Push Stroke with the Squeegee: Although the squeegee was designed to be pulled toward you, it is actually less fatiguing to push the squeegee away from you. It is a simple stroke that uses more of your body weight and allows for more shirts per shift. It is held at the same angle as when pulling.
Use Helpers: If you have more than one press, you should have a “rover” who helps stage shirts, acts as a runner, checks shirts coming off the dryer, helps unload and load shirts, etc.
Speed Up Setup and Teardown: This sounds so simple but it is one of the biggest time-loss areas – especially on short-run jobs where it may take longer to set up and teardown than to print the job. There’s no magic secret to this. Working fast and efficiently will save time.
Start by making sure that all of the above is done. There are plenty of other things you can do. Standardize your screen sizes so there is very little press adjustment needed from job to job. If necessary, go to a pin register system even on the manual presses. Have good lighting over the press area and have all adjustment tools (if needed) chained to the press. Supply cut cardboard squares for scraping a screen clean and teach people to not spend too much time in teardown. Final cleanup can be done at the screen cleaning area later.
It’s the little things that count in production. Work on these items every day and find your own little time savers that equate to “free” shirts that are over and above your normal production. Good luck.