Wearables 30-Day Shop Challenge

Streamline your shop and boost productivity by trying these 30 steps.

During the month of October, we're encouraging Wearables readers to participate in one or both of our 30-Day Challenges. (Find the Sales Challenge here.) Our shop-streamlining challenge was compiled with the expert help of  Glen Carliss, Marshall Atkinson, Terry Combs and Rob Dubow. Use the checklist below to take the challenge, and share your progress on social media using the hashtag #30DaysOfStreamlining, and email your results to Senior Editor Theresa Hegel at thegel@asicentral.com for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue of the magazine. Good luck! 

Take a step back.

1. Do nothing. Don’t throw away your whole day, but spend a few hours watching the flow of operations. Observe the entire process, from receiving orders to sending completed projects out the door. In essence, be your own consultant.

2. Map your core processes. Look at each part of the production process. Each part has steps that need to be done. Map those out. This can help pinpoint where breakdowns might be occurring, as well as give you a roadmap on how to train employees.

3. Create a spaghetti diagram. Follow a decorator around and map out where he or she goes for the day, or map out your own day.

4. Look for bottlenecks. Have your employees record all their down time, either when they take a break, or every time something isn’t happening the way it should be – such as if an incorrect or incomplete order arrives in receiving, or if the machine operator has to go back to the sales department with a question. What stops the human side of the formula?

5. Start fixing the bottlenecks. While this will be a long-term process, identify a step you can take today to fix the most pressing issue.

6. Talk to your employees. Ask each one of them, what’s your No. 1 problem? This will give you an outline for further improvements.

Organize, organize, organize.

7. Declutter. If something for one department is located in another space, move it back to where it belongs.

8. Look at your floor flow. Are there items in the way? If there’s a filing cabinet on the shop floor that the printer has to walk around, that’s wasted time. Move it to where it doesn’t impede the flow.

9. Organize your shop according to what’s needed for your jobs. Relevant tools need to be near the machines and employees who need them. Create an area for everything, from inbound goods to threads, inks, etc.

10. Create an inventory management program. This can be an existing software program, or your own system of keeping track of what’s missing and when you need to replace items.

11. Invest in multiples. Having only one tape gun, for instance, means that your workers waste time waiting for it to be available, or going to find it with the last person who used it.

12. Clean up. Run a printing shop? Make sure the inks are being cleaned up immediately. Embroidery? Get loose threads put away where they belong. Task an employee to do this daily.

13. Organize your jobs. Take the time to look at how your jobs are set up. Do you make sure that your employees have everything they need to complete their jobs at their fingertips when they begin? If not, considering investing in rolling carts that can hold all material for a job, which can be easily moved in and out of the production line.

Improve your schedule.

14. Work backward. Start the day with the tenet that every job needs to be completely produced one business day before it’s supposed to ship. Then figure out the schedule from there.

15. Spend the day documenting how long each part of the process takes. How long is set up? How long is production? How long is finishing?

16. Set up a chart. Count the amount of time it takes from the time you begin a project, to the time you printed the first good proof. Time tear down, too. Every minute should be accounted for.

17. Once you have that chart, start dropping orders into that schedule. It may not be your ideal schedule, but it will help you identify where time might be wasted and help you improve.

18. Look into pre-registration systems. If you have one already, is it working for you – and is it being used properly? 

Communication is key.

19. Examine your work orders. How do your curate them? Do the people who have to do the next step in the workflow know what to do? If not, change your process. Nothing should go on the schedule until all information on the order form is complete.

20. Cross train. Set up a system in which you cross train your employees on other duties in other departments. After all, if your sales department doesn’t know what goes on in your art department, how can they effectively process an order?

21. If you don’t already require color mockups of jobs, start using them. If you have them in your process, make sure they include the proper information for each job: design dimension, colors, position for the image. Is everything getting properly labeled? This will help cut down on errors as well as time spent asking questions about orders that can be answered in the beginning.

Look elsewhere.

22. Set standard operating procedures, and write them down. Outline expectations for your jobs and how they’re completed. If you already have these, review them to see if they need to be updated.

23. Set performance rules. Do you have a policy for break time? Cell phone use? Outline your expectations for employees. If you already have these rules, update them.

24. Create, or update, your employee handbook. Put these rules and standards into writing and make sure each employee gets a copy.

25. Set up training for your employees on these new or updated rules and procedures.

26. Create an official, branded pricing grid that can be shared with customers. If you already have one, make sure it’s up to date.

27. Know your financial position. While this may not be a one-day project, it’s an important one. If you’re financially savvy, spend the day going over your books. If you’re not, spend the day interviewing experts who can help you.

Keep things going.

28. Make time for a performance review. Set aside a half-hour to meet with employees about how they’re doing, and what they can improve upon.

29. Set up a meeting or phone call with your machine vendors. Talk to them about maintenance requirements, recommended servicing and any concerns you might have about your equipment. Use these to create a maintenance schedule for each piece of equipment.

30. Get your employees involved. Set up an incentive system that rewards employees who meet certain elevated metrics – such as increased production over time.