The goal of every direct-to-garment (DTG) and print shop is for their DTG production to run efficiently. No matter whether you are a one-person shop operating out of your home, or a large production facility running multiple shifts, the key to maximizing production efficiency is planning. Spending the time upfront to plan rewards you further down the line.
Besides creating a production schedule of what t-shirts to print on which days to ensure you meet delivery dates, you should think through your production cycle and shop workflow. The following are key elements to consider:
1. Can Your Current Production Be Scaled?
If you are struggling to meet and fulfill current orders you should address this issue first. Look at estimated lead times you are giving customers and make sure they are realistic. By serving your current market you can be ready to expand. It is important to ask yourself if you are ready for an increase in demand.
Things like keeping inventory in stock and close at hand are easy steps for instantly boosting production. Minimizing the amount of steps an employees needs to move means they can focus more on DTG printing.
2. What is your DTG Machine Capacity?
Knowing your DTG printer and pre-treat sprayer’s capacity and capabilities helps set realistic goals. For instant, the Epson F-2000 DTG printer on average products about 16-20 full size (16 inches x 20 inches) color prints on a t-shirt per hour. If you are maximizing this potential and want to get more production you might have to change the quality settings or purchase another DTG printer, either another Epson SureColor F-2000, or a more new and faster model the Epson Sure-Color F-2100 DTG Printer.
When possible, budget your time in bulk. For instance, pre-treat garments in large batches. Doing this will save you time by limiting the amount of set-up and clean up necessary.
Your DTG printing machine should be properly maintained. Having a smooth and efficient production schedule will mean very little if your equipment is not running up to its full potential. Part of having a strong production plan is making sure your equipment upkeep is completed and time is allotted for repairs. Regular, even perhaps daily, maintenance will help prevent major repairs and major time snags. Know the routine and type of maintenance needed for each piece of DTG equipment and stick to the maintenance schedule. Not doing so will almost certainly cost you time and money.
What Type of Jobs Are You Printing?
If you are only printing small left chest logos, your production should be higher than if you were printing large color prints. If you have an order of 24 shirts with each shirt customized, budget more time for artwork creation. Listing each step involved can help provide clues into where you will spend the most time on each job.
How Do You Utilize “Slow” Days?
Do you depend on one person to operate your DTG printer, or your pre-treat sprayer? Consider having a training day where your employees can learn a new skill, or a day to review your production and shop practices. Cross-training employees allows for uninterrupted production in case someone is on vacation, gets sick, or quits. To help with the cross-training process, have other employees shadow someone who currently knows how to do it. Make sure to have the trainee actually operate the printer or pre-treat sprayer. Going through the motions and pushing the buttons helps reinforce verbal instructions. Slow times in the shop can be best spent on training since there is not a rush to get an order out the door.
You could also use slower production times to test out new supplies, re-organize your shop, or review your business plans. During these slow times, and when your employees have a smaller workload, utilize them to help come up with marketing ideas, or solutions to issues that may be hindering your workplace. Letting your employees complete tasks that are not traditional to their roles can be a surprisingly beneficial exercise.
A production plan is so much more than creating a standard procedure for print jobs; it’s about using all of your time as effectively as possible. This is especially true for the on-demand and instant turn-around nature of a DTG printing shop. Making sure your employees are well trained, your area is well stocked and organized, and your equipment is properly maintained are key points to running a efficient print shop.