Many screen printers struggle to keep their production running on schedule to meet the delivery dates they set for their customers. Too often, shops find themselves scrambling to meet the final deadline, which can lead to staff overtime and plenty of stress. Even worse, if you don’t deliver when you say you will, you risk having an unhappy customer.

But when you’re managing multiple jobs and multiple clients, it can be difficult to stick to your projected timeline. Sticking to your production schedule comes down to time and project management. There are several tactics you can use to keep your shop on track to deliver to customers as soon as possible.

Track your production timeline.

How long does it take your art department to prep artwork and create film positives? What’s your timeline for screen production? What about ink mixing and equipment setup? How many garments can you run through your press and conveyor dryer? You have to know these stats for the types of prints you create most regularly. Unless you an accurately break down the timeline for each print, from a single-color athletic jersey to a four-color process job, you can’t accurately predict to your customer how long production will take.

For tips on speeding up your artwork preparation, check out this blog: How to Streamline Your Screen Printing Artwork Production

Keep an organized, shareable production calendar.

When you’re dealing with multiple orders at a time, you have to have an organized production calendar that your whole team can access and understand. When a customer walks through the door to order 100 shirts with a three-color print, you have to be able to quickly and easily see how it will fit into your calendar so you can provide a relatively accurate delivery estimate. As production flows, every member of your team should know where every order should be in the production process. Knowing that a certain order should be done in the art department in the morning so the screens can be prepped in the afternoon for printing the next day keeps projects moving forward. If the schedule starts to slip, your team should be able to see the slip and find ways to compensate as early as possible so the delay doesn’t impact your customer.

For more information on keeping your team and your workflow organized, read: How to Give Your Screen Printing Customers the Total Quality Experience

Have everything ready for your screen printing job before it gets to the production floor.

Organization really is key when it comes to sticking to your production schedule. Beyond an organized production calendar, you need an organized shop so you know where everything is and so you know you have everything you need for a particular job before it gets to the production floor. Know your stockroom so you know if you have ink and shirts on hand when an order is placed, or if you will need to order supplies. Assuming you have what you need when you give your customer a deliver date can backfire when you realize that you have to order supplies. As the rest of the team is prepping artwork and screens for a press run, have an employee who is responsible for rounding up everything that’s needed for an order, including the shirts, inks, squeegees and any other supplies, so everything is ready to go when your printers are. This can save you from realizing at the last minute that you don’t have something you need, and the organization can help you get jobs on the press faster.

Learn more about keeping necessary supplies on hand here: Tips for Managing Your Screen Printing Shop’s Inventory

Know your daily production priorities.

When you walk into your shop every morning, you should know what your daily production priorities are. Look at your upcoming delivery dates, and be sure that projects that are closest to their delivery date are on time. If a rush order has come in, know how that factors into your priorities. If an order is behind schedule, it should be your top priority to reduce the amount of delay to your customers. Of course, your priorities may have to be flexible to deal with unexpected issues or orders, but having a clear vision for your daily and weekly priorities can go a long way toward staying on track with your production schedule.

Be realistic with your customers.

More than anything, on-time delivery comes down to being realistic with your customers. It’s tempting to tell customers an order will be ready in the shortest amount of time possible, but unrealistic expectations can have you missing delivery dates time and time again. When an order comes in, go through your production timeline to determine how many hours it will take you to complete the job. Look at your production schedule to know how the new order would fit in. Give your customer a more accurate delivery date based on those factors. If a customer wants something sooner and nothing can be pushed back on your calendar, then you may have to turn the order down. While that’s not desirable, it’s better than missing delivery dates for customers who are counting on you.

For more on successful customer communication, visit: How to Handle Customers Smoothly at Your Screen Printing Business

Production timelines do take a lot of effort and organization to stick to, but the payoff is invaluable to your business. Sticking to your production timeline means keeping your customers happy with on-time delivery. It also saves you money from missing orders, paying overtime or paying for expedited shipping to your customers. In the end, the effort you put in to your production schedule will make your business run more smoothly and make it more profitable.