Keep even your most demanding customers happy by delivering high quality products every time.

Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use that’ll make the job easier.

The best form of quality control is preventing problems before they happen. First, you need to be aware of common screen printing issues and steps you can take to avoid them. Many screen printing problems are the result of poor technique, so it’s important that you and your employees are familiar with screen printing fundamentals. If you’re just starting out or making the move from hobby printing to professional, consider taking a screen printing class to give your skills a boost. And remember, on-press skills are important, but don’t neglect pre-press! All good screen prints begin with good pre-press technique.

Communicate Clearly with Your Clients

One strategy you can use to prevent problems before they start is maintaining clear communication with your customers through all steps of the order process. When you take an order, get as much detail as you can from your customer regarding all aspects of the job, from the artwork to the type of garment to the desired turnaround time. Provide a detailed order form so you can keep track of exactly what the customer wants – preferably typed instead of handwritten – leaving no room for miscommunication. Double check and confirm the amount of garments the customer wants and their sizes, the print size and placement, and any spelling or phone numbers. It helps to have more than one person proof the design before printing. The last thing you want is to print a big order of shirts that look great – but have the wrong phone number or misspelled names!

If you have any limitations your customers need to know about, make sure to explicitly state them. For example, color matching is not an exact science and you may not be able to perfectly reproduce your customer’s design. Using a color matching system will help, but be sure to explain acceptable levels of color variation to your customers and get their approval before printing. You also need to clearly explain your pricing to your customers. No one likes hidden fees, so try to give your clients a detailed breakdown of the cost of their orders. For example, if you charge extra for rush orders or artwork preparation, explain your policies to your customers before they place their orders so their bills contain no unpleasant surprises.

Eliminate as Many Variables as You Can

When it’s time to actually set up and print an order, standardization is the key to controlling the quality of your work. If your procedures are standardized, when problems arise it’s easier to find what went wrong and how to fix it, because you can go through the entire process step by step. Identify what processes are repeatable for every job and what variables you’ll encounter. Document your procedures every step of the way, from screen preparation to printing to packaging to screen reclamation. You’ll get more consistent results if you give yourself a guide to setting up and printing jobs successfully, rather than winging it for each order.

Effectively Test Your Prints

Testing goes a long way towards standardizing your processes. For example, if you notice registration issues in your prints but can’t locate the cause, do some test prints isolating one variable at a time. There are many reasons why a print might not be registered correctly, like low screen tension and unlevelled pallets. If you test each variable individually, it’ll take less time to find the problem and devise a solution. Document common problems and how you’ve solved them so you have a handy reference you can use in the future.

Test printing will certainly help you catch issues, but try to use a production shirt instead of a pellon whenever you can. Pellons don’t always accurately represent the quality of the final print. If you do a test on the same shirt you’ll be delivering to your customer, you’ll have a better indication of what to expect during the real production run. Keep in mind that some issues may not appear until after the order is delivered to your client. The effects of dye migration can take days or even weeks to show up, so do thorough testing as far in advance of the delivery date as possible to make sure bleeding doesn’t occur.

Cleanliness is Key

Another good way to prevent printing issues is to keep your work area as clean as possible. Don’t let dust, dirt, lint, ink or pallet adhesive build up – not only can they affect your print quality, they can damage your press itself. All good screen prints start with good stencils, so prepare and store your screens in an area free from debris that can cause pinholes and other problems. If you’ve got a fan in your shop, be careful that it isn’t blowing dust and dirt into your screens. Clean your press and the surface of your exposure unit often. Keeping your shop neat and organized is a big step towards ensuring the best print quality possible.

Catching Problems After Printing

Even if you’ve printed your garments flawlessly, you still need to watch out for potential problems. For example, if your customer ordered 100 shirts but you only deliver 80, the prints could be technically perfect and the client will still be angry. Keep an accurate count of the items to be delivered and document it before shipping the order so you know exactly what your customer receives. Remember that some issues may take awhile to show up, so it’s a good idea to check in with your customer after delivery to make sure there are no problems. Even if there aren’t any issues, staying in touch is a good way to build goodwill with your clients.

Consider providing customers a survey or other convenient way to provide feedback, so you know what you did well and where you can improve. If you’ve done everything right, you can expect plenty of repeat business. Keep your past orders organized so you can recall them easily if a client wants to reprint a job. If you know exactly how you printed a job the first time, it’s that much easier to repeat it!

Want some more tips to help streamline your business and keep your quality top notch? Keep an eye on the Anatol blog, or get in touch – we’re never too busy to talk screen printing!