Be ready to handle any print order that comes your way by keeping a close eye on your shop’s supplies.

Managing a screen printing business means managing inventory: Stocking the merchandise and supplies you need to meet demand, while keeping in mind the constraints of your budget and your storeroom. Managing your inventory also means anticipating surges in business, tracking your inventory and maintaining a supply chain that will keep your production line moving.

Stocking the Basics

Knowing what inventory to have on hand is especially tricky for screen printers. Your customers come to you for custom goods. That means that no two customers are going to walk through your door looking for the same product. What you can do is keep samples of the types of products you most often sell. Product samples can help customers see how prints look on different substrates and determine what printing effects to use with their designs before they order.

When you’re creating your samples, don’t forget the upsell: Showcase your work on higher end substrates and less common items. A customer who comes in for a simple sweatshirt might upgrade to a higher-quality, higher priced sweatshirt if they can feel the quality. That same customer might also decide to add tote bags or water bottles to his order once he sees what other items you have available.

Anticipating Customer Demand

In addition to having samples on hand, you’ll want to have substrates, inks, screens, emulsion and other supplies on hand that will help you fill orders quickly. That means anticipating your customers’ demands. There are some obvious items to have on hand, like basic colored t-shirts, a good variety of inks, and the chemicals you’ll need to prepare and reclaim screens. It’s a good idea to keep local school colors in your inventory; if you’re supplying team gear, booster apparel or spirit wear, you’ll need substrates and printing supplies ready to go for local schools and teams.

The longer you’re in business, the better you’ll get at anticipating your customers’ demands. You might see spikes of sweatshirt orders in the fall or an increase in sport-blend race shirts in the summer. The local baseball league might come to you for team jerseys each spring. When you know those orders will be coming, you can ramp up your inventory to be prepared.

Cultivating Your Supply Line

For the supplies you don’t keep on hand, you’ll need to develop a reliable supply chain that allows you to get those materials quickly, without putting a wrench in your production timeline. You want to find suppliers that ship quickly and at reasonable prices. Look for suppliers with multiple warehouses and warehouses near you. And don’t just rely on one supplier. While you’re sure to develop go-to suppliers, you want to have alternatives in your pipeline in case your usual company isn’t able to get something to you when you need it.

Cultivating a supply line also requires building relationships. Make sure you have personal contacts with the suppliers you deal with. You want to have people you can call on if you have a special request or problem. You’ll also need to know when to cut ties with a supplier: If your production is getting repeatedly thrown off by delays in shipments or out-of-stock items, it’s probably time to shop for a new supplier.

Tracking Your Inventory

In the end, managing the inventory in your screen printing shop takes some organization and thought. The items and supplies you keep on hand should be stored in a manner that makes them easy to access and easy to catalog. Make a habit of checking your inventory on a regular basis. Take note of what items seem to sell out quickly and what sits for longer than you’d like.

If you continue to track and evaluate your inventory, you’ll eventually find the right balance of keeping the right amount of the right items on hand and knowing when to order on demand to best meet your customers’ neds while staying within your shops budgetary and storage constraints.

Looking for more tips on how to organize your screen printing shop to meet customer demand? Check out our blog post: How to Keep Up with Your Screen Printing Shop’s Customer Demand

Or give us a call and let’s discuss the optimum setup for your shop!