Despite your best efforts, a little downtime now and then is inevitable at your shop. Here are some ways you can keep it to a minimum!

If your presses aren’t running, your screen printing shop isn’t making money. Whether from machine malfunctions or problems with a print job, downtime happens in a print shop. By focusing on reducing downtime, you can increase your production and your profits. Here are a few simple strategies that can help you do just that.

Tracking your downtime

If you’re not sure where to begin to reduce your downtime, begin by tracking your production downtime over the course of a week. Keep a set of forms near every machine, and have your team fill out a report every time a press run comes to a halt. On the form, list general categories denoting the reason for stoppage — such as graphics, screens, substrates, inks, mechanical difficulties or other reasons — that your team can circle, as well as fill-in sections to allow explanation for the specific stoppage reason, the duration of the stoppage, which machine the stoppage took place on and who was operating the machine during the stoppage.

At the end of the week, sort your downtime forms by category. Whichever category has the most stoppage reasons is the area to focus on improving procedures to reduce downtime. You should be able to come up with strategies specific to your production team by evaluating the reasons for downtime, finding similarities and brainstorming solutions. Once you’ve addressed a specific area of downtime and noticed an improvement, you can move on to the next area of concern. Every few months, make a point of tracking downtime so you can track your improvement and catch problems at the get-go. It might seem a bit laborious, but tracking your downtime can pay off in a big way when it comes to increasing your production.

Dealing with equipment issues

Equipment failures can be among the most frustrating causes of downtime, as your staff works to pinpoint and address the problem. You might not be able to get the machine up and running yourselves, which means you’ll have to wait for a mechanic or service technician to restore your machinery. You can prepare for these types of equipment failures by keeping your service manuals organized and at hand, and by making sure your machines are marked with the make and model numbers so any employees who have to call for service have the information they need quickly. When hiring, consider looking for candidates with mechanical backgrounds who might be able to help get your machines back on their feet. Reduce the number of equipment failures you experience by practicing regular cleaning and maintenance to keep your machinery in top shape.

Making the most of downtime

When downtime does happen, you can make the most of your downtime by having a plan in place to make the most of your employees’ time. Production floor employees can get to work reclaiming screens, mixing ink for the next job, organizing substrates or cleaning up around the shop. Make sure your employees know how they should be filling their downtime and have all areas of your shop organized so that employees can get to work quickly when downtime happens. Your shop’s productivity doesn’t have to come to a standstill just because your equipment has stopped running.

Downtime happens in any shop. By targeting the causes of downtime and having strategies in place for dealing with downtime when it happens, you can reduce the frequency of production stoppages and increase your shop’s productivity and profit.