But in a busy shop, you might often find yourself pressed for time, especially if it’s a smaller business. This can get overwhelming and stressful in a hurry! What steps can you take to keep yourself on schedule?
The first step in successfully managing your time is being honest with yourself – and your customers – about your production capabilities. You don’t want to overpromise when it comes to delivery dates and you don’t want to accept an order you know your equipment isn’t capable of printing. It might not be easy to turn down sales or farm out jobs, but accepting an order you can’t realistically produce will only cause problems.
When you decide to take on an order, it’s a good idea to prepare a checklist detailing the items required to complete the job. List everything from:
This checklist will give you a better idea of what resources (material and human) you’ll need to fill the order, and from there you can determine how the order will best fit in your production schedule.
Do you have the necessary supplies on hand for the job or will you need to special order them? Allocate the supplies specifically to that particular job so they don’t get used elsewhere. If your prints require a quart of blue ink, you don’t want to find out it was used to print a different job and now you have to order more! It can be impractical or expensive to stock a large inventory of supplies, especially for small shops. Find a reliable local supplier (or multiple suppliers, if possible) who can keep you equipped with the tools you need to complete jobs quickly. For a more detailed look at inventory, check out Tips for Managing Your Screen Printing Shop’s Inventory
Some customers are more flexible than others when it comes to deadlines. If you notice your schedule filling up and threatening to become unmanageable, a customer you’ve got a good relationship with (and an order with no particular hurry) may be open to a later delivery date, freeing up some precious time to complete more urgent orders. For more ideas on how to keep your customers happy, check out Handle Customers Smoothly at Your Screen Printing Business
You need to be familiar with your equipment and know its limitations. If you have an automatic press, make the most of it. You don’t want to tie up your automatic press on a small, simple order if you have a manual press available. Take downtime and maintenance into account. All machines need occasional maintenance, and screen printing presses are no exception. Creating a preventative maintenance schedule and sticking to it can help ensure your machines are up and running when you need them most. Organize your equipment for maximum efficiency – your shop layout should minimize wasted movement and wasted time. For more information on planning your shop layout, check out Tips for Planning the Perfect Screen Printing Shop Layout
Your employees should know exactly what’s expected of them to complete the job. Your production schedule affects every department of your business. In a small shop, the entire process may fall under one person’s responsibility. But in a larger shop, many different employees can play roles filling the order, and they all need to be generally familiar with the process. For example, if you have a dedicated sales department or art department, it’s a bad idea for them to accept or create a design requiring more colors than your press can print. When each member of the team knows his or her role and how it fits into the bigger picture, it’ll help your production run smoothly. For a better look at how to keep your staff working together, check out How to Give Your Screen Printing Customers the Total Quality Experience
It’s a good idea to keep track of your orders in a place that’s visible to everyone, like on a white board. This will keep your employees on the same page and give everyone a better idea of what orders need to be filled when. Shop management software can help you keep track of your orders, but you must put in the effort to maintain it. Like any business software, you get out what put into it. To get the most out of shop management software, you have to enter accurate information and keep it updated. Wth accurate info, you can keep a close eye on your orders in progress and see what’s on schedule and what isn’t, and where you can make the necessary adjustments to get everything out on time.
Because conditions change so often and no two jobs are identical, it can be difficult to judge how long an order will take and use that information to create an accurate production schedule. You can save yourself time by carefully documenting how you successfully print every order you complete. Then, when a similar order or repeat order is placed, you can quickly reference the steps you took to deliver a quality product the first time around. As you get a better idea of how long certain types of jobs take, you can develop a more accurate system for scheduling your orders. Remember to adjust your system whenever you notice an opportunity to save time or prevent bottlenecks. For more ideas on building a reference guide, check out Applying Lessons Learned: Building a Screen Printing Knowledge Base
No matter how carefully you plan, mistakes happen. Sometimes emergencies will keep you from filling an order by your deadline. When you miss a deadline, learn from it. Examine how you got off schedule and how you can prevent it from happening in the future. Was a key employee sick? Consider having backup staff you can call on in an emergency. Didn’t have enough supplies to complete the job? Have an alternate supplier (preferably local) or consider increasing your inventory if it’s a regularly occurring issue.
The most important thing is to clearly communicate with your customers every step of the way. Most customers have some degree of flexibility regarding their deadline. Being as transparent and honest as possible is a good way to keep your customers satisfied, even when things don’t go exactly as planned.