Your shop layout will play a large role in determining how much you’re able to produce and how quickly you’re able to produce it. It’s not a decision to take lightly; it requires careful planning. Because every screen printing shop is different, there’s no one right answer to the layout you should choose. However, there are some general guidelines that should point you in the right direction.
With so much to consider, how do you get started? Try sketching out a plan. First, you’ll have to figure out what to include in your sketch. Break down your shop by department, and for each department list the equipment, supplies and facilities required. Try to be as thorough as possible – even seemingly insignificant items like shelves and carts take up valuable space.
Next, create a scale drawing of your space. This will help you visualize where to position your equipment and supplies to best fit your workflow. Your building will usually determine which layout is most appropriate. The size of your space is obviously important, but it’s not the only factor to consider. You also have to think about the electrical, air or gas requirements for your equipment and plan accordingly. In your sketch, be sure to include doors, windows, support columns, electrical outlets, gas and water supplies. You can either draw or print out scale images of your equipment and add it to the plan, experimenting with different configurations. Using a transparent overlay, sketch out the path supplies like shirts, screens and ink will take through your shop during production. The goal should be to have workers retrace their steps and cross paths as little as possible. This will allow you to spot and prevent any potential bottlenecks or areas of wasted time and motion. Try to locate possible sources of contamination (ink storage, washout station, etc) away from your clean garments. You don’t want to ruin your shirts!
Keep in mind that supplies and equipment won’t be the only things taking up space in your shop – people will too. Think about the environment inside your shop. A work space that is too hot, humid, cold, cramped or dark will hurt production, morale and ultimately profits. Are there windows and doors you can open to let in fresh air and natural light? Is there a place to add an air conditioner or fan? Air conditioning near your conveyor dryer or flash cure can affect curing times; fans can spread dust and dirt and contaminate screens, creating pinholes and other problems. Be careful, but remember that your production capabilities depend on the comfort of your workers – don’t overlook the needs of your human resources!
Consider how many employees will be working in each department of your shop at any given time. This way, you can allot the proper amount of space to make sure no one is too crowded and they don’t get in each other’s way. Plan your layout to leave plenty of room around your equipment for operators to work. Working in cramped conditions around powerful machinery and extreme heat sources is very dangerous. Also, if a piece of equipment requires maintenance, it’ll save you valuable time if the machine is easily accessible for repair.
If customers will be entering your shop regularly, make sure you have an area for receiving them that won’t interfere with the workers on your production floor. If you have space, a showroom can help boost your sales by giving you a place to show off your best work and give your customers examples of your different offerings. A dedicated showroom or customer receiving area will enhance the professional image of your business, while keeping customers off the shop floor and out of the way. Not only will this keep your shop from getting too crowded, it’ll also help keep everyone safe.
Planning for safety doesn’t stop at providing adequate space for employees and customers. In order to create a safe shop, you’ll also have to take proper ventilation into account. Exposure to exhaust from gas conveyor dryers and fumes from screen printing ink and other chemicals can be harmful, so you can’t let it accumulate in your building. Plan for any ducting you’ll need to vent harmful fumes outside.
In addition to airborne contaminants, you’ll also need to dispose of solid and liquid waste. Screen printing shops generate a lot of waste and not all of it can simply be thrown in the trash or washed down the drain. You have to plan your shop with a way to remove hazardous materials safely, responsibly and in full accordance with your local laws. For tips on reducing screen printing waste, check out this blog post.
As you sketch your shop layout, you should also plan escape routes and where to locate first aid stations in the event of emergency.
No matter how much planning you do, the only way to really judge the efficiency of your shop layout is to put it to the test. Only by putting your plan in action can you evaluate its performance and make any necessary adjustments. But with thorough preparation, you should be able to come up with a plan that gets your garments in and out the door quickly, safely and looking great.
For more tips on starting your own screen printing shop, check out these blog posts: