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A Textile Printer's Guide to Estimating Production Time

(January 1999) posted on Sun Jan 23, 2000

Combs presents good estimations for good business.

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By Terry Combs

Disadvantages of subcontracting Subcontracting can have its drawback, too. Here are a couple to consider: Subcontracting may cost you customers. The big concern that scares many shops away from subcontracting is the fear that the subcontractor will steal the customer. While the possibility exists, I can't remember it ever happening to me. On the other hand, I lost more customers than I care to admit because I tried to print jobs in-house that I should have subcontracted. I believe in digging a well before you get thirsty. I tried to be on good terms, as far as possible, with the offset printers, sign painters, and other screen printers in my area. If someone needed a gallon of ultramarine blue ink or a sheet of capillary film on short notice, and I had it, I'd help them out. Little favors can lead to larger favors and larger favors can lead to the kind of trust you need when you are looking for a local subcontractor. You can avoid worrying about stolen customers by dealing with subcontractors that are out of your market area. However, this adds to delivery times and shipping costs. I always subcontracted to the closest printer who could deliver a quality product on time at a reasonable price. At the time I placed the order, I discussed with the subcontractor what I did and did not expect them to do, including not contacting my customers directly. I tried to be careful when I selected subcontractors, and, as far as I knew, I never got burned. Subcontracting can put your production schedule in disarray. A much more realistic concern if you intend to subcontract work is that you will lose control of your production schedule. If the customer suddenly needs the product a week sooner than initially ordered, it's unlikely that you can meet the requirement. Similarly, if for any reason your subcontractor can't deliver on time, you can do little to rescue the situation. I regularly printed process-color designs for a customer who gave no advance notice of the job and worked on a delivery schedule measured in days rather than weeks. Subcontracting was not an option for this customer's orders, so I upgraded my equipment, trained until I could print acceptable process-color work, and then brought the work in-house and charged accordingly.


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