Establishing best practices in the art department can save time and boost quality. Trimingham describes some methods you can use to initiate such improvements.
A review step is important in the evaluation, organization, and management of the artwork itself. The artwork that comes into a printing company can generally be categorized as simple, intermediate, or complex for creation and separation purposes. You can make the following designations: 1=simple, 2= ntermediate, and 3=complex (Figure 2). It’s critical to know how much of an art department’s time is spent on the level 1 art vs. level 3. This also helps to isolate any waste in the processing of less profitable jobs and create a realistic picture of the level of art that is typical for the shop. Establish the art stats and then take a serious look at efficiency in handling art that meets criteria for levels 1-3. Separation tasks can be similarly graded and tracked to find out how long they take. Review each step in the art department and consider how you can use the information you gather to motivate a consistently higher level of quality and efficiency.
Tracking the art department
Your evaluation and review might be finished, but these tasks should never be over completely. Establishing a procedure for continually tracking the time that tasks take in the art department is an important step in eliminating time wasted on tasks that rank as low priorities. Some relatively inexpensive computer programs can, without a lot of hassle, track time spent on projects. The software can also keep everyone up to speed when an art job goes over budget. Even if you don’t bill for it, information about this extra time spent is a great sales tool to motivate customers to repeat orders and referrals (we go the extra mile for you—or the extra hour). Indeed, there are more complicated systems that will track substantial details about each job and how much time each step requires to complete. Larger companies are the ones that typically implement a database tracking system to assess jobs and follow processes and revision steps.
A word of warning is necessary here. Any detailed system of evaluation invites the impulse to micromanage every task. You’ll totally defeat the point of a review when your analysis of information each day takes more time than the results will deliver. The goal is something similar to traffic lights in a busy intersection. The evaluation of the process in the art department shouldn’t create a backup in the flow of work in that area. Tracking, reviewing, and adjusting the art flow through the department should always consider the whole—not just its parts. Don’t slow everything down in an effort to adjust small areas.
Careful observation and review will give you a great chance of finding significant amounts of extra time and profit in your art department. If you remain a positive force and help the artists create a more productive environment, then you’ll soon realize just how efficient your art department can be.
Thomas Trimingham is an award-winning art director, illustrator, and separator who has more than 16 years of experience in the screen-printing industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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