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Inspiration Overseas: A Model Screen-Printing Shop

(July 2007) posted on Fri Jul 06, 2007

Roberts recounts his visit to a graphics screen-printing company in Frankfurt, Germany and shares the valuable lessons he learned from the pristine, efficient shop.


By Gordon Roberts

OK, America, it’s time we all started acting like the mature screen-printing industry that we are. If we don’t, then we are going to get our proverbial butts kicked big time.

I just returned from a business trip to Germany, where I visited a run-of-the-mill graphics company located just outside of Frankfurt. The company specializes in signage and vehicle graphics. It didn’t take me very long to realize that if this company were to relocate to just about any market in the US, it would soon steal most of the business available. Believe me, there are very few shops in the US that could compete with the level of quality that this company’s highly trained staff produced on its state-of-the-art equipment. It was quite an eye opener for me and quite disconcerting to discover that most print shops in Germany operate in a similar manner.

German efficiency is famous worldwide. Here in the US, our excuse is that it is not in our nature to function the way that Germans do. Americans bring creativity and a “get it done” mentality to the table, which is lacking elsewhere in the world. Well, it turns out that the shop I visited in Frankfurt actually is owned and operated by an American expat. I hope that when he decides to return to his homeland, he doesn’t set up shop in your town. You’re in a lot of trouble if he does.

Let’s backtrack a little. The reason I visited Frankfurt was for Musikmesse, the largest musical instrument convention in the world. Apart from my activities in the screen-printing world, I am also part owner of a business that manufactures high-end archtop jazz guitars. My German distributor and I exhibited the guitars at Musikmesse. My distributor had taken care of the booth design, and I was knocked out by the quality of the floor-to-ceiling graphics that a local print shop produced and delivered to us on set-up day. I asked the delivery guys whether it would be possible to take a tour of their shop after the exhibit was over. I wanted to get a feel for the way things get done on their side of the pond. We exchanged cards and arranged for a tour.


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