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Stretching What You Have

(May 2009) posted on Thu May 21, 2009

Making the most of your consumables is key to surviving tough times. Davis explains how to get the most mileage out of inks, emulsion, cleaning chemicals, and other supplies by optimizing screen tension.

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By Rick Davis

The past three decades have brought changes to our industry that I never thought I’d see in my wildest dreams—or should I say, nightmares. International trade agreements have driven the major garment manufacturers from the US first to Mexico, then South America, then the Caribbean, and now to South Asia and India. I could count the number of large screen-printing shops that own more than six or seven automatic presses in the US on one hand. The powerhouse licensed-athletic suppliers that used to feed countless garment-screen-printing operations profitability have all moved their production overseas in the name of cost and profitability. This, in conjunction with the current economic situation in which we find ourselves, has left the market for domestic screen-printed apparel a mere shadow of what it once was.

Today, a large garment-printing facility typically has two or three automatic printing presses, and those that have three or more have, in many cases, downsized from much larger facilities. Garment shops of all sizes have closed their doors, and those that have survived have done so by maintaining the least amount of overhead and staff in order to process orders at the lowest possible cost. Nowadays you’ll commonly find printers that are costing out printing for the simple reason of keeping the doors open and slashing profitability to a minimum in order to just survive.

Although I do believe this is a sign of modern times, I also believe that we will recover from our current situation and the garment-decorating industry will survive. The great unknown, however, is when that upturn will take place. Until it does, the most that garment screen printers can do is maximize resources, increase quality, and minimize price and overhead.

Making the most of what you have is especially important for the smaller shops that are truly struggling. Maximizing what we can get out of our supplies and processes is key to keeping the doors open for business. This concept should be a standard operating procedure for every shop, regardless of size, but times of plenty bred complacency in our industry.


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