July '12

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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PENNY PINCHERS Due in part to these factors, this segment of the industry has become a numbers game, one where the lowest bid takes all. "Unfortunately when you get to this vol- ume, you're global and you're competing with countries that pay their people seven- ty-dollars a month," says Weiss. Because of this, jobs come down to bidding on pen- nies. "Lucky for me, I don't have a com- puter that allows me to bill in half cents," he further muses. This method alone is a difficult way to carry on business for very long, especially when orders require multiple rounds of setup, packaging and shipment. Unfor- tunately, this is the reality of the market. "Fighting the market isn't very wise; you're going to lose. What we have to do is see what the market wants, figure out a way to do it, keep competitive and hopefully figure out a way to do it better," declares Horne. Two simple but often overlooked ways to stay ahead of the curve is with good, old fashioned artwork and customer service. Whether guiding customers from the very beginning, using your professional know- COMING TO AMERICA Although jobs have been shifted abroad for reasons of financial interest, this same move has essentially created the same di- lemma that drove it there. When good, steady work enters coun- tries of lessor means, the quality of life improves dramatically, which leads to the desire to live a better life. Because of this inevitable human cycle, labor wages rise, a trend happening in many producing coun- tries at the moment, including Central American countries like Honduras. Weiss suspects to see an increase in the coun- try's wages of approximately 30 percent IN THE END… As frustrating as it may be fighting for jobs down to the cent and competing in a global market, large-scale printing has clear payoffs. "We've got 27 machines and logos are being done for all over the country and a lot of cool events," explains Horne. After months or even days of setup, selection, design, checking, cross-checking, packaging and shipping out dozens of boxes, only to then see that hard work hanging on the shelf of your favorite shop or on display at a sold out concert, does the pains of that labor be- come a satisfying success. pw THE EQUIPMENT FACTOR: H ow much volume do you believe justifies large, multi-station au- tomatic machines? "Just about any!" Rick Roth enthusiastically exclaims. With smaller order sizes across the industry, it may seem that larger scale machines—workhorse multi-heads and automatic multi-sta- tion presses—wouldn't make as much sense for today's business model. This, according to our practitioners, is not the case, particularly in screen printing. "If you don't have volume for it, then get a used one. But you better have one," says Roth. Larger machines offer not only the ability to fulfill large-quantity orders, but also to output medium- sized ones as well, increasing productivity. This is especially true when doing dark garments, explains Roth. As a business model of 'white shirts only' isn't necessarily realistic, machines capable of handling flash and cool down become a near necessity. The same principle holds true with PVC-free inks, which will continue to grow in popularity over the next few years, says Weiss. As opposed to plastisol, PVC-free inks require flashing between color passes. For example, he says a three- or four-color plastisol print requires a single flash. The same print with PVC-free ink will double this requirement to eight colors, with five flashes. With European retailers having already adapted to PVC-free inks, printers stateside can expect to see an in- crease in its demand and an influx in larger machine sales. Embroidery, on the other hand, is slightly different, says Horne. For one, order size is down (in case you haven't picked up on that yet) and for two, machines with 12 or more heads run on three-phase power, a source unavailable in residential areas throughout the U.S. Machines with fewer heads run off of 110 power, allowing them to be hooked up into garages and allowing embroiderers to run in-house (pun intended). Because of this, he notes that smaller machines tend to hold value better. The bonus to these machines, however, is their connectability, allowing a series of small machines to run in large scale. So while 12-head machine may be less popular, the head count doesn't seem to be dissipating. how or by going the extra step to indi- vidually count out each blank and size, the added hands-on attention speaks volumes for your work. "It's all of the details—that your boxes are right, loads are properly done and shipped to the right place," in- sists Roth. Fortunately, the other attributes the market is looking for most right now is speed and price, a turn that may lead a substantial amount of this coveted work, ironically, back to the U.S. over the next five years. While this doesn't equate a 30 percent increase domestically, it is dramatic enough to help close the gap, that much more. Further, local shops can deliver on a tight turnaround, becoming the first to market—an increasingly important fac- tor to deciding where work will be pro- duced. With technology continuing to evolve and our patience subsequently devolving, turnaround times can be ex- pected to tighten further. pw 2012 JULY PRINTWEAR | 79

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