August '17

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 7 A U G U S T P R I N T W E A R || 67 and customer relationship management (CRM) programs. "CRM software is one of the more over- looked needs for companies," says Wil- liams. "With a properly integrated CRM, any employee can seem knowledgeable when speaking to a customer." While growth through word-of-mouth interactions is still viable, Williams adds, a CRM tool enables all staff to keep orga- nized, concise notes on all aspects of a cli- ent's needs and interactions with the com- pany. Bruce Ackerman, Printavo, suggests that internal communication tools are some- thing shop owners should be evaluating to improve the workflow of their shop as well. "Just being able to chat internally from different locations in your shop is extremely useful," Ackerman states. Programs like Slack and HipChat offer internal messaging functions so various de- partments can communicate quickly and succinctly. These programs are particularly useful for large-scale production operations, he adds. Additionally, Ackerman stresses the im- portance of cloud storage for shops. Having an emergency backup for essential materials like client artwork helps businesses avoid the costly, time-consuming dilemma of a shop computer going down and taking all its internal files with it. HOW TO SHOP For tools like squeegees, durometers, or ten- sions meters, a simple online search offers a decorator plenty of options on where to shop. However, Clarke cautions that with online purchases, many larger sites won't necessarily provide answers for technical, detailed questions a decorator might have. He uses the example of buying an Rz roughness measurement tool from a large online retailer like Amazon. "What Amazon won't tell us is A: What stylus to select? B: Can the meter give me an accurate reading of my halftone screens? or C: What is the lowest mesh count we can read with the meter?" explains Clarke. If a shop isn't going to be able to use these tools properly, he adds, they're better off saving their money and offsetting their scrap rate. Ackerman adds that before a shop even starts searching for tools, be it software or hardware, it needs to assess its processes. For software, he suggests breaking a busi- ness' needs into categories: communication, e-commerce, payments, marketing, and file storage. "[Shop owners] need to be able to say 'okay, this is our repeatable process, this is our systemized process,' before they lay technology over that," says Ackerman. Broghamer advises to check with distribu- tors and local screen-print suppliers for pur- chasing more industry-specific equipment like a washout booth and drain filtration. Standard gear like a pressure washer and safety equipment, she adds, can typically be found at a local hardware store. Williams notes that software is often available online, but a decorator should do research before spending the money to make sure the system will fit their needs. "That means maybe seeing a [software] company exhibiting at a show or watching online demos to make sure it will do what you want now and will grow with your company," says Williams. Clarke also suggests keeping a torque wrench handy for routine tightening of nuts and bolts on screen-printing presses, as well as an electrical voltage meter. "A meter is invaluable even for the unini- tiated," Clarke says. "If you call for factory support, they will want to know incom- ing voltage, continuity, etc. [on your ma- chines]." Meanwhile, Broghamer recommends stocking up on basic supplies like gloves and safety glasses, readily available at both hardware stores and bigger box stores. Williams states that decorators can opt- in on software through a variety of op- tions. Subscription-based programs, he ex- plains, typically offer a lower buy-in cost. If a company is interested in implement- ing shop management software that they'll be using for the long term though, he sug- gests investing in client/server-structured software. "You will have a higher initial investment (for software and maybe a server), but after- wards, you have purchased the system," he explains. "You can even have someone host it on the cloud to give you remote access." Above: Having a reliable techno- logical backbone is key to many shop tools. (Image courtesy Printavo) Right: Keeping all tools organized, including chemicals, hardware, and software logins improves all-around efficiency. (Image courtesy Printavo)

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