Jen Badger from ShineOn Designs set up her apparel business in the basement of her own house in Iowa, starting completely from scratch. This meant she had to figure out how she was going to fit it all this new equipment into her limited workspace. Not long after setting up, she outgrew her basement and had to relocate again, making her no stranger to thinking up a good shop layout. This has given Jen some helpful knowledge and valuable hindsight on what she wishes she knew when she was setting up for the first time. We chat to her today to hear some of these fail-safe guidelines for people setting up their print shop for the first (or second!) time.
Work with what your existing space offers
Jen began in the basement of her own house which automatically meant space was limited. She didn’t want to spend a load of money on construction and renovation if she could help it. So the answer? Thinking outside the box and DIY. Jen converted a bathroom in her house into a reclaim area, turning the shower stall into a washout booth. “I didn't really have to do anything more in terms of draining, electrical and plumbing needs so I saved a lot of money starting out by setting up that way!” Jen explains. She suggests that one of the best things you can do when you’re looking to set up in a space is to think about how you can utilize or modify existing electrical and plumbing systems which will make the rest of the set up a whole lot easier.
When Jen first set up shop, she recalls focusing a lot on the equipment that would print her garments. Looking back, however, there are other things she wished she had thought of. “For one, I would have bought the biggest conveyor dryer I could afford or could have fit in my space,” Jen says. “I felt like I needed to spend more money buying a really good, top-of-the-line screen printing press. But as we became more productive and got faster at printing, I quickly figured out that I didn't have a big enough dryer and we were standing and waiting for the shirts to go in and it slowed us down a lot.”
Second to that, Jen cannot recommend good lighting enough. “It was dark in my basement!” she recalls. “Really good-quality overhead lighting is so important to be able to see what you're printing, to see your screens, and to be able to see defects if there are any.” For many who begin in basements or garages, lighting can be left at the bottom of the priority list while it can have a great positive impact on the overall quality of your prints.
What you can afford to spend less on
“Looking back, I wish I put a little less money into my manual printer and a little less into my flash unit and put all that towards a better dryer,” Jen says. Although she definitely agrees that a good quality press is important, she recommends considering a secondhand one if you’re starting out as a lot of manuals work in a similar way.
Personalize your shop layout
When Jen decided upon the layout of both her shops, it was based on the way she moved and worked: “we worked in a kind of circular movement, where the product would go through the production line and end up where it came from — so that’s how we set it up since we were used to working in that way.” Jen also fully endorses arranging your shop to fit your own space and purposes. While she would see many photos of expert printers putting their screen printers right in the center of the room, this just didn’t work in her basement where there were support poles running through the space. Not only that, but Jen realized there was just no need to have her printer in the middle of the room, and by pushing it to the side, she had much more space to fold and package her apparel.
Cater your layout to comfort
“Something to really think about is how your layout works with correct body movements, such as not twisting too far or pushing too far,” Jen adds. “Try to arrange your shop so that you can minimize your body movements and do production in the most ergonomic way possible.” She emphasizes how important comfort can be when you’re working in a shop on a day-to-day basis and to be conscious of reducing the pressure it can have on your body!