When Dan Strickland invested in his Kornit Vulcan Direct To Garment printer, he found a steady increase in production efficiency at his print shop, Garment Gear. We chat to him about some of the benefits of Direct-to-Garment printing and the ways tech could help others in the industry.
When did you start using technology at Garment Gear?
We were an early investor in high-end DTG technology because we just got to the volume of work where the smaller, entry-level machines couldn't handle the load anymore. So we started searching for a machine with high-capacity. The high-end DTG machine that we have, the Kornit Vulcan, is definitely reaching the type of screen printing numbers we need now. We're running at almost 200 pieces an hour on that Vulcan.
How did you know you were ready to invest in a DTG printer?
One thing we're always looking for when thinking about how to become a more efficient shop is bottlenecks. For instance, do you have enough customer service reps to talk to your clients; is there always a bottleneck in the art department; are you needing another graphics person? If you can eliminate your bottlenecks there, then the next stage would be to think, 'are the automatics always waiting on screens to come out of the darkroom?'
At some point, you might realize — like we did — that the setup and teardowns on the automatics are just taking way too long. We were able to get our initial DTG machine pretty early, probably 6 or 7 years ago. It was slow at first, but we could immediately see the benefits of that choice.
Do you think DTG printing could threaten the traditional screen printing process?
I think they can definitely work together! You have to be a pretty successful shop to afford a million dollar Vulcan, so you've got to have a lot of screen printing work already in existence. Then you just have to look at the work that you have, and move all the lower quantity, full-color jobs to the DTG equipment. It means you can free up more time on the screen printing autos. Investing in digital ultimately makes both departments more efficient.
What’s the best benefit of having your DTG printer?
I think a big thing is the fact you could produce one full-color piece if you wanted to. Also being able to offer more than one decoration technique than you can with just plastisol inks – that's another plus of DTG. It just lends itself beautifully to different effects, like nice textures and unlimited colors.
What piece of digital tech can you really recommend?
You don't have to limit yourself to actual production equipment. There are more and more web-based tools to help the customer service reps, that will in turn, help your clients. With these tools, you can log in 24/7 and place orders, look at past order history, and even pay invoices online. All of those types of benefits and tools can have great payoffs when you pick and choose the right combination that fits your client. We use Shopworks, and we really enjoy the functionality.
Anything else you think people should know about using tech in their business?
One thing you need to be aware of is that some of the more expensive technology means more expensive insurance. It’s not only the equipment payment to think about but it has to also be properly insured and that's an additional expense. So I'd say don't forget to call and ask your insurance company to see what coverage is necessary!
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