Attention Garment Screen Printers, Are you making profit or just surviving?
I am writing this blog to educate all garment screen printers with regard to the factors which influences costing. And after going through these points one can correct themselves to avoid further loss in business.
It’s difficult to educate or inform everyone, on one to one. So I thought the best way is to write this blog so that everyone can read, understand and implement these points before quoting for your customers job.
As garment screen printers you should never forget that you are helping your customers to sell their printed garments and because of your quality and services they are able to sell their garments in the market effectively.
Majority of garment screen printers, mainly into job work, only consider ink cost and add ‘margins’ with an understanding that the so called ‘margin’ covers their direct and indirect costs. It’s surely a blind faith!
I have been conducting workshop and seminars in my institute DMI since 2006. In this 10 successful year I have been teaching advance screen printing process on latest machine and equipments using high quality materials and consumables.
During my 3-day workshops, screen printers sincerely write down all the methods and processes that are explained in my theory and practical sessions, and they even take photographs, probably to implement in toto what I teach. But back in their print shop, they seem to be hesitating to use the same method, products or similar quality materials like inks, emulsions, screen mesh, squeegee rubber etc, just because they find it ‘expensive’ compare to what they currently use. And, the end result: they fail to emulate the kind of quality that we have demonstrated in the workshop.
Frankly, the materials are not that expensive but printers are compelled to use lower standard materials and consumables because of their wrong costing and pricing structure prevalent in the market.
Most of the screen printers in textile and garment sector, especially engaged in job work only considers INK as their major cost while making their price-list per colour basis but they totally forget so many important factors during their calculations before sending quotations to customers.
To begin with, for the time being keep the cost of ink, emulsion, screen mesh out from your mind for a while because if you are not taking into account the following things while quoting your customer than I am seriously concerned whether you are making profit or just surviving in your business?
- Screen making
- Ink wastage
- Squeegee rubber & its maintenance
- Electricity charges per piece
- Plant & Machinery
- Machine maintenance / AM
- Spare parts for plant and machinery
- Administration & office expenses
- Other overheads etc…
Even if you have your own art department and artists to do designing, that doesn’t mean it’s not costing you money. Whether the lot size is bigger or smaller, design charges should be added in the costing. Be cautious that if designing charges are not taken from customers as a matter of regular practice, then you as screen printers end up struggling to purchase high quality designs or hire professional designers. But if you start charging for designs, you will not hesitate to purchase high quality designs from professionals or other online paid source, and hire experienced / professional designers for your pre-press activities.
Majority of screen printers in garment/textile sector use tracing paper (generally knowns as ‘butter’ paper) and output their positives on desktop laser printer. It’s because customers don’t pay so printers try to save on designing and positive making and finally struggle for getting good quality printing. Even I have noticed that inkjet films are also considered ‘costly’. Hence image setter positives are out of question.
So always charge to customer for designing as well as positive making especially for smaller lot size.
Screen is the heart of screen printing. I always mention in my workshops ‘Good Screens = Good Quality Prints’. Believe me screens plays the major role in the quality of printing and many screen printers don’t have any idea what should be the right quality of screens. Textile screen printers main focus is alway ‘automatic machine’. But I would like to remind printers once again that to achieve 100% QUALITY in garment screen printing,
Designing & Positives (Pre-press) has 40% role
Screen Making – 40%
Automatic Machine – 10%
Inks & Consumables – 10% Provided if you are using high quality materials and consumables from renowned companies
The reason why screen printers end up making poor quality screens is because they don’t charge their customers for screen making nor they add it in their pricing based on the lot size. Hence they are compelled to use substandard positives, screen mesh, emulsions, chemicals and unprofessional way to develop screens.
Screens are not FREE it cost you lot of money and also does not last longer so it should be charged to customers separately.
The life of screens for printing photographic images with water base inks using fine halftone dots last only upto 500 to 700 impression. If you are lucky or if you have not cleaned the screens in between production due to ink choking or during any intervals etc. than it can deliver upto or over 1000 impression.
POOR INK & EMULSION QUALITY reduces your screen life so use the best mesh, emulsions, chemicals and inks. The life of the screen especially in halftone printing majorly depends on ink so use high quality inks which reduces ink choking issues thus eliminates screen cleaning during production thus avoids stencil wear & tear.
The life of screen can sometimes double or even more with PVC free-phthalate free plastisol inks compare to conventional water based because these plastisol inks does not choke up in screens and does not require cleaning in intervals. But nowadays many companies makes very high quality low-choking water base inks which can also eliminate screen cleaning during production thus increases the life of the screens.
The screen making charges also depend on the number of colours and type of screen required for printing. E.g. the cost of high density screen should be charged higher compare to conventional screen making because it take more time with special attention and care plus the cost of thick film is also higher compare to conventional emulsions.
And don’t forget that screens do have limited life, sometimes it tears due to poor handling or during printing due to dust particles in ink. So in a month some amount of new screen mesh has to be considered in your costing.
Most of the job workers (garment printers) complain that their lot size has now shrunk between 300 and 500 pieces per lot.
So, in this case it would be the biggest blunder or loss making, if you are not charging or considering the cost of machine setup. Everyone knows ‘job changeover’ time is the biggest nightmare in garment printing.
According to me, on an average, the time taken by screen printers practically to change from one job to another is around 1 to 2 hours, or sometimes even more depending on number of colours and accuracy of the job.
If a company runs 8-hour shift (which never happens practically you know!) they end up with average 6.5 or 7 hours a shift. In that case average only 3.5 lots can be finished per shift, considering a min. order of 300 or max. 500 piece per hour considering 1 hour spent for job changeover and setup in between.
So, if you do not charge/consider ‘job changeover’ time and ‘machine setup’ time for smaller lots, then even survival would be difficult, forget about making profit. Because most of your ‘profits’ are being leaked out incognito due to time lost in job change over and machine set up.
Many printers are least bothered about the kind of wastage and rejections. Of course, not all pieces are perfect in any production process. Their bound to be rejections which have to be taken into account.
If customer sends job for printing and if they deduct any amount from your invoice due to rejection then you should inform your customer to send you extra pieces needed to cover up the tests, trials, wastage and rejections. You should inform them in advance that there would be certain amount of rejections in each lot and they should accept this fact and should not deduct any amount from your bill.
These days companies are spending millions in process standardisation and process control to minimise rejections. But many average screen printer do not even have weighing scale to weigh ink for repeat accuracy or any meter to make special colour match inks in-house etc. so they all go by an ‘approximate’ measurement done by naked eye and judgment. So, compelling screen printers to have a rejection percentage in ‘points’ in current situation is not practical.
According to the current circumstances & situation 15% to 20% rejection should be considered acceptable for an average screen printer who does have modern setup or right kind of skilled people with proper knowledge and process standardisation.
If anyone claims that they do not incur any wastage of ink, it’s totally wrong. Whether you print 100 or 1000 pieces, there will be some amount of ink wastage, especially when printing with water based inks.
The wastage is higher in water based inks compare to PVC free – phthalate free plastisol inks. The advantage of PVC free – phthalate free plastisol inks is that after each job, you can recover every drop of ink back using sharp spatula (except some ink residues left on screens) and secondly the ink does not dry in the screens and there is no evaporation like water based inks.
So, if you are printing with water base inks 15% to 20% wastage of inks should be considered in your costing. This wastage includes the ink you leave on sides of screen and which gets thicker/harder after some time due to water evaporation. In some extreme conditions wastage cannot be reused.
The major factor of water based ink wastage is due to higher temperature in some countries and places plus mainly due to poor plant conditions.
SQUEEGEE RUBBER & MAINTAINENCE:
The last priority item for every screen printer is ‘SQUEEGEE RUBBER’.
Printers never pay attention to squeegee which is the most crucial tool in the management of quality in printing.
Most screen printers may expect that the squeegee supplied with the machine, should last for years and years! Even the maintenance of the squeegees are so bad and they are never sharpened.
I have seen printing companies where they use squeegee for years unsharpened! Printers should understand that squeegee life is limited and its hardness starts diminishing from the original count (strength). At DMI we change squeegee after its hardness is diminished or if the length reduces more than 5 mm after frequent sharpening.
Even good quality sharpened squeegees can reduce your ink consumption by 5% to 10% in some extreme cases.
Please be aware that the squeegee has a limited life, and hence it should be replaced based on certain ‘weakening’ criteria. So, printers using automatic machines should consider the cost of squeegee while working on costing.
ELECTRICITY CHARGES / LABOUR CHARGES / OVERTIME CHARGES:
Many printers do consider electrical & labour cost but just for a rough estimate.
But the cost is not added on ‘per piece’ basis, because the electrical & labour charges will completely depend on the lot size. E.g. the cost of electricity & labour to print 100 or 10,000 piece will remain the same, but it will change drastically based on the lot size due to change over time, downtime, wastage of materials, and time wasted by labours during job change over. In this case the price cannot be the same per colour for 100, 300 and 1000 or more…
So, electricity, labour cost and overtime charges very much depends on the lot size, setup time and change over time.
PLANT & MACHINERY / MAINTAINENCE CHARGES / SPARE PARTS:
Your plant and machinery requires regular maintenance. So if you cannot generate enough profit you will have to compromise on the maintenance of your plant and machinery which indirectly reduces the life of your machines and thus it will affect production and quality.
Better to deposit some amount every month in a separate account for safety and for maintenance of your plant and machinery like machines, generator, vehicles etc.
Your office administration cost in general should also be considered based on your monthly production.
E.g. If 10 people are working in your office for admin work with an average salary e.g. Rs. 15,000 per month, and let say your monthly production is around 100,000/per month and you have already added Rs. 1.50 in your costing. Now if your quantity shrinks down due to change over time or ink matching time or for any other reason, then it will directly affect your profit margin. But if you increase your production and productivity with same people, your profit will increase drastically.
FINALLY, FREE SAMPLING:
I know there is a trend all over to provide free samples to customers.
But I do not want to explain in details because by now you must have understood why one should not make free samples to customers. Because it cost you a lot of money for making screens, positives, setup time and other overheads.
While making samples for customer, you have to make special match colours. If the design works, you consume those inks; but if the design fails, your matched ink has to be used in other jobs or it remains in stock and has to thrown after some time.
That’s the reason why DMI has introduced a new system where in you only have to keep stocks of basic 14 Pantone colours, and all your designs will be printed using those limited colours. This will help you to minimise unwanted stock of inks and time to match special colour. Quite often, while matching special colours, there is possibility of wastage due to error in colour matching.
So, it’s not only the ink cost that you need to consider to add to your profit, but all the above factors should also be considered while working on your costing because today the major cost is labour, electricity, land, machinery and overheads.
Don’t struggle in production by using substandard, low quality inks, materials and consumables.
According to me don’t consider INK or EMULSION cost into your mind, if you increase your productivity, reduce machine setup time, reduce job change over time, minimise colour by doing proper separation of each designs believe me INK or EMULSION cost will be no where in account.
Most screen printers works so hard, spend so much time and energy to source cheaper substandard inks but fails to understand that the ink, emulsion cost even does not come into account if you increase productivity, reduce rejection & downtime, reduce setup & job changeover time. Don’t forget day by day overhead, labour cost land, electricity etc. will become very expensive compare to INKS & EMULSIONS.
Based on my experience and observation, I urge all the garment screen printers…
“Do not consider the costs that you feel to be considered and do consider the costs that you feel should not be considered”
So avoid further loss and start charging your customers for designing, screen making, positives, sampling and development charges on regular basis.
Because its better to maintain healthy competitions for long term business and don’t let your customers take the advantage of your ignorance & innocence.
To be more productive, reduce machine setup time, reduce job change over time, minimise colour & screens using high end colour separation software and to understand costing in details register to my workshop on advanced screen printing on textile.
For more information log on to: www.graficaindia.com
Be profitable and remain healthy in business.
Have a profitable week…