As the hustle and bustle of the busy season winds down, that seasonal lull at the start of the year at your shop can be an excellent time to take a breath. But that downtime is also a golden opportunity for refining, retooling, and preparing for the year ahead.
If you’ve got the extra time and your team is looking for more work, here are 12 actionable steps to improve your shop’s efficiency, organization, and overall success.
1. Organize and Clean Out Films
Particularly for smaller shops, the slow season is the perfect time to organize and clean out film storage. Straightening up your film inventory ensures quick access when you need to print a repeat job and saves your team time when volume starts picking up again.
2. Service All Equipment
Unexpected breakdowns are a nightmare, but servicing all your equipment during downtime (or at least your most heavily used equipment) can save you some headaches months later when it’s 110 degrees and your dryer stops working. Equipment on your shortlist will likely be presses, dryers, air compressors, and printers (DTG, DTF, etc.). This step is also an excellent time to check the service warranties on all your primary equipment. If anything is coming up at the end of warranty or service, ensure you get that one last visit from the tech scheduled and diagnose any major issues that might crop up soon.
3. Cross-Train Team Members
Use the quiet period to cross-train your team thoroughly. That doesn’t have to be just on an auto, in the screen room, or elsewhere in the production chain. It could be as simple as getting a few more people trained on your shop’s software, like Printavo, so everyone on the team is multi-faceted. This strategic move helps eliminate bottlenecks during peak seasons and gives you a backup plan for sudden turnover or staff shortages if people are out sick.
4. Review and Revise Printavo Statuses and Automations
If you’re already a Printavo user, look closer at your statuses and automations to streamline your workflow. Maybe some statuses don’t apply anymore because you’ve changed your shop’s production workflow or need new automations to fit how your business is running now. Do an inventory of what you have set up, and check in with your support rep if needed so you have everything optimized for peak printing seasons.
5. Analyze Top Sales from the Previous Year
Do a thorough review of top sales by customer and customer type from the previous year. Identify your ‘Sweet Spot’ clients and orders, or explore new markets to expand your reach. Is it time to tap into some new niches? Maybe it’s time to focus more on an existing one. You’ll have a better idea after reviewing the numbers.
6. Conduct Employee Reviews
If you don’t have one in place yet, implement a system for employee reviews that provides valuable feedback and recognition. Your team is the eyes and ears of your shop, so making sure you’re performing regular reviews means they’ll also be able to provide you with feedback on what’s working for them and where they see areas of improvement, whether that’s something as general as scheduling or something more technical like a print technique.
7. Evaluate Insurance Policies and Subscriptions
It’s probably the least exciting bit of downtime work you can do, but it’s also one of the most important. Especially if you live in a disaster-prone area or haven’t reviewed your policies in a long time.
Dig into your bottom line by reviewing insurance policies, and make sure you call your insurance rep to have them walk through the fine print so you know exactly how and where you’re covered. Policies change annually, sometimes more than once yearly, so it’s good to get ahead of it before you’re in a crisis and scrambling, filing claims, and trying to determine how much money you’re covered for.
You can also take this time to review subscriptions and other auxiliary expenses. Identify areas where you can cut costs without compromising quality or service to your customers.
8. Solicit Employee Feedback
While you can garner feedback you get during employee reviews, taking time to formally ask for input from your team is also an excellent extra step. Whether it’s a brief online Google survey or a short huddle with your team near the end of the year to get some bullet points on what worked well for them and what didn’t, it can get you all on the same page.
It’ll also help cultivate a culture of respect and keep morale high since you’re reiterating to your crew that you value their input on running the business well.
9. Website Refresh/Rebuild
If you’ve got the overhead and time, consider refreshing or rebuilding your website. An updated online presence can attract new clients and showcase your latest work. If you don’t have the budget for a web designer, there are also many excellent options on the market now that are cost-effective and professional. Companies like Squarespace have a variety of packages, or if you want something more industry-specific, InkSoft’s online stores double as a company website with easy tools and customizable layouts.
10. Digitize and Declutter
If you’ve got heaps of folders in the office, now’s the perfect time to scan those documents and start digitizing older order information. And if you’re not using Printavo yet, now’s high time to get on a platform that helps you swap paper for digital solutions. It’ll help you keep track of customer order information better, plus decluttering your shop will make it more presentable to customers and a healthier place for your team to work.
11. Check Mesh Tensions and Inventory
You can maintain your print quality all year long by checking mesh tensions and refreshing or replacing as needed. Clear out old or unused inks and take inventory, creating a system if one doesn’t exist.
If you haven’t taken inventory of your ink yet, one cost-effective step you can start with is standardizing your inks.
12. Equipment Maintenance
Invest time in cleaning and maintaining your equipment. Replace filters, oil, and grease as needed. Consult equipment manuals for manufacturer-recommended service steps.
Your shop downtime can be stressful since there aren’t orders coming in, but it’s also an opportunity for growth and improvement. By implementing these steps, you’ll enhance your shop’s efficiency and set the stage for a successful and streamlined busy season ahead.