How To Handle Production Scheduling In Your Print Shop

Business Lessons

Whether you like it or not, the day you decided to become a garment decorating entrepreneur, you also became an event accommodator. Let's take a closer to look:

Customer 1: My event is on Saturday, can I pick up my shirts Friday?

You: Sure thing, shirts will be ready at noon on Friday.

Customer 2: My company picnic is on Monday, can I pick up my shirts on Friday?

You: Sure thing, shirts will be ready at 1 pm on Friday.

Customer 3: The first game of the season is Saturday, can we pick up the uniforms on Friday?

You: Sure thing, jerseys will be ready at 2 pm on Friday. 

Customer 4: Our 5k is on Saturday. Can you deliver shirts to the run registration on Friday? 

You: Sure thing, we'll deliver them by 3 pm on Friday. 

Cringeworthy, right? As a decorator, you are creating products for people to represent their brand, organization, team, company and so on. More often than not, apparel or printed products are used for events. Therefore, as a decorator, you are forced to accommodate your business to deliver products for your customer's events. The entrepreneurial nightmare looms as to what will happen if you miss delivering products for an event.

But that's not fair! 

As a business person in this competitive space, the last thing you want to do is turn down a customer and lose them to a competitor that will accommodate their event. You lose a customer once and it is awfully hard to get them back. This industry HATES saying no. To be competitive you can't make rigid rules that turn away customers. You also cannot change the fact that most events happen on weekends. Instead of fighting it, you have to change the dynamic of how you produce goods in your business. 

Customers are procrastinators

Ordering decorated goods is not the usual job description for your customer. They either volunteered for it or were assigned to do it.  Often times, it is put on their desk and told to simply deal with it. You can put up hard 7-10 day turn around times and pray that your customers adhere to it. Their problems turn into yours, and as a customer service oriented business, you often are forced to deal with it. 

What can you do to change that?

While it might be tough to reschedule a customer's event or get them to order earlier given a current circumstance, there is a lot you can do in your business. You can do quite a bit to handle the heat of your production. If you typically fly by the seat of your pants, and your shop encompasses that same personality, you are destined to fail at delivering one of those orders. Your customers will feel the ramifications for poor planning. The stress will relay back to your employees. Now is the time to get organized. 

Get a tool that schedules production! 

You might have a whiteboard at your shop or a written chart with all orders due for the week, but as things change, jobs fly in and out of your shop, you need to be nimble, adaptable, and flexible. Get digital quickly. By having a digital calendar it increases shop transparency and accountability. Plus, when things change, you everyone can see!

"In-Hand Date"

Get used to this term. Otherwise known as the-date-the-customer-better-have-their-products or-else-you-have-major-issues, an in-hand date is critical for you to have clearly labeled on every order. 

In-Hand Date ≠ Customer Due Date

It is dangerous to schedule a customer due date as the in-hand date. That means nothing can go wrong when producing their job. You know very well that jobs do not always go perfectly. Damaged products, missing goods, misprints do occur. You need to schedule a projected customer due date that gives you a buffer in case anything happens. Having that buffer ensures that you will be able to act fast in case of those emergencies. Producing jobs earlier than customers want creates happy customers!

Know your production capacity

You need to know what you are capable of producing in a given timeframe. Set aside time to create a production budget so you can plan your jobs out accordingly. Problems arise when you stretch your production capacity too far. 

Produce larger jobs earlier in the week

Don't wait until Friday to produce your most important jobs. What happens if that auto breaks? You need to make sure that you do the hardest jobs first. Create a goal to have all your work done by Thursday so that Friday can be used for small simple jobs for the next week!

Communicate often

At the beginning and end of each day have a team huddle. Go over everything that needs to be done for the day, and plan for tomorrow. Get your employees bought into the schedule, and incentivize them with rewards for finishing earlier. Emergency jobs will arise, so prepare your team for them. 

Track each week's performance

Analytics are everything. Like a sports team or a professional athlete, become addicted to your stats. Every week, you should track your production and see what you could do better. Start to look at jobs that were more time consuming and work with your sales team to sell jobs that are production friendly. Figure out how many jobs your team completed and celebrate with them. This will push expand your production capacity and create a competitive, high performing team in your shop. 

Don't go crazy

Recognize that you do have a limit, so while saying "no" is a very hard thing to do, spend time educating your customers so they know what you are willing to do for them. They will still appreciate you and will bring you better orders earlier


Next Post: Bruce Ackerman - Simplifying Your Print Shop - PrintovationConf 2017

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Printavo ​​is simple shop management software. Whether your shop works with screen printing, embroidery, signage, digital printing, or awards & engraving–we make your complex workflow simpler to manage and understand. Printavo keeps your shop organized by handling scheduling, estimates, quote approvals, workflow, payments, accounting and more. With Printavo, you’ll work smarter–not harder.

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