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- How to be a great boss
- Lessons learned from moving shop locations
- Business organization tips
Bruce: Hello, everybody. This is Bruce from Printavo. Welcome back to our "Business Lessons and Learnings Podcast." Today, we've got a very special guest with us, Richard Greaves, out from Detroit. He is an industry consultant that's been involved in the printing industry for quite some time now. He's on richardgreaves.com, and he's also an SGIA honorarium. Richard, thanks for joining us today.
Richard: Good morning, Bruce.
Bruce: So give us just a quick synopsis of the different vendors and businesses that you've been involved in, you know, over your career so people just get a sense of the breadth of knowledge that you have.
Richard: In 1979, I didn't wanna work for my father anymore. So I was what, 26, 27 years old. And so I looked around, told everybody I knew that I wanted a different job when I got back from skiing because I went out west every year and went skiing. And it turned out, it was a screen printing company that made flags. So at that company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Eder Manufacturing, I learned how to sew. I learned production control for screen printing. That's what I actually started out doing for Eder, and then they said, "We want you to go up and run the shop." And I went, "Gee, that looks like a jerky job to me." It turned out that it was.
But what I learned there is that there's more money in producing garments than there is at just printing. So I took a job down south at a screen printing company that did manufacturing where we did all over designs, printing on the sleeve before they were sewn. And it worked for several people to create large equipment, which
We were doing fabulous, full-color process printing with wooden frames, so the average tension was in the 18s to 9s, which, of course, that kills me there, but got me to Philadelphia, which is a cool town and Don Newman lived there. So when that company folded up, I went to work for Don Newman, and Don sent me all over the world in his stead. When I left Stretch Devices, I did consulting all over the world until Mark Coudray told me, "Richard, when you go to South America and you break your leg, what are you gonna do then?" So he scared me.
And when Ben and Dave Landisman braced me at an SGIA show saying, "Richard, come and work for us. Run the supply division at Lawson Screen Products in St. Louis," I took the job. And I lived there for five years, but I ran away from there. Not because I didn't love Ben and Dave because I still say that Ben and Dave were some of the best bosses I have ever worked for. The best boss I ever worked for was Ted Stahl at Stahl's right here in Detroit, but I did freelance work for him doing seminars.
And that's when I went to work for Ulano in New York City. And why'd I take that job? I took that job because it was Ulano Worldwide, so that meant worldwide travel for me and, most important, it got me to New York City. But it's what drove me off the cliff. I had a stroke in 2009, and that retired me from Ulano. Other than that, I worked for "Screen Printing Magazine" for nine years. I wrote a column called "Greaves on Garments," and when I had an argument over the fax with Steve Duccilli, who I still love very much, Steve...but he did fire me with a fax. And approximately five hours later, I was working at "Printwear Magazine" for Mark Buchanan in Colorado. Of course, I only went there a couple of times. And that would be the world's fastest summary of my work history.
Bruce: That's awesome. Now, you know, you mentioned Ted Stahl as the best boss that you've had. I'm curious. What characteristics of that made him a very good manager?
Richard: Well, he was very generous in some ways because if you had a plan or a solution to a problem, he was very fast. But if you just wanted him to give you a new printer...if you just wanted something, then all of a sudden he did not know you in a nice way, but, you know, it's like a scolding...not a scolding father, but, you know, a father that's sort of like, "No, son. You're not going to Europe this summer." But if you had a solution to a problem...because I remember several times we'd talk when I was on the road working for him.
So we'd talk after one of the seminars that we put on for Stahl's, and 8:00 in the morning, I had people calling me in my hotel room saying, you know, "Ted's got me on this, this, this kind of a..." and when he pulled the trigger...and David Landison and Ben were like this also...that when they did pull the trigger, they let out all the stops. And that meant, "Clear your desk because this is what you're doing." They really believed what you were doing.
Bruce: Gotcha. So it was almost a lot of autonomy, it seems like, for you to be able to grow, you know, develop your ideas. And if they liked it, they allowed you to move full force on it.
Richard: I think I was luckier than an average employee because almost always, I worked for the boss. Granted at Stahl's, I didn't work for the boss. I worked for Carleen Gray, but, you know, believe me, I was in constant contact with the boss, which is a great thing you can do in the screen printing industry because the companies are not that big. You really are working for one boss. That can sometimes be a problem, but I just felt that Ben and Dave were very responsive. And when they said, "No," they had a real reason.
Don Newman was like this also. That you'd come up with a pitch, and he'd go, "No, no." And my idea was the greatest idea in the world. But what they did is they also gave you some feedback, but they were very clear that they'd had experience before, and that wasn't going to work. And that's always very valuable. Something for every employee, even a hotshot like me,
Bruce: Gotcha. So that's very interesting. So, you know, they made you feel like a strong part of the team by saying, "Okay, no. We're just not doing this and that's that." It's, "Here's why we've done this and this." But if they did want you to do it, they really gave you the backing to help support you.
Richard: Well, David Landisman was very good because he gave me assignments. There was no question. He was a good assignment maker. But the responsiveness of Ted Stahl...when he backed you, he really backed me, and that's what I remember there. A lot of times, you get kind of half-assed, feeble, "Well, okay. We'll try that. We'll do a little test," or something like that.
Now, I understand that at Ulano, you gotta do testing because you're gonna make a product that's gonna go all over the world. You just can't go charging out. But Tom Peters wrote in one of his early books...I don't think it was his idea, but he quoted, "Ready, fire, aim," in the idea that you're trying things. You're experimenting. Ben and Dave were good at that. Ted Stahl's was very good at that. Don Newman was very good at that. He always wanted new ideas.
Bruce: Very cool. What was it like working on the magazine side for Screen Printing Mag and "Printwear?"
Richard: I gave a seminar in Toronto for the SGIA. The SGIA had a thing called...what was it called now? Tech Symps. Technical Symposiums. And I gave a speech there on full-color process printing probably in 1983 or '84, and it was a new science at that time. There
And I picked Screen Printing for its higher value, and the column was named by Susan Vinnell. It was called "Greaves on Garments," and I wrote that for nine years, again, until I had my contact fracas with Steve Duccilli. But, you know, I caused the argument with Steve Duccilli. There's no question about that. I was poking him because I didn't like some things that he'd done, so it was a friendly fight. But if I had known that he was gonna fire me, I never would've instigated the fight. So
Bruce: I'm curious just because you've brought that up twice. Can you say what it was about?
Richard: Oh, with Sue Vinnell, I always had a handshake agreement. And when Steve was made editor and publisher of the magazine...I'm not exactly sure when he got both titles or whatever, but Steve was now the boss, and he insisted on a contract. Contract? You know? I was notorious. At least once or twice a year, I missed my column deadline. I travel a lot and yes, there's no question. I missed plenty of deadlines. Certainly, at least one per year in the last five years that I worked at Screen Printing.
And there was a thing in the contract that they could use one of my columns that I'd used before. They could reprint one of my columns if I missed
Bruce: Gotcha. Okay.
Richard: To me, I used the contract that he wrote because believe you me, it was a, "You will, you will, you will, you will, you will do this, you will do this, you will do this, and we'll give you this much money." So there was very little give and take. It was all scolding daddy and, of course, I had to push back against that.
Bruce: Sure. Interesting. That's interesting. I wanna change the topic a bit to your consulting side. I think some of the things that we talked about before the interview could really relate to a lot of these shops. So the first one is you designing a full shop in Detroit, and this was
Richard: The backstory was that I was doing consulting work with them, and they were having problems because they were very constricted in the building that they were in. They'd grown immeasurably, and they really needed a bigger space. They thought that I could help maybe in reorganizing the space they were actually in, but it was just untenable. There was no flow, and, you know, every employee begged me, you know, "Can't we get to a new building?" Every time I'd interview them, you know, it was
Bruce: Now, do you remember the size in square footage of the previous building?
Richard: The previous building...the actual shop area, because there were sales offices, etc., etc., and was 80 feet by 80 feet.
Bruce: Oh, okay. Gotcha. Now, what was the...
Richard: Let me just add something to that. Because that's a square, squares don't work very well at all. It never seems to turn out that way and, of course, most of the steel pole buildings that you see on the outskirts of town, they make lovely buildings. But for screen printing, usually, there's always a clog someplace. A rectangular building always works a lot better. Go ahead.
Bruce: Good answer. That's a really good tip to be able to take away. So speaking of that, what are some other things that you should look for in a building when you're looking to move?
Richard: Number one thing is where are the drains? The screen printing department needs water, and they need the drains. Now, a drain, you've gotta put
One of the great benefits of the building that we found here in Detroit was that they had existing, huge amounts of power because they were a manufacturer for the Detroit automotive industry before they sold this building.
Bruce: Okay. So you talked about power. So what should you look for with that aspect?
Richard: Well, what you don't wanna do is you don't wanna have to bring in more power because of your electricity requirements. You also need clean power for things like CTS machines in the screen making area. That means a whole brand new line that's computer safe because you don't want anything bad to happen to the CTS machine. It requires the
Now, for instance, I was in India last month for three weeks. Everywhere I went, there were power failures every day. Even when they had generators just outside, there would seem to be a power failure. It's like, "You've got generators. How can you have a power failure here?" It's like, "Well..." You know. Somebody was fiddling around and, you know, it just...In my life in the United States, I've had one power failure ever that stopped production, and that was when I was working at M&R. So, you know, it shut down M&R for almost a half a day, and it was just odd because it was just us. It was something that M&R had done with their huge electricity concerns. They had their own sort of section of the grid. That's way back in the 1990s.
Bruce: Now, just curious. Were you in India for just a personal vacation or was it a...
Richard: No. I've only taken two personal vacations that I can think of.
Bruce: Oh, my gosh.
Richard: No. It was for business. It was for business.
Bruce: Oh, okay. Very cool. Was there a shop out there?
Richard: Well, I visited three shops. I was doing some work for the biggest distributor in India, DCC, Dhaval
Bruce: That's awesome. Is there a lot of similarities or differences between shops over there and shops here?
Richard: When you get to the print floor and you're looking at all M&R equipment, and you're saying that they're having a problem with, you know, a Red Chili and, you know, I know those flash units. And they're using, you know...they were all M&R shops because DCC is the M&R distributor out there, but it's familiar territory. And even if there's a language barrier, I'm seeing the same basic problems. Of course, the biggest problem in India is relative humidity, where the average relative humidity is 80% every day, and it was 100 degrees. 97 degrees was the, you know...got there by 10:00. It was 97 degrees. At night, it was 80 degrees. Hot and humid.
Bruce: Really? So are they talking, like, industrial size dehumidifiers or...?
Richard: No. It was me introducing the fact that they should have dehumidifiers, so that was a trifecta fair. All three places that I visited, it was...And literally, the cool engineer guy that worked for DCC, he could not find a dehumidifier in Tiruppur in the south of India. While I was there, they could not find a dehumidifier. They used a lot of heaters, which is a big problem that I've run into a lot even with, you know, people I work for, like Lawson, that make hot boxes.
It's helpful to raise
Bruce: Oh, so there's no air flow. Right.
Richard: So how does the humid air get out? This just was something that they were not...it just seemed like new information everywhere I went.
Bruce: What's the target humidity that you should be at?
Richard: You can never be low enough. Now, I know my friends at KIWO don't like that. Dave Dennings has always battled with me about that. He, "You should have 40% or 30%," you know? They're setting a real number, but I don't know that many people that are storing their screens for days and days or weeks and weeks. Especially at this place in India, they're coating the screens. They're putting it in a hot box for 20 minutes. They think that it's dry, and then they put it in the i-IMAGE and image it.
What was interesting was that the i-IMAGE was a much, much bigger room, and it was air-conditioned. It had the luxury of air conditioning, and one of the secrets of air conditioning is that you're cleaning the air. That's air conditioning. But removing the humidity, that's also a conditioning factor. The water dripping off of an air conditioner, that's the water you're squeezing outta the air when you cool it.
So that room was 35%. And when I tell them, "If you dried your screens in the i-IMAGE room, they'll dry in 35 minutes. But in that hot box, they'll never dry," because they took out a relative humidity gauge...I don't have one here. I should have one here. But we dropped it in the hot box and they all went, "Ah, ah." So it was just a $10 Lowe's relative humidity gauge, my favorite tool. The number one tool you'll need in screen making. 10 bucks, you cheapskates. Go buy it yourself.
Then, you need to constantly monitor. Now, gee, if 50% is good, 40's better. Screens will dry better. Think of how much water there is in an emotion bucket. So if you have 60% water and 40% solids, you gotta get rid of all the water. All water bad when you're exposing a screen. So 40 is a minimum, but you need to dry the screen. So you're in a hurry, so 30's better. 20's better than that. 15's better than that.
Bruce: Right. Save a lot of time.
Richard: Now, what you can do when you have the relative humidity gauge is that you coat screens. You'll watch it go from 20% relative humidity in the dream world, and it'll go up, up, up. And then when the dehumidifier recovers the room in about an hour, when it's down to 20% or whatever is the lowest relative humidity that you can hold in that room, like, overnight, you come in in the morning. It's 8:00 in the morning, and you say, "Ah, the room's down at 22%." That just dries...the dehumidifier can get the room. So when it gets down there, when it gets down to 22%, you know every screen is dry. Now, you asked me a screen making question and my favorite, and so I go on that rant. You kids.
Bruce: No, that's good. That's really interesting. That's something I didn't know.
Richard: This is all brand new in the idea that they dry screens better. And it means teaching them
Bruce: Interesting. Very cool. Richard, talk to me about that move again. What were some lessons learned from going through that process? First, what was the size of the facility that they moved to? And then what were some things that you guys learned from doing that process?
Richard: I'm not remembering the exact specifics, but the new place was five times bigger. So I just remember
Bruce: Well, yeah. So
Richard: Well, the flow through the shop was much easier because all the goods were in a different location instead of storage because the place was so cramped, that was the number one thing, to get the stacks of boxes away from the printing presses. And so now, it's a shop where you don't see any shirts except the job that's running at this time. So a lot more space, and again, the flow. That the ink department is on one side, and the finishing department...that would be the heat set machines or, you know, after, you know,
Things you do
I think the thing that I learned from that particular move...I've done 10 or 15 moves just like this over my career. The big thing was how tough the cities are now because they took over an older building that had been used since the 30s or 40s, and so it was testing, testing, testing. Dealing with the inspectors in that city, for instance, the electricians and the vendors, they knew where we were, and they knew the inspectors. And, "Oh, yeah. This is a hard guy."
And it was sad because the inspectors themselves didn't really tell you all that they really wanted. They kinda nickel and dimed and step by step, so meeting with people ahead of time and saying, you know, "What are you gonna need?" Because I'm gonna spend money
You know, I think what you're asking is, you know, what are the best prep things. I was able to situate where the presses and ovens were going to go, you know? I located where we needed new electricity, where we needed new air drops for the automatic presses. So those are all part of planning. This is what I've done since I was a boy. I was born into a family of landscape architecture and exterior planning. It's all industrial design. It's thinking it out ahead of time. And I know that, you know, every salesman that's been in 1,000 shops in his career is a better person to advise people than a person that's only had one shop because you haven't been exposed to all the mistakes of some shops that you can't change, but all the things that you might possibly do.
And a lot of people don't think to try and make things better or to reduce the steps. Every time that I say, "What I'd like to do is I'd like to move this oven 18 inches away from the takeoff, and I'd like it to go straight down." Now, they don't like that. They'd rather do it from the side because then they can have three presses
Bruce: Right. That's a lot of time.
Richard: And that bothers me. That bugs me a lot because if I was doing that job, the first thing I'd be doing is saying, "How could I move this closer? How could I put some sort of a rail? How can I put rollers in-between?" I'm lazy. I don't wanna do all that extra work.
Bruce: Sure. Yeah, and...
Richard: Working in those sewing factories, that's where I really learned time studies because those guys are vicious dogs when it comes to wasted time. Half a second means everything to them. This is what the sewing industry has been doing for, you know, hundreds of years.
Bruce: That's a good tip and takeaway is to kinda reevaluate. Look at your shop and what people are really doing, the steps they're taking, the movements they're taking, and to be able to see, "Okay. How can we reduce this?" Because like you said, you know, just once or twice, okay. But when you're repeating so often over a year's period or more, all of it adds up.
Richard: If you take everybody that's in your shop and you take a big piece of paper, you'll imagine how they handle their work. What is their traffic pattern? And do screen makers typically have more traffic pattern because they have to bring screens out, but it's usually, you start with the fabric. Where does it come in? Where does it get sorted? Where does it get counted out? Where is it saved? How long does it take you to find the next job? Is the next job queued up and ready to go so it's going right into the printing press like bullets into a gun? Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
Is the next job stacked up and ready to go or are you in such a situation where you can't have a lot of shirts near the press because there's something else interfering with it? Or have you set up the press so that now the shirts have to come up next to the oven instead of on the other side of...I'm not explaining that correctly, but a lot of times if they have to run up next to the oven, there's no place to
And this is the basis of all lean manufacturing. Continuous improvement. The benefits of what we learned from the Japanese that we taught them after the World War II and what they taught us how to really use it. That's looking for ways but also teaching people how to look for ways. And most people, they're, you know, "Eh. That's what I'm doing." You'll have to do that for them, but that's teaching them how they can save themselves extra effort.
And any shop owner, all you can do is listen because every day, at around 11:00, everybody's whining because they don't have change for the soda machine or something like that. And, you know, you hear what people are squabbling about. They're definitely not talking about how they can make the print shop better. They're whining because they haven't got change for the coffee machine.
Bruce: Yeah. That's good. You know, we did a presentation too about iterative and improved processes more on the business side, but I like when you talk about that, especially on the manufacturing side. And we were talking about Japanese methodologies. Are there any books that people can read about the Japenese leaders?
Richard: Any books? You asked the wrong guy.
Bruce: Okay. Well, what's the number one, Richard? Or your favorite?
Richard: From now on, I'm saying I'm the number one guy because books are...that would be my religion if you're looking
The number one book that I would want people to read is something I just learned about in the last few years, and that's Paul Akers, P-A-U-L A-K-E-R-S. Paul Akers is from Washington state or Oregon now that I'm forgetting. Oregon. Sorry. He wrote a book called "2 Second Lean." Now, you can download this book for free. You go to paulakers.com or you just, you know, just Google 2 Second Lean, and you'll get everything that he's got there.
You can download audiotapes. You can download 263 minute MP3 so that when you're driving back and forth to
Bruce: But that's a good one.
Richard: He's got, like, a zillion different languages. What I really like is that I was able to get Spanish versions to deal with the huge Spanish population that we've got in, you know, southern United States. In trips that I've gone to in South America six months ago, it's just the advantage because you can plunk down something in their language that's not screen printing oriented, but it's something they can learn from. If I had it my way, this is a book that would be literally taught to everyone. Everybody can get a big boost because they'll reevaluate their life and begin to look for waste. Ways that they're just wasting their time.
Paul does a great job in this, and he has literally hundreds of his own small videos. If you read the book, he believes in making dumb, I don't care, I just have an iPhone or, you know, a regular style phone...not regular style phone, but, you know, everybody's got a movie camera in their pocket these days, and he loves little two, three minute movies of how you improve your workspace. Not in gigantic, "I saved 10 hours," but "I saved 2 seconds doing this, 2 seconds doing that. Getting things cleaned up." It's a whole philosophy.
Bruce: Very cool. I like that. Okay. I'm glad you can recommend that to everyone. The last thing I wanna cover too is helping shops on their management and business sides. So we talked a little bit before about a few aspects, and I wanted to pick your brain on some common issues that you see on the business and management side and how folks can help to improve that.
Richard: Well, this ties in perfectly with your software in that documentation. The ability to analyze how things went wrong or how things went right and to look for bottlenecks...it's all based on documentation. I was famous in the 80s. In my own mind, I was famous. But I was famous for pontificating about how important this was to reduce things because I was doing what your Printavo software must be doing in that you're doing production scheduling and work order creation. And I created for the companies...the two companies that I wrote software for, I wrote software that was barcoded very early on when all we had was dot matrix printers. It was before the era of the laser printer, which you can see, I'm old and tired.
But what we had was a little thing that looked like a credit card. It was from Vitech [SP], and it was a thing that could scan the barcodes. So when the work order came to the screen room, when the guy was done, he'd scan it and then, you know, pass the job along to the next spot in the dominoes in that each job should fall through the shop. And with a perfect work order...you're with me on this, Bruce...the job should just go through the shop without somebody standing at the door going, "What? What?" "Well, Rich, I wanted to know what color ink you wanted on the third something," or, "What shirt should we be using? What's the zip code?"
This is what runs the company is the poorly written work order which puts every job in the ditch. And the properly written work order is like crime. It happens, and the perfect job spits out the other end when the UPS man picks it up. So at the end of each day, 3:30, 4:00 in the afternoon, they would bring the barcode things to me. I would stick it into a little reader...which in 1982, this was so cool...and you just stick it in. It would suck all the information off. I'd then put that into a database unit, and I could generate the new schedules about 30 or 40 minutes right afterward. And nobody had to enter in job number 48192. All they had to do was put in their barcode reader, so this is a miracle where that's almost 40 years ago now.
Bruce: That's very cool. So you talk about...so writing things down, very important. I think that also, documentation...
Richard: Documentation and training absolutely, you know, things that are lacking.
Bruce: ...training. Okay. So what more specifically about training? Is it cross training? Is it just new employees? Is it continuing...what is it?
Richard: Well, first of all, you wanna create a culture that wants to make things better because when I feel that in a shop, I know that that shop can go places. But when everybody doesn't want to make things better, I can't drag the dead horse
So you've got a million people teaching, often, the wrong thing. So, you know, the problem...nobody wants to pay for an expert, but an expert is why you go to college. An expert is why you go to high school. An expert is learning the proper way versus learning the handed down, word of mouth way. That may be good in some instances, but it's all basic science.
Bruce: How could maybe a medium or small sized shop get the expert's way of helping to train their staff?
Richard: Well, again, I think the easiest way is the books. For instance, there are three books that are in the screen making area. One is by Autotype. They created a terrific training book that they let it slide. I have copies. I've scanned the copies. I'll give it away to, you know, anybody who wants it. They've given me permission to distribute it. Saati, the great Italian mesh manufacturer. Andre Paskins, [SP] who worked for them, created two fabulous books on screen making. There's none better. Nobody's ever created anything like that.
Joe Clarke wrote a book called "Control Without Confusion" about high-end, full-color process screen printing that we published in 1985, '86. That's 30 years ago. And ST Publications doesn't put it up on the web. I've scanned it. I got permission from Joe, and ST Pubs don't care if I distribute it. So, you know, people that want the books, I have those books. I've scanned them with my scanning gear, and these are the best books in that instance. I'm trying to think of other slam dunk things.
There's nothing really about printing, but M&R, of course...M&R doesn't like their books, but M&R has, you know, manuals on how to print...when Joe Clarke was the president of M&R...that are three-quarters of an inch thick about the philosophy of why you want to print faster. Those books and literally hundreds of other books that just teach about the science of what we do, it needs to be basic reading. Think of screen printing as a new hobby that you might wanna study. Make screen printing your new hobby and study the classic books.
The SGIA Screen Printing Association, which is now the Specialty Graphics and Imaging Association...when you belong to the SGIA, they have tons of books...not books, but articles that have been the basic backbone and philosophy that can all be downloaded if you're a member. It does cost around $40 or $50 a year minimum to join, but you are getting back to the political arm of screen printing that funds the lobbying that we do in Washington, D.C.
Bruce: Got it. Well, I think those are really good tips. You know, you can get very busy and wrapped up in your current work and, you know, not step back and be able to start in the craft and be able to write down the processes and be able to iterate and improve on those and do proper training of your team and continually do that over time too. So, I mean, that's really good. I know you gotta run too pretty soon, but this has been really great. I think we should actually have a part two at some point, but I really appreciate the time, Richard.
Richard: Not a problem. I enjoyed it.
Bruce: Awesome. Well, again, thank you for joining us. It's been incredible. We've got a lot of great tips that we'll be able to share with everybody. So thanks, Richard, and have a great rest of the week and weekend now.
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Printavo is simple shop management software. We help you streamline your business, keep jobs moving forward and your team on the same page.
Scheduling, quoting, approvals, payments, customer communication, automation and more. With Printavo, you’ll work smarter–not harder.