Utilize the "Slow Season" to help maximize your Busy Season!

Utilize the "Slow Season" to help maximize your Busy Season!

Utilize the "Slow Season" to Help Maximize your Busy Season!

The dreaded industry-wide slow down has landed. The mad rush before Christmas lasted a bit longer than expected for many shops. Now, shops are facing a slowdown that will last probably six to eight weeks. For some, this unfortunately means having to cut some staff in order to keep payroll affordable. Other shops are able to cut hours in order to keep staff on the payroll. However you are able to keep the lights on and the doors open, make sure you utilize this time to the fullest. Here are some seriously helpful ways to do so:

  • Test New Products and Processes

  • Discuss 2018 Spoilage and How to Improve

  • Address Job Roles and Accountability

  • Cross Train!

Test New Products and Processes

So many times through the year I hear “I just don’t have time to try that right now” or “that seems like too much to learn! We can just outsource it, or do it differently.” Then, when we hit this time of the year, shop owners and managers just want to sit at the shop and worry about payroll or what they are going to do to get out of the first quarter slump. Well, this is the time to make those changes!

Maybe you, like most of the shops in the country, are hearing more and more about water-base printing, or discharge under-basing. Well, test it now! It’s really not that hard to learn, it just takes an open mind and some little tips and tricks. Especially if starting off with just discharge under-bases as your introduction to water base printing.

Or maybe you have heard about using a dip tank to increase your reclaim departments throughput, but have been afraid of changing something and ending up short on screens. Well, now is the time! Test test test! If you aren’t sure where to begin on identifying what to test, just contact me, I can happily help with some industry trending products and processes.

Discuss 2018 Spoilage and How to Improve

It is impossible to not have a single misprint or mistake at a print shop through the year. We are all human (for now, lol) and mistakes are bound to happen. That being said, we can get ahead of some mistakes and make sure that we are doing our best to prevent and catch them before they are made. No, I’m not talking about some sort of crystal ball, but looking back at the recurring issues causing errors, and putting team heads together to work on preventing them. One method is to institute stop-gap checks between departments to make sure that the work leaving a department upstream is correct before pushing it down to the next, and making sure the next is also reviewing the work before continuing the process. Doing this with a team mentality will help ensure that everyone feels their own accountability to the process.

Address Job Roles and Accountability

This is a big one. Lots of shops start off with just a few people, and slowly grow and grow. Then, before you know it, there are a group of people that you think you can rely on, until the “you know what” hits the fan!  Suddenly excuses like “I didn’t know” or “I wasn’t trained on that” are thrown around. So, even if it's just you and a buddy working in your basement…you NEED to take this seriously and define job roles and accountability.

Once job roles and duties are defined, it is vital to stick with it. This is a hard thing to do, because if they agree to their duties and can’t stick to them, then yes, you have an issue that you will need to address with them. Work with your department heads and staff to put together clearly written job titles and roles and have them signed off by head management and the individual employee stating that they both agree to the descriptions, and the terms of sticking to them.

For example: Art department. Do they know exactly what their duties are? Are they to do all art separations and all art correspondence for approvals with the customer, or do they have certain duties to finish and then hand off to another?  Also, do they have checklists to make sure all of their jobs are complete? Maybe including a checklist when doing tasks such as: outputting films, which can include (not exclusively):

  • Pantone color listed

  • print sequence listed,

  • job number listed, etc.

Cross Train!

Once you have job roles and accountability established, you can then begin to work on basic training programs for those roles. Maybe you have someone that is good at their job, and might be asking for a raise, but you don’t see them as someone that can be a lead or a manager. Work with them on a cross training platform. Get them to be a universal employee for you. Work with them to be able to fill in where there are gaps in your daily tasks. If you have a shop with medium to large staff, you really feel the hit when someone calls off sick or can’t make it to work for some reason. Having a crew of people that you have trained to fill in other departments will allow you to reshuffle the deck at a moments’ notice and make sure that you are able to get all necessary tasks accomplished without drastically affecting your bottom line for the day. If an employee shows competence in multiple areas in the business, they are of higher value and much easier to justify that raise they have been requesting.

Set Yourself up for Success!

As you can see, there is plenty of work to be done at your shop, even if the orders have slowed down. Planning for a slow season is never something we like to do, but is something we always have to do. Utilizing this time the fullest can mean the difference between just another year, or a fantastic year ahead. Figure out which of these things you want to focus on over the next few weeks and get started! Here’s to a busy and prosperous 2019!

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