There are a lot of factors that go into making your shop run smoothly. But one idea can push things to greater efficiency than anything else you can do.

Do you know what that might be?

This thought: “Do things early.”

It seems so simple, but trust me, it’s not.

What I mean by “Do things early” is for your shop to adopt the stance of being more proactive. For example, let’s take a look at one of the biggest bottlenecks in most shops, the sales to art to screen-room to production workflow.

The Screens Bottleneck

If your production team constantly needs screens for today’s jobs to run, then this bottleneck is all too familiar for you. Chances are the reason is because you haven’t dug in to unravel the problem, and instead may even have departments pointing fingers instead of helping sort things out.

Let’s throw a little “Do things early” magic dust on this problem.

Challenge 1: The Art Part of the Equation

A good chunk of the issue happens upstream with how the order is put in the system by the sales or customer service teams. Erroneous or missing information, vague instructions, and art file problems lead the creative team to spend unnecessary energy on getting the art built and approved.

If you put more emphasis on getting quality art instructions and better source files from your customers, the art team can knock out their work faster. Stop letting them hand-off problems with the “it’s art, I just don’t know these things” excuse.

Your creative team must get things out faster. This requires expectations on when things are actually due to go out. Creative people are kind of a flakey bunch, but they completely understand deadlines.

Have you established them for your team? Are they early enough?

They absolutely need to know when that job has to go out for approval. And…if you are having issues getting things approved on time, this needs to get pushed to happen sooner.

Yep. “Do things early”.

Challenge 2: Managing the Customer

It’s a fact. Our customers don’t understand our business. When you give a shop tour, most are amazed at all the steps required to get an order produced.

Part of getting orders out the door on-time is managing your customer. The single biggest hang up is with how the art is approved on a timely basis.

But if we know this, how come we don’t give a deadline to our customers for when the art is to be approved? We just launch it into space and hope it gets approved…sometime.

Set a due date on your approval form with some language that will help you. Make it bold and red.

“In order to hit your delivery expectations please approve this art by 12:00 noon on Tuesday the 3rd.”

Therefore, when your art team gets the art to the customer earlier, and the customer approves the art earlier, what happens then?

You guessed it. The screen room gets the ripped file early too. This means that the screens can be prepped and grouped on the shelf, ready for when production starts staging.

Staging the Floor

Which brings us to staging the production floor.

Want more jobs produced daily? Start with organizing production the day before.

Remember our mantra, “Do things early”.

Staging Rules

Around lunchtime today, the complete production schedule for tomorrow is pulled. Every job, for every machine. As much as possible, only jobs with inventory, screens and approved samples are staged.

The idea is to line up next to each machine, the all of the shirts, screens, ink, samples, documents, and anything else needed for the jobs to be run. In fact, we want to line them in the priority that they should be produced.

Jobs are staged in this order:


Rush means any critical, you are so doomed if it doesn’t go out, jobs. These could be a paid rush order, a critical job for an important client, some make up stuff that has to go out…whatever. If it is important, it goes to the head of the line.

If you have multiple presses and multiple Rush jobs, divvy them out so everyone gets a few. Imagine how nice it would be if all of your critical jobs were printed by 9:00 am? With this method, you stand a fighting chance of that happening.

“Do things early”.


Late jobs go next. Why? Well, they can’t get any later.

Priority, critical jobs go first, but any order that is late goes second. You need to take care of these.

I’ve seen Late jobs get continually bumped by production managers because salespeople start screaming about their jobs that have to print today. Every minute a Late job isn’t produced will cost you more money in shipping, or worse, irate customers.

Late jobs have to be a priority.


After the Rush and Late jobs are completed, then you can start producing jobs that need to be worked on today.

Set them up and knock them down.


Sure, it’s tempting sometimes to look ahead on the schedule and grab a job for next week. Maybe it has a sleeve print and you are running sleeves on a press now, or it is for a client that you really like.

The problem with that is that there is only so much time in the day. When you grab future work before any jobs that are Rush, Late, or Today; you are jeopardizing your production schedule to remain on time.

Be firmer in your convictions for production scheduling. Only work on future jobs when other matters are handled correctly.

Print the Schedule and Line Them Up

So now that we have the proactive thinking established, let’s look as to how you should arrange your floor.

Around lunch today, print the schedule for each machine on your floor. Have this prioritized by Rush, Late, Today, Tomorrow’s jobs.

Then, your mission is to start pulling everything needed. I like to use some colored tape on the floor to denote where everything should line up. Grab the shirts for the first job on the list and line them up at the front, arranged neatly to the tape. Get the screens and place them next to the box of shirts. Any samples and paperwork is placed on top of the box. Inks are pulled too, and placed on a table nearby.

Repeat this for every job for that press, and all of the other machines on your floor. The reason you are pulling the schedule around lunch is so that you can be working on this from then until the end of the day. By the time the shift ends, you should be ready for tomorrow.

“Do things early”.

Clarity of Expectations

The beauty of production planning and prep work is that you can give your team the expectations of what they need to accomplish.

Without this your results are basically the “you get what you get” results. Which is why at the end of the day you only have 835 impressions from your auto.

“Do things early” champions efficiency, and gives your team their marching orders. Most people want to know the rules so they can understand what to do. Without them, they make up their own.

Give your team a fighting chance to accomplish more.

Warning: This may seem ridiculously easy. Trust me, it’s not. Doing the work is easy enough. Doing it every day as part of your routine is the challenge.

This is going to take teamwork and a coordinated effort to do correctly.

You can do it!