Mistakes happen. Even with the best laid plans, we are human. But there is hope! With a well-defined process that is consistently followed, the likelihood of errors can be limited. We follow these 5 steps to assure quality is maintained:
Step 1 – Art Proof
When working on a new design, our art team places the graphic on an image of the garment or product being decorated. This proof sheet not only shows the artwork in detail, it also specifies the imprint size, the imprint location, the imprint color(s) and the placement of the graphic on the product. We require approval of this proof (including all the details) from the customer before we can proceed with their order. We assign a unique number to the artwork and the same number to the proof sheet to tie-them together. On reorders, with that one number we can pull up both the art to use and a confirmed visual reference of the project.
Step 2 – Compare art proof to the decorating medium
For screen printing we make screens, for embroidery we digitize the file, for heat pressing we cut the design – in any scenario, we pause at this step, before a single item has been decorated to review print method preparation against the approved proof. The team is confirming not only that the artwork is correct, but that words are spelled right, the correct decoration colors are listed and that image placement they have prepared matches what is specified on the order paperwork.
Step 3 – Supervisor Approval
Once the operator is finished setting up the equipment for decoration (screens in the press, embroidery machine threaded) the operator runs 1 shirt from the order. This product must be reviewed and approved by a supervisor. If the operator is a supervisor, he or she cannot approve their own work. A second set of eyes is required. Have you ever worked on a project, you look at it over and over, perhaps for days and then someone points out a mistake and you realize you had been looking at this error all along and didn’t notice it? A second set of eyes is our answer to getting an outside perspective.
Step 4 – Reference Sample
Generally, the operator who printed the product is not the same person that packs the product. The person working at the end of the line may change throughout the length of the project, a project may span several shifts. In order for the last person in the line to monitor quality, they need to know what was approved at the start of the process. We take that first piece that was approved by the supervisor and we hang it at the end of the production line. This way anyone working the line has a reference in front of them to compare each completed print against it. We do this to assure quality doesn’t drop over the life of the run, it is maintained throughout.
Step 5 – Equipment Maintenance & Spot Checks
While step 5 isn’t specific to a single order, it is critical to an overall quality plan. Establish a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly maintenance plan and document completion. We spot check any equipment that has a heat element several times during a shift to make sure the equipment is holding at the required temperature. In screen printing inks cure at different temperatures, but it is impossible for a human pulling a shirt off the end of the belt to tell if that shirt reached all the way to the curing point or if it fell short by 10 or 20 degrees, but that difference will make all the difference the first time you wash that shirt. We also perform spot checks at our final QC step. A supervisor randomly stops at the end of each production line a minimum of once per hour and spot checks the quality of the product against that approved sample. This is again bringing a second set of eyes into the control process.
Yet even with all of this, a mistake can happen at any point in this process and get through to the customer, but following a plan such as the one detailed here will drastically lower the chance of that happening and will establish your shop as one with high quality standards.
For years our industry hosted a traveling tradeshow through the Mid-west in the fall. Year after year, we noticed (and vendors confirmed) that the bulk of the show attendees were our staff and customers. As we reflected on this, we realized we were unnecessarily exposing our clients to the competition, so we decided to host an event of our own. Granted the cost to host such an event was higher than attending the free traveling tradeshow but there are countless benefits and advantages.
When you host a tradeshow, you have control. We carefully select the vendors we invite to display at our Product Showcase. The vendors represent the best of the best of our suppliers who have a history of being top of the line in quality, service and on-time delivery. We aren’t exposing our clients to vendors we’d rather not do business with.
You gain leverage with your vendors. Part of the selection process for which vendors we invite to participate includes what we can get back from those vendors. A private tradeshow is a powerful tool. You are putting your vendors in front of hundreds of clients all within a short timeframe. This can have a tremendous impact on that rep’s sales numbers. That is worth something. Leverage your vendor invitations against long term price agreements, giveaways for the show or free samples.
You control the marketing. We utilize a multi-faceted marketing approach to grow attendance each year. The tradeshow is so useful to our clients that they start asking us when the show is months before the event date. Our clients are our best advertising for the event, but to expand the attendance beyond this we utilize e-blasts, social media, our website, radio/print and personal invitations. Including different marketing approaches touches more potential customers than any one single approach can bring.
You can guarantee year to year improvements. Each year we evaluate past events and find ways to improve the customer experience. We’ve always known that parking is an issue when you have 400+ customers descending on a business park. After trying many different approaches, last year we finally found the solution. We hired a trolley to cruise the industrial park starting 30 minutes before registration opens and ending 30 minutes after the event concludes. The trolley picks up customers however far away they parked and shuttles them right to the door (and back to their car afterwards). It is important when hosting an event to look at the areas where you may have fallen short in the past and brainstorm ways to cleverly address those challenges. Ask for feedback from your event attendees and take that feedback to heart and do something to make the event better.
You can give a peek behind the curtain. Our clients are busy people. Day to day, the most they want to think about is that we delivered on time and accurately, but on occasion we find our customers love to see how things work. We invite them into our lives and give each client a chance to print a t-shirt, chat with our manufacturing staff and in general get a peek behind the curtain. Showing the inner workings of a manufacturing facility can be exciting and along the way you are able to teach them more about the process you execute to produce the products they order.
You have the chance to say thank you! We take this day to shower our clients with our affection. Hosting an event that provides lunch, has a useful deliverable (product research) and gives our staff the opportunity to say thank you, in person, to the clients that keep us in business is a priceless gift. Making sure our event has a tangible business purpose gives value to our clients.
We strategically plan for both what our customers need from an event to justify attending and what our vendors need to justify the time and expense of exhibiting. By doing this, our event has become so successful that clients fly in to attend and vendors choose to attend our event instead of others held on the same day. This year a competitor 3 states over changed an event date on their end to avoid conflicting with our Product Showcase. A tradeshow takes a tremendous amount of planning but if done right, it can yield tremendous rewards.
Would you like to see the event in person? Please visit www.toppromotions.com/RSVP2017 to reserve your spot today.
Trade show coming up? Launching a new brand? Whatever your need for promotional products, we’ll find them for you. No need to sort through a dizzying array of items, wonder whether they’ll perform as promised, or stress over delivery times. We take the headaches out of the product sourcing equation with a stress-free process that will make your life easier. Here’s the straight skinny on how it works:
1: Assess your promotional needs
We start with a few questions to get the full picture of your business needs and goals, including:
2: Get in touch with trusted suppliers
We’ve cultivated tight relationships with the best suppliers in the industry so your finished promotional products are high quality and priced right.
3: Find the lowest shipping cost
When we’re deciding on a supplier, we keep your drop ship location keep in mind so we can choose one with the shortest route and least expensive shipping option to best meet your desired delivery date. And with our freight equalization program that cuts shipping costs, your dollar will stretch even further.
4: You get a preview
The final step before production is providing our beloved customers with a digital presentation complete with:
If you like what you see in the preview, we’ll oversee the ordering and delivery process for you and keep you updated along the way. We like to think of ourselves as personal promotional products shoppers that make it easy for our customers to meet their goals and budget. Ready to get started? Contact us online today!