The arrival of 2018 saw many new developments for family run RDM Gregg. An £800,000 investment in new screen printing equipment and a new print unit will ensure the company can continue to maintain its position as one of the leading garment decorators in East Anglia for many years to come. P&P editor Melanie Attlesey reports.
At the beginning of last year, Dave Brignal and his partner Mark Gregg took the decision to expand and develop the screen printing side of the business. This saw the pair purchase an 8,000sq ft unit opposite the 5,000sq ft unit they currently own on a trading estate on the outskirts of Norwich.
The unit was an empty shell when Dave and Mark first started transforming it six months ago. Dave explains: “We have spent many years specialising in embroidery and have in excess of 50 embroidery heads. The natural progression to develop our garment decorating abilities was to invest heavily in the most modern and efficient screen printing equipment from MHM.”
The company’s target was to automate the entire screen printing process in house. To achieve this, two 12 station/ nine colour MHM S-Type Xtreme automatic screen printing presses, four Calmatech flash cure units, a Spyder II direct to screen image printer, a Zentner Systems Premium 100 automated screen coating unit, a Zentner Systems Multiline Aquatec Developer GE10/15 automated screen developing machine, an EXILE V-Light LED Exposure Unit, and an Ecotex Plus gas dryer from Adelco, were purchased, totalling an investment worth £300,000. A modern ink kitchen was also installed where inks can be mixed to create exact Pantone-matched colours ready for the printers. A pair of internet linked formula scales makes this all possible.
“It’s a bit of a running inside joke that all we do in the ink kitchen is bake cakes. When we posted a job advert online for a member of staff to work in it we got a hundred chefs apply for the role,” laughs Dave.
This new equipment now means that RDM Gregg has the capacity to print approximately 200,000 garments a month and multi-colour set up times have reduced to around 10-15 minutes. Dave adds: “We chose MHM equipment because of the speed of the set up times and indeed the capacity of output. The equipment we chose is also fully compatible.”
One area of the business that is thankful for the new equipment is the art department. The team is an integral part of the business and is integral to the smooth running of the new equipment. All colour separations are done in-house and sent direct to the Spyder II for direct to screen imaging.
The screen print side of the business now joins the company’s existing successful side of the business. The original unit houses RDM Gregg’s embroidery, vinyl, transfer and DTG printing services. This now means that RDM Gregg can offer the whole garment decoration package, along with the capacity to supply customers with unique, personal garments.
Stroke of genius
Coupled with the installation of the new print shop will be the introduction of Strokeone, a new piece of software designed specifically for the garment decoration industry. RDM Gregg will be among the first in the UK to test the software and to get it installed. “Strokeone is a production planner that is the most complete system from a garment decorator’s perspective on the market today. As we sell our garments online and in store, Strokeone will allow our clients access to a customer portal where they can track job progression and delivery status. The developers are also developing APIs that will allow connectivity to select platforms for both customers and suppliers. Strokeone will enable us, and force us, to streamline our entire manufacturing process and organisation,” says Dave.
The software will be installed and run in tandem with the company’s old production system. “The software was developed to run one particular company’s print shop and everyone’s product and manufacturing requirements are different. There are going to be certain factors within our processes which will need to be adapted to suit the software or, the other way around, the software will need to be developed to suit our processes,” explains Dave.
Strokeone has been developed using firsthand knowledge from one of the country’s leading garment decorators. It will become commercially available later this year when any teething problems have been ironed out.
Dave says that these are exciting times for RDM Gregg. “Our aim is to become one of the finest garment decorators possible with an emphasis on being kind to the environment, while also considering the welfare and happiness of our staff as we develop on this adventure.”
Stunning times ahead
With this huge investment made in the business, Dave firmly believes that within five years the company’s turnover will have doubled from approximately £2m to £4m, with the majority of growth targeted at the screen print side of the business. “On a personal note, I am now 56-years-old so I would like to think that my business life will be a little less hands on in five years’ time. I moved from the edge of London three years ago to join RDM Gregg and with my passion for boats I would like to own a 36ft motor cruiser capable of river cruising and coastal. If you have ever seen the north Norfolk coastline you will understand that ambition. I had not seen it before I moved to Norfolk and it is stunning.”
To mark the opening of the new print shop, RDM Gregg’s main supplier donated a selection of Gildan GD001 Softstyle T shirts, which the team are decorating for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices. The T shirts were printed using the new screen printing equipment and were the perfect opportunity to run and test the equipment. Money raised from the sale of the T shirts will be donated towards the charity’s Nook appeal which is raising £10m to build a new children’s hospice in the heart of Norfolk.
And finally Dave has some advice for his fellow garment decorators. “My advice to readers, and especially anyone starting out in the industry, is to set out your business plan, where you want your business to be in five and even 10 years’ time and install the structure from day one. I wish I had. We have grown so fast and it becomes difficult to install the structure halfway through the adventure.”