A path from entry-level to industrial DTG

Dmitry Sarbaev, managing director of FLUXMALL DTG, shares some tips and trips to help you build a successful DTG business.

The recent FESPA Global Print Expo shows that we are living in the exciting times of the industry transformation when even entry-level direct to garment printers are able to run at speeds which were impossible to imagine three to four years ago, and at cost which becomes more attractive to developing markets.

This enables printers’ owners to enlarge their printing facilities and target bigger numbers in the output. However new challenges come up with the growth of the industry in general, and standalone DTG premises in particular.

Human factor

In a sense, speed is no longer a problem with the state-of-the-art DTG machinery. Most printers are designed and built from the ground up as dedicated DTG units with full control over jetting and limited only by the capacity of the printhead – no more repurposing is needed. Thus, the competition between OEMs in the same niches is currently shifting from speed only to providing proper workflow solutions, even for small-scale productions. For those printers that strive to grow their business to a higher volume scale, it becomes essentially important to catch up with machines speed by providing proper training to the operators and ensuring less bottlenecks and idle time in the current workflow.

In other words, machines have become faster than people, not only in factories, but printshops as well, and it is vital to control how people are adapting to faster speeds. For some markets and business models it means that more labour will be required to process bigger volumes in the same layout, but with slower printers being replaced by the faster printers. In other cases, new layout designs and setups and more in-depth look into the workflow automation might be required, even in small DTG shops.

Technical support

At the end of the day, any DTG printer and other equipment that goes in a package (i.e. a pre-treatment machine a heat press, a tunnel dryer) are prone to breaking from time to time. The bigger your printing scales becomes – the more equipment you have to purchase. Subsequently, the necessity to reduce the downtime of each piece of equipment enhances.

Many entry-level printshop owners underestimate the role of a professional, experienced DTG service providers on the market. No matter how tech savvy you are – you will need support. Budget might be a critical issue at the entry-level state, but with the growth of production there is an inevitable need to consider investing into reliable, time-proven, well-known DTG solutions, otherwise the number of technical issues will have a snowball effect, and there will be no one coming alongside you on the market to help resolve these issues. This is seemingly a minor problem when you just start, but should not be neglected on the path to the production growth.

Preventive maintenance schedules

The DTG industry has evolved over the years to the point where the majority of printers on the market are so-called ‘low maintenance’. Although it is true that less efforts are required to keep the machine in good shape, this is more or less a marketing term, and no one should forget that the operation principals of digital inkjet printers have not changed. To prevent clogging issues, electrical and mechanical problems, simple daily maintenance routines must be followed to keep your ink systems and working environment in order. The operators should not take perfect ink flow for granted, and provide good care of all machinery. In certain scenarios, when you add up printers, it might be timely to consider having a dedicated technician on-site.

Forecasting

The most frustrating time is when you receive a decent order, but have no ink to fulfil it fast. DTG forums are flooded with posts of printers searching for fellow printers who are able to help take the orders in such cases. Eventually it starts to affect your profitability, unless with larger volumes you pay very close attention to forecasting your consumable liquids (inks, pre-treatments, cleaning solutions), consumable parts (wipers, filters) and spare parts. This has to be broken down of how many of the above you consume per print, and reconciled with the lead time of your suppliers, so that stock is refilled and uninterruptable production is ensured.

Automation software

For most startups, recording data begins with the simple spreadsheet, but at some point, grows to the level when it is impossible to manage as the workflow becomes complicated and time-consuming if done manually. There is plenty of software solutions for DTG printshops available on the market, and most of them are suitable for both small-scale shops and high-volume printing factories. Take some time to compare different options that suits your particular business. Most of them are subscription-based, but worth investing in, for the sake of your production efficiency.

All these tips and tricks will help you along the way of building a successful DTG business by growing your output and transforming into a well-organised facility that can do better today than it did yesterday!

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