by John Kaverman, Pad Print Pros LLC
Companies that are unsuccessful in pad printing usually fail to observe one or more of the five keys to successfully launching any pad printing operation.
1. Assign someone responsibility for the success of the project.
Often, no one is in charge of dealing with pad printing projects from cradle to grave. It is imperative that someone manage the project. Project management includes gathering necessary information, being directly involved in budget process, active participation in the review of proposals from potential vendors and the resulting decision to purchase, final machine acceptance, coordination of the shipping and receiving process and operator training. If someone doesn’t have all of these pieces to the puzzle and the ability to document them, things will invariably “fall through the cracks.”
2. Create a reasonable timeline for implementation.
If you’re trapped in a “never enough time to do it right; always enough time to do it over” environment, make a paradigm shift soon. When things are done correctly it can reasonably be expected to take 6-8 weeks. For more intricate applications requiring multiple printing operations on multiple locations on the part, more complex machines may be required, invariably increasing the delivery time and thus, your timeline. It is important to allow enough time to do it right.
3. Invest in technology.
In pad printing, you pay for what you get. To avoid getting ripped off, make sure the solution you buy is really “inexpensive” as opposed to “cheap”. How do you do that? Perform a thorough production cost analysis comparing each machine, factoring in reasonable production rates for your application, labor, ink, hardener, thinner, cliché, pad, set-up and clean-up time, etc.
4. Invest in training and service.
Some pad printing solutions don’t come in a box. It pays to keep that in mind when you’re reviewing quotes, because “cheap” and “inexpensive” mean two different things. Service should be your most important consideration because good service can save you from yourself. When emergencies happen, you’ll want to be confident that your supplier is going to be there to bail you out. Create a RELATIONSHIP with your supplier and their technical staffers.
5. Invest in your people.
If your decorating department has a revolving door, you’re going to have a lot of problems. A skilled pad printing technician is a person that can identify a problem, determine the root cause and adjust the process accordingly. Operators need to be well trained initially and then kept current with recurring training. While there are some pad printing applications that don’t require an operator with an in-depth knowledge of the process, most applications require a functional understanding of the theory of operation, your specific machines, clichés, pads, ink mixing and adjustment and troubleshooting.
John Kaverman is the owner of Pad Print Pros LLC, an independent sales and consulting firm, specializing in pad printing and digital thermal transfer marking, and a regular contributor to Plastics Decorating.