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Keep printers busy by subcontracting

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One of the most important aspects of fabric graphics printing is keeping your printers busy. Sure, a few days or a week of “downtime” won’t damage your machines, but if one of your printers is repeatedly sitting idle, it may be time to consider subcontracting work to maintain workflow and improve your ROI.

“The first step to subcontracting is doing a little market research,” Mimaki’s Marie Friemann says. “Talk to a few larger print shops or industrial companies in the area. Find out where they are falling short. Develop a niche service that solves their problems. Write up a proposal and submit it to the companies and include all costs and payment terms. The most important thing is to never stop asking if there is anything else they need. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

From small-run labeling jobs to event signage to large one-time events, the types of subcontracting work available vary by region and often by the time of year.

“The first thing to do is call various companies and see if they need any work done and ask lots of questions,” Friemann says. “Get referrals if you can. It is easy to do once you find a segment to fill a need for. The work can be lucrative if you understand the work they want done and what is involved in producing it. And you have to know how to price your service to make a profit.”

You can also market your subcontracting efficiencies by communicating the uniqueness of your equipment. “The high quality and ease of use of the Value Jet printers allow Mutoh owners to produce very high quality prints that may be impossible or difficult with other printers,” Randy Anderson, product manager at Mutoh America, says. “They can offer printing services to owners of lower solution or lower quality printers as value-added.”

For example, according to Marisol Vargas, Mutoh’s Viper TX is targeted at short-run volumes, varying from sample creation to small lot production. Application possibilities are soft signage, flags, trade show graphics and home furnishings. The Viper TX 65 and Viper TX 90 direct-to-textile printers are able to print directly onto non-stretch textile materials with open or closed structure, such as PES flag, cotton, cotton/polyester blends and silk.

And while subcontracting may be a lucrative alternative to idle printers, there are some challenges involved. These may include getting paid, short deadlines, lack of communication, and getting started. But, as with many endeavors, the benefits often outweigh the challenges. “By subcontracting, you are increasing your business,” Friemann says. “You are also finding new -uses for your machine, keeping your machine running and earning extra money.”

Maura Keller is a freelance writer based in Plymouth, Minn.

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