How Do You Manage Your Shop--By Accounting or CPI?

I've talked to a number of major embroidery and screen contractors in recent months. I find they are divided into two camps. One camp emphasizes control through accounting. They rely on job costing for orders and other accounting techniques to evaluate their operation.

The second camp is much smaller. They emphasize control of processes. They use Continuous Process Improvement of either the formal variety, or their own equivalent.

What are the differences between the two approaches?

The traditional approach, used by American manufacturing for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, is that of accounting controls. Accounting is detail oriented. It is backward looking--historical. It tracks and reviews results of past behavior.

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What Was Supposed to Happen in 2024 Will Happen in 2020

Our vocabulary has changed, hasn’t it?  PPE, ventilators, lockdowns, tracing, flattening the curve and more are part of the new world.   COVID-19 and the actions taken around the country are affecting everyone, including those of us who live in the decoration and promotional products markets.  The most obvious effects are those on the pace of business and the financial impact of a sudden drop off in sales.  Much has been written about that.

I invite you to think about something else that you may not have realized yet.  I had been giving much thought over the past year to where we have been headed as an industry.   What I have been seeing is the confluence of two major forces: 

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What Lean Manufacturing Can Teach Us--Part II

Another Lean concept which can directly benefit Decorators is box score reporting for value streams where improvement is desired.   The term “box score” is borrowed from sports, where it shows the achievements for an individual or team.   A “value stream” is the Lean term for the business process for one product.  As an example, let us say we want to improve the speed and quality of the screen printing value stream and we will focus in this example on just the machine operation. 

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Two Clicks for a Color Proof--WOW!

For some time we have considered the best options to provide digital proofs to customers for approval.  One way is to send an email to the customer with the art in the email. The second way is to set up an art portal on the web, put the art into the portal and ask the customer to log in to see the art and approve it.

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What Lean Manufacturing Can Teach Us--Part I

You've heard the term 'Lean Manufacturing' (or just 'Lean'), probably in business articles about large manufacturers.  But, you should not assume that "Lean" is just for major businesses.  And don't assume that you have to make major investments and hire consultants in order to benefit from it.  It has much to teach us that can make your shop more competitive and more profitable.

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How to Hit the 'Sweet Spot'

You sell decorated products.  EmbTrak sells software which, we hope, makes you more successful at selling decorated products.  Different businesses?  Yes.  But more similar than you may realize.

You will be successful to the degree that you can provide products and services which turn prospects into customers.  Same here.  The question is, how is that done?  Our experience may help you, so I'll share it.

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Have You Invested Yourself in Process?

Early in my career I found that operations people crave routine and for good reason.  They are judged on the quantity and quality of physical output over time.  Fewer changes mean more output. For embroidery types, the late 1990's still provided abundant contract jobs such as 100,000 white towels with a 5,000 stitch single color green Christmas tree in the corner.  

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Should You Develop Your Own Business Software

From time to time I come across embroidery and screen print businesses where the owner or an employee or family member has developed their own custom software program for running the business.   These programs always have at least one major advantage for that company—they reflect that company’s unique way of doing business, down to terminology

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'Best Practices' Are Best

EmbTrak began when Slazenger Golf asked us to redevelop their field sales force automation system used by green grass sales reps.  Since that first contact in 1999, we have worked with the embroidery and screen print departments of many of the leading apparel brands in North America.  Engagements have run from a day or two on site to one stretch

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The Increasing Pace of Business

The summer has come to a close, with Labor Day past and big time college football under way.  As is true with business regardless of the economy, some companies are doing gangbusters and others are hurting.  But regardless of your situation, the velocity at which business transactions take place is increasing everywhere.  In the time since I started in business,

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A Quick Way To Kill Your Business

We can get caught up in running our company and living our life and forget about something that is more important to a modern business than sales and profits and almost as critical as passing on withheld taxes to the IRS.  What am I referrring to?  Data backup.  Failing to maintain a current backup of your computer data can shut down your business faster than Uncle Sugar can padlock your shop for back taxes.

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Benchmarking for Changes

The starting point for improving productivity is, well, knowing where you are. If you are going to implement a new method, a new piece of software or a new piece of equipment you should plan from the beginning how you will measure the benefit brought about by the change. The term for this is "benchmarking".

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Organizing Art Files for Growth

How are you currently managing your art files?  Will your approach "scale" as you grow from a few hundred to a few thousand to thousands of files? Here's a test:  While you are entering a sales order, measure the time it takes to find and retrieve the correct file from where it is stored.  If it took more than 3 seconds then you have a problem.

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Can Your Software Grow with Your Business?

Some business owners don’t want their businesses to grow. Perhaps they want to avoid dealing with employee issues. Maybe they are close to retirement. Whatever.  If that describes you, then stop reading. If not, then you need to consider whether your present business system will support the future growth of your business. Those considerations vary depending on the current size of your business.

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Can Decoration Productivity be Improved?

Our success in a world economy depends upon it. 

My background includes cost control at a Fortune 200 manufacturer, materials management and Enterprise Resource Planning systems.  Here in Greenville, SC we have BMW and its satellite suppliers using robotics and all the latest manufacturing and supply chain systems to produce some of the world's finest automobiles. 

It is jarring to move from world-class manufacturing to the typical decorator operation. 

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Business Owners Expect Growth in 2017

2016 has been an unusual year in many ways.  From the perspective of someone who has seen many years come and go, “uncertainty” is the single word I would give it.  

Business owners thrive on certainty. We want to know what will happen so we can set our goals, plan our budgets, order our priorities, assign work to the troops.  We also want to know that when we take on obligations there is a good chance that we can meet them. It all comes down to being able to plan and execute with a reasonable chance of success.

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About This Blog

It is our goal at EmbTrak to leverage computer systems to help decoration company managers and owners be the best in the world.  That's where this blog will be focused.  Many of these blog articles will appear in our EmbTrak Newsletter.  For most companies, a newsletter is a glorified sales flyer--98% 

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The proofing feature in EmbTrak has dramatically improved efficiency and accuracy in communicating the many details of orders with customers. Our customers, sales reps, and production team have a higher level of confidence in the custom work we are doing. We’ve also been able to meet the demand of increased order volume with the time savings. Overall result? Improved customer service experience, reduced errors, and our business is more profitable.

-James Hedges, Customer Service Rep, Simms Fishing


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Since 1999, EmbTrak has focused exclusively on the decorated products software market...
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