Is it Time for an Automatic Screen Press?
So you’re running a shop with one, maybe two, manual presses. Things are going well, business keeps ramping up. Is it time for an automatic press? Today I will discuss the benefits and go over some ROI basics on an entry-level automatic press, the Workhorse Freedom Express.
Printing with an automatic press will not only massively increase your printing capabilities; it will also minimize physical wear and tear on your press operators. An entry-level press like the Freedom Express can easily manage 200 shirts an hour when using the Flashback flash unit; this makes the Freedom Express the perfect machine for a one-person operation.
The Freedom Express can run with either regular manual screens (20”x24”) or 20”x28” screens for a larger print field. If you are going to continue using your manual presses, you can burn your screens for either piece of equipment and run the job on whichever machine is available.
When you run an automatic press, the primary physical activity that is required of the operator is loading and unloading shirts. No more pulling the squeegee, rotating the arms, dropping down the screens, waiting for the flash to be done, and so on. At the end of the day, your back may be sore but your arms won’t be. You’ll be able to accept jobs of hundreds or thousands of pieces without gritting your teeth knowing how much you will have to pull a squeegee.
Another benefit is that there is very little difference between a one-color job and a four-color job. As the machine rotates, the next color is printed. With a manual press, every color added will multiply your production time. With an automatic press, you can charge a premium for multi-color jobs and end up with almost pure profit. In other words, you can print 200 shirts an hour whether it’s a one color, or a four color job.
For more production, a larger print area, or more colors, it is worth checking out the Cutlass or Sabre presses, which will print at least twice as fast and increase the print area from 15” square to 20” square. The Sabre is available up to a 12 color, 14 station press. A general rule of thumb when purchasing an automatic press is to buy the most colors you can afford. While most of your jobs may be up to three colors, it never hurts to have more capacity.
Steve Southard, the current Marketing Director at SPSI, screen printed part time before he began full time at SPSI. He was printing 15,000 shirts a year manually, and probably turned away 5-8,000 pieces because all his orders seemed to come in at the same time. He realized, too, that one order would become new orders, and those shirts he turned down could have turned into even more orders. Business begets business. Because he was making $3-5 per shirt, an automatic press like the Freedom Express would have paid for itself in a year.
This is a pretty standard story throughout the industry. If you are hitting your production limits a few times a year, it might be time to move up to an automatic press. Not only will this make your busy times more bearable, it might also increase business throughout the year.
Screen printing equipment is incredibly durable. When purchasing a press, consider that many shops keep their presses for 10+ years before replacing them; so not only can return on investment be very fast, you can also make money many times over on an automatic press.
Your business may be different. When you are considering an automatic press, think about the margins you are currently operating on, the way you are financing your equipment, and make sure that you can pay off the equipment and continue to make money. Be sure to consider that your investment may pay dividends in the form of increased and repeat business, too.
Printwear Magazine has a great article that goes over the basics of ROI calculation with DTG printing, but the same idea can be transferred to a screen printing press. You can also ask your SPSI sales representative about what it takes to succeed with an automatic press.
If you have been considering whether you need an automatic screen press, now might be the time to sit down and do the math. If you are printing in the tens of thousands of shirts a year, it might be easier than you think to justify an investment to increase capacity and capabilities for your customers. In the next article, I will discuss some of the other things you have to consider when you are thinking about an automatic press.