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A tech tip about checking for data breach

A tech tip about checking for data breach

Unfortunately, we live and do business in a hostile online environment. So any time an expert’s tip can help us protect ourselves and our businesses from a data breach, we should pay attention.

This tip from RGCS, Scotland, is about periodically checking to see if any of your passwords have been compromised or involved in a data breach. You can do this quickly and simply Password Manager in Google. Here’s how:

  1. In Chrome, click on the three dots at top right.
  2. In IOS select “Passwords” or in desktop browser select “Google Password Manager.”
  3. Click on “Check now” or “Checkup”
  4. Google will list which (if any) passwords have been compromised and need to be changed.

You’ll also be warned of any passwords that Google regards and weak and be advised to strengthen them.

Internet security needs to ne taken seriously.

DTG pushing simplicity

DTG pushing simplicity

A report from the International Textile Machinery Association’s recent Textile and Garment Technology Exhibition 2023 in Milan, suggests that across the digital sector there is a marked move towards delivering simplicity.

It explains that: “New iterations of digital technologies were launched at the show, each focused on streamlining the process to simplify production, such as removing or automating the steps of printing textiles and scaling down ancillary processes to offer smaller, more energy-efficient footprint for printed production.” This is not surprising. Simplification of production has long been the main thrust of the DTG equipment manufacturers’ promotional pitch. They pointedly target the traditional multi-step, and often messy, textile screen printing process.

I don’t know of many Canadian textile screen printers that see DTG as a viable alternative to high volume screen printing yet, mainly because of the upfront investment and ongoing economic viability. But as the DTG equipment manufacturers continue to apparently look for ways to make the textile printing production process simpler (at least as reported from Milan), you should keep an eye on developments.

Your long term competitiveness demands that you be informed.

A customer experience center concept

A customer experience center concept

I’ve just read an article about a visit to a large print shop that has a “customer experience center” in its new facility. The customer experience center is a dedicated room designed to allow customers and other visitors to experience how the shop operates and what it can produce—in short, what the shop is all about.

This got me thinking how even a small Canadian textile shop could benefit from this concept. Imagine such a customer experience center in your shop. It could be set up with examples of your work, displays of materials and bits of equipment to explain the screen printing process, a video of the shop in action, and other stuff to inform and entertain. Customers typically don’t  know a lot about the screen printing process and don’t know about some of the amazing effects you can create. If they did, it might trigger ideas and thus create more business for you.

It could also boost your brand by demonstrating a higher degree of creativity and professionalism.

These are the things that a customer experience center could do for you. And it doesn’t have to take up much space.

The apparent increasing frequency of disasters. Preparing in case you have to claim.

The apparent increasing frequency of disasters. Preparing in case you have to claim.

In the past few weeks we’ve had devastating fires in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia. And less than a week ago we experienced  unprecedented flooding in Nova Scotia. Businesses like yours have been lost in all these incidents that appear to be happening with increasing frequency and ferociousness.

In that regard, I’m repeating an updated disaster preparation plan I first offered in January this year.

Here are the 8 steps modified and abbreviated:

  1. Establish responsibility for developing a plan. In many small businesses this will inevitably be the owner.
  2. Identify the essential services and functions you’ll need in case of an emergency.
  3. Identify the skills at your disposal that might be needed in an emergency.
  4. Identify the types of potential emergencies.
  5. Prepare a plan for each type of potential emergency,
  6. Review the plan to make sure that all possible aspects have been addressed.
  7. Review the plan with employees and/or your preparedness team (if you have one).
  8. Photograph every square inch of your premises (equipment, fixtures, furniture, inventory) and store the record (e.g. USB stick) safely off site. You will need it if you have to prepare an insurance claim.

And again, like all other plans, once prepared it should be revisited and updated regularly rather than being left to gather dust somewhere.

Pricing your prints. It’s a tightrope act.

Pricing your prints. It’s a tightrope act.

Images magazine, though still not willing to address the use of glitter which has been shown to be an environmentally troublesome microplastic, still offers some good content for textile screen printers. For instance, a recent article on pricing prints.

The theory explained in the article is consistent with many a similar article and with posts I’ve produced before. But let’s visit this tricky topic again because it has long been an issue in the Canadian screen printing industry, particularly in the more competitive big-city markets. I’ve known of a number of shops that battled and some that failed because of an almost paranoid obsession with beating the other guy’s price. And when the other guy is already pricing absurdly low because of his own paranoia, it benefits nobody other than ruthless and underserving customers. They’ll squeeze the life out of the goose that lays the golden eggs and when it eventually succumbs, they’ll simply find another goose to squeeze.

So how should you price your prints to ensure that producing them is worth the trouble? The first thing is obviously that your price must be based on costs plus a profit factor. And, in the regard, knowing your costs is absolutely essential. If you don’t know how to get a good handle on this (not everyone can play accountant) then get some qualified help. If you don’t know your costs you simply can’t find the sweet spot between profitability and competitive advantage.

Once you know your costs you can start doing the things that can improve your competitive advantage while keeping your shop profitable. For instance, reconsider who you want your customers to be, what extras you can offer and therefore upcharge, and whether you need to improve the processes and productivity of your shop.

Walking the tightrope while balancing between profit and competitive advantage, starts with knowing your costs.

A great T-shirt is not enough

A great T-shirt is not enough

I think we all know that producing a great T-shirt is not enough if you can’t get it to the customer when and how they want it. And today’s customer expects you to give priority to what works for them over what’s convenient for you. I was recently reminded of a T-shirt buying experience I had when ordering from a printer in the U.S. The lesson learned would apply to any Canadian printer, especially if delivering across the border.

I’m an avid T-shirt collector (I live in the things but I’m quite fussy about quality) so I was intrigued by an eco-friendly, Phthalate-free, water-based print on 100% organic, pre-shrunk, ring spun Tee dyed with eco-conscious low-impact dyes. Also appealing to me was that the tees are made on this continent in a sweat-shop free environment (I have been railing against off-shore manufacturing in low-wage jurisdictions for years). So, I ordered two T-shirts online.

Not having had an order acknowledgement (other than a PayPal confirmation of payment) or receipt of the order by a week later, I emailed one of the principals directly for delivery information. When that brought no response, I emailed customer service from their website. Twenty-four hours later I received a response from a customer service person who sent me a tracking record from the US Postal Service to confirm that the parcel had reached New York a week after I’d ordered it. But that is where the trail went cold. The USPS tracking does not extend across the border and is therefore essentially useless to a customer at a non-US destination. The printer claimed to ship anywhere in the world, so they should have known about the limitations of the USPS. Why not use one of the international couriers that offer door-to-door tracking? Amazon, L.L. Bean, and others all do.

Three weeks after placing my order the Tees eventually turned up by Canada Post. Sorry, but that is not good enough by today’s standards.

We all know that the easiest people to sell to are existing customers but with this type of service they were probably forfeiting a lot of repeat business. I loved the product. It lived up to the hype. But I didn’t reorder.

I tell this story because for any Canadian textile printer with a great T-shirt idea, there’s a lesson to be learned—a great T-shirt idea is not enough.