Pathways to the Brain Trust – SGIA Congress of Committee’s Success

Last fall I was invited to participate in the 2014 SGIA Congress of Committees in Fort Lauderdale.  This event, held this past week, brought together the top print industry professionals for a series of meetings that focused exclusively on how the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association can improve, develop, and strengthen their impact for the companies they serve.  It was an amazing event, and I was honored to participate and represent Visual Impressions and the garment decorator industry as a whole.

If you aren’t a member of the association, I’d like you to explore the opportunity for a few moments.  The SGIA is an association that only has one purpose; to make your business stronger.  In the headline above I called it the “Pathway to the Brain Trust” and that’s exactly what the association delivers.  While the event I attended was a mash-up of the who’s who in the print industry, the association taps these people for their experience, skill, and creative imagination to try to understand not only what’s happening in the printing industry now, but where it’s going in the future.  Huge amounts of resource materials are available to you as a member, as well as access to just about anything that could positively affect your business.  With a groundbreaking print industry trade show, and an outstandingly written journal, members have the business advantage over their competitors.  Check out the association website and see for yourself – www.sgia.org.

I participated in three committee meetings, but had more discussions in between or around the events as well.  Here are some tidbits of information that I think others may be interested in learning:

Tag Words & Accurate Information.  Each association member has the ability to tag their company with words that will show up in a search function.  Unfortunately, a good number of companies don’t accurately portray their company with tags.  The association uses a referral network, http://www.sgia.org/printer_search/  to direct these searches.  SGIA is continually being approached by your potential customers looking for a new vendor.  This is a great way to maximize your membership, as they gave out over 8,000 referrals last year.  To make sure you have the ability to get these referrals, make sure your SGIA membership profile is accurately filled out with great tags that portray all the offerings your company provides.  Also, make sure that your company’s contact information is filled out as well as well.  A good number of the referrals come back with statements that they can’t get a response from the company’s they have contacted.  This is future business opportunities that go missed because of inaccurate information or staff that don’t return a phone call.

SGIA is Revamping Their Website.  A lot of hard work and thought has gone into their Drupal-based website redesign.  They hope to have everything launched and running in March.  There will be added content and it will be more user friendly for members looking for information.

Benefits & Services.  – Besides the plethora of webinars, articles, great content in the journals, SGIA is working to add some new benefits this year.  Some of these include discounts on UPS shipping, credit card processing, the ability for web to print online storefronts, and discounts on software like Corel.

SGIA Journal.  This is one of the best resources on the market for print companies.  I don’t know if you have picked up a recent copy, but each issue is packed with great articles all positioned to make your company better.  If you are a garment decorator, there are now 4 issues a year just for our industry.  What’s really great about the journal is that the folks at SGIA spend a good amount of time compiling the information and authors for each issue.  There’s only 30% of the issue devoted to advertising, so the pages are crammed with information.  The top thought leaders in the print industry are the authors too.

-Sustainability.  One of my favorite topics.  I’m proud of the fact that SGIA takes a lead position on this topic.  During the committee meeting here’s what I learned:

-SGIA has definitely defined itself in the conversation as the leading expert in sustainability education.  The Peer to Peer group meetings are a great way to start the journey for companies.  A good number of them use this as the launching point for their sustainability journey and most end up becoming SGP Certified printers.  (www.spgppartnership.org)

-Sales Force Training. There could be some development education for sales force training.  After all, what good is it to have a sustainability program if you can’t get the message out about the good you are doing?  Your sales force or customer service team needs to be able to accurately discuss your program with intelligence and understanding.  What is the benefit to your customer?  Why should they care?

-SGIA is the trusted advisor to companies building their programs.  Information on energy reduction, carbon footprint calculations, how to recycle, examinations of the soft costs of sustainability, inks & chemicals, and other hot button issues are all available to SGIA members.

-Shop Towel Rule – this landmark regulation is in your lap as a shop, but do you know anything about it?  Even if you use a third party contractor to handle your shop towels, you are still affected by this law.  You “own” this process, and how the shop towels are handled, treated, disposed of, or laundered still affects you.  You need the complete chain of custody for your shop towels, and need to understand where the waste water is going.  Look at your contracts folks.

Garment Decorator Meeting Notes.  There was some healthy discussion here on numerous topics that Garment Decorators face every day.  Some of the better discussions were focused on:

-Employee Training.  How to find and recruit better employees?  How to train the ones we have?  SGIA already has some good resources online and in the journal, but they will be adding to the discussion more information this year too.  Have you taken advantage of the information on the website?  There are tons of information on wage comparisons, how-to training guides, pre-written job descriptions, webinars, and other videos that you can use.

-E-Commerce.  We had some great conversations about how companies are increasing their e-commerce platforms and how to make it easier for others to use.  Websites that have good customer service and employee social media strategies have better success.  Social media is driving the bus, but your market niche is the road you need to be traveling on.  Find out where your customers are, and use the social media channel that works best to target them.  Younger markets are using Instagram.  Business professionals are on LinkedIn.  More families and moms use Facebook.  Posting on Fridays is the best, but for e-mail blasts send these out on Saturdays, when your audience has more time to read them.

-On-shoring.  More orders are coming back to the US for production.  With increased costs for labor and transportation, it seems that some of the larger jobs that would be outsourced to firms in other countries are coming back to the United States for production.

-“Burst” Production.  This was the new term I learned at the meetings.  This simply is the ability to handle inconsistent and sometimes high volume work at a moment’s notice.  More companies are strategically placing themselves ready for this as they develop the infrastructure and capacity for this by having production available for work.  Presses could sit idle with downtime in between jobs, and Bam!; get booked for jobs that have tighter deadlines.  This is a value add for companies looking for contract printing and part of the new wave of on-shoring production.  Funny, all this time I thought that this was just normal production in the garment industry.  Now I have the accurate name for it.

     -SGIA at MAGIC.  This has been a huge success and SGIA is continuing this as a good recruitment tool for the association.  If you don’t know, MAGIC is the largest apparel show in the United States and concentrates on the retail fashion market.  A lot of printers attend this show, as you can get a good sense as to where the t-shirt industry is heading for design motifs, colors and trends.  SGIA has partnered with some garment decorating industry manufacturers and positioned a press demonstration in the Sourcing area at MAGIC.  This led to some great interactions and has positioned SGIA as the “Best of the Best” for industry knowledge.  Because of this there was some discussion as to the viability of doing the same thing for the PPAI or ASI shows.

     -Wearable Technology.  This is a wave of the future coming to you.  There was some interesting discussion, both at the committee meeting and also during some dinner networking events, on this subject.  This subject is how companies such as Nike, adidas, Apple and others are positioning sensors and other devices in the garments.  These can be interfaced with devices for bio-feedback, music, lighting, heat sources or other fantastic ideas.  How are these to be printed?  How can these garments be decorated later?  Can your company be part of this future?

All in all, the SGIA Congress of Committees was a great event and I was thrilled to be a part of it.  It’s exciting to be on the ground floor of the future in my industry and to see so many great people involved.  If you are not a member of SGIA, I highly encourage you to look into it (www.sgia.org) and to learn from the best.  The association’s sole function is to make your company better.  Getting the “behind the scenes” look that drives that home is the brain trust of the members and SGIA staff members that meet continually to improve the print industry.  Bravo SGIA, bravo!

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