Automagically Problem Solve

Automagically Problem Solve - Marshall Atkinson


Today I want to talk about what it takes to “Automagically Problem Solve”.

Does it sound too corny? I made up that phrase last year during a conversation and it stuck with me.

It sounded then like a good blog article title and has been scribbled on a Post-It-Note for about six months. It must be, as you are reading this now.

There are two ideas here.

The first is that the solution to the problem will be so darn easy to spot that anyone can make the right decision. We’ll call that the Abracadabra. Because that means the solution instantly appears.

And the second is that by changing something in the process the old problem won’t ever happen again. That’s going to be the Shazam. Because, poof!  It vanishes.  Never visible again.

I know what you are saying, “Hey, we decorate shirts. What do we care about that?”

Well, what if this made your business more profitable? How about if it helped you ship thirteen more orders today?

Would you care then?

If so, great!

If not. Well, insert a sad clowny face here.

Start With Variables


Orders in production are usually completely different from each other.

Almost never, is the same image decorated on two orders in a row. And if it was, did you make a mistake? 

Just kidding. We don’t make mistakes, right?

With all that change, how can we get better results?


It’s not the “what” we are decorating it is “how”. If you want predictable results, start eliminating the variables in your processes.

Think about the information that’s available to you right now. How much content about best industry practices have been created over the years? 

Articles, presentations, podcasts, webinars, videos. You name it.

I’ve written a few, but so have multitudes of other industry folks.

Maybe you’ve seen those.

With that being said, I’m still bumping into shops that don’t measure their screen tension. That don’t use Key Performance Indicators. Zero training with their crews. They don’t even put lids on ink buckets to protect the ink from lint and debris on a regular basis.

Some shops have such uncontrolled chaos on their floor they don’t know what to do next.

They would rather spend an hour trying to mix ink to match a Pantone color than invest in a system designed to do that. With the right process and equipment, you could knock that out in four minutes.

But the owner is happy to step over a dollar to save a dime. All. Day. Long.

The educational content is out there. Which is why I’m constantly shocked when I see these poor decisions rampant in this industry. 

If your shop wants more Abracadabra and Shazam, what are we talking about here?

This industry is very creative and art driven. But, it is basically a manufacturing process.

We take something, do something to it, and out pops something else. Whether you are making a cooking pot, a car, or decorating a t-shirt, it’s all the same.

Setting standards for how things should work makes that manufacturing process flow better.

It is these variables I’m speaking about here.

While I’m sure your shop is perfect, I’ll bet there are still a few areas that are slipping under the radar. When was the last time you took a deep dive into your processes and examined what’s happening?

How many Abracadabras or Shazams can you create in the next few months if you put in some effort?

What can you Automagically Problem Solve?

Who Owns the Problem?


One problem could be who even cares about this in the shop? Is it only the owner or manager?  Are staff involved in the discussion?

Who is consuming that educational content about best practices? Who is reading the articles or taking the classes?


Could that be it? Who owns this problem in your shop?

What if the answer is “nobody”?


Supply-Side Solutions


This industry also always pushing out new products that solve old challenges. That’s about eliminating those pesky variables too.

Here are a few new magic tricks that I discovered these last few months:

New types of waterbased inks.

Check out Virus or MagnaColours.

Print wet on wet without a problem with pick up on the back of the next screen. Run that multicolor waterbase job without flashing. Shazam!

Seamless Baseball Hat by Outdoor Cap

Outdoor Cap has a new seamless baseball hat, the One Touch. Had trouble embroidering tiny letters over those typical hat seams? Try using a hat without them! Abracadabra!

Stop Dye Migration – Augusta Performance Apparel

Augusta has an entire line of performance apparel that won’t dye migrate called Attain. It uses a different waterbased dye technique when manufacturing their garments. Shazam!

Instant Art File Separations

No artist on staff or they have limited experience? Get those separations handled with a push of a button with Separo.  Ding. It’s ready to print. Abracadabra!  Free 30-Day Trial too.

There are tons more in this industry, believe me.


Want to learn about them? Remember that supply rep that you are always blowing off? Spend that thirty minutes listening and find out what magic can be handed over to you on a silver platter.


Avoid Group Think


Also, let’s talk about “group-think” for a minute. 

Sometimes I think we give too much credence to the rantings of others. Industry forums or Facebook groups are filled with these posts.

“I tried that ink and it didn’t work.”


“The customer service with that company sucks.”

Who knows the real story behind these comments?

People are all too happy to whine online and not face their own challenges. Maybe the ink didn’t work because their shop processes are suspect.

That customer service challenge was the answer to that company saying no to the shop for an unreasonable request.

Before you give that online troll too much credit, investigate the idea yourself. There could be some Abracadabra or Shazam magic out there that you are missing.

The caveat to that is that some people do have a lot of experience and are willing to share their informed opinions about things. That’s great. Also, that’s not who I’m talking about here.

Learn to spot the difference.  That’s all I’m saying.




Next up, let’s look at the idea of how communication can solve problems before they happen.

Here’s what I mean by that.

Maybe if we asked more questions as an industry, our results would be better.

Or, consider how anticipation could work. What if you solved the question before they asked?

For an example, let’s look at the end of the usual workflow in your shop. Jobs are produced and then brought to Shipping. That group processes the work and it is routed according to the details of the order. Everything is then shipped out.

But what happens next?

Have you ever had a customer follow up and ask about the status of their order? “Hey, am I getting these shirts on Friday?”

That’s your clue that you aren’t Automagically Problem Solving anything.

Plenty of shop software programs can link to WorldShip or ShipStation.  These push out tracking numbers on emails from your shop automatically. This is a standard feature that you should be using.

But it brings up a good point for other challenges.

How can we take that type of automation and incorporate that into other processes in the shop?

Can we autoschedule jobs to a press during order entry?  Bloop.  There it is.  Abracadabra!

What if the barcode label on boxes could auto receive product coming into your system? How liberating would that type of accuracy be for your shop? Shazam!

For employees, what if employees automatically clocked in or out with near field communication? No more lines by the time clock.  Just passing through the doorway activates the timeclock. Abracadabra!

Got a problem with clients not opening emails or art approvals?  What if you used a text messaging service instead?  Who doesn’t open a text message almost instantly?  Check out Instaply as they are helping shops all around the country with this.  Shazam!

How we communicate information in our shops could be sped up with technology. Who is leading the charge on this? 

I’m interested in these solutions, so if you have one throw it into the comments section below.


Your Mind is Like a Parachute


The last idea here for this article is being receptive to change.

Change is hard.

It also constant. Super talented and creative people are busy right now, as you read this. The future is being invented. Are you paying attention?

How will artificial intelligence help your shop?

What technology is around the corner or even available now, that will make an impact for your shop? Yep, there might be an app for that.

A good number of these are at very little cost or even free.

For example, I see shop owners lament that they are having a hard time attracting new business. With a few simple clicks, I can bring up their website and social media accounts. 

Sadly, there usually isn’t much there. A Google search produces very little by way of a trail either.

Do something different.

Create some compelling content with a call to action and post on social media. Use free tools like Buffer or MailChimp to help automate your outbound messaging.

Automatically Problem Solve your sales by filling your pipeline sooner. You have to have outbound marketing. Reach for that customer.

Update your website so it is responsive and speedy. Google is about to revamp their rankings in July of 2018, and site speed will play a critical role in the new algorithm.

In other words, don’t just sit there.

Be the change. Automagically Problem Solving starts with the willingness to look at everything you are doing with an open mind.

“That’s how we’ve always done it” isn’t going to win the race.

Think how much better your shop would be if you blocked off thirty minutes a week to discovering something new.

Thirty minutes. You know, the length of a Seinfeld rerun.

For some, that’s investing twenty-six more hours a year than normal. But that’s how great ideas start. 

By showing up and noodling around.



“I look three to five years ahead, not ten years behind.” – Magic Johnson

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.” – Albert Einstein



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