Apparel Graphic Academy

Lets Sell some Kornit

I am sure people have been wondering what the heck is going on with this Kornit printer sitting in the back warehouse for the past two months.  How are we going to promote it to our customers?  Does it even work?

The reality is that the printer we just bought is so ahead of the curve technologically that there really hasn’t even been a manual written for us to follow in operating and getting it ready to manufacture.  The majority of learning this new machine is by trial and error and lots of phone calls to their headquarters in Milwaukee.  The one good thing about so much trial-and-error is that we are working out the bugs and learning the strengths and weaknesses of this brand new division to our company before we jump into selling it.  If we can get everyone on board with a basic understanding of what it can and can’t do, I think selling shirts is going to quickly become second nature for all of us. 

The basic thing we all need to know is that while the Kornit can put designs on T-shirts just like screenprinting, it is a substantially different process than what we’ve been used to for the past 30 years.

Designs with spot colors are not perfected for the Kornit  Spot colors are perfect for traditional screenprinting -The customer picks the color from a chart and the screenprinter opens a can of ink that matches it perfectly.  The results are consistent and matching pantone shades is simple.

The Kornit is different in that all its colors are created by combining cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks to form colors similar to how an offset printing press works for paper printing (magazines, newspapers, etc) . Colors made on the Kornit can come very close to matching traditional spot colors done with solid ink, but there will be a margin of error that could be an issue for picky customers, especially those who need exact Pantone matching.  An example is when a customer asks for a shade of navy in their design.  We will be able to come close by mixing levels of cyan, magenta, and black to get a nice shade of dark blue, but it just not physically possible to get an exact match the same way you could using a screenprinting ink color chart.

Large areas of color created by CMYK can also lead to slight inconsistencies in the blend, especially on lighter shades.  For example, a light tan color is going to have levels of black, magenta, and yellow to give it is color.  Because tan is a lighter color, the levels of CMYK used to create it are lower (the dots will be spaced further apart to simulate the lighter shade).  Because the dots are further apart, the color is not going to have a uniform consistency in the way that a solid ink would.  Looking a “tan” color printed on the Kornit, you would actually notice tiny specks of the different inks used to create the shade of tan.  Again, this could be an issue for customers, which leads me to think that designs traditionally created for spot color screeprinting are not idea for the Kornit.

The Kornit is perfect for designs with lots of colors, shading, and tiny details.   There is no way a screenprinter with a 6 color press could do a full photograph on a shirt.  When a customer brings them a design, they will end up simplifying it into halftoned spot colors to replicate it, but the detail and shading will just not be as sharp as it would be on the Kornit. The dots-per-inch level for the Kornit is upwards of 300 dpi.  This is the same as you would find in a printed magazine.  The mesh density in traditional screenprinting is not even close to that.

What kind of art is best for the Kornit? Vector files and high res raster images are perfect for the Kornit.  All we ask is that it is high resolution.  Just like with the Brother printer, when you get a low-res image it ends up looking pixilated and crappy when printed.  The difference between prepping a file for the Kornit and the Brother printer is the addition  of white ink.  Art files need to be prepped with an extra layer for white, to let designs be printed on dark colored garments.  Its not a difficult process, but for complex designs, it does take a little bit of Photoshop know-how and a little testing.  We are going to leave this to our dedicated art department from now on.  No more forcing our sales team to design customers’ shirts on Corel draw like we have for the Brother printer.  We will get a system in place like we used to have where all jobs are written up and delivered to the artist where it will be prepared for the Kornit operator to run.For now, Scott is the “art department” but when things get rolling we are going to hire someone who can not only prep files for the Kornit, but create cool new art that we can start selling as well.

The Kornit is not for contract work: Too many variables in the process it make it risky and not worth it to do.  The profit margin just is not there either.  Customer-supplied garments are unpredictable to print on –Differently tailored, and fiber blends can lead to unpredictable results that will ultimately fall unto our shoulders if something goes wrong.   Ink on a large print costs upwards of $2.00 a shirt to print on the Kornit, and if we blow one, the profit is gone right there.

How do we make money with the Kornit?  We focus on its strengths: high color designs, low minimums, and speed.  When we sell designs with lots of colors and shading, it gives apparel high-end retail appearance.  Use this to our advantage, your average person is going to see an intricate design and think in terms of retail, and we can price it accordingly.  The ironic thing is that the printing time and ink used on a simple one color logo printed on the Kornit will cost us almost the same as one that has intense artwork with multiple colors and shading.

The #1 factor to selling with the Kornit is our customers’ perceived value of the shirts.  Remember, we cannot control this factor when we let people bring us contract orders.  Contract customers are accustomed to working with screenprinters that use generalized price lists (that are sometimes decades old) to sell their orders.

We start creating kick-ass designs for our customers with lots of colors and show them things they have never seen before and they are going to be willing to pay more for them.  A retail t-shirt in a store today costs around $20.00.  Full color high end shirts can cost upwards of $35.00 each.  People don’t have Kornits in their friends’ garages like they do with single head embroidery machines.  We are ahead of the curve and can charge for jumping on the leading edge of technology.

Artwork, artwork, artwork!  Just describing what the Kornit can do for our customers is not going to sell it alone.  We need to start making designs that really showcase what it can do.  Think about how many times you have had to turn a customer away from embroidery or traditional screenprinting because their artwork was just “too complex” to do.  Remember how Jim used to say “we can’t embroider text unless it is thick enough to draw it with a Sharpie”.  This is not 1989 anymore.   A customer comes in with a ridiculously complex design and says “I want this on a shirt” we say YES, but sell it in the mindset of how a store would sell a similarly complex shirt in a retail environment.  If they wanted a shirt with the same amount of detail in a store, it would cost them $20.00 a pop.  There are a lot of customers out there who have no problem paying for this because their crazy  artwork is sacred to them and they want it looking its very best.

No one-piece orders for the Kornit.  Save them for the Brother printer on white shirts.  Using the Brother is a no-brainer.  Art setup takes 30 seconds and you can print and cure a shirt in under a minute.  If someone comes in and wants a photo of their baby on a shirt, we use the Brother, like we always have.  The Kornits’ target range is a minimum of 6 shirts (preferably a dozen).  Prepping files for the Kornit does take a little bit of time, and doing it for one-piece orders is going to waste our time and energy.

No massive orders on the Kornit.  Anything over 72 pieces should probably be sent to Ken for screenprinting.  Hi production facility is more suited for these orders, and the savings in set-ups are virtually dissolved once you get into orders that size.  This is the BIG thing to remember – Running a one color design at Ken’s is easy for him.  Its fast and cheap.  A one color design on the Kornit takes  almost exactly the same amount of time as a complex one and can use almost the same about of ink.   Our customers’ higher perceived value for the shirts is elimated.

RUSH ORDERS.  Again, this falls under the perceived value our customers have of this service.  The reality of having the Kornit at our disposal means we can do a rush order basically by spending 10 minutes to prep an art file, waiting 30 minutes for the dryer to heat up and printing the shirts right then and there.  We are going to keep a decent inventory of basic T’s and sweatshirts on hand for these orders.  Someone comes in and needs 6 shirts by tomorrow -where else are they going to get it done?  They know it and will be more than happy to pay for it.  This is a premium service no one else can offer and is a HUGE selling point.

Contract customers of ours are going to walk in the back warehouse look at the Kornit and see how fast we can print orders, and will start to expect everything can be last minute.  Straight up, we are going to tell them that it just is not going to work that way.  If they want rush work done and don’t expect to pay a premium, they can consider investing in their own Kornit and just doing it themselves.  (We can be a lot nicer when explaining that to them, but they should get the gist pretty quickly)

We are still working out the bugs with the equipment, but I am becoming more and more confident with the goldmine we are potentially sitting on.  Lets all get on the same page and get PUMPED about this brand new division to our business.  To put it bluntly, the Kornit is not a toy for Mom and Pop shops to play with.  This is serious equipment and we have a BADASS sales force at Northwest Embroidery that is fully capable of learning its capabilities to make us some serious profits.  LETS DO THIS!