If you are a company that sells promotional products or even a small screen-printing shop, at some point in your business you’ve probably considered using a contract screen printer. There are a lot of considerations to think about when you are going down this path. Exploring things to look for when hiring a contract screen printer, quality issues and considerations for bringing the entire process in-house are vital to ensure you are successful.

What is Contract Printing?

Let’s start with a basic understanding. Contract screen printing is when a business outsources their screen printing to a screen-printing company for them to complete. In this example, we are considering a promotional products company outsourcing their printing to a screen printing company.

Note that promotional product companies are not the only ones who do this. If you run a screen-printing company yourself, you may have considered outsourcing your business or a part of your business to another screen-printing company. This could free you up from the task of actually doing the printing so that you can focus on sales or building the business.

The other situation would be that you want to bring business into your screen-printing shop. You decide to create contracts with other people who need screen-printing services, thus becoming a contract screen printer yourself. This article focuses on hiring a contract screen-printing company.

The Advantages of Contract Printing

The biggest advantage to contract screen printing is freeing up your time. Doing the printing yourself takes time and resources. Time is the most precious thing to a business owner. When you free yourself from doing the labor, you can focus on other things.

Additionally, contract printing removes overhead. It is possible to lower your costs by not screen printing in-house. You may not need as many employees so you can refocus those employees into another area. Screen printing takes labor, time, and space.

Contract Screen Printing Disadvantages

With contract screen printing, you lose control. You are no longer in control of the quality or the production and shipping schedules. This means that the final product your customer receives may not be up to your standards and may not arrive by your promised date. This can create customer service issues that you will have to deal with.

Quality can become an issue when you’re dealing with a smaller contract printing house or a printer who does some contract work and some direct sales. However, most of your large contract screen printers have reliable quality.

What Should I Look for in a Contract Printer?

There are different models of contract printers. There are some companies that strictly specialize in contract screen printing — they do it fulltime. Then, there are hybrid contract screen printers. These printing companies have contracts for screen printing, but they also do screen printing for regular customers as well.

Going with a full-time contract printer may cost more than a hybrid printer but it eliminates the issues of having a customer potentially be “stolen” from you. A company that only does contract screen printing is not going to market to individual customers.

If possible, visit the facility where the screen printing takes place. Check the cleanliness and evaluate the equipment that is being used. Pricing is a consideration as well. Look at and interact with their employees. If the entire staff gives you the impression that they hate their jobs, you may want to stay away from this company. Morale at a company can be low for a reason and may lead to quality control issues.

Should I Bring Screen Printing In-House?

The consideration for promotional products reps or screen printers wanting to outsource comes down to volume. A rep typically isn’t selling more than 500 shirts a year, let alone 500 shirts a day or a month. Outsourcing low volumes makes financial sense. Higher volumes, a few hundred shirts a week, is when it starts to make financial sense to bring your printing in-house.

Even if a smaller screen-printing shop prints in-house, they may still outsource part of their business. If the business is having issues keeping up with orders at a particular time of the year or there is a sudden spike in sales, then they may use a contract screen printer to pick up the slack.

They may also outsource any of their direct-to-garment (DTG) printing to a smaller contract screen-printing company that can handle DTG orders. This is because their shop just does not take on this kind of business or they want to offer service when the orders are small but don’t have the setup to do it.

Volume is a key determining factor on whether you bring it in-house or not. When initially bringing the business in-house, you lose some of the benefit of savings because of your capital equipment purchase, but you have the benefit of controlling the timeline and quality. The financial savings come after a year or so as time goes on and volume increases.
Additionally, once you bring it in-house, you will potentially have a new revenue stream.

Farming out your screen printing can make a lot of sense. It is common that at some point, you will consider whether or not you should bring the entire concept in-house. When you bring screen printing in-house, you are basically starting a new business.

You should also know that this area of your overall business will have a life of its own. It may take off — there are many examples of companies that bring the business in-house and then suddenly business skyrockets. When people find out that you offer screen printing, they will send you orders. Before you know it, your entire business model could shift dramatically.

The Final Word on Contract Screen Printing

Whether you stay with a contract printer or bring it in-house is a personal decision about what fits your business the best. Either way, contract screen printing definitely has a place in the world of screen printing. You can make a relationship with a contract screen printing company work to your advantage. Do your due diligence when choosing your contract printer to minimize your problems going forward.