In the first of a series of guides to using online apps in your garment decoration business, Dean Roscoe, of Decotech Solutions, explains how Trello makes it easy to schedule and track jobs in your print or embroidery shop

Figure 1. A Trello project board for an embroidery business populated with lists and individual jobs

There’s a universe of cloud-based apps out there just waiting to be discovered. Many of them are available free of charge and many more have the potential to revolutionise the way you work, or at least to help your business become more productive and better organised. The secret is in understanding how an app can be tailored to meet the specific needs of your garment decoration operation.

In this article I want to tell you about an alternative to whiteboards and hand written job sheets that will transform the way you get things done. It’s a free online app called Trello, (www.trello.com), which lets you schedule and track jobs from start to finish, and because its cloud based, the information can be accessed in real time by your whole team using any device with an internet connection.

How it works

To begin using the service you need to sign up at www.trello.com and invite your team members to join your organisation. Then, you create a new project board, name it, and populate it with lists that match the production stages of your workflow. Individual jobs are recorded on cards, which you can drag and drop between the lists to present a visual overview of how your production schedule is progressing.

Figure 1 shows a project board I designed for an embroidery business. The lists have been named and arranged to match the different stages in the lifecycle of a typical embroidery job.

The first list is named ‘Jobs In’. This is where new cards are added for each order. Each card contains a job name, job number and the source artwork for digitising. Trello allows you to attach files and also to leave comments, thus facilitating clear communication between team members.

Once the artwork has been digitised the card is moved over to the next list, which I’ve named Artwork Approval. From here the admin can email the samples to the customers.

Figure 2. Trello lends itself to internal communication and allows jobs to be assigned to individual team members

Once the artwork is approved the card is moved over to the third list, which I’ve called Production. At this point you can use the Trello calendar feature to set a production date and also assign a machinist to the job. Each machinist has a colour-coded label, so they can quickly identify the jobs that have been assigned to them. By clicking on their card they will see the full details of the job, which includes the following:

  • Customer name and job number
  • Production staff member and their colour code
  • Due date
  • Job description
  • Downloadable embroidery file
  • List of garments
  • Internal conversation between admin and staff

Extra features and uses

Once the job has been embroidered the machinist moves the card over to the Completed list. This list has been set up to automatically send a notification to the admin who will arrange invoicing and shipping.

Trello is great for note taking and internal commenting too. I added a couple of extra lists on the right where a machinist can report spoilages and notify the admin if consumables are running low.

The app can be easily adapted to work with screen, heat transfer, direct-to-garment and any number of other production processes.

Trello is a ‘freemium’ web-based project management application from Trello Inc, and currently has more than 5 million users worldwide. The basic service is available free of charge and there are paid-for options for customers who require enhanced functionality. The app is based on the kanban project management model as popularised by Toyota in the 1980s. It can be used on most web browsers, iPhone, Android and Windows 8 mobile platforms, and Apple’s iPad.

Dean Roscoe is the Director of Decotech Solutions, which specialises in software, training and support for the garment decoration industry. He is the developer of Shirttools, the online product customiser, and Inkquoter, the cloud based invoicing app for embroiderers and printers.

www.decotechsolutions.com