Mise-en-place for the print shop

I love efficiency. There’s just something about thinking about a system and seeing how it can be made easier. So when I came across Dan Charnas’ book “Work Clean: The Life-changing Power of Mise-en-place to Organize Your Life, Work, and Mind”, I was instantly enamored and wanted to add its lessons to my production floor.

Mise en place?

Mise en Place is a French culinary term meaning “putting in place”. It largely refers to preparing ingredients before a shift. However, it also encompasses the belief that a space should be laid out to provide for easy access to those ingredients and allow for a smooth motion moving between steps.

After reading Charnas’ book, I begun looking at how my shop floor was laid out. It was funny how everything that seemed fine before became chaos overnight:

  • Adhesive was on a shelf away from the feet away from the press.

  • Tape was placed on a counter out of reach of the press operator.

  • Our t-square was hanging at a lower-level than our ink counter, requiring whoever needed it to bend.

  • Outside of white and black, our ink containers were not grouped by color.

The list was growing and growing. What was comforting was how easy many of the fixes were.

Taking Action

I began by thinking how I would be operating our manual press on a daily basis. By walking through each step of the print process, I was able to begin grouping my tools and ingredients to allow me to bake some tasty shirts in the smoothest way.

Below is a diagram of my production floor


By having the adhesive in the storage area, I was making myself walk back and forth more than necessary. So I sectioned off the front portion of my ink table -sitting at operator right- to accommodate 2 cans of spray tack and 2 containers of water-based adhesive.

My ink table is backed by a large peg board. This was originally used to hold only squeegees. With a little reorganizing, however, I was able to keep the same amount of squeegees and make a place to hang two rolls of tape, scissors, and my t-square, all to operator right.

Last was ink. First, I cataloged which inks we used most often. Then, I placed my “rare use” inks over in the storage area. This process allowed me to focus on keeping a set number of buckets clean and made organizing by color and frequency a snap. For example, white and black were placed immediately to operator right. Red was placed before gray because we work with a high school that has red as a primary color. Simple, right?


Just by moving a few things around I was able to have a floor layout where turning one way at the press and another did a separate task. Take a look at the diagram below:


Now, turning to the right and having everything within arm’s length made that motion predictable: right = tools.

With no other reason to turn left other than putting a shirt on the dryer’s conveyor belt, that motion too became set: left = dryer.

This is a core principle of mise en place. How you place your ingredients and how you are able to get them when needed is a huge impact on the time it takes to prepare a finished product. Additionally, more control over time = more control over pace.

Shops get busy in the spring. Hell, big shops are busy all the time. The value of being able to set a controlled pace because a system is in place to allow for maximizing space and flow can not be overstated. It’s crucial to flow with the chaos of an active shop. An organization system does that.


Again, I’m a nerd for this stuff. It would be great to hear how you shop owners, production managers, and press operators organize your shops to maximize efficiency.

Drop a comment here, reach out on twitter, snap a pic on instagram and tag it with #shirtfolk, or reach out to me through email at rob@shirtfolk.com.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your time and attention.