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ROQ Adventure Summit Recap

Fifty-plus ROQ customers, partners, and staff attended the three-day event in Portugal.

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ROQ INTERNATIONAL HOSTED a three-day user experience for customers, partners, and staff May 16-18 in Portugal. The event, held previously in 2019, included a facility tour at ROQ International, networking between customers and staff members, educational sessions by The Creative Situation and MadeLab, product demos, a Q&A with Josh Merrell of Liquid Graphics, a visit at a Portuguese customer’s shop, and local experiences such as a castle tour and Douro River cruise.

ROQ was founded by two brothers who started the business 38 years ago in a one-car garage. The company has been in the Oliveira (São Mateus), Portugal, facility for 32 years. ROQ produces screen and digital printing machines, dryers, and folding and packing solutions, and exports to more than 80 countries on all continents. ROQ International is vertically integrated. “The company focuses its activity on the conception, development, manufacturing, and sales of ROQ machines,” said Fernando Pinto, CEO.

Pinto explained ROQ’s business model during the first day’s welcome message. It’s based on five core values that embody ROQ’s culture, people, and holistic process thinking:

  • The development of their people
  • Listen carefully to the voice of their customers
  • Apply Kaizen methodologies at all levels of the hierarchy and in their daily lives
  • Constantly innovate
  • Compete to create value

“Seeing the efficiency and productivity at the ROQ facility and having the opportunity to chat one-on-one with ROQ CEO Fernando Pinto about the Kaizen philosophy that fuels the workspace was really eye-opening, motivating, and humbling,” said Ashley Coy, Windmill City Screen Printing.

Guests were able to see these values first-hand during a tour of the 47,000 square-meter facility, which employees 700 staff members. Attendees were given safety goggles, steel toe cap inserts, and ROQ visitor vests for extra caution when walking through the facility. Almost all ROQ equipment parts, including metal work, circuit boards, air lines, and more, are made in the Oliveira (São Mateus) factory.

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Topics discussed among customers during the three-day event included best tips for delegating tasks, the pros and cons of outsourcing, how to communicate with difficult customers, the skilled labor shortage, gender inequality, and much more.

The introductory day ended with a guided tour of the 10th-century Castle of Guimarães, which is the principal medieval castle in the municipality Guimarães, and dinner at Hotel de Guimarães.

“The screen printing community is an exceptionally very open group – everyone is happy to share their experiences, weaknesses, and successes,” said Coy. “ROQ aided in fostering that community through this trip, connecting all of our shops at various stages in our growth and areas of expertise, helping us better ourselves. The conversations and connections that organically came about over dinners, bus rides, and waiting around were invaluable.”

Guests made their way back to ROQ International headquarters for day two of sessions and demos. Brett Bowden, Printed Threads, shared why he turned his design department into an entirely separate company: The Creative Situation. “The design is what sells the T-shirt,” said Paul Simon, The Creative Situation. “A design that’s worth $1000 should not be sold for $50.” Learn Paul’s eight-step design process that he shared with guests here.

Brian Lessard and Tom Davenport, MadeLab, detailed instructions for an eight-step ink process for printing special effects. Pro tip from Brian? “Always have white puff ink on hand.” Check out the eight-step process for their special effect T-shirt here.

Machines on display and in demo for current and potential customers included the ROQ Hybrid, a fusion between screen printing and digital printing. Screen printers at the event interested in this machine print on-demand and with high color. Another machine of interest was the ROQ Fold, Stack, and Pack set up, which includes an automatic T-shirt folding machine, an automatic T-shirt stacking machine, and an automatic T-shirt packing machine. The ROQ machines are built in the Portugal facility, wrapped, and ready to ship by boat to Florida. The equipment is then loaded on trucks and delivered to US shops. Building the printers from scratch is a four-month process.

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“People always ask why we love our ROQs and this trip proved we made the right decision by partnering with them. Their attention to detail and advanced technology on their machines is what makes ROQ the top of the line machinery. Down to every last bolt, they have engineered their machines to be bulletproof. ROQ International was so welcoming and made us feel like we were family, which I guess now we are! Couldn’t have asked for a better or more beautiful experience,” said Tyler and Alexa Cary of In-House Prints.

To end the second day’s events, Ross Hunter, ROQ.US, interviewed Josh Merrell, Liquid Graphics, during a happy hour Q&A at Hotel de Guimarães. Josh went from 1 to 15 machines and 60 to 100,000 units a day. “Performance built the company,” he says.

Merrell says do not price yourself off other people’s price lists. “It’s still a battle with customers on price,” he said. Liquid Graphics doesn’t publish their price list. “We stopped listening to the negotiations and are confident in our business prices and services. I price out customers if I see it’s going down the wrong road and bringing negativity to our shop and employees. If they’re looking to shop a price, they’re not the right customer for you.”

Merrell said to find your lane and build your customer base around it as well as inventory and planning. Their main focus is efficiency, but staffing continues to be a challenge as they’re competing with Amazon and Walmart. “We lost 50 employees in two weeks,” he said. “If you have good people, embrace them. And the best thing to do is train up if you can.” Merrell said that factory performance, and employee morale, improved after changing the composition of the company’s managers. “Sexual harassment cases went down after firing male product managers and hiring more females,” he said.

Liquid Graphics uses the Kaizen methodology and is currently looking to hire someone to oversee the process in the Santa Ana, California, facility. “We’re always looking for continuous improvement and to squeeze out more with less people.”

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“Data wins, but you can also paralyze your own business by over analyzing,” Merrell said. They have KPIs against each department through a software system Liquid Graphics built. “It’s uploaded after every shift and sent to two companies in India, which costs them “hundreds of dollars a day.”

Learn more about Liquid Graphics here.

On the final day, attendees visited Cor Suspensa in Gilmonde, Portugal. The local shop has three ROQ Ovals, two ROQ Ecos, one ROQ Next, and one ROQ You, as well as a personal gym for employees to use. The business works with a broad array of customers in the textile and apparel markets.

To end the trip, everyone ventured to Porto, Portugal, for a guided boat tour on the Douro River; a cellar tour, wine tasting, a Fado show at Caves Cálem; and dinner and drinks at the World of Wine Porto.

“This trip was enlightening, inspiring, and further cemented our idea of how first-class ROQ is as a company,” said Taylor Dickerson of Studio Chroma in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. “They are focused on not just getting their equipment in our shops, but investing in us as customers and businesses that can grow. It’s a win-win. I met so many knowledgeable industry people, gained friends, ate amazing food, experienced a new culture and country, and understood better how to help run and grow our business back home. The trip was incredibly fun, but the shift in perspective is better.”

Check out 21 photos from the ROQ Adventure Summit here.

Adrienne Palmer is the editor-in-chief of Screen Printing and Big Picture.

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