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On The Shop Floor

The excitement of new kit and the psychological effect of shopping

This month Arron Harnden of Shirtworks discusses how purchasing a new piece of equipment can breathe life back into a print shop.


e have just spent 60k. It is not a toy to satisfy a mid- life crisis. It does not add to my sex appeal. Itʼs not a new Porsche.

It hums and clunks and swooshes and makes a pffffft sound that you can mentally synchronise to in an industrial rhythmic groove kind of way.

It is colour co-ordinated in a mid-blue Pantone 294u with all the other kit in the workshop, my collar now matches my cuffs. It is a brand new Sportsman EX, M&R automatic screen print carousel.

The psychological effect of this new kit being in the building is palpable.

I feel it myself and I see it in others. Many years ago, as a regular runner, I noticed the effect on my own psychology that a new purchase can create. I would reach plateaus, become demotivated at times, occasionally find excuses not to pull on my trainers and enter into the cold dark night. I noticed however, that I could alter my psychology by buying a new bit of kit.

This newly acquired inanimate object would alter my brain chemistry and compel me to get out and test it. It may only have been a new pair of trainers or skin tight base layer, but the effect was… motivational.

This is exactly how I feel now.

This is what I now see in the workshop staff… sort of. Effect one

The first obvious effect of the new kit is how everyone starts to rethink the cleaning plan.

That old piece of kit which gradually accumulated dust and lint and had ink smears all over it has now gone. The removal of that unsightly presence washes a subtle relief into the building and is then further enhanced by the arrival of that shiny new presence. The shiny new presence by virtue of its newness, begs to be cared for and loved. It induces those feelings that are usually only experienced for a new romance. You start to give a damn and you want to care. You want to be a better person.

Effect two

The second obvious effect of the new kit is this feeling that you now really want to create better results, produce higher quality work.

It re-invigorates the artisan in all of us. Screen printing is an art which can be practised well or can be done badly. New kit just seems to refresh that part of the brain that controls your pursuit of perfection. Something that is easily forgotten in the rush to hit deadlines.

Effect three

The third obvious effect of the new kit is that it forces us to look at other areas of production and the business that we can improve on. This is possibly the most important neurological shift as it creates a desire to be holistically better, to spread your efforts further and to try to make wider improvements. Neuro-scientists will tell you that these feelings are chemical and hormonally induced reactions in your brain, as a mixture of dopamine and oxytocin is released.

Dopamine activates the incentive salience response in your brain that creates a want or desire for something, with the expectation

| 86 | May 2017

Sportsman EX from M&R New purchases are a

demonstration to the workforce that there is continual investment in the company; that the business is growing and evolving along a path of constant improvement.

that there is a reward. This is a feel good primary motivational driver for many of our decisions and actions.

Oxytocin, in one aspect, is a bonding or love hormone which is most often found in high doses in new mothers or new romantic couples. It can also be triggered by inanimate objects with extreme cases of objectophilia where human beings can fall in love with cars, shoes and… printing carousels. I love the sciencey stuff but the long and short of it is that purchasing new kit, in our experience, produces a psychologically positive effect which impacts holistically through the business. New purchases are a demonstration to the workforce that there is continual investment in the company; that the business is growing and evolving along a path of constant improvement. It demonstrates that there is a future, which all of us need to feel like we are going somewhere.

New purchases help to manage and maintain morale when the daily struggle, the tight deadlines, the grind all produce strain and fatigue that squirt the stress hormone cortisol into your hippocampus and amygdala, draining your reserves. Too much cortisol is bad, dopamine is addictive and oxytocin feels lovely.

The law of the universe will tell you that were there is an up there is usually a down. I know itʼs coming… so I need a strategy. I need to plan my next purchase to get my fix. I need to manage the damaging effect that too much cortisol will do to morale with an antidote, some therapy, I will need to go shopping.

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