When Social Distancing Shrinks Print Runs, DTG Bears Fruit in Thailand

Robert Zoch
May 7, 2020

As distributor for Fruit of the Loom in Thailand, Chaiyaboon Brothers has been using digital direct-to-garment (DTG) technology for more than a decade, most recently implementing the Kornit Avalanche HD6 system for industrial-scale decoration of short- and long-sleeve t-shirts. Currently, the business imprints 600-800 pieces for FOTL Thailand per day, most of them one piece per order. With print-on-demand capabilities, they ensure a consistent profit margin for these small orders.

As supported by Chaiyaboon Brothers, FOTL Thailand caters primarily to three customer types: end-consumers themselves, individual designers selling their t-shirt designs online, and screen-printing shops outsourcing their short runs. In the latter case, screen printers are heavily geared towards mass production that justifies the considerable time and effort the silkscreen process requires; this model of subcontracting smaller orders to DTG shops has generated opportunity for other Kornit customers, as well. In this regard, DTG is not a replacement for screen printing, but rather a practical supplement to it, ensuring an optimal solution for each job type and size.

With the advent of social distancing measures, however, the demand for small orders has skyrocketed, at the expense of larger orders. No large gatherings means no need for bulk orders. Rather, those screen-printing shops have had to turn to limited-edition and pre-order apparel, for which DTG technology is better suited. To eliminate inventory risk—a major concern for apparel brands worldwide in this moment—they need print-on-demand, and Chaiyaboon Brothers answers that need.

In addition to supporting those partners’ business needs in this difficult time, FOTL Thailand has found another way to make the best of their situation: Many of these screen shops sell blank face masks, so FOTL Thailand has been buying them to imprint via Kornit and provide to those in need.

Today, each FOTL Thailand t-shirt order Chaiyaboon Brothers ships includes an imprinted mask—one per parcel delivered. Those using a simple, repeated design (see “MSF” logo masks in the accompanying images) are included at no charge. Those using a more complex design, made to match the corresponding t-shirts in the customer’s order, are included for $1 USD apiece, essentially for cost. Furthermore, they have been donating these masks to local community organizations to use as necessary.

In terms of both the garments that have long been the core of their business and the ability to imprint masks as needed, Kornit’s DTG technology has empowered FOTL Thailand to meet the changing demands that have come their way.