Why It's Time to Talk About Jumbo Rolls
If 2016 taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Of course, there were ongoing political storylines at play. But then there was the flurry of high-profile M&A deals that transpired, starting with North Mankato, Minnesota-based Taylor Corp.’s takeover of Staples Print Solutions. “This pending [transaction] broadens our ability to provide a full range of print and digital communication solutions, customized to serve our customers’ marketing and business needs,” Taylor Corp. CEO Deb Taylor said of the acquisition, which was completed in July. At that time, the print solutions division went to market as “Taylor Communications,” Taylor Corp.’s newest subsidiary made up of the former Standard Register Co.
RR Donnelley & Sons Company, Grand Island, N.Y., also made headlines last year with its official split into three separate, publicly held companies: RR Donnelley, LSC Communications and Donnelley Financial Solutions. Effective October 2016, the breakup followed the recent corporate trend of creating more focused companies as a way to maximize shareholder value.
The steady uptick in activity is something that cannot be ignored. While the business landscape continues to transform, new opportunities await the reseller channel—and, more specifically, those in the jumbo roll market. Let’s say your customer is a large service bureau. This type of customer often depends on more than one supplier for jumbo roll jobs. Sometimes, the service bureau even splits the business up among three or four companies. If the customer has several locations throughout the country, it relies on go-to people, and if there aren’t enough major directs to service its demands, who will step in?
Allen Simon, president of Datatel Resources Corporation, Monaca, Pa., has the answer. “Trade manufacturers and distributors who pursue the accounts that would require jumbo rolls are in a position to be very seriously considered for additional volume because these customers need to go somewhere, and they’re looking at their alternatives,” he said. “[These customers] are smart people, and they look out there and say, ‘Hmm, I used to go to this company and this company and this company, and now there’s only one or two of them left, so who else can do this for me?’ Distributors and trade manufacturers like us, who take the market very seriously and have some experience, can probably go in and tell a pretty good story, as far as why we should be considered to be one of the suppliers for these products.”
M&A deals in the end-user space is another subplot that distributors should review. “As end-users combine their clientele list, that can drive more mailings, which, in turn, would drive roll print demand,” noted Roger Buck, director of marketing for Flesh Co, St. Louis.
This doesn’t mean distributors can walk in unannounced and expect the order. The jumbo roll selling process requires a level of investment that goes beyond a standard quotation—not to mention it can take anywhere from weeks up to a couple of years to complete. But, as Simon pointed out, it’s business that repeats every 30, 60 or 90 days, making all of those man-hours worthwhile. “You want to get in front of the customer and somehow tie your proposal in with an operational advantage,” Simon explained. “That can be being reactive; that can be flexibility; that can be the type of paper you use and what you’re doing to change with the new imaging technologies; that can be who your mill supplier is or who your mill partner is; it can be how you do test runs—any number of things.
“We’ve been through this so many times,” he continued. “You throw it out there and eventually you’re going to catch the attention of that purchasing person because it’s something [his or her] current supplier isn’t doing.”
That something can pertain to quality control, which is a top concern among buyers. Simon offered the example of interstage UV. Operational staff know how crucial it is, but purchasing people may need to be reminded. “You’ve got to throw out everything you can to get it kind of out of the traditional purchasing arena to a value-added opportunity,” Simon stressed. “And that’s selling.”
What you say to prospects is important, but so is the dialogue that happens with suppliers. Open and honest communication goes a long way here. Buck encouraged distributors to think of jumbo rolls as a natural progression in the print industry. “We’ve all seen changes over the years and learned the intricacies,” he remarked. “Jumbo rolls are no different. We need to understand the application, what device is being used for imaging, post-imaging processes and any issues the client has had in the past. As with any print solution, we want to understand the client’s needs and goals.”
When it comes to integrated cards in a jumbo roll, for instance, Buck said the recipient must be able to extract the card easily, but the card should not pre-dispense from the roll during high-speed digital imaging. “Distributors should be concerned with the level of expertise their printer has for integration, jumbo roll production and shipping,” he commented.
A good supply-chain partner is sensitive to the fact that distributors are relying on them to meet all deadlines and manufacture a strong product. Even one misstep can damage the client relationship and Rick Rossano, national sales manager for Maggio Data Forms, knows that. “Our distributor partners give us their business because we are 100 percent reliable and have their backs,” he said.
The Hauppauge, New York-based supplier makes it a point to band and shrink-wrap every pallet of product it ships. As a bonus, the relationships that Maggio Data has with its freight carriers allow the company to transport every job in a cost-effective manner. “These types of jobs are usually high in volume,” Rossano noted. “Our freight carriers offer us deeply discounted pallet rates to most areas of the U.S.”
Yes, cost absolutely matters in a competitive market. But jumbo roll work isn’t as simple as mounting a roll, pressing the “on” button and hoping for the best. If mistakes aren’t caught, that low price comes with a high cost for customers. To avoid this, distributors should carefully vet their supplier partners. Have the suppliers made the investments, or are they simply running jumbo rolls as another “me too” product?
Buck discussed some of the recent purchases that Flesh Co has made. “The jumbo roll applications we get through our distributors are generally high-color shells, often 4/4; also, shells with affixed labels or integrated cards for membership applications,” he said. “We have invested in equipment for affixing labels and creating integrated cards to meet customer demand.”
Maggio Data Forms just upgraded its six-color, high-speed web presses with UV dryers and video web inspection. “We also have the ability to offer 50" diameter rolls, yielding as much as 46,000 documents per roll, which leads to increased efficiency for the lettershop or the end-users’ equipment,” Rossano explained.
It’s no secret that manufacturers have to maintain these presses—especially when they’re running for three shifts, 24 hours a day, like at Datatel Resources Corporation. Keeping all production systems in peak operating conditions is part of the company’s normal preventive maintenance. According to Simon, structured checks take place once a month for a 24-hour period, typically on weekends. These may involve bringing in outside experts to support Datatel’s internal staff as well, since the Muller Martini presses on-site are sophisticated machines with a lot of moving parts. “[Issues] can happen that you don’t realize until you tear things apart a little bit, so we inspect and repair each individual print unit, and that includes [interstage] UV systems, which means there’s a UV box on every print unit,” Simon shared. “... Every now and then you find stuff. You may find [a] gear, for example, that if it’s not repaired now, it could do extensive damage later.”
Flesh Co also follows strict maintenance procedures. This includes running several Kaizen (continuous improvement) events within the production area. “During a press Kaizen event, we tear the press down to the bare components and inspect each piece for wear, cracks and other issues,” Buck said. “When the press is re-assembled, it meets or exceeds the level of the original delivery condition.”
But a robust press isn’t worth much without a knowledgeable operator. “It’s a matter of adhering to very high-quality standards and converting them into an objective manufacturing base,” Simon said. “In other words, you can’t look at it and say, ‘Oh, hey, it looks good, and we should go with it.’ You have to come up with a very objective tangible measurement to say [that] and, yes, the measurement proves it’s where it needs to be.”
This is where press densitometers can help. Maybe there’s a logo that needs to be a certain color. Densitometers can create a numerical value for how ink is being put down, ensuring a match. “That’s the way we can differentiate between two blues, for example, that look close, but maybe one is not quite there,” Simon mentioned. “If we know we matched the densitometer reading from the previous run, then we’re where we need to be.”
Now that the groundwork has been laid out, it’s time for you, the distributor, to get out there and capitalize on those jumbo-sized profits. “Our distributors who sell this type of product are very active with their customers,” Simon concluded. “They’re not shy to ask us for support when they need it, and they’re always there. Even when they technically may not need to be there, they are—that’s what the customer likes and that’s the advantage of the distributor over the major direct.”