The Big Sale
Last June, a Delaware bankruptcy judge approved Mankato, Minnesota-based Taylor Corp.’s purchase of Standard Register Co., Dayton, Ohio, and its assets. The story was fodder for the media: A major printing company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy only later to be the object of a bidding war ($307 million took everything, for the record). Follow that up with two lawsuits—one Standard Register Co. initiated against two former employees, the other made against Standard Register Co. by one of its biggest lenders, Silver Point Finance—both of which have been settled.
But an important takeaway from the Standard Register Co. saga is not that drama sells. As the major directs continue to go through big changes, end-users need to find new homes for certain business, which is good news for resellers of jumbo rolls. “Plants close, consolidations occur and customers are looking,” observed Allen J. Simon, president of Datatel Resources Corporation, Monaca, Pa. “... If there is a customer out there, maybe a large service bureau, who likes to split the business up with three or four people, which is normal, they really need to look at the distributor market because there aren’t as many options out there for them to go to in the traditional direct manufacturer.”
If the plant hasn’t changed, perhaps the person calling on customers has, which presents another opportunity, Simon added. Datatel Resources Corporation already is fielding offers from prospects, and is seeing potential for new work.
Before your company can turn a jumbo-sized profit, it’s important to know what you’re up against. Here are three things to keep in mind:
The jumbo roll selling process requires a level of investment—and involvement—that goes beyond a standard quotation. Entering into this long-term business with a reliable supply-chain partner is a must. How much help a distributor wants, or needs, can vary. When Simon and his team work with customers on new opportunities, they first try to assess how much support is required. “Beyond price, we always try to indicate how we’re producing the product if the customer hasn’t asked,” Simon shared. “We’ll proactively say, ‘This product is run with UV inks and curing.’ That may not mean something to the purchasing person, but it probably means something to their operational people. We’ll tell them that we can give them 100 percent clean rolls, which means that they don’t have to worry about any breaks or splices in their rolls.”
Sometimes, it’s a matter of adding an extra incentive to the sales proposal. Simon offered the example of free warehousing. “You’ve got to be proactive,” he stressed. “You’ve got to provide more than what’s being asked for in the selling process.”
But in order to truly leverage the capabilities of their supplier partners, distributors have to be forthcoming with information. “It is important to have open lines of communication between all parties when possible,” said Gary St. Onge, CFC, vice president of sales and marketing for AmeriPrint Corporation, Harvard, Ill. “Packaging requirements, tolerances and other requirements will vary from one establishment to another. Overlooking even minor details can result in rejection.”
It also doesn’t hurt to provide some background on your prospect. St. Onge recalled a particular high-volume order that AmeriPrint Corporation was bidding on where the distributor warned him that the customer, a large mailing operation, had “extremely low” tolerances. So, AmeriPrint Corporation took action. “We arranged for our plant manager and sales representative to go on-site and observe how the product was being processed and exactly what was expected from us,” St. Onge said. “As a result, the end-user was confident that we could deliver a conforming product, and we got the order.”
Simon agreed that honest communication goes a long way. “We assume that when the distributor comes to us, it’s because they’d like to win the business,” he said. “We’re not in the business to provide quotes; we’re in the business to help our distributors win business. I think that it’s important, where possible, that a discussion is had with us, because we can provide an awful lot of assistance based on the dynamics of what’s going on with the account.”
For instance, Datatel Resources Corporation staff members can provide questions to ask, or they can educate distributors on how to best answer the questions asked of them. Chances are, your supplier partner also knows where to be proactive and where to push. “I can’t think of any substantial piece of business that we’ve ever gotten in the jumbo roll business that was acquired based on an email or a faxed quote, and the order came flying in,” Simon added. “Dialogue is imperative.”
Because jumbo roll products mean short lead times and longer runs, buyers need to feel comfortable with their suppliers’ capacities. “Has the supplier invested in true non-stop production capability, or is it just running jumbo rolls on its forms presses as another ‘me too’ product?” asked David Harnett, president of New Jersey Business Forms, Englewood, N.J.
For New Jersey Business Forms, the answer is “yes.” In August 2015, the company installed a 36" wide roll-to-roll press. “This means that we now run double wide 18" jumbo rolls at high speed with nonstop splicing, unwinding and rewinding,” Harnett said. “As of December 2015, all of our roll presses are also now configured with splicing, unwinding and rewinding for nonstop production of all of our press rewind products.”
Keeping all production systems in peak operating conditions is part of Datatel Resources Corporation’s normal preventive maintenance. Checks happen at least once a month for a 24-hour period, Simon said. “Our Muller Martini UV presses, which is where much of our roll work is run, are sophisticated,” he noted. “There are thousands and thousands of moving parts in these machines, and you need to have a very strict preventive maintenance program.”
Quality control is another area that requires attention. Extraneous ink is one of the leading causes for immediate rejection of a roll, which is equivalent to 80,000 documents or more. “We make sure our UV print systems and cure systems are operating as well as they possibly can because it’s imperative to be able to cure the ink properly to prevent offsetting,” Simon mentioned. “We’ve also upgraded and installed video Web monitoring systems. They take a real-time photograph of the image as it’s being run through the press and project it onto the screen.”
Simon has found press densitometers to be useful, as well. These devices, he explained, create a numerical value for how ink is being put down. Once a standard has been established, it can be used for future roll production. “If you have a logo, for example, and it has to be a certain color, you make sure that you’re consistent in your densitometer readings from roll to roll, and that’s one way of making sure that your quality and your consistency will be where they need to be,” Simon said.
Harnett shared a few of the quality-control measures that New Jersey Business Forms has in place. “Every roll we produce is sequentially numbered, so that its place in the production sequence can be determined after the fact,” he noted. “Tear sheets are sampled from the outside of every roll and labeled corresponding to the roll sequence. Since jumbo rolls are nonstop, consecutively manufactured products, it is crucial to know where a roll falls in the production run in order to clarify the extent of any issue.”
So, where is demand highest for jumbo rolls? Simon pointed to utility companies and billing services. “The direct-mail business has seemed to pick up a little bit,” he said. “A lot of these customers who used to process their own statements also are outsourcing, and they’re going to service bureaus. These customers, certainly the service bureau vertical market, are very strong for distributors.”
The approach may vary based on the market you’re selling into, but all jumbo roll sales share one common element critical for success: diligence. “Be aware of all customer requirements (i.e., maximum allowable breaks, proper marking or flagging of breaks, proper packaging and pallet specifications),” St. Onge concluded. “Don’t assume anything, and get it in writing.”