Consultative Selling: What It Is and Why It Works

Listen and Learn with Consultative SellingToday, successful sellers act as trusted advisers to their buyers to help them find the best solutions.  By adopting a consultative selling strategy, salespeople create value in the selling process and benefit from better sales results, stronger customer bases and referrals.

What is consultative selling?

Consultative selling is defined as “personal selling in which a salesperson plays the role of a consultant” by www.businessdictionary.com.  It’s a sales method where the salesperson gains a solid understanding of the buyer’s challenges before recommending a solution.  An important distinction from other methods is that the main objective is helping the prospect find the right solution, not just getting him to “sign on the dotted line.”  The key elements of consultative selling fall into four categories:  research, relationship, resolution and reward.

Research

Today’s customer is much savvier than in the past and is doing his homework before buying.  The explosion of digital media has made it easy for people to access information online and share experiences with each other.  The buyer has already explored solutions, competitors, and prices and is well educated by the time a vendor comes calling.  The salesperson has to do his research, too, and can take advantage of “lead intelligence” to learn about his prospects and hone in on the most qualified leads.

Ask Who, What, Where, How, When and Why with Consultative SellingRelationship

The consultative salesperson is an industry expert who “gets it” and wants to help.  He continues to learn more about his prospect’s challenges and obstacles by asking open-ended questions to uncover his real motivation for buying.  He builds trust by sharing his knowledge without asking for anything in return.

Resolution

If the seller’s products are determined to be a good fit for the buyer, the salesperson presents the customer-specific benefits of his products, figures out the next steps in the purchasing process and establishes a timeline for closing the sale.  If it is clear that he can’t meet the buyer’s needs, it is completely acceptable for him to recommend an alternative solution, even if it’s a competitor!

Reward

No matter the outcome, consultative selling results in a valuable experience for both sides.  The buyer is able to get advice from an industry expert who helps him understand his obstacles and navigate a solution.  By investing time to provide tailored, customized solutions, salespeople will enjoy better closing rates, higher value sales, increased customer retention and referrals.

In the end, consultative selling is about helping prospects find solutions.  Salespeople who take the time to fully understand their buyers’ needs and challenges are in the best position to recommend the right solutions.  They will be rewarded with satisfied, loyal supporters.

Kanban 101

 

Kanban

In today’s competitive marketplace, manufacturers are looking for ways to improve efficiency and wring costs out of the production process. By adopting lean manufacturing concepts, companies can eliminate waste and operate more efficiently. One way to do this is to implement kanban, a Japanese inventory scheduling system that promotes just-in-time production by delivering parts on an as-needed basis.

In a kanban system, the production process is seen as a “chain,” where each “process” becomes the supplier for the next (“downstream”) process in the sequence and a customer to the previous (“upstream”) process. This approach extends all the way to a company’s external suppliers and customers. It optimizes production flow and minimizes inventory levels by directing the supply of parts and components to workers exactly when and where they need them.

The advantages of using a kanban system include:

  • Lower inventory costs
  • Quicker response to changes in demand
  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Reduced waste

Kanban Origins

Kanban originated in Japan in the mid-20th century by Toyota looking to increase the efficiency of its factories. Its engineers were inspired by the inventory replenishment process used by supermarkets. They observed that customers purchase only the items and quantities they need, and store employees restock their shelves with only as much product as they expect to sell. This began an important distinction between a “push” system of manufacturing and a demand-based or “pull” system.

 Push vs. Pull Inventory Control Systems

With traditional push manufacturing systems, companies produce what they think their customers will order and make items to stock in batches. While there are economies of scale, the downside is that inventory costs are high and companies can end up overproducing if sales forecasts are incorrect. Excess inventory ties up working capital, increases storage costs and exposes the company to the risk of parts becoming obsolete.

A pull strategy, on the other hand, ties production directly to actual customer demand so there is little risk of overproduction and little excess inventory. Tasks in the production process are completed when requested by the next process down the line so parts or components are “pulled” into production only when needed. With a pull system of inventory management, a company may find itself slow to respond to a sudden increase in demand but very little capital is tied up in excess parts and storage.

Kanban Cards

kanban_cardIn order to facilitate its just-in-time manufacturing system, Toyota instituted a method using cards in its factories called “kanban” (a Japanese word combining “kan” for card and “ban” for signal). The cards, called “kanbans,” contain information about how to replenish each component used in production. By moving a kanban, an employee can signal when more parts are needed by an upstream process, prompting the production or purchase of these additional parts. Each kanban conveys all information required to replace the item such as the part name, number and description as well as the quantity to be produced and any other information about how the replenishment should take place. When delivering a kanban, the employee will write the date the order is initiated or “dropped” and when the parts are needed. The card is placed in a kanban rack to be retrieved along with the container by the appropriate person in the upstream process. Once replenished, the bin containing the new parts and kanban card are returned to their original location.

Six Elements of Kanban

The following principles are fundamental to a kanban system:

  1. Downstream processes always pull from upstream processes
  2. Upstream processes produce only when instructed
  3. Defects are never passed on to the next station
  4. Kanban cards are attached to part containers and no item is moved without a kanban
  5. Production is leveled throughout the system to prevent bottlenecks
  6. There is continuous fine-tuning of the kanbans in the production process

The success of kanban as an inventory control system depends on its execution.  Adopting this system requires well-defined, documented procedures and training so employees are clear about every step, because a disruption in the process may lead to out-of-stocks and delays in filling customer orders. If executed properly, this is an excellent tool used to facilitate just-in-time manufacturing by eliminating waste and inefficiency from the production process.

What the Automakers Have Taught Us About Manufacturing Efficiency

production conceptual meter indicate maximum, isolated on white background

We’ve learned a lot from the automakers when it comes to manufacturing efficiency. Our car-making forefathers took a long look at their production methods and figured out ways to increase value by making improvements in their processes. Today, printers, along with countless other industries, are realizing the benefits of implementing these concepts to improve their bottom lines.

It started with Henry Ford. He revolutionized the production process by using interchangeable parts, standardization, and what he’s best known for, the assembly line. By streamlining production, he was able to mass produce the Model T and make cars available to middle class families across America for the first time in 1908.  By 1927, Ford had shipped 15 million cars, and the Model T came to symbolize a new method of manufacturing.

In the mid-21st century, Toyota engineers expanded on Ford’s ideas to become more market-focused. Their inspiration came from a supermarket model of inventory management where stores restock their shelves as products are purchased by shoppers. Applied to manufacturing, the concept of just-in-time inventory replenishment recognizes that more efficient inventory management results when customers “pull” products through the supply chain.

According to Toyota’s website, the objective of its “Toyota Production System,” or TPS, is to serve its customers and employees while aligning with the company’s business goals.  Central to the TPS are the principles of “Kaizen,” “Just in Time Manufacturing” and “Jidoka.”  These values attempt to maximize efficiency and quality by using methods that simplify production flow and speed up response times.  Production is driven by customer demand, and the way resources are allocated within the plant is known as “kanban.” (See Kanban 101 blog post) All employees throughout the organization strive for continuous improvement in every aspect of the process.

Modern lean manufacturing is derived from the TPS and strives to eliminate all excess from a manufacturing system by focusing only on the things that add value. By removing the causes of “muri”,” or overburdening of people or equipment, and “mura,” or unevenness, the overall “muda,” or waste in the manufacturing process is reduced.  (These terms were originally used in Japanese martial arts to protect the fighter by eliminating unnecessary movements!) In relation to manufacturing, seven deadly wastes (or mudas) have been identified:

  1. Transportation
  2. Inventory
  3. Motion
  4. Waiting
  5. Over-processing
  6. Over-production
  7. Defects

These activities take up time, resources and space and add no value in the eyes of the customer.  The more these wastes can be minimized, the more dollars a manufacturer can wring out of the production process.

For several years, press builder Gallus has seen lean manufacturing concepts in the print industry “as a means of ensuring perfect job processing without sacrificing profit margins.” Through its “Smart Production Concept” program, Gallus helps its customers evaluate their print quality, production sequences and production environment to find opportunities to improve pressroom efficiency. The press manufacturer compares lean manufacturing to Formula 1 racing, where “a single second more or less at a pit stop can make the difference between winning and losing.” Click here to read how this company’s efforts are impacting the narrow web print industry.

We can learn a lot from our predecessors when it comes to many things, and manufacturing methods are no exception. Through the years, companies have continued to improve upon the basic concepts of production efficiency introduced by Henry Ford and Toyota.  Today, printers and businesses across many industry sectors strive to adopt the principles of lean manufacturing in order to achieve the ultimate goal of maximizing value to customers and optimizing profits.

 

Anilox Roll Cleaning is Essential to Effective Ink Delivery

Anilox Roll CleaningYou spend a lot of time selecting the correct anilox roll for a job. Careful consideration goes into line screen, cell geometry and cell volume in order to guarantee that a precise amount of ink or coating is delivered to the substrate. Aniox roll cleaning is essential to maintain this precision. If you neglect to clean your rolls on a regular basis, you will not get the most out of your anilox investment. Plugged cells will affect print quality and cause you frustration, waste and downtime. An anilox cleaning program consisting of daily, weekly and deep cleaning will preserve the integrity of the anilox engraving and ensure quality, press efficiency and longer anilox life.

When a newly engraved anilox roll arrives from the manufacturer, volume is even across and around the surface of the roll. As the roll is used, however, a residual amount of ink or coating material is left behind in the cells after the transfer has taken place. The residue dries and creates build-up in the cells.  Over time, these deposits decrease the capacity of the cells and reduce their ability to carry and release the volume of ink or coating for which they were designed. This residue also raises the surface tension, or dyne level, of the roll and increases the tendency of the coating to “cling” to the surface. When this occurs, the roll will not release the proper volume or ink or coating to the plate.

Benefits of regular anilox roll cleaning:

  • The repeated transfer of a precise volume of ink or coating
  • Consistent coverage
  • Reduced labor and less downtime
  • Fewer job rejections and waste
  • Longer anilox life and lower re-working costs

Flexo Concepts recommends a 3-step anilox roll cleaning program:

  1. Daily wiping to prevent ink or coating build-up

Applying a liquid cleaning agent by hand and wiping down the roll with a clean, lint-free cloth on a daily basis is the simplest and most effective way to keep ink and coating from drying and building up in the cells. As a basic rule of thumb, the best time to clean a roll is as soon as it is removed from the press. The longer inks, resins, adhesives, etc. have been allowed to sit in the engraving, the harder these materials are to remove. To maximize cleaning performance, choose a cleaner specifically formulated to remove water-based, UV or solvent-based chemistries based on your application.

  1. Weekly scrubbing with a paste-like cleaner and an anilox cleaning brush

Anilox Cleaning BrushManually scrubbing the roll once or twice a week with a brush and a paste or cream chemical cleaner will mechanically loosen and remove any ink or coating residue that remain in cells despite daily cleaning. The cleaner is applied to the roll, vigorously scrubbed in a circular motion with an anilox cleaning brush and flushed with water while the roll remains in the press. It is important to remember that stainless steel brushes are suitable only for ceramic anilox surfaces and brass bristles should be used for chrome surfaces to prevent damage to the engraving.

  1. Monthly deep cleaning to remove tough ink or coating deposits

Over time a residual amount of ink or coating material is left behind in the cells and the roll requires a deep cleaning to remove these tough deposits. The most common methods of deep cleaning are chemical wash and ultrasonic. The roll is removed from the press and placed into a chemical bath where it soaks in a powerful cleaning solution before being subjected to a high pressure rinse or ultrasonic vibrations to loosen and dissolve the deposits. These methods vary in cleaning effectiveness, risk of damage to the roll, and water and chemical consumption.

Like on other parts of the press, a maintenance program for anilox rolls keeps the ink delivery system running at its peak. Regular anilox roll cleaning will prevent anilox cells from plugging with ink and coating residue and stop build-up before it dries. Maintaining anilox rolls through a regular cleaning program can pay off tremendously in terms of maximizing print quality, press efficiency and cost control.

Click here for more information on our anilox cleaning brushes

The Right End Seals Will Prevent Leaks in Your Chamber Coating System

In an enclosed doctor blade chamber coating system, the job of the end seals is to keep the coating from leaking out of the ends of the chamber.  Selecting the right end seals for your application is critical to achieve proper doctor blade seating and prevent leaks.  If used correctly, these inexpensive consumables will ensure coating quality and save a printer thousands of dollars in coating waste, downtime and replacement of other press parts due to premature wear.

End Seals

Problems That Result From Failed End Seals

  • Chamber leaks and mess
  • Poor coating quality and coating waste
  • Excessive doctor blade wear
  • Premature anilox roller wear and scoring
  • Press downtime

Why Chamber Leaks Occur

While there are other causes of chamber leaks, failed end seals are responsible for the lion’s share.  It is important to use an end seal material that is compatible with the type of coating being used, the length of the run and the press speed.  Good seal design for a proper fit is also critical to ensure that end seals contain coating within the confines of the chamber.  Incorrect end seal size and shape will leave gaps for coating to leak out of the ends.  If the seals aren’t sufficiently lubricated, the increased friction against the anilox roller will cause coating buildup and leaking.  Enlist the help of your end seal supplier to work through these issues and make sure that you are using the correct end seals for your application.

When a chamber is leaking, a press operator will often try to fix the problem by increasing the load pressure instead of looking for the cause of the leak.  End seal leaks should never be resolved by increasing chamber pressure.  The additional pressure increases friction between the doctor blade and the anilox roll and causes both to wear prematurely.  Paying a little extra attention when installing doctor blades and end seals can prevent many leaks from occurring in the first place.  After installing new end seals, a press operator should evaluate the chamber and confirm that there is a snug end seal fit with no gaps or distortion.  The doctor blade should have some upward pressure to form an adequate seal, but not so much that it requires extra loading pressure to make contact with the anilox roller in the middle of the blade.

End Seal Materials for Chamber Coating Systems

There are various end seal materials which range in abrasion resistance, durability and solvent resistance.  Again, your end seal supplier is a good resource to help you determine the best material for your application:

  1. Foam seals are the most common and the least expensive type of end seals.  This material generally does not perform as well as other materials and may not be a good choice for long runs, higher press speeds and certain coating chemistries.  There can also be a lot of variation in the density of the material which can range from super firm to more malleable.
  2. Neoprene or rubber seals offer longer life compared to foam seals.  They are compatible with aqueous and UV coatings so they don’t have to be changed out between jobs.  However, these seals do not seat well due to the coefficient of friction between the material and the anilox roller surface.
  3. Pre-soaked felt end seals are a superior solution for resolving coating leaks.  These end seals are oversized for a snug fit and pre-soaked in petroleum to reduce friction and prevent coating buildup.  Felt end seals are compatible with all coating types, provide a tighter seal and typically last longer than rubber and foam seals.  Keeping felt seals lubricated with seal grease is key to their superior performance and longer life.  Felt end seals tend to dry out after the anilox coater system is flushed with detergents and water.  Applying seal grease to the radius portion of the seals after flushing the system will ensure a tight fit and extend the life of the seals by reducing friction.

Choosing the right seal material and design for your application and replacing end seals when necessary will help ensure that they do their job of keeping coating from leaking out of the chamber.  Better yet, the right seals will allow for proper doctor blade seating and a predictable and even transfer of coating from the anilox roller to the blanket.  Despite their small cost, end seals have the power to save thousands of dollars in waste and downtime.

Read, “Cut-to-Length Doctor Blades Can Prevent Chamber Leaks” to learn how the condition of the anilox roller and doctor blade size and installation can also play a role in chamber leaks.

Non-Metallic Doctor Blades Are Safer and Last Longer for Sheetfed Offset Printers

The goal of a sheetfed offset printer, like every printer, is to produce printed pieces efficiently and economically.  In sheetfed offset coating applications, selecting the right doctor blade will help keep presses running and minimize costs while maintaining a safe pressroom environment.  By replacing steel with non-metallic doctor blades, a printer can reduce pressroom injuries, eliminate anilox roller scoring and extend blade life up to four times longer.

Three reasons to replace your steel blades with non-metallic doctor blades:

1. Pressroom Safety

Serious Injuries Can Occur When Handling Steel Doctor Blades

Serious Injuries Can Occur When Handling Steel Doctor Blades

Steel doctor blades are responsible for a large number of pressroom injuries each year.  As the blades wear, their edges become honed through contact with the anilox roller.  This leaves razor-sharp tips that can cause serious cuts.  Press operators need to be extremely careful and wear protective gloves when removing the worn blades from the press to avoid injuries.  Due to their material composition, non-metallic doctor blades are safer to handle even when worn.  Switching to non-metallic doctor blades will reduce lost-time accidents and can save a printer a lot of money in terms of workman’s compensation insurance rates, medical bills, labor replacement expenses and press downtime.

2. Anilox Roller Scoring

Steel blades are also to blame for many cases of anilox roller scoring.  Incorrect blade installation or too much blade pressure can cause small fragments of metal to break away, become trapped against the roller and destroy rows of anilox cells as the roller turns.  The score line appears as a thick band which runs around the circumference of the roller and affects the corresponding area of coating coverage.  The printer wastes substrate and coating and has to have the roller resurfaced or replaced at a significant cost.  In addition to scoring, steel blades accelerate wear on the surface of the anilox roller.  The friction between the blade and roller erodes the anilox cell walls.  As a result, the cell volume is reduced and the anilox roller can no longer carry the precise volume of coating that it was designed to deliver.  Non-metallic blades are non-abrasive and will neither score rollers nor cause accelerated wear on the anilox roller.

3. Blade Life

Steel blades wear quickly and need to be replaced frequently.  Non-metallic blades, on the other hand, have a long, slow wear period and  deliver a consistent application of coating for the duration of the print job.  They have a low coefficient of friction which means they need to be changed out less often.  By switching from steel blades, a printer can minimize press disruptions and keep presses running longer.

For sheetfed offset printers using in-line tower coating units, there is a non-metallic blade available for every application.  Printers using Tresu coating chambers can choose the TruPoint UltraFlex blade for safety and extended blade life.  Harris & Bruno chamber users can opt for the TruPoint Orange® blade with MicroTip™ edge to get the same benefits.  Both blades are capable of effective metering with the added advantages of improved safety, reduced anilox roller scoring and longer blade life.

Click here for more information or to request a blade sample

Optimize Press Wash-Ups and Increase Uptime

Today’s sheetfed offset printers have to maximize press uptime to stay competitive.  One way to keep presses running is to optimize the efficiency of press wash-ups.  A small investment in the latest wash-up technology, the TruPoint QuikWash System, can help printers reduce wash-up times and improve profitability.

TruPoint QuikWash System for More Effective Press Wash-Ups

The TruPoint QuikWash System

TruPoint QuikWash Benefits

The TruPoint QuikWash System is a retro-fit wash-up system that allows a printer to dramatically improve the quality of his press wash-ups and cut wash-up times in half.  Wash-up cycles are reduced so a printer benefits from lower solvent consumption, and the clamp design simplifies blade changes.

Finer Contact Area than Rubber Tip Blades

The benefits of the QuikWash System are derived from the use of a plastic wash-up blade.  TruPoint plastic wash-up blades have a relatively small blade thickness and the ability to maintain a fine area of contact with the roller even when worn.  This fine contact area enables the blade to wash up the roller in a single wash-up cycle compared to a rubber tip which typically requires two or more cycles to be effective.

More Effective Wash-up of the Entire Roller

TruPoint plastic wash-up blades have exceptional wear properties compared to rubber tip blades.  The blades possess a lower coefficient of friction and wear evenly across the full length of the blade; this means better clean-up of the entire roller.  Even the ends of the roller, which often require manual cleaning because of excessive wear on the rubber tip caused by the oscillating motion of the roller, wash up effectively with QuikWash.  The natural characteristics of plastic give TruPoint wash-up blades lubricity and prevent ink build-up and damage caused by tack from the rubber tip when the roller runs dry.   The blade material is compatible with UV solvents and resistant to aggressive press wash.

Lower Blade, Solvent and Roller Costs

Due to the even wear pattern, plastic blades also last longer than rubber tip blades so blade costs are reduced.  The clamp is designed to hold blades with no holes or slots which are relatively inexpensive and easier to change.  Wash-ups with QuikWash are more efficient so press wash consumption, labor and disposal costs are reduced.  Roller and oscillator life is prolonged because of reduced chemical exposure and friction from the blade.  With access to inexpensive blades and the ability to change them out quickly, press operators can replace blades regularly to further improve wash-up performance, press uptime and chemical use.

How QuikWash Works

The QuikWash System is composed of an aluminum clamp which mounts to the existing wash-up tray and holds a plastic wash-up blade with no holes or slots.  QuikWash is compatible with most press models and requires no modifications to the wash-up tray.  The average cost to retrofit a press is under $1,000 which is quickly made back in press uptime.

Faced with many challenges in today’s sheetfed offset industry, printers are looking to make adjustments that will protect their competitive position and bottom line.  For a low up-front investment, retrofitting presses with QuikWash is an easy and economical way to improve press wash-up efficiency and maintain profitability.

Click here to request a quote

To learn more about the TruPoint QuikWash System and how it can benefit you, read our white paper:

TruPoint QuikWash White Paper