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. Kanban 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, kanban 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.

 

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

Doctor Blade Chamber Alignment is Critical for Doctor Blade Performance

Doctor blade chamber alignment is critical for good doctor blade performance.  Take a few minutes to make sure that there is proper system alignment to prevent early and excessive doctor blade and anilox wear, ink leaks, waste and downtime.

Everyone knows that doctor blades are designed to remove excess ink from the surface of the anilox roll.  The best way to achieve this is through light contact between the blade and the anilox along the full face of the roll.  If the blade does not have even contact with the roll due to chamber misalignment, it will not shear the ink cleanly and consistently from the anilox roll surface.  This results in an inconsistent lay down of ink on the substrate.

Misaligned Doctor Blade Chamber

Misaligned Doctor Blade Chamber

Things that cause inconsistent contact between the blade and the roll are:

  • Blade and blade holder misalignment (for example the blade is skewed, offset or not parallel to the centerline of the anilox roll)
  • Poor blade seating in the blade holder
  • Inconsistent pressure from one side of the chamber to the other
  • Improper tightening of the blade clamp bolts securing the doctor blade

Any of these situations can cause the blade pressure to vary across the length of the anilox roll.  When this happens, instead of correcting the basic cause of the problem, press operators often crank down on the pressure until the full length of the doctor blade is forced into contact with the roll.  The areas of the blade that were already in contact with the face are now subject to too much pressure.  While this seems to resolve the metering problem, the additional friction causes accelerated wear on the affected areas of the blade and roll.  These wear patterns on the roll surface will result in reduced ink density in the corresponding areas of the roll and substrate.  This excess pressure can also cause ink to be forced out of the ends of the chamber (which will be blamed on the innocent end seals!).

Steps to Ensure Proper Doctor Blade Chamber Alignment:

  1. Clean the surface that the blades will rest on and insert the blades firmly against the blade stops.  A buildup of hardened ink can prevent the blade from laying flat against the holder.
  2. Place 2 blades in the chamber without end seals.
  3. Tighten the blade clamps beginning in the center and work outwards.  Tightening in the incorrect order or over-tightening will cause the blade to buckle or ripple.
  4. Slowly engage the blades against the roller.
  5. Make sure that both blades contact the roller at the same time.
  6. Repeat for both drive side and operator side of the press.
  7. Set the chamber so it can travel no more than 1/8″ after the blades make contact with the anilox roll.

For printable instructions and diagrams, download our TruPoint™ Doctor Blade Installation Guide.

As a rule of thumb, blade pressure should never be increased to resolve issues relating to improper doctor blade chamber alignment or chamber leaks.  If the contact area is uneven or leaks are occurring, back off the pressure and start over.

Investing a few minutes in proper doctor blade chamber set-up will be more than made up by savings in time, money and waste in the long run.  Remember, keep your chamber in line or your doctor blade will act up!

 

Doctor Blade Installation: Correct Angle and Pressure are Needed for Consistent Performance

The anilox roll and doctor blades are designed to work together to deliver a precise amount of ink to the plate.  It is important to take time during a doctor blade installation in order to ensure print quality.  A doctor blade that’s installed correctly will have uniform, balanced contact with the anilox roll and remove ink consistently across its surface.  Blade positioning, orientation, angle and pressure will affect the delivery of a precise amount of ink to the plate, and proper installation will give the printer control over consistent, repeatable print quality.

Doctor Blade Installation

Positioning and Orientation

It is essential that the metering and containment blades be positioned correctly when they are installed.  Depending on the rotation of the anilox roll, the metering blade could be positioned on the top or the bottom of the chamber.  Keep in mind that the metering blade is always the last blade to contact the roll before the ink transfers to the plate.  The containment blade is installed in the opposite location.  If the two blades are installed in reverse, the metering blade will not achieve the appropriate point of contact with the roll and remove the correct amount of ink before transfer.  It is important to remember that the bevel tip should point away from the roll or towards the chamber to prevent streaking.

Angle

The angle at which the blade comes into contact with the anilox roll is also crucial to proper doctor blade installation and optimum blade performance.  Ideally, the contact angle should be 30° tangent to the anilox roll

A 30° angle is Essential for Proper Doctor Blade Installation

Doctor Blade Contact Angle Should Be 30° Tangent to the Anilox Roll

circumference.  In reverse angle and chamber blade applications, the doctor blade angle should be between 28° and 32°.  If the blade angle drops below 28°, a larger part of the blade’s edge will come into contact with the roll.  When this happens, the contact area is too big to meter effectively and the blade may allow ink to pass underneath or “hydroplane” at high speeds.  If the angle exceeds 32°, it will result in faster wear on the blade.

Pressure

When a doctor blade chamber is properly aligned, light pressure between the anilox roll and doctor blade is all that’s needed to produce a clean wiping action.  The recommended pressure is 25 to 30 lbs. or 1.7 to 2 bars.  Anything more than that will lead to a deterioration in print quality, wasted ink and substrate, and accelerated blade and anilox wear.

A good way to tell if you’re using the correct amount of doctor blade pressure is to look at the roll once it’s inked.  Before increasing pressure, the anilox roll will appear glossy.  This is a sign that too  much ink is remaining on the surface.  Pressure should be increased gradually until a satin finish appears on the surface of the roll.  A satin finish is a good indication that the correct amount of pressure has been achieved and the doctor blade is effectively shearing the excess ink from the roll.  If pressure is increased beyond this point, the doctor blade edge will bend and hydroplane.  The roll will again begin to look glossy because it is flooded with too much ink.

The doctor blade plays a key role in the performance of the anilox roll and the printer’s control over print quality.  Take the time to double-check blade positioning, orientation, pressure and angle during doctor blade installation to guarantee that the anilox roll delivers the precise volume of ink for which it was designed.