by John Kaverman
Selling pad printing equipment on a daily basis has perpetuated many unusual questions. It seems that people today, including those in the pad printing industry, never seem to have enough time to analyze their equipment purchases correctly, but seem to find time to repeat mistakes because they are not using the right equipment for the right job. Many initial requests for information on pad printing equipment go something like this: “We are looking for a 1- or 2-color pad printer. Please send all machine information and a price list.” That is about as much information that is usually asked, and it is about as useful as if a person walked into the Library of Congress and asked for “a book with a green cover.” In other words, there is a great deal more information that a pad printing salesperson or technician should receive from the potential customer before quoting or sending information. The following recommendations will help you save time and make a more intelligent buying decision.
First, be specific when requesting information. Vague requests like the example above will only result in receiving an avalanche of catalogs, brochures and rambling e-mails. Being specific about your application will save you all the time that you would otherwise spend sifting through information trying to ascertain which machines best meet your requirements. How specific should you be in your request? At least mention the following:
1. The dimensions of the image area you wish to print.
2. The approximate dimensions of the part you want to print on, and where the print needs to go.
3. The number of colors you wish to print.
4. The type of material the part is made of, being as specific as possible.
5. The production rates you need to achieve.
Of these five things, the first three are most important, followed by the fourth and fifth. Why?
1. The image area, part size and number of colors dictate the size of the machine you need and whether you need conveying accessories or not.
2. The type of material you have assists in determining whether you need pre-treating equipment, what types of ink are likely to adhere, what additives your ink may need, and what your drying and curing parameters are likely to be.
3. The required production rate tells me what specific part-conveying accessory you need, and whether you need automatic loading or unloading equipment. With this information I can give you some useful information.
Second, make your initial contacts with the pad printing equipment manufacturers you believe may have the equipment to help you. It is recommended to contact at least three or four to receive a well-rounded selection of equipment and prices. You could send a short e-mail with the five pieces of information recommended above, or you could call on the phone. E-mails may be more efficient for initial contacts than phone calls since you dont have to wait to get through to the right person. Most manufacturers websites specify who to contact for sales, or have a simple info or sales@ whomever.com that automatically routes your request to the right person. Another nice thing about e-mail is that if the salesperson responds in kind you can read the response at your leisure.
Your initial e-mails should not take more than a couple of minutes for you to write. To save even more time you could create a generic document that contains all of your contact information (company name, contact, address, phone, fax) and your application information and send it as an attachment instead of typing the same thing over and over again to each manufacturer. That document then becomes a single record of what you told everyone you contacted.
You can tell a lot about the manufacturer from their e-mailed reply. Did they respond with a properly formatted e-mail that was understandable, or did they send you something difficult to comprehend with little useful information? The swiftness of their response and professionalism of the response can help you begin indicating the person and/or company you may want to work with.
If you chose to make a phone call for your initial contact, have your application information ready to share with the salesperson and wait for them to ask you some clarifying questions in return. If they don’t ask you any questions it means one of three things:
1. You gave them all the information they need to assist you.
2. They don’t care about your needs enough to clarify them.
3. You’re talking to the wrong person.
If possible, it is recommended to be online and having the manufacturer or distributor’s respective website on the monitor in front of you when you call. If during the course of the conversation the salesperson refers to something in particular, you can see it immediately. If you have a website or page that features the product(s) you are discussing, mention it to the salesperson and see if he or she responds by going to your site for more information.
If you e-mailed your initial contact, you may get a phone call in response. Just as with e-mails, you can tell a lot about the manufacturer from a phone call. Remember those clarifying questions discussed earlier in this article. Did they ask any, and more importantly, did they listen to your response?
Use these initial contacts to screen manufacturers. If your first impression in less than pleasing, it can be a red flag for how they will handle your account in the future. Once you’ve narrowed down the field to no more than three companies it is time to get serious.
Down to the Nitty Gritty
If your application if fairly straight forward, you will probably be ready to receive some quotations at this point. If the salesperson has any concerns (generated by having asked you some clarifying questions), or if your application is a little more complicated, he or she may ask for some sample parts to test print or otherwise evaluate before offering to present a formal quotation. If this happens, take advantage of their willingness to prove what their machine and/or process can do. The fact that they care enough about your needs to prove it, should tell you something. Ask if you can obtain a video of the machine they are recommending to print your sample as well.
Once you have received a quote, samples, and videos, it comes down to comparing machine specifications and technical service, not price. In pad printing, you pay for what you get. You want the machine and the technical service that is going to make you money over the long run, not the package that will save you money in the short term. Price is certainly a factor, but should not be number one on the list.
If they don’t offer, ask the salesperson to come to your facility and speak to you personally if that makes you more comfortable, or go visit their facility to see the equipment first-hand and meet the people. Ask about training. Is it available? How much does it cost, and who will be conducting it?
The process of identifying the pad printing equipment and service that best meets your needs doesn’t have to be time consuming or scary. By sharing some specific information with a few sales professionals and then carefully evaluating their responses, you can feel confident in your buying decision.
John Kaverman is National Sales Manager for Innovative Marking Systems, Lowell, MA. For more information contact John at www.padprinters.com or call 978-459-6533.