In Manufacturing, Customers Don’t Always Know What They Want

By MTM Products (I.S.P.P) Limited
schedule17th Apr 18

In Manufacturing, Customers Don’t Always Know What They Want

We recently worked with a new customer looking to source large decals for Off Highway equipment.

They wanted large decals, with blocks of colour and areas cut out to pick up on the painted surface underneath. In terms of colour, they had some specific RAL / Pantone references to work with.

They came to us for help as they’d had previous issues with decals falling off their equipment and consistency of colour. As we have a track record of success when it comes to colour consistency, and as we know how to make our labels and decals last longer, they certainly came to the right place.

Where Had Things Gone Wrong Before?

Our first job was to find out just why the customer’s previous decals had failed them. So we took the time to establish the type of surface and finish the labels were applied to. Was it paint or powder coat? Had this ever changed? And in what sort of temperatures were they applied?

We found they’d been applied to a painted finish, that this had not changed, and that they’d been applied in temperatures in excess of 15°C.

Then we asked them what type of vinyl they’d used. It turned out to be a budget vinyl that had been printed to an RAL colour code and applied to heavy duty machinery used off highway.

We Can Do Better Than That

Initially the customer insisted on a like-for-like vinyl and process, as the colour used in their livery was important to them. This would, of course, effectively guarantee that they’d eventually start to see the same problems again.

We explained that while surface printing onto a white budget vinyl would look great initially, it would only fade after two or more years’ exposure to direct sunlight - particularly when it comes to red, orange or yellow.

On top of this, the flexibility and adhesive strength of self-adhesive vinyl varies widely. It is important to select the correct vinyl depending on the service life of the equipment, the environment in which it is used, and the finish of the surface to which the decals are being applied.

The Perfect Vinyl for the Job

As we’d taken the time to understand the customer’s specific needs, we were able to recommend the perfect solution.

We recommended UV-stable coloured CAD vinyl with a 7-year life, with the pigment colour throughout the whole depth of the material. This would ensure that there would be no colour fading within the specified 7 year life of the material, and possibly for much longer. As we’d previously used this grade of material in a very similar application, we knew it would perform well.

The customer had reservations. If the colour of the CAD vinyl was not exactly the same as the ink colour reference they’d previously used, then surely it would be more expensive?

We reminded the customer that although the printed colour might start as a slightly better match to the RAL colour, it would fade in time. On the other hand, the colour of the CAD vinyl would remain consistent over the life of the equipment. If it were as close as possible to the specified RAL colour, and if it cost about the same overall, surely this would be the better option?

So our recommended yellow CAD vinyl decal is now on test for adhesion, performance at high and low temperatures AND colour match – all ready to change the old outdated spec.

Lessons Learned – Customers Don’t Always Know What They Want

There is print vinyl which is fine for short-term outdoor applications. There is pre-coloured CAD vinyl which is great for longer-term outdoor applications. Both have their place. But if you’re printing in yellow for long-term outdoor applications, then long-life CAD vinyl is by far the better solution.

So what can we learn from all this?

If you’re a manufacturer, it’s not always a good idea to blindly follow your customer’s instructions. Take the time to ask questions to establish their specific needs. Rather than offering them more of the same, explore their specifications, and offer sensible alternatives that will meet their needs for longer.