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Standard vs. Custom: Which is Appropriate?

When it comes to choosing a product created specifically for an application over a ready-made one, sometimes the choice is obvious, like when no supplier in the indus- try has a product that will fit the performance requirements of the application. Other times, however, the right choice might not be so obvious, such as when an opportu- nity is small or the real beneficiary will be your production process as opposed to an end user who would be absorbing any added cost.

To try and help with the decision, we reached out to our sales force and have put together some things to consider when you are on the fence about going standard or custom.

Question Maze

Turn to your rep.

Step 1 – Call your Sales or Technical Service Representative. S/he knows what questions to ask to point you in the right direction and can get the ball rolling. Your representative will be able to make recommendations, coordinate testing, request samples and initiate the production of trial runs. On more involved custom projects, s/he can pull together the technical resources needed for the successful development of your custom solution. This team of specialists can even be available for onsite visits while you qualify the product in your facility.

Custom products and the bottom line.

Our experience is that custom products almost always add more profit to the bottom line. It depends on what a custom product might achieve for you. If it improves your throughput in some way, such efficiency may offset a higher per MSI price, so it’s important to look at the big picture. If using a different release liner results in better die-cutting that in turn allows you to run at a higher speed without the matrix breaking, for example, then that increased productivity might mean you can finish more jobs in a day which, in turn, might reduce your total cost. Sure, you’ll have to take the time to trial it, but the decreased downtime could really pay off in the long run.

Custom products differentiate you.

Custom can push out the competition. Offering a custom construction dramatically narrows the pool of competition that will be going after your business. In comparison, standard products tend to be widely available for sale to the general public, so when you bid on a piece of business with one, the margins narrow and you only win the business based on pennies. In contrast, offering a custom product differentiates you from the competition and allows you to bid based on performance rather than simple economics.

Custom products solve the customer's problem.

Custom is about bringing added value to your customers. Value that they gain by problems being solved. Stressing the value can help get the sales conversation away from price. A unique problem solved with a unique construction should equal a unique price. FLEXcon can help develop your estimators’ skills through training and by being allowed to participate in the opportunity investigation. Then you can just enjoy being the hero for solving a problem for your customer!

Custom products reduce risk of failure.

Use of a standard product does not automatically equal less risk. Even though a standard product may have been proven over time, if it doesn’t fit the application, failure is a possibility. It’s important to evaluate the possible cost of product failure. Shampoo labels lifting, while undesirable, carries less risk than an adhesion failure between parts in an airplane that could result in human casualties. Whether a failure could expose you to loss of a piece of business or extreme legal liability, either one could hurt profitability. Furthermore, given the sheer number of new substrates hitting the market each year, choosing a custom solution can even reduce the risk of failure given the fact that the adhesive system has been engineered and tested specifically for the application.

Combining components for a viable solution.

Going custom doesn’t always mean starting from scratch. When timing is a concern, there is a vast array of product components in the industry that can be made available to you. Each has already undergone extensive testing, such as adhesion to a variety of surfaces, exposures to heat, moisture, chemicals, UV, etc. and compatibility with any number of print technologies. The specific components you need can easily be combined to create a viable solution, and it would likely require only limited testing to qualify it for your specific application. Quoting for such a product can be accomplished in as little as 24 hours, and a custom order can be processed in as little as eight days. That’s not something you can get just anywhere. Furthermore, product samples (a/k/a lab drawdowns) in such cases can be completed and shipped generally the same day as the request is submitted, just like standard product samples.

FLEXcon's Customer Special Stock Program.

Lead times and order minimums. If the volume warrants it, FLEXcon has a customer special stock program where we produce your custom product in an agreed-upon volume and store it at our facility. This enables us to ship the product out to you quickly, as needed. Your Sales Representative can help design a special stock agreement that ensures a consistent flow of material to meet your manufacturing needs. A commitment to purchase is required.

Order minimums that work for you.

If a special stock program isn’t a viable option, it’s still possible to make order minimums work for you rather than against you. One way is to produce a shorter wide web roll, slit it and then combine short rolls into longer narrow web rolls. Yes, there will be splices; however, when they are made correctly, and the press is run a bit slower than full speed, this can be more efficient than stopping it to add material or taking time to combine rolls yourself, which can take press time and may or may not provide even tension. FLEXcon’s ability to combine rolls for you is a great way to get trials and smaller orders started and to grow new business with both custom and Quick-Ship orders.

The differentiating factor.

Of course, not every opportunity warrants a custom construction. The decision can be complex and must be made on a per application basis. Naturally, the size of the opportunity is a factor, but it’s not the only or most important one. When you add value by solving a problem for a customer, that’s when you differentiate yourself from the competition. The differentiating factor could be anything from speed, to price, to service, to performance. Whatever the need is that you’re trying to fill, a custom product could be the diamond in the rough that makes you shine and positively impacts profits. And after all, isn’t that the ultimate goal?

Want to start a conversation?

Contact Jim Joyce for more information or to uncover what's possible for your company.