You get what you pay for…

The old saying you get what you pay for applies to the label business as well. “Rock bottom priced” converters often have thinner margins and can’t provide exceptional customer service to those clients who need this kind of service. The big problem occurs when the companies who need exceptional service don’t understand what they are buying when they pick suppliers by price alone. Often, these companies think that they can demand a high level of service and still get the low price. This doesn’t happen. A thin margin makes it tough to hire enough staff to give customers enough attention. As a specialty label converter (who doesn’t sell by price alone), we require a lot of steps and checks to make a high-quality product. It takes a lot of people to make things work well… well trained customer reps, engineers, quality inspectors, top-notch pressman and etc to be successful. Our projects are often complex so our customers need us to spend time with them to make sure that their jobs are done right.

Another problem you often see with low priced converters is missed delivery dates. Low priced converters have longer lead times because they overbook their schedules. They have to because they need the volume to make thin margins work. They aren’t as concerned about inconveniencing the customer because a low price is so seductive. I believe that they sincerely want to make the delivery dates that are requested, but often reality (and the volume strategy) gets in the way because your job is competing with so many others. Low priced converters will give you the date requested, but often end up asking for a few extra days when the ship date nears. These types of operations turn their customer reps and salespeople into master apologizers because they are always trying to smooth over missed deadlines.

The real shame of picking the commodity label manufacturer is that when the customer finally realizes what they really got with the low price, it’s too late to go back. The price is now a rock-solid fixture in the MRP system. Nobody is going to go to their boss and say that they now have to switch to the “higher priced” guy (which is really a reasonable price with great service) because they cannot live with the lack of service from the current supplier. This means the buyer and the company are stuck and have to suffer until the pain is too great from mistakes to continue with the current supplier. A lot of money can be lost between the supplier selection time and the time the company realizes that they have picked the wrong supplier to meet the need. Only when the company accepts the fact that they made a mistake can the company be freed from the commodity trap.

JH Bertrand offers true value (and a great ROI) by providing a fair “middle of the competitive road” price with bulletproof reliability, on-time delivery using standard freight methods, solid quality, and enough personnel to give your job the attention it needs.

Label compliance is the key advantage of using a booklet label

The most common advantage that we see for a booklet label is its ability to expand real estate for compliance copy. This is information that a governmental authority requires you to provide the end user so that your product can be legally sold. If it’s not part of your product presentation or minimized, then you put your company in jeopardy of many nasty repercussions which may include fines, recalls or being shut down. No matter how big your company is, the government has endless amounts of money to throw at the problem. You do not. The best way to be in compliance is to put all the required information on your product’s label.

Many of our top customers choose to be conservative and offer more information rather than less. This is a smart strategy and great insurance. They understand that prevention is the best way to avoid a lot of needless regulatory costs which may occur with a non-compliant label.

Jeff Bertrand

And the prosecutor asks… “And where was the information located…”

Hopefully your answer was “inside the booklet label affixed to the product.” Of course, if a prosecutor is asking that question it was probably located somewhere else.

Product manufacturers must keep in mind that product safety is about providing key information with easy access 24/7. It’s exciting to see how technology can offer so many more options, but it may be a major mistake if moving the information to the internet opens up the company to product liability arguments. Booklet Labels offer your company a secure way to provide information that is always there, and won’t fail for a lack of a charge. With the information on the product, you have a good argument that your company did what it could to make the product safer to use.

Imagine the worst case scenario- Your company chose to have the information accessible only by Smart Phone. Your end user is using
your product and reaches for his/her phone for more information and
the phone is dead. Who knows how that scenario ends….

Advantages of a Booklet Label in the era of fast changing technology

The Smart Phone is in its heyday. There is virtually nothing it isn’t able to do particularly as IOT or the Internet Of Things becomes a reality that allows everything to communicate. Every day, new applications are being found. Conversely, printed booklet labels are under pressure for being a “limited” technology.  But, when you look deeper, there are some INCREDIBLE advantages to booklet labels that will last for years to come. I have listed those advantages below.

  • Instructions/information are affixed DIRECTLY to the product rather than being accessed from a device that may require multiple steps to get to the information.
  • The end user doesn’t have to be tech savvy to use it. Those who haven’t grown up with technology may resist it. 
  • In our litigious society, booklet labels may be the best legal defense against product liability because the information is on the product. You can just hear the prosecution…”And where was the information located..”
  • You get a HARD COPY with the product.
  • You don’t need an expensive, complicated network to use them.
  • They offer ways to build a deeper, layered defense against counterfeiting.
  • They offer a way to open up your graphics and put the “scary” information inside the booklet label. 
  • They don’t use batteries.
  • They don’t break. 
  • They won’t have a catastrophic malfunction. 
  • They can’t be hacked. 
  • They offer a simpler presentation. Complexity can create unanticipated problems and costs.
    Booklet Labels are certainly still a relevant, powerful way to present information with many advantages. With that said, our view is that both technologies are necessary, and complementary not mutually exclusive. Combining technologies can make a product package far superior than what may be currently presented. Keep that in mind when you are designing your next product package. Call us for ideas.

Happy New Year

 

 

I wanted to thank our customers, employees and suppliers for another great year at JH Bertrand. Thank you very much! We couldn’t have done it without you!! We wish you and your family a safe and happy 2017.

Pictured above are my 3 kids (L-R) Jack (18) , Ashley (14) and Julia (14) who are growing up way too fast.  I am sure if you have kids, you feel the same way about your kids. It seems like just yesterday my kids were in diapers sitting in high chairs eating cut up bits of fruit and veggies. Where did the time go??? Now it’s more like “Dad, can you spare some extra cash…” LOL! I couldn’t imagine my life without them.

Thanks again for a great 2016. Look forward to working with you in 2017.

Best Holiday Wishes,

Jeff Bertrand

 

 

How to get better quotes…

It’s a little “secret” in the label industry that when we don’t know key information, we have to be conservative with our assumptions. This means we have to add more cost to the quote than might be necessary in order to avoid losing money.  To get better, more accurate quotes (which can often mean better pricing) , here’s a list of what we need so we can avoid inflating a quote to cover our costs.

    1. Overall booklet label size?
    2. How many pages?
    3. How many colors in the booklet? On the base label?
    4. How many versions? What changes on the version?
    5. What is it being applied to?  Bottle, Box etc
    6. What is the application temperature?
    7. What is the storage temperature?
    8. Quantities?
    9. If it is auto or hand applied?
    10. What is the label unwind number?
    11. What is the max roll size?
    12. Is there something extra needed like variable code printing or bar codes?

We understand that not all the information is always available during the quote so don’t worry about not having all the information. We just wanted to make the point that more information will make quotes more accurate which translates into a smoother process for everybody involved. Happy New Year to you and your family.

Regards,
Jeff Bertrand

 

The dangers of single source supply

The trend we see everyday in the labeling and packaging business is the desire to pair down the supplier base- sometimes to a single source of supply. The main argument is that is saves money by giving the buyer a bigger spend (more leverage) with fewer suppliers. It is also believed to make the supply chain easier to manage. Fewer moving parts as the theory goes.

But (and it is a big but), there is a significant downside. With fewer suppliers, there is risk that a “problem” could end up being a catastrophe for the buyer. One of the best examples of this is Lululemon and their single source of the Luon fabric. The company had a quality problem with their fabric from their single source supplier that forced them to do a major recall of their very popular yoga pants.  You may recall that the pants were too thin making it embarrassing for many who were practicing yoga with the Lululemon pants on. The company was forced to do a major recall, but had no other supplier to turn to while the supplier with the problem tried to solve the problem. In the end, they lost their long time CEO Christine Day who had grown the business 5x since she started. They lost 2 billion dollars of market cap on the day Ms. Day resigned.  The end result was a lost CEO, 2 billion dollars of market cap reduction and a blistering in social media that destroyed the image the company spent years earning. All this came from a very lean supply chain!

We’ve seen the same thing in the label business. A number of booklet label buyers in chemical and pharma have  elected to go to single source. The result isn’t quite as dramatic as Lululemon, but we have heard that those companies are getting inconsistent service which means missed deliveries and slower response times. If their single source plant is too busy…well….they just have to wait until there is press time.  That’s no good in today’s fast paced distribution networks. It could also mean something much larger if something happens to the plant like a sale, a fire, a natural disaster, bankruptcy, management change etc.

Smart companies realize that single source is a disaster waiting to happen. In fact, there is a counter trend now toward risk mitigation which is questioning the practice of trying to skinny down the source of supply to a point where a “hiccup” could cripple the company. Buyers should think twice about  making their supply chain too lean or they risk severely damaging their companies.

If you want to know more about the Lululemon story, there is an excellent write up written by the Stanford Closer Look Series. It’s called Lululemon: A sheer Debacle in Risk Management.

A Special Father’s Day

Flying in a R44 Helicopter with my son Jack and friend (pilot) Jake.
Flying in a R44 Helicopter with my son Jack and friend (pilot) Jake.
Jack pushing the helo back to the hanger
Jack pushing the helo back to the hanger

lake-300x196Once in a while, you have a chance to live a special moment. On Father’s Day, I had the opportunity to fly with my son Jack in a helicopter piloted by a good friend of mine- Jake. What an experience!

When we got to the hanger, we had to check the helicopter carefully including adding some oil.  Once the check was over, my son pushed the bird out to our takeoff area.  It took a few cranks to start it up and then we were off.  A couple on bicycles stood at the end of the runway watching until we left. Everybody seems to love helicopters.

We flew 300 feet  off the ground our entire flight seeing amazing sites from a different perspective- green ow pastures, beautiful homes, lakes, small towns and waving people. Our hour long flight started in Hamburg, NY and stretched out to Rushford Lake (seen above). Often, we used the GPS on my Droid phone as our navigation instrumentation which is crazy when you think about how commercial jets are flown.  A few times, we followed roads to find our way.

Jake gave my son and me a special Father’s Day gift. The excitement stayed with us for days after. I am so thankful to have those special moments with my kids.

Jeff Bertrand

Put it all on the web, they say….

Not a day goes by where you don’t hear a story of somebody proclaiming the virtues of putting the information on the web rather than in printed form. A paperless world with nothing but electronic communications is the ultimate goal. It’s cheaper; it’s environmentally friendly; and it just makes sense… the argument goes. Whoooaa. It sounds good on paper (no pun intended), but it really isn’t that practical or safe for that matter. In fact, it has some significant downsides which could lead to legal issues and customer injury.

Lets look at some advantages:

  • Printed labeling is always there. You don’t need to turn it on. It doesn’t run out of power. You don’t need a device to use it. It isn’t based on shaky networks (can you hear me now).
  • Printed labeling is available to everybody who can read. There are those who don’t use electronics. Those who only have simple electronics like flip phones. Those without computers. Why would any company want to cut off a major chuck of its customers?
  • Printed labeling is convenient. Open it up and read. You don’t have to turn it on…find scanner….scan it….And, then read the webpage. What a pain. Tick tock! Peeling opening a booklet label to read the instructions is simple and easy.
  • Printed labeling makes good legal sense. In this litigious world, you need all the protection you can get. A major argument against a product misuse lawsuit is that the instructions were physically attached to the product. Can you say that about a website in cyberspace? Maybe someday, but not now.
  • Printed labeling is safer. It’s reliable, convenient, and readily available. All you have to do is peel it open. It says “this is dangerous or read this before taking etc”. No QR code does that.

You might want to give a second thought to the person who suggests eliminating package labeling in favor of putting it on the web. It might seem like a good idea, but the ramifications are enormous.

It’s about you, not us!

The label converting business is a tough, competitive industry. There are a number of good manufacturers out there. And, fortunately for all us in the industry, we are in a good spot because we provide labeling for packaging which still has years of growth ahead. (And, it’s good to be in a niche of course!)

Yet, we all (the industry in general) still suffer from the “why we’re great” syndrome. We spend too much time talking about what we can do rather than being proactive and finding ways to solve problems for our customers that they may not realize that they are facing. I think the prevailing opinion is that if we somehow show all our capabilities..show how nice and likable that we are… that somehow we’ll get our fair share of business. Certainly, some of that works. But, the future value as a potential supplier lies in the ability to solve problems that customers don’t know that they have. This means spending time researching the business and then presenting ideas that may not be good news. Who likes to know about potential threats that aren’t on the radar screen yet? Ouch! We all know how that feels, but that is business 3.0 now.

We’re spending more time at JH Bertrand doing this with good results. It’s not easy, but we feel like we are a more valuable supplier. It feels really good when you come up with something that makes a big difference to a customer. Jeff Bertrand