- January 31, 2004, David J. Bentley Jr., RBS Technologies
The recently concluded TAPPI 2003 PLACE Conference and Global Hot Melt Symposium featured a popular session entitled “Converter's Spotlight.”
The representatives of converter companies on the panel used their moments in the spotlight to enlighten the audience on different aspects of their operations. They presented information on specific equipment and products in an attempt to educate the attendees about their converting processes.
In addition, all the converters used the opportunity to provide a comprehensive “wish list” of items they wanted from their suppliers. Surprisingly, the lists had many common items.
At the conclusion of the session, some audience members observed the contents of the wish lists were nothing more than common sense. While this indeed was the case, obviously the converter representatives felt that educating their suppliers in common sense was important, or they would not have had their wish lists contain such items. Reviewing some of these common-sense items from the converters can provide readers involved in the converting industry with items that make good business sense.
Considering the frequency of mentions and the rankings on the wish lists, product information is definitely a high priority for converters. All converters use a wide variety of materials in their operations. These include many different films, coatings, adhesives, inks, etc. Converters can use these successfully only if they have all the necessary information relating to their use.
Not only do they need the information, they need it to be available instantly. This leads to the primary item on most wish lists from converters — data sheets, technical service bulletins, and material safety data sheets available on the Internet. Converters want the luxury of going to their computers and, in a few simple keystrokes or movements of a mouse, finding everything they need to know about the products they currently are using or whose use they are contemplating.
The converters not only want this information rapidly but also want their suppliers to provide a reasonable disclosure of information in the material they provide.
Some converters also mentioned that any information they retrieve from the Internet must be up to date. This means suppliers should not place information on the Internet and then forget about it; the data should undergo refreshing as necessary.
Converters also want product selector guides that are available easily on the Internet. Such guides should provide a comparison of the products a supplier offers. In the case of a film, the product selector guide might show the various thicknesses available, the different types of slip additives the material can contain, additive packages that might be in certain grades, physical properties, etc. Converters want the opportunity to use such information to troubleshoot any problems they might be having with materials they are making or to consider alternate materials they can use to make new or improved products.
Using the Internet allows personnel working in a converting operation to have instant access to such data. Whether we like it or not, we now live in a world where instant gratification is necessary. In this case, this means accessibility to product data 24 hours per day and seven days per week.
Converters find this is extremely helpful and important when they are working on a problem or an idea. Delays in obtaining information are counterproductive and often result in a loss of momentum. Converters may opt to use a product from a competitive supplier simply because that supplier has the information they need available on the Internet.
Another item on the wish lists was help from suppliers in developing new products. One form this takes involves the information suppliers provide for their products on a Web site. Converters want to access a supplier's Web site to find as much as possible about that supplier's various offerings. By comparing the composition of adhesive solvent systems, bond values in typical constructions, and similar information, converters can make educated guesses when beginning development work.
In addition to the desire converters have for easily accessible information, they have some specific requests when they interact with a supplier on the telephone or face-to-face. Next month this column will address those items.
David J. Bentley Jr. is a recognized industry expert in polymers, laminations, and coatings with more than 30 years of experience in R&D and technical service. Contact him at email@example.com.