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  • Pricing to do train carriages- thinking its too big for me

    Posted by Martyn Heath on November 19, 2022 at 7:47 am

    Hi folks, so i will start off by saying that i don’t expect any life changing answers here, the ball is in my court but i feel writing some of this down with like minded people, perhaps some of which have been in a similar situation will help me make a decision.

    So….. as most of you are probably aware i am a small outfit working on my own with the wife as a second pair of hands on bigger projects. I seem to have got a solid customer base over the past years and am very happy with my workload, turnover etc etc.

    I have been asked to quote for a local project which most of you guys would jump up and down about however i am thinking of all the “what ifs” and not really sure what to do.

    The project involves putting graphics onto train carriages. 25m long. solid band along the bottom, approx 1m high plus other logos and general info. The colour is printed, and laminated in anti graffiti. The schedule is one in Jan then two every month for a total of 17 carriages.

    So this is where my head is at –

    – Im worried that the schedule and workload will affect my other work, stop me from honoring other contracts i have .

    – Im 99% sure that my trusty OLD printer will have a blip or die during this time leaving me in the ####

    as we are talking 850m of print.

    So i have gone from being excited about the opportunity, to worrying if i can handle such a job.

    Heres my thoughts,

    – Price the job and dont worry, everything will work out in the end

    – Dont price the job and accept its simply too big and not worth the headache

    – Buy a new printer if i get the job to limit the risk of problems

    -Buy the print in from a larger firm and simply do the fitting (hoping they are reliable)

    Thanks and any thoughts, input or experience is always welcome.

    Martyn Heath replied 1 year, 4 months ago 8 Members · 13 Replies
  • 13 Replies
  • Chris Wilson

    November 19, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    Hey Martyn,

    How many more years do you plan on being the game? If it’s several, this is a good opportunity to get rid of the old trusty printer and sounds like a nice big chunk of cash coming in to offset the cost of a new one.

    In the same way you could let customers down you could also have no customers at that point in time. I find most are accepting by being honest. If there’s a deadline that can’t be met then some sort of compromise can always be reached.

    If it’s easy but big work then adapt and go for it.

  • RobertLambie

    November 20, 2022 at 7:34 am

    Hi Martyn

    It’s a great order to get mate and it’s more than doable for you.
    The issue at the moment is “in your head”. Understandably, you are focusing on your limits.
    Your machines, your ability, your staff, your customers etc.

    The train company subbing this job to you should really provide you with the required vinyl spec sheets on the materials that should be used on their trains. This will be the brand of material and the actual spec/series of the vinyl.
    If they do not specify the material, they might be expecting you to do that.
    For instance, Hexis do a train-certified vinyl and anti-graffiti laminate.

    I have no doubt the train customer will have all the artwork, colours and specs for you. So that aside.

    You now have 25m x 1m deep per side with some logos and probably small stickers and graphics here and there. On both sides, you now have 50 metres of print, the laminate of panels and some logos which might be possible to run in the print runs above the panels. i.e. 1600mm wide roll.
    So you need to get some quotes based on 50m x 1600mm of print, laminate and some contour cutting.
    Keep in mind, if the train company ask for a specific vinyl and laminate to be used, the trade supplier MUST base their quote on providing the prints based on that spec.

    Once you establish what this will cost you, you can then ask for a price based on 100 Metres of the same, per month for the next 16 months.

    Once you decide on the supplier for your printed graphics. you must get some samples sent to you with the exact spec of the materials used, colours etc. There is zero point in assuming anything, so get the samples and confirmation of spec a.s.a.p.

    Personally, I would look at finding two freelance installers, or one with an apprentice.
    It might be worth asking your vinyl suppliers, or even the trade printers your getting quotes from, “if they know of any good installers”. Once you obtain a list of installers, contact them and get a “daily rate” from them, but make sure you establish:
    * Start time – break times – finish times. etc?
    * Do they hold any proper vinyl accrediations as an installer?
    * That they are expected to pay for the replacement of damaged graphics and panels.
    * that they will commit to set day/days each month to complete the job.
    etc. etc. etc. I am sure you get the idea…

    The first installation is always the longest. It is the time all time-consuming parts will be discovered and any issues will arise. From this one, forward, they should get quicker and quicker.
    You should be present throughout the full initial installation. watching the installers and making sure it is installed and finished as you expect it to be.
    Take notes and photos throughout so that you are creating a checklist of things for the next train done.
    Work with the guys in overcoming the installation issues rather than dictating how it should be done.
    both you and them work as a team, even though you personally are not on the tools. you must check over each train along with the lads, once each is completed.
    Make sure the lads wear “your” company sweatshirts and “your” branded high viz vests on-site.

    Project Manage:
    What you are obviously doing here is overseeing the entire project, from:
    * working with the customer
    * Sourcing and working with the graphics manufacturers
    * Sourcing and overseeing the installation process
    * Checking the installation and correcting any snags from the list and so on.

    So your role here is being a Project Manager, which is a job in itself.
    But what it is doing is completely freeing up your current resources. It is taking the manufacturing completely off your shoulders. It is taking the installation completely away from you and letting you focus on making sure the job is delivered the way you think and want it to be.

    Expectations of the customer:
    Don’t forget it is one thing to deliver on your customer’s expectations. but their requests and demands cannot be one-sided. Trains are huge and the locations they have to be worked on are often filthy, cold and more. They cannot spec a requirement of perfection and life expectancy of the job, without them also conforming to requirements, “within reason, at least”.
    there is no point turning up with two freelance fitters charging x-amount per day. only for them to spend 4 hours trying to clean a train, before getting started.
    These types of things need to be established in writing before starting.
    * Will the train be cleaned properly and ready to fit?
    * do you clean the trains prior to fitting?
    This is easy fixed, if the customer expects you to do it, then simply get a couple of random guys in to clean the train at a lower rate than installers. they arrive the day before and do all the donkey work. the installers arrive the next day to install and just give it a general wipe down with isopropanol.

    Every person you bring in on the job, should have a percentage of their hourly rate added for yourself.
    i.e. if they charge you £20 per hour, they cost your customer £30per hour.
    The same with your print, and materials. everything must have a markup on it for you!
    You then must have money added for your overseeing and doing the whole thing.

    You might be thinking, this customer bill is going up and up and you are making a slice of profit here there and everywhere. well, that’s just how it works mate. because rest assured if something goes wrong or something isn’t just as the customer wants it. they will point the finger at you to get it fixed and expect you to pay for it. so cover your back at every turn.

    Do not be daunted by the whole thing. it might be overwhelming to think about, but it really isn’t. break it down and attack each aspect one part at a time. it will be a learning curve, but see it as an opportunity, not as a hurdle.

    hope this gives you some food for thought mate.

  • Myriam Garrido

    November 20, 2022 at 6:24 pm

    Many moons ago we had to quote for wrapping I think it was 4 rail carriages. We only had a VP540 at the time (!) Got the spec and designs of what the company wanted etc. Due to the size we got another professional wrapping company to give us a trade quote with us going to add on our bit. Total I think in the end was £24000 (I think we were going to make almost £4k for subbing it out). Submitted our quote which I believe was the best price however the train company put a stop to us doing it as we weren’t approved by them and they went with a company who specialises in that type of thing and who were already approved. Annoying but that’s how it goes so be mindful that although the company might want you to do it the train owner posibly not.

  • Pane Talev

    November 20, 2022 at 7:05 pm

    Something I experienced recently.

    When you get awarded a big project, it will take a longer time to complete this project.

    One / two man bands will be 100% committed on this mega project while other regular jobs / client will wait to get served. Some of them will get upset.

    It’s swings and roundabouts.

    If you are consistent with cost / pricing and busy on a regular basis , there is more profit in smaller project. My opinion.

  • Martyn Heath

    November 21, 2022 at 5:47 am

    Thanks for your replies, some great points which has helped my brain process this job.

    It seems like my “he who dares wins rodney” moment.

  • David Hammond

    November 21, 2022 at 6:48 am

    First thing that springs to my mind is, do you have the required paperwork to go trackside if necessary to install the graphics? From what I understand there is a requirement similar to CSCS card to work track side in the UK?

    Other than that, work your quote out, and get a price in.

    I don’t know your existing customer base, but if like us, I’d imagine this project would elevate your business to another level – You don’t just sign vans, you wrap trains! How many regular jobs would you need to do in order to earn what this job does? Are the regular jobs a pain in the ass?

    One very important question to ask is, why they are asking you? Whatever their reason, if you can meet their requirements have a go. Ie, if they’re looking for a quicker lead time.

  • Jamie Wood

    November 21, 2022 at 9:23 am

    We’ve been involved in train work before, and I’ll echo what Rob says. There will be specified material from the TOC’s, which you MUST use. Usually, materials go through an acceptance procedure, which then makes it a requirement to use the specified material. I would advise at least 2 fitters, (possibly more). It can get very tricky if anything isn’t up to spec, and cost a LOT of money to fix. Make sure you have lots of insurance. Not trying to put you off, but you need to be aware of the risks. It is not the same thing as wrapping vehicles.

  • Jamie Wood

    November 21, 2022 at 9:51 am

    Just to add, that companies undertaking this type of work, usually need some kind of accreditation.

    We had visits from 3M and Avery. I can put you in touch with a UK company, who may be able to help, should you need it.

  • Martyn Heath

    November 21, 2022 at 12:26 pm

    Hi, yes im aware there will be paperwork involved to make sure requirements are met. Materials have not been specified but they have forwarded on the materials used by previous firm which is 3M wrap, 3M Lam and 3M edge sealer.

    The reason i’m being asked is simply because i am the most local firm.

    • David Hammond

      November 21, 2022 at 1:30 pm

      If you’re the most local company why are they coming to you? Why aren’t they using their previous supplier?

      I may sound like I am being pedantic, but this may be the key to getting the job, or not, beside price.

      If their existing supplier is slow or unreliable, and you can solve that, winner. Same if it’s a quality issue.

      If however they’ve got unrealistic expectations, and you can’t achieve it, you can save your time and effort and decline to go any further.

      • Martyn Heath

        November 22, 2022 at 4:38 am

        The contract has previously been done at different location within the country. I have no doubts the previous sign company are putting a price in for this also but with travelling etc im guessing the train operator expect they can save some money using local.

  • David Wilde

    November 22, 2022 at 12:24 am

    Hi Martyn,

    We supply graphics and labels to 2 major train companies in the UK. Spec for these is absolutely specified and yes, it’s all 3m vinyl and laminates. 3M paid for the accreditation on these vinyls and therefore dictate the price. An example I can give is the photo luminescent vinyls we supply. Metamark and APS have a photo luminescent vinyl at £40pm. The accredited 3M version is £150pm. They will only take the 3M version despite the obvious cost implications. The reason I raise this is, they are fully aware of the vinyl/material costs, what they are buying is the print/installation process. If this is where you can meet their expectations, you should absolutely take this opportunity, if you intend on outsourcing then the margin probably won’t work for you.

    Also, we reluctantly work on 90 days payment with the companies we deal with, they are prompt on that and rarely question our quotes/costs but a larger project might be an issue if you have an initial outlay.

    We quoted for wrapping some trains recently, they took the print from us (small margin for us) and took on full time wrappers for the installation rather than pay what we wanted as it was more cost effective for them.

    I suppose my point is that unless you feel you are strong in this area I would tread carefully.

    Hope this helps.

    • Martyn Heath

      November 22, 2022 at 4:40 am

      Thanks david 👍

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