A Continuous Evolution

The sign industry is used to Spandex making a bit of noise, after all they can lay claim to being the company that introduced computerised sign making to the UK with the distribution of Gerber products decades ago, and they have remained one of the best-known names in the industry to this day. But they have been a bit quiet just lately. Phil Mcmullin, Aftermarket Business Manager, used to deal with the hardware section but his new position with consumables has made him responsible for the majority of the UK’s turnover. He explained “The UK is the flagship of the Spandex Company worldwide. We work towards maximising JIT delivery, delivering the products our customers want, when they want them and at a price they are prepared to pay. Our new ‘Back Office’ system means that a call to Bristol will give our customers instant access to 11 warehouses across Europe that should realistically promise delivery of any product within 48 hours from the time of the order. At any one time 99% of the material that we list is held in stock within one of our warehouses”

We have 10 computerised delivery shuttles that have been put in place to speed up the turnaround time from order received to dispatch. Each shuttle not only has an independent computer system but there is also duplication of product across each shuttle store. This type of built-in redundancy will act as a fail safe system should any one of the shuttles break down when dispatch is busy. Products would always be accessible no matter how frantic things got. The way our system operates the customer has a 30 day window in which to pay for his delivery from the end of the month that the product arrives, therefore if they order their stock. at the beginning of the month it could be nearly 60 days before the payment is due. Our customers know this and they really take advantage of it, so the first few days of any month will see despatch working flat-out at about 6 o’clock in the evening.

Leon Watson who is the Hardware Director of Western Europe. Explains he was marshalling his team to provide hardware demonstrations, while another team was showing eager visitors the gentle art of vehicle wrapping using Avery 1005 easy-apply vinyls, which are reposition able and can be digitally printed, or Avery Supacast 900 vinyls that comes in set colours. There were a couple of new products on show in the demo room. One was the Solara UV 2, direct to substrate printer. It offers 6 colour printing, CMYK, violet and green, and it can turn out 7 squared metres of printing per hour on any kind of substrate including Foamex and glass & It is affordable at under £40K fully installed.

A new product is the Jetster Solvent65, a wide format inkjet machine that can print to a width of either 90 inches or 100 inches using mild solvent inks, all at a price of under £18K installed. Both of these machines produce outdoor durable signage that can survive three years without lamination.

The demonstration rooms are a permanent feature in which potential customers can try the hardware before they buy plus they can benefit from a computerised finance model that can demonstrate to them the costs and profits ratio based on the hardware system they are considering buying. In fact the Spandex team may even advise a different machine due to these findings.

Spandex is no longer a federation of independent businesses working worldwide under one umbrella. Now it is a global entity, and the core of that globalisation comes from that ‘Back Office’ system called ERPSAP. (ERP stands for ‘Enterprise Resource Planning’ and SAP is the 4th largest software company in the world, so now you know). It is a global logistical system that has made real customer support, even at the high level that Spandex chooses to practise it, a practical and viable thing. The relative PR quietness of the company just recently has been due to their waiting until ERPSAP was fully operational because they wanted to be sure that they really could offer an even better service to the customer before they started talking about it.

Phil McMullin and Rob Jackson were at pains to point out that globalisation and a dynamic business approach will change nothing of the way that the customer is treated other than improving it. Rob was one of the original Spandex team, he has been with the company for 22 years and he can see the real benefits. We will do that by providing the proper balance of sales, reliability and distribution plus customer care.

Sign technology has become more complex over the years so it requires more time intense end-user training. In order to ensure that happens we have 200 field engineers Europe-wide offering local solutions to customer needs.”
Phil completed the package with a simple analogy; “Imagine that Spandex and all its global awareness and investment, all its people and technology, everything that we are, is just a huge funnel. And at the narrowest point of that funnel is a sign maker that wants the best value product delivered to him as quickly as possible. He doesn’t care what is involved in that delivery, he just wants to order it from someone he knows, someone who knows what he or she is talking about and he needs to know that it will be there on time. That is what all this is about, that sign maker with that product in his hands when he needs it and no later.” A fine policy we say.

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