When the subject of pigments come up, the talk usually centers on price. Yet in speaking with ink industry executives, particularly leaders at smaller niche companies, properties and consistent quality are also of great importance.
For Patrick Carlisle, president of Joules Angstrom U.V. Printing Inks, the most important aspect in purchasing pigments are the properties of the pigments, followed by quality and consistency.
“First and foremost, we have to achieve the properties that we want,” said Mr. Carlisle. “Pigments play a crucial role in imparting the key properties to inks, and the properties that the pigments exhibit have to be what we need. Second, we want consistent, quality products. You can see the extra time it takes if the pigments are off spec, and when you add all the extra time that is wasted when you could be producing other products, it becomes a double whammy. After those considerations are met, then price and relationships play a role in our decisions.”
“The primary concern in the selection of a pigment is performance,” said Jack Benson, Flint Ink’s vice president, corporate procurement. “The pigment must be suitable for the end use application and also process effectively in manufacturing. As product end uses and manufacturing processes vary, it is not likely that a single pigment can fit all needs, even though the types of inks being produced may utilize pigments with the same color index number. Pricing, however, is a key consideration as pigments represent the largest single cost component of ink. Once the performance hurdle has been reached, the focus shifts to the cost of the pigment and the selection and qualification of alternate sources. Here, issues such as on-time delivery, consistency, capacity and supplier relationships are considered in making a value decision.”
“We’re looking for easy dispersability and color strength,” said Brian Templeman, president of Kolorcure. “We also require lightfastness. After that, price always follows.”
“Price is certainly important, as are the properties the pigments provide,” said Gene Mitchell, president of Spectrum Inks & Coatings. “Our usage is strictly for gravure solvent, and we are looking for pigments that are easily dispersed, which helps impart gloss and transparency.”
Of course, R&D time is precious, and no company is going to work on testing pigments that are out of line with present realities.
“If the price is not in an acceptable range, then valuable technical resources will not be used for qualifying the pigment,” said Rick Westrom, INX International Ink Company’s vice president, strategic sourcing. “Anyone can produce an expensive product, but in today’s market the key is to produce a high quality inexpensive product.”
Mr. Westrom said that quality, performance, availability and relationships are all examined when purchasing pigments.
“Every pigment must show equal or improved quality to be qualified for use,” Mr. Westrom said. “Strength, gloss, transparency, rheology and color shade are some of the important attributes that are evaluated. Each pigment selection must demonstrate equal or improved performance to the standard such as faster processing times, ease of handling, improved packaging etc., and no matter the product, the supplier must have ample supply that can be delivered when required.”
Mr. Westrom said that supplier relationships are factored into purchasing pigment.
“Supplier relationships are important, as having sound partnerships allow for collaboration on meeting market requirements,” he said.
Knowing the true price of the pigment after factoring in the cost of running it is essential to the bottom line.
Joules Angstrom U.V.
“In today’s pigment market, price is certainly an integral component in the buying decision, especially with some of the low-cost offshore opportunities available,” said Corey Soeldner, purchasing director, Sun Chemical North American Inks. “However, there are some negative caveats associated with price being your key buying factor with non-traditional suppliers. It is imperative that a supplier can provide us with innovative solutions that will generate a sustainable competitive advantage over our competition. Additionally, developing value-added, proprietary technology through a collaborative effort is key to cultivating a long-term mutually beneficial relationship. Suppliers also need to help us optimize our TCO (total cost of ownership) objective beyond the realm of pure price.”
“The most important aspects for a pigment manufacturer are quality and consistency,” said Barney Lenhart, president of JKM Ink. “I also look for price in terms of value. You can pay less for pigments, but what is it going to do to your runnability? Will it decrease mileage or wettability? What does it do in terms of the integrity of your finished product? The truth is you get what you pay for. I also value relationships. If the supplier has been loyal to me, I’ll be loyal to them.”