There are numerous factors that are involved when a potential customer decides from whom they will purchase goods or services. A decision may be price driven, or a product may be so unique that there is only a single source for it.
In almost all cases, a customer will also consider the reputation of the vendor. If that supplier has a record of consistent quality and service, a potential customer is more likely to place their business into its hands.
How does a company ensure that it is providing the quality its customers seek? The reality is that there are only a few benchmarks by which to compare. ISO (the Switzerland-based International Organization for Standardization) registrations are one such area, and measure manufacturing and environmental practices. To date, many ink companies and key suppliers have achieved ISO 9000 certification for quality management, and a few have ISO 14000 certification for environmental efforts.
However, another area that is of great interest, particularly to larger companies, is the number of total quality measurement tools that are becoming more commonplace. For example, Sun Chemical Corporation is beginning to implement the Six Sigma program developed by Motorola and popularized by General Electric (see “Embracing Six Sigma,” p. 24.)
Other major printing ink manufacturers are also emphasizing quality programs. Flint Ink Corporation and INX International Ink Co. are implementing Six Sigma. Wikoff Color Corporation is working on Lean Manufacturing practices. Other companies have developed Total Quality Management (TQM) systems.
These are challenging undertakings that are designed to work throughout the entire corporate structure. It goes well beyond improving efficiencies in the manufacturing and inventory segments, to areas as diverse as purchasing, accounting and even answering the phone.
These programs are designed to improve a company’s ability to compete as well as its standing with its customers. We all know how irritating it can be to return defective products, to be bounced around from extension to extension when trying to find a simple answer, or trying to get an incorrect invoice fixed. These are the kinds of problems that are unnecessary, and can ultimately cost a company a customer.
For printing ink companies, being able to differentiate themselves from their competitors has become necessary for survival. Being able to provide the highest level of quality from the first phone call from a customer through the shipping process and beyond has become essential to their ultimate success.