Value Differentiation in Adhesives & Coatings
What is value? Value is defined as “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth or usefulness of something”. Value differentiation means to separate or be different from others in the same space. There are many ways to bring value and subsequently make that product different from other products being offered in the same use space. A way to differentiate can of course be cost but let us also explore chemistry and performance diversity. In addition, the internal capabilities of the supplier/manufacturer through various segments such as analytical and prototype capabilities along with production scale capabilities and overall historical knowledge can be key differentiators.
Let us begin with cost since that is often the first question asked. There are various components to cost and all must be explored, weighed, and compared. Obviously, there is the basic price per pound of the adhesive or coating; however, one must dive deeper for direct comparison. The truer comparison is what is known as the actual applied cost. This considers the application solids and the applied coating weight of the product. A product may on paper appear lower in price then another but applies at lower solids or may need to be used at a higher dry coating weight to match performance. In this case more wet coating is needed to be used to obtain required dry coating weight. Applied cost is a much better way to compare products on cost. Other factors can and should be compared in this segment as well that effect cost. These being curing/cycle time of the product which may allow for faster down line processing thus less work in process/inventory. Work life/pot life of the product may also be considered, less waste means better yield of the adhesive or coating. Lastly a topic that we will dive into deeper in the next section is robustness of use, which while a true cost factor can lead to so much more like inventory reduction and reduction in errors by having to switch adhesives for various jobs.
Chemistry and performance diversity are the next areas to explore. At times these are harder to put a value on, but they are truly a significant differentiator. Working with a manufacturer who has multiple chemistries for a given end use performance need can offer significant advantages and value. Often products are available in water-based, solvent-based, and solvent-less options that meet the required end use of the converter. In some cases, within these categories are multiple options. This may allow the converter to use multiple pieces of converting equipment depending on workflow and equipment utilization. Another aspect of this is performance diversity. Using products that can span broad end uses and FDA requirements allows for reduced product inventory SKUS. Another key attribute here is reduced potential for error and contamination during adhesive or coating switch over. Working closely with the adhesive manufacturer is critical in reviewing the multiple options and optimum path forward.
The last area to explore, which is perhaps the broadest and least able to quantify for value, is the supplier’s internal capabilities. This may include their historical knowledge within the market as it pertains to performance, food regulations, and their reach and contacts throughout the value chain. Another critical aspect is their ability to assist in prototype testing and scale-up early in the package development. The ability to run small scale prototypes can shorten the development time significantly and lead to a higher degree of success. Another aspect that is of critical value is the ability to problem solve both during lamination or coating and in the finished laminate or package if problems arise. This is where knowledge and experience are critical. Using a manufacturer that has good analytical and physical testing capabilities can help solve problems rapidly and help prevent recurrence.
One can see that there are many aspects of value that need to be weighed and considered when choosing an adhesive or coating. These various factors help to differentiate one product from the next when on the surface they may seem the same or very similar. Looking strictly at price may look past some of the “harder to quantify” value aspects that are so important all the way through from application to package use. After comparing actual applied costs, look at how a robust performing product may add value. Examine how working with a knowledgeable supplier with full testing and prototyping capabilities can add value to your package development. Look back on problems you may have had and how they were solved and what costs were incurred. Then consider how a full-service supplier could help alleviate and/or solve these issues if and when they may occur.