The direct approach
What do you think?
POST A COMMENT
By Sophie Matthews-Paul
31 May 2012
Ian Turnbull, operations director, outlines Sihl Direct UK's modus operandi
Ink-jet materials can be annoying consumables. Most people don't want to pay the price for quality, yet are very quick to grizzle when coatings vary from batch to batch or expected deliveries don't appear when expected. Set on rectifying this in the UK is Sihl Direct, complete with a new website, with the intention of making it easier to source the company's media from a central point.
Many of us might well be using Sihl products without realising it, as its photo range encompasses a variety of papers and its media for home and office includes products for documents and presentation purposes. In wide-format terms, the catalogue carries products that work with typical ink formulations for a variety of end uses. Added to that, there's a broad portfolio which caters for narrower applications, including non-tear, ticket, tag and label, recording and thermal papers plus coated PET films.
It is nine years since I last visited Sihl's Düren plant just as it was announcing it had been acquired by Diatec Group. A specialist coater for ink-jet media, Sihl's converting capabilities were ideal to complement its new parent's existing production plants in Italy, Switzerland and America.
Diatec has sensibly retained the Sihl brand, despite giving itself the generic moniker of 'The Coating Company', concentrating on four individual production sectors, these being digital imaging, registration and identification, textiles and special coatings. The brainchild of Diego Mosna, the Diatec story began in the late 1960s in Milan, growing rapidly during the following decades. As for Sihl, its roots go back much further to 500 years ago when it was, literally, an 'old paper mill on the Wird' in Zürich, with its production sites in Düren and Bern being added more recently.
In the UK, the company ascertained that many resellers and end users in this country have fallen into two camps, the first never having heard of Sihl and the second knowing the products but having no idea where to buy them. The intention is to get closer to these people, with an honest admission that spending large sums on marketing, advertising and brand development is a waste of time if the portfolio isn't easily available on the market.
Enter the decision to establish a sales and distribution channel in the UK. Based in Altrincham, which is a stone's throw from Manchester Airport and convenient for the motorway network, this facility intends to simplify the route to end users, enabling Sihl to have a more proactive and direct presence in this country.
Formerly with InteliCoat Technologies, Ian Turnbull is operations director, joined by ex-ColourGen's Dean Keenan and Craig Barker who used to work for Ilford, so the experience of this trio obviously gives Sihl a head start when setting up in the UK. It is their technical backgrounds which are key to making the new operation a success, with the combination of Diatec's experience in coating and converting papers and textiles blending with Sihl's knowledge of display materials.
To make it easier to comprehend the breadth of Sihl's product portfolio, the company has more than 650 different media options in terms of papers, films and weaves, resulting from 525 chemical elements comprising binders, pigments and agents, and 370 lacquers with water-, solvent-based and hot melt recipes. Papers cover weights from 30 to 300gsm, coming from European paper mills and mostly produced to Sihl's own specifications while film products, such as polyesters, polypropylenes and polyvinyls, are acquired world-wide.
Breaking into the UK follows the intention of Diatec's Mosna who identified the need to be closer to the market in strategic geographical locations. Emphasising the brand should make it easier to take closer control of the destiny of Sihl, particularly when one considers that many of the group's existing resellers have been offering products either in private or neutral label boxes.
This should present an interesting challenge, particularly to end users who will be invited to change horses yet who are, ipso facto, simply purchasing the same material with a different name. As Sihl Direct will continue to work with its channel, sorting out this particular dichotomy needs to be handled with diplomacy for it to succeed. This is relevant as the company intends to sell on quality rather than price, planning to foster itself through good service and communications.
Turnbull, Keenan and Barker are a likeable trio who know their onions. This makes the Sihl Direct objective far easier to achieve than were they three unknowns trying to stock and sell media in this country.
Comments in chronological order (Total 0 comments)
There are no comments yet for this article.