July '16

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38 THE SHOP JULY 2016 RESTYLING/AFTERMARKET ACCESSORIES For PPF businesses that choose to cut their own patterns, the relationship between a shop's plotter/cutter and the material it uses is always critical. And while we don't often think of it, it also works that way between the manufacturer of the material and the hardware used. We talked with Eric Keller from XPEL about that synergy. XPEL is one of the fastest-growing makers of PPF and is known for having close relationships with shops. These are solid ideas about buying, using, maintaining and even where to go for some help with your plotter/cutter. THE SHOP: Thanks, Eric. Let's start off with buying hardware. What should shops keep in mind when going through that process? Eric Keller: Do your homework. Study the manufacturers, get referrals in your field on which plotter they have, how long they've had it and its reliability. Ask them what they like or don't like about their unit. Ask about customer support. Is it available 24/7? What happens when it's down? You need to remember when you have one down, it shuts your business down. On top of that, you have to find someone to cut your patterns while the machine is down. That's added time, energy—even travel if the other machine is not close to your shop. Remember, you are gearing this equip- ment for business. It might be cheaper at first to buy a less-expensive unit, but you could grow out of it quickly. A bigger machine can do more. Look into a wide-format style, as they can do more. Look at the high-end units and see if they fit into your long-range plans. Look at the resale value of the units you are studying. Some have higher values than others. Also, look at financing options. Depending on the manufacturer, you might find low interest versus using your credit card the better route. THE SHOP: What about software? Keller: Keep doing your shopping. Con- tact the providers of software and make sure you understand the compatibility of the graphic languages used. It's also a good time to ask the manufacturer of the film you want to use what they recommend. They know what software works the best, as they hear it from hun- dreds of businesses. THE SHOP: OK, they've done their homework and bought the right machine. What next? Keller: Think about your climate. One example is if you are in a dry area, you might be prone to static electricity. You could shock the motherboard and maybe yourself. If you cook that moth- erboard, you'll likely have to box up the plotter to send it out for repair. Always think of reducing downtime. A simple precaution is to buy a static bar. THE SHOP: One of your key phrases when talking to shop owners is "The Boat." What do you mean by that? Keller: We live in a world where many of our daily items come from offshore. When you set up a shop, think about how many pieces have to make the trip on "The Boat" to get to you. Then think of how long that boat ride is when you are waiting for parts. Keep spare parts in stock, so you don't have to wait for parts. THE SHOP: What about consumables? Same deal? Keller: Yes. Keep a good stock of blades and don't run out. The two most-used pieces for a plotter/cutter are blades and the cutting mat. If you have a job that has to be done on deadline, you can't afford to spend your time chasing parts. THE SHOP: You said something about, "Key point of fail." What were you refer- ring to? Keller: I was mentioning that a plotter can be a single source of failure. If your machine goes down it can shut down your whole business until you can find access to another machine that is owned by another shop or by taking delivery of a new one. That advice is worth noting and using on all the other aspects of a business. If one single point of failure can shut you down, it pays to be your own backup system. Also, your bottom line will be more consistent by not paying out for using another shop's equipment and going there and back. Good advice for your shop when using PPF, vinyl and all other types of roll mate- rials. Then again, much of this good advice can be for just about any shop. – John Carollo PPF: TIPS & HACKS When offering paint protection film services that involve your shop cutting the material, always think of ways to reduce downtime. (Photo courtesy XPEL) THE PLOT THICKENS What you should know about plotter/cutters and PPF.

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