Omega 6.5: A Brief Review

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You know what they say: “Time is money.”

With each upgrade of software you evaluate, it is your time and efficiency, that you need to consider. Omega Version 6.0 was a time saver, and if you neglected to upgrade to 6.0, you should download both the “whats-new-omega-6.0” and “whats-new-omega6.5” to see what you’re missing.

This upgrade to Gerber Omega 6.5 is another time saver.


Time saver #1: Starting with the new “Groups of Groups”, I can’t tell you how many times I could have used that when working on complex art with lots of shapes. There are also some useful options when holding your Ctrl button down, such as breaking groups out from larger groups into new groups. This will definitely speed up your work flow.


Time saver #2: If you have had to import customer files that are typically assigned process colors in RGB mode, the colors will change when they are converted to CMYK in previous versions Omega. However, in 6.5, if you change the mode from RGB to CMYK in your design software, and then import an EPS, AI, or PDF file, you can check a box called “Import pure CMYK colors”, and the colors will come in with the correct values. A huge time saver!

The new pdf file export capability offers the same export options as the GSP EPS format, including named spot and CMYK colors, and named paths and strokes for Cut Contours. For presentations, it makes it easy for prospects to open it in their PDF viewer. For exporting to other desktop publishing and ink jet design programs, the exported pdf will preserve the named spot colors and named cut contour objects.


Time saver #3: If you are like me, I think Composer has always had great detail editing tools. And in recent years it has only gotten better. Now in 6.5 there is a “Change Constraints” tool in the layout drop down menu that allows you to set constraints for the detail tools such as the line tool, the slice and dice tool, the cleaver tool, and the move point too. You can set them for angles such as 5°,10°, 30°, 45°, etc. Then the constraint is initiated when you hold the Alt key down. If you use the “on axis” tool to move objects along the X or Y axis when you want them to stay aligned with their original position, it is similar to that, but you now have more choices. I know I will love this tool.


Time saver #4: The new ability to toggle between wire frame and filled while you are in a dialog box. You can also zoom or pan while in a dialog box. I will find this especially helpful with the choke and spread tool to verify which color is spreading.

Are they reading my mind? It just keeps getting better.


Time saver #5: When outlining lettering or other shapes with inside shapes, there are times when you don’t want the inside shapes to be outlined. Now, rather than ungrouping all the inside shapes, or deleting the outlines afterwards, all you have to do is select the “Outside Contour Only” check box within the outline tool. This will work great for creating perimeter cuts for back cutting, and many other instances where you would rather not deal with outlines on inside shapes.

Gerber has also eliminated a step with a new feature in the Shadow feature, which is “hide originals.” This comes in handy when creating an outline first, shadowing it, and then having to delete the original. It can also be used as a substitute for using the relief feature in the Shadow dialog box.


Time saver #6: A new Back Cut Template file allows you to save all your plotter settings for your back cut files. In other words, whatever you set in your “rules” or “settings” dialog, i.e.: multi cuts, speed, force, acceleration, cornering, for each layer, it can be saved for recall on another job. It’s much like saving parameters, but for back cut jobs. This will save lots of time for companies who do a lot of back cutting with various settings.


The final feature worth mentioning is called the “PLT Extract” program, which extracts useful summaries of plot information such as consumables used. With that information, the user can then go back and compare actual vs. estimated material used in the job. This is useful information if you do such comparisons, and may aid with estimating needed materials for future, similar jobs.

The PLT Extract program will be good for in plant applications when the job has been completed. It will help tally up the consumables used for comparison, budgeting and material inventory purposes. The reason it doesn’t work for estimating is that the job is typically not created in Composer before it is committed to by the customer for a purchase price.

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All in all, I think Omega 6.5 is well worth the upgrade price, because it saves time. If the cost of your time is only $.50 per minute, and you save 10 minutes per design, the upgrade from 6.0 to 6.5 will be paid for in a little over 13 hours. When tools becomes easier to use, work is more pleasurable. And with this upgrade, you will gain more time.

To upgrade to Omega 6.5, click here.

How do you choose profitable jobs?

Occasionally our clients ask us for assistance with pricing an Edge job for “Profit.” This is probably because we wrote a program back in 1994 called E$timator for the Gerber Edge. But as we get into it with them, we notice that not many of our clients can describe what “profitable” means to them. Maybe it’s because there are so many variables. However, if you are going to try to have any structure in your pricing, you have to be able to measure things against some kind of benchmark.

It may be easier to use the industry description of what a profitable job may look like, but that may limit you by under-pricing custom work, or work that only you can do (supply and demand). If you have a new product, or if you are the only supplier, then you need to find out what the market will bear.

People also have to be able to walk away from non-profitable work. And to do that, you must establish criteria that disqualifies a job from being considered. It may take a little experience to understand what is detrimental to your profit margin (learning the hard way). Some of that is unavoidable, as are dishonest people. But it helps to write the information down and review it periodically. It helps you realize that you can’t make money on every job that is offered, and push forward on the ones that inspire you.

So how do you use the profit per hour strategy to help you understand what jobs are the most profitable? This strategy will help you analyze the cost of time and material, and will help you determine the value of your time. When you use the profit per hour strategy, you will start to realize that commodity jobs (the ones that your customer can source from many competitors) do not allow for much profit.

The key is to figure out what your time is worth to you?

We have consulted with more than a few people who have made phone number changes on signs for $20. And then they wonder why they are going broke. Most companies have a minimum job charge or rate. Start there. If you spend half your time in production and the other half selling and doing admin work, and you want to make $30 per hour, then you need to be charging enough to make at least $70-$80 per hour gross profit.

To give you an example, lets say you are doing a simple label job. The cost of your materials is $30 and your mark up is 100%. If the 500 count label job takes 2 hours and you charge $65 per hour, the job total is $190 ($30 x 2)+(2hr x $65). If you remove the cost of materials, you end up with a GP of $80 per hour.  If all your competitors are charging $250 for a job like that, then you are leaving money on the table. Assuming their cost of materials is the same, you could charge $240 and be making a GP of $105 per hr. If your minimum rate is $65 per hr, and a competitor is willing to do the job for $150, then you should be OK with walking away.

Establish “the going rate.”

“The going rate” is slang for what the market will bear. Reflective decals, refrigerator magnets, industrial name plates, helmet decals, and control panel overlays, all have “going rates.” It’s a supply and demand game, which is why “going where the others aren’t is a good strategy. This is where the gross profit per hour (GPPH) system helps you realize what markets are lucrative. Once you find a lucrative niche, you need to market to it.

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For instance, if you find you can get $35 each for a Polycarbonate overlay, and the job calls for 100 pieces, then you can figure your GPPH backwards.  Let’s add some complexity such as internal cut outs and selective areas of adhesive (where the adhesive doesn’t cover the windows and buttons) such as pictured above.

On this job, it will cost $152 in materials and about 5.5 hours between setting up the file and production.  If your cost of labor is $50 x 5.5 hrs = $275. $152 + $275 = $427.  100 pieces x $35 = $3,500.  $3,500 – $427 = $3,073. Divide that by 5.5 hrs and you get $558 per hour gross profit.

There are many niche markets with lucrative jobs like this. By getting out of your comfort zone, not taking every job that walks in the door, and figuring the gross profit per hour on jobs, you can start quoting jobs without leaving money on the table. If the job example above shows you that you can make $500+ per hour profit, then those are the jobs you want to look for, and that’s the rate you want to establish as the “your going rate” for that kind of job.

The reason this job is lucrative is because it takes special equipment and materials to make them. Not everyone can make them. We sell those special materials and equipment, and we are application specialists. In other words, we think it may be worth your while to investigate how we can help you go after those profitable jobs.

We would love to hear from you: 800-232-8018

A Lexus for the price of a Toyota?

Or an Escalade for the price of a Suburban?  Or Convex for the price of something they say is “Just like Convex”?  With all the Convex knock-offs out there, it’s hard to keep track of who compares their product to the most well known brand of thick, durable vinyl.  If they compare themselves to Convex, why not just buy Convex, especially if you can negotiate a great price on it?

We’ve been hearing from a few customers that our Convex products may be “over-engineered” in the context of the short life expectation of shroud and number plate graphics on MX bikes.  This is an underhanded sales tactic that one of our competitors is using.  The reality is, the tactics of sales people don’t always have the end user’s best interest in mind.  The term that comes to mind is “planned obsolescence.”  (Use really cheap stuff because it’s cheap, and don’t worry about it failing).  Does that sound like a good business plan for you?  What price do you put on your reputation?

At Graphic Marking Systems, we build products that exceed the expectations of the intended application.  Everything we make has at least a 2 year shelf life. Our High-Bond white for ink jets is a 5 year film.  UV products last longer than that.  You won’t have to worry about our adhesive and film being compatible… they are engineered correctly.

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Products that we find ourselves competing against are under-engineered.  They go bad quickly, so you better use them up.  Some of our customers started using another brand because it was cheaper.  One who came back and was looking to share his experience  said it cost him many customers.  It was so painful he told us “I don’t care if Convex is more expensive, it’s the best product.”  The quality over price story always makes us feel warm and fuzzy.

He was pleasantly surprised when we told him we now have Convex Kits (combinations of base films and laminates).  We were able to give him a competitive price against the low priced competitor, and he buys it through a local stocking distributor.

Here’s a tell-tale sign that an adhesive and vinyl combination isn’t compatible.  The adhesive in this picture has caused the vinyl media to shrink quite a bit.  It’s actually hanging off the edge.  In the second picture, that vinyl is laminated on top of Convex High-Bond.  It is slightly offset from the edge of the Convex for comparison.  See the difference?  See how much debris it picks up before it’s even laminated?  Not good.

AdhesiveOOZE AdhesiveOOZE-AppiedWould you over promise and under deliver?  Is worrying about your reputation worth using a “Just good enough” product?  If the price is the same would you rather buy products that are over engineered or under engineered?  I know my answer would be under promise and over deliver… for piece of mind, for reputation, and to treat the customer right.

Call us at 800-232-8018 to lock in your special pricing on your favorite kit!

 

 

A quick reversal of “the adhesive must be bad.”

Have you ever had an issue, where you’d wish the customer would dig a little deeper and take just a little bit more responsibility?

In this recent case, it started with some engineers at a manufacturer we cater to, asking us why their labels were lifting around the edges. They have two Edge FX systems in-house  they purchased from us. The engineers told us that the lifting happens within 6 months of the application. They have been using our High-Bond polyester on Stainless Steel panels for over 10 years without issues until now.

After speaking with the lady who we have instructed for years, who is very experienced, she said “I don’t know why they don’t listen to me. After they started cleaning the panels with Sparkle window cleaner, we started having problems with the labels.” She told them to use a very diluted solution of soapy water. But the floor didn’t listen to the advice from the graphics dept. And naturally they started down the road of blaming the adhesive.

We wanted to help them, so we dug a little deeper and found that Windex and similar cleaners leave a residue that repels dirt, grease, and other residues. If I were the chemical engineer for the cleaning product, I assume that would be my goal. Lab tests revealed that Window cleaners can reduce the adhesion by 50% or more. That’s because the adhesive is sticking to the cleaner’s residue, not the actual surface.

It gets better. The people doing the applications were not just cleaning the surface with Sparkle, they were performing a wet-app. In other words, they are putting the label on top of the wet solution, sliding them into place, and then squeegeeing the Sparkle solution out from under the label.

A drop of dish washing soap in a spray bottle is all they need to bead the water up so they can do a wet application. There are other techniques to get labels on straight without using liquid. And sign professionals know all about wet applications and what not to do. But this is just a case where someone changed something down the line, and because it was easy, chose to ignore the advice of the graphics dept.

This is also why we don’t and you probably shouldn’t warranty materials. In our experience, customers will help you figure out what is wrong with the application if they have skin in the game. If they don’t, it makes it too easy to for them to blame the inanimate object. And that can be unnecessarily time consuming for you, the vendor.

At Graphic Marking Systems, we know the phone rings and e-mails come in because people want help. We always welcome inquiries, and have decades of experience to draw upon, if people want to be informed.

Selective Adhesive

What is Selective Adhesive?

Selective Adhesive is a term used to describe the graphic producer’s ability to select specific areas that you want a transfer adhesive to be applied.  For instance a graphic overlay for a control panel, key pad, or membrane switch, printed sub-surface on lexan  may have areas that you do and don’t want transfer adhesive to be applied.  Windows and buttons come to mind.  There is now an easier way to mask off areas that you don’t want adhesive on.  We know some X-Acto® ninjas may feel threatened by this innovation, but there is simply a better way, especially if you own a Gerber system.

ArmalexMask3The bottom line is… Armalex Mask is a material we came up with a few years ago to help you up-sell graphic overlay jobs. The mask gives you the ability to place adhesive exactly where you want it.

The Gerber system is indexed with sprockets that move the material and keep it in registration color to color, color to cut, and cut to cut.  With the introduction of Omega 3.0 software several years ago, it gave the user the ability to assign different cut paths and attributes to layers.  And Gerber has only improved those capabilities in subsequent versions of Omega.  Using the selective adhesive mask is pretty easy.  You even save $60 on the mask when you buy it as a combo kit with our Armalex™ brand 10 mil Lexan® for the Edge (several finishes are available).  Click here for pricing.

You can offer this service right now.  Here’s how it works:  First you print your graphic on Armalex.  Then you laminate the Armalex Mask over your graphic.  Then you send the cut pattern for the mask to your plotter.  Once the mask is cut, just strip/weed away the areas that you want the transfer adhesive to make contact with.  Take a look at this pic below:

ArmalexMask1See the mask over the buttons and windows?  Ok, now you laminate the transfer adhesive over the mask, put it back into the cutter, and cut the same pattern again.  That’s it for the selective adhesive.

ArmalexMask2The last thing you need to do is send the finish or perimeter cut along with any cutouts if you have them.

If you want to remove the mask for your customers, it’s simple.  We make the Armalex mask 8 mils thick for that reason… so you can get under it easily without tools that can scratch the lexan.

Here’s what the ArmalexMask3finished piece can look like when it’s all done.  Below is the back side with the mask removed.  If you need more help, give us a call.  If you are buying products for us, why wouldn’t we want to help you be successful?

Go where the others aren’t with GMS!

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Call:  800-232-8018,  or contact us at Info@graphicms.com

 

Client’s Verdict on the Pro-Patch™!

Here’s a testimonial from an actual rider who used Pro-Patch™ and was so impressed with it, he decided to write to us about it. We usually hear from graphic shops, not the end user.  So this was a special treat, because he included the pictures below. Of course when he refers to who he received his finished product from, he is referring to the graphic shop.

Dear Graphic Marking Systems Team,

I am writing to inform you that I received my Convex Pro-Patch™ Vinyl art and I’m very impressed with the product.  I am a sponsored motorcycle road racer, and due to the nature of the sport, we are required to wear leather apparel on the racetrack, in case we have any mishaps.

Many road racers customize their leathers with sponsorship using embroidered, PVC, leather and other materials for patches, but the final product is usually either expensive, low-resolution, or will not withstand the elements.  Additionally, since crashes are a frequent occurrence, the expense to replace those patches is very high. I took a “shot in the dark” with the Convex Pro-Patch™ and, I’ve been very impressed with the results.

Convex Pro-Patch™ is a sewable vinyl that can be printed in high resolution and is resistant to the outside elements. Once the Pro Patches were produced, I cut them to size, glued them onto my leather suit and had them sew on to the leather.  The final product looked amazing!

Thank you so much for a wonderful product and I look forward to more interaction with your company!

Best Regards,

R. Alan

Ph.D., W.S.M.C #35

Sponsors: Bridgestone, CM motorsports, Cyclemall.net, TrackXperience, A Thin Line

Like niche products? Pro-Patch™ is back!

PPisBack-Level-3-Turn600x237For those of you who remember Convex Pro-Patch™ from way back in 2008-2009, it was a very soft 12 mil vinyl without adhesive on a static cling liner. Gerber Edge users would print on it and then laminate it with white or clear pressure sensitive vinyl to make products that you can then stitch into rider’s suits, seat covers, bar stools, etc.

ButtPatches250x309The picture on the left shows the back-side of this road racer who has at least 4 separate patches sewn into his suit. His testimonial.

In addition to graphic markings that were sewn onto products, there are products such as luggage tags, labels that either hang freely without adhesive, or instructional labels that are stitched on one side only, such as you might hang on an inflatable raft. You can also sew a strip of Velcro to both sides of a patch and wrap it around a cross bar such as the ones found on MX  and BMX bikes.

You might think that any old vinyl would work, but that’s not the case. The softer the vinyl is, the more additives (plasticizers) are in it to keep it soft. Plasticizers in the vinyl will naturally migrate to the surface and into adhesives.  These additives are supposed to keep vinyl soft, and they have the same effect on adhesive.

Back in 2009, the adhesives we used on the white laminate were resistant for up to 6 months. Then air would creep in the edges due to the adhesive getting soft, and the layers would start to come apart. That’s the trouble with most adhesives. There are very few that work on soft vinyl… until now. We recently designed a new adhesive to work with highly plasticized films. We are excited to bring the new and improved Pro-Patch™ and laminate combo kits to the market.

MadDogPatch270x349We also made the construction of products easier this time. Instead of printing wrong reading (reverse image) on clear and then laminating with white, now you just print on white (Our 8 mil white Pro-Patch) and laminate with one of the two new Convex laminates we are offering. The new 10 and 20 mil clear Convex laminates will give you the lasting bond you need to the soft white base media. Both laminates use our new proprietary adhesive. One of the printed samples with the 10 mil laminate is shown at the right. The other sample shown below is of a seat cover laminated with the new 20 mil laminate.

DragonSeat1-277x349The resin foils used in the Gerber Edge work great on this product. Solvent inks will likely have an inconsistent bond to the media, as we have found to be the case with most highly plasticized vinyl. Other ink jets such as UV based should work, however they have not been tested at this time, and we are happy to trade media for feedback.

There are plenty of people who have commercial sewing machines (think upholstery repair or embroidery shops) that can sew seat panels, head rests, rider suits, etc. Hook yourself up with one and sell your graphics where your competition doesn’t.

When you are looking for a new product, something different, something unique, to help you go where the others aren’t, remember Pro-Patch™.  You can find available sizes and kits that include the laminate by clicking here – Pro-Patch Combo Kits for the Gerber.