Chat with Matt: An interview with Josh Culverhouse

josh-culverhouseThis month’s interview is with Josh Culverhouse, Graphic Innovations Market Manager of ORAFOL Americas.

From drawing board to shipped product, how long does it take to bring a graphic film to market?

We generally work from a roadmap that we’ve created that walks us through the necessary processes and procedures to ensure we’ve accounted for everything required to successfully bring a product from concept to market. Working for a company that strives to create the best, most consistent products from batch to batch is extremely rewarding. We always think about the user’s experience and how they’ll be utilizing the material in the field. Our product development team and engineers have a passion for creating the most dependable and quality film and adhesive formulations, without ever cutting corners. I think our tagline speaks for itself, “Engineered to Perform Betterâ„¢”

What are some of the biggest challenges your company faces in bringing a new product to market?

I’m not sure if this is the biggest challenge, but it’s a challenge… In general terms, you hope the industry is ready for the new product that you’re about to launch. We really love the input we get from our team out in the field and the ideas a lot of graphics companies come to us with. When we take these ideas and concepts and work through the process to bring it to life, you hope you’re striking the right chords with the customers when it comes to creating awareness and buzz for the product. There’s a lot of coordination that goes into successfully launching a product to the market, so it’s important to have an effective strategy in place to communicate it to the industry.

What would you say has been the biggest advancement in film technology over the past decade?

Film advancement has been taking significant strides over the past decade. One particular advancement has been the ability to create products that are REACH & RoHS compliant. Another advancement has been the ability to create PVC-Free film formulations that in some instances are more conformable, durable, and longer lasting than the traditional CAST and Calendered PVC materials that we’re all so familiar with.

How many of your products would you guess come directly from requests by your customers?

It’s an extremely large percentage for sure. We really like to work closely with industry leaders and influencers to assist us during product development. Collaboration is key not only during the product development and evaluation stages, but also in the initial understanding of what the customer needs and requirements are. It’s one thing for a company to think they know what their customers want, but it’s another thing to take the time to collaborate and evolve with the customer’s requirements. I think that’s what sets apart great companies from good companies.

Other than white, what have been your most popular colors for vehicle color changes?

This is one of my favorite segments that has evolved so much over the past 10-plus years, into a now standalone industry. The vehicle wrap installer community is in constant contact with us to ensure we continue to move the needle by continuously adding more unique and engaging colors. Our ORACAL 970RA ShiftEffect series is one of our most popular color lineups. Our ShiftEffect series offers a non-directional pattern, making it easier for installers to wrap a vehicle with this special effect material, since they don’t have to waste time matching up the material from panel to panel. We also offer most of them in a silky smooth matte finish as well as a high-gloss finish.

What are the most odd or interesting requests for new vinyl colors or features that you have received?

I can’t get into specifics here, as some of these may come to light in the future. We are driven by our customers who come to us with odd or interesting requests. We take the time to discuss it and identify if it’s something that can be done or not. If it can’t, how can we find a way to make it happen? This philosophy has helped us not only in our graphic films innovations, but also with our reflective films and industrial adhesive tapes innovations.

Vehicles are a primary use for ORAFOL material, but what is the most interesting non-vehicle wrap you have seen to employ your product?

Earlier this year we teamed up with several parties to wrap the iconic Harbor Town Light House to help commemorate the PGA Tour’s 50th Anniversary of The RBC Heritage Golf Tournament held at the famed Harbor Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, South Carolina. The light house has an alternating red and white horizontal strip paint scheme, so the red portions were wrapped over with a tartan plaid pattern with our ORAJET 3954 Textured Surface Wrap Film and ORAGUARD 290 protective over-laminate. This is definitely one of the more unique or interesting wraps we’ve seen anywhere, as we don’t believe any other light house has ever been wrapped.

The general public has been becoming more familiar with wraps over the years, but in social settings, how often do you have to explain to people what your product does?

It’s pretty cool when I’m chatting with a friend or someone at a restaurant or airport and they ask me about what we manufacture, or about our industry in general. You’re right, everyone pretty much understands and is familiar with vehicle wraps, so it’s an “aha!” moment when you tell them about all the other applications that they’ve probably seen graphic marking films. When you tell them that we manufacture products for the general signage and graphics industry, their eyes sometimes roll over. But when you start pointing at various signage, window and wall graphics around an airport or restaurant they begin to clearly understand. Our industry has vastly become a visual communications industry and not just a “Signage” industry. It’s truly amazing!

Most wraps are guaranteed for a certain amount of time, but have you ever been surprised at how long a properly cared for wrap has lasted?

When I first started in this industry, we were wrapping Indy Cars and NHRA Dragsters along with their respective haulers and pit equipment. Needless to say, these were all short-term applications. The longer I’ve been in this industry, the more opportunity I’ve had to see some pretty phenomenal wraps that have stood the test of time. The common denominator is definitely proper maintenance and whether or not the wrap spends some time in a garage out of the elements. It’s important for wrap companies to educate their customers on proper care and maintenance, so they can get the most out of their investment. It’s always good to hear a customer tell us that they’ve been using our wrap films for many years and still yet to have any durability complaints. These are the customers that have taken the time to educate their customers on proper care and maintenance.

What are some of the most common mistakes that graphics installers make that you would tell them to watch out for on every installation?

Several things that are often related come to mind. We’ve seen installers rush through the installation, not realizing they just left a few small air bubbles in a recessed body line. The customer needed the vehicle back ASAP, so they rushed the vehicle out the door to make room for the next one. Once that vehicle heads out the door, that small little air bubble will grow, now causing the material to pop up out of that recessed body line, because the installer didn’t have time to adequately inspect the wrap, and the wrap wasn’t allowed adequate time to acclimate to the vehicle surface. It’s critical that installers cycle through a wrap several times with proper post heating and pressure to ensure they’re effectively changing the material’s memory to take the newly conformed shape, and to remove any potential trapped air from the air-egress channels in the adhesive.

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Matt Dixon

Matt Dixon is the former executive editor and content manager of GRAPHICS PRO magazine. Before that he served as editor of Sign & Digital Graphics and Sign Business Magazine.

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