3M has relaunched its partner programme in the UK to establish a clear set of “strict standards” under the Select banner for the approved suppliers that sell and fit its commercial graphics and vehicle wrap products.
Select replaces the previous SPGAM programme in the UK.
Pen Webley, senior marketing executive for 3M Commercial Graphics division, said: “We have worked with these partners for a long time so we know them and our sales teams already have strong relationships in place.
“But our previous branding with the acronym wasn’t resonating with end-users and Select offers a lot more clarity on what we expect from suppliers and what fleets can expect when dealing with them.”
3M Select partners are qualified according to 15 criteria, which cover business planning, equipment and quality of work. These include quality tests and an annual audit by 3M to make sure its service levels are being maintained.
All 3M commercial graphics are covered by a warranty from the company, which covers the whole graphic on the vehicle, not just the constituent parts. It guarantees that all elements of a graphic (film, ink, adhesive and protective coating) will “look as good as the day it was put on”. 3M was not able to share all 15 criteria.
Webley said: “Select is us saying that any fleet can approach a franchisee and know that what they’re getting is watertight.
“Fleets want the peace of mind that comes with the warranty, so we say as a rule that the warranty will cover the product for that five- or 12-year period depending on what level of finish they have gone for.”
The Select programme was developed over an 18-month period. It was first launched in Europe in Germany, 3M’s largest market, and is now in operation in the UK, with a soft launch starting at the end of last year.
The programme in the UK has two levels: Platinum and Gold. Currently, four companies are qualified as Platinum and seven as Gold (see column, right). Platinum members need to have a certain level of throughput each year to qualify for the status.
Webley is not actively looking to rapidly expand the amount of Select partners in the UK beyond 11, but is open to the idea of having more approved centres if they are able to adhere to the guidelines.
In terms of the cost for graphics and a wrap, the labour for the fitment is the highest element of the costing involved.
Webley said 3M has been working on getting a quicker application time, in turn reducing the labour time, to pass on savings to fleets.
She said: “We’ve developed new techniques which mean the design can be moved into place on the vehicle without it sticking prematurely.
“We’ve also developed a new technique to eliminate any air bubbles and smoothing out the design so it’s a much more streamlined process.”
While Webley said the application time has been shortened, 3M was not able to share an exact reduction.
There is a range of different decal quality levels fleets can opt for, depending on how long they want the livery to last.
They include five- and 12-year options, although more of a promotional finish which lasts for a shorter amount of time is also available. The higher the quality, the higher the price.
Webley said: “I think the market moves with the economy. When things are tough, people actually tend to look more long-term and look for a higher cost finish as they know they will be keeping vehicles for longer.
“As a result of the UK economy doing well at the moment, we’re actually seeing more short-term promotional finishes being chosen with companies changing the graphics more frequently, but there’s still a big mix.”
Webley has seen an increase in SMEs looking to wrap vehicles due to the protection it can offer paintwork when vehicles come to be resold.
In terms of the changes in pricing at Platinum or Gold Select partners, Webley said the prices they charge fleets are down to them to set.
She added: “The pricing structure hasn’t changed from what we were charging before to the franchisees.”
Full list of Select partners in the UK that can offer 3M Commercial Graphics:
VGL (Vinyl Graphics Limited)
OPG (Owen Pilling Graphics)
RGVA Vehicle Branding
Paul Turner Signwriters
Joyce Design UK
Universal Graphics, Ireland