The pandemic hit human health hard, but it also created insurmountable challenges for many operations that must get products to customers. Congestion at ports and shortages of dock workers, cargo containers, and ships have slammed the industry like we’ve never seen before.
This photograph shows the backlog of ships just waiting to dock at one port.
It’s a scene we see over and again at ports in Asia and other places. Just recently, a COVID-19 outbreak in southern China prompted authorities to shut down businesses, causing massive shipping delays for Chinese ports. For example, at the Yantian International Container Terminal in Shenzhen, ships used to get a space to dock within half a day. Now, it’s taking up to 16 days.
What does this mean for Ultraflex customers?
We manufacture many of our digitally printable textiles, rigid and flexible substrates outside the U.S. So, when trouble hits the freight industry, it affects our supply chain too.
For example, the lag in shipping times could impact delivery of some materials. We are actively working to prevent disruptions to our supply chain so that you have access to the quality, dependable materials you need. We continue to maintain the world’s most comprehensive inventory across our product lines.
Here are other factors we are monitoring closely across the industry:
- The cost to ship goods has increased dramatically. In mid-June 2021, freight rates from Asia to the East Coast of the U.S. were 250% higher compared to the same week in June 2020, and to the West Coast, 245% higher.
- The cost to ship from Europe to North America jumped by 20% in one week alone in June.
- Container rates are sky-high. The cost to ship a standard-sized container of goods typically comes in at $3,000. Some rates are now over $20,000. During peak season, July through September, rates could reach $30,000.
What can you do?
The back-to-school season and holidays may seem months away, but big box stores and online retailers will start placing seasonal orders in the weeks ahead. Many already have. The industry is still trying to catch up from the backlog of orders created by rising consumer demands during the pandemic. As new orders pile on top of those, the freight squeeze will get even tighter.
We’re advising customers to place orders earlier than usual to help avoid delivery delays and potentially higher costs in the weeks ahead. In addition, we can help you find alternative solutions if a material is delayed or out of stock.
What can you expect from us?
One of Ultraflex’s core values is to be a customer-first company. Our team members are fiercely committed to helping you solve problems so you can continue to deliver vivid graphics that sell products and tell brilliant stories.
We don’t know how long we will be navigating this situation. What we do know is that integrity is the backbone of our business. Our commitment is to keep you informed, to treat all customers with the highest level of respect and fairness, and to be a valued partner that goes above and beyond to help you grow your business.
Thank you for your support and partnership during these unprecedented times. For more information, please email us.
The country is opening up, and calendars are filled with festivals, concerts, Broadway shows, sporting events, and more. This is an ideal time for businesses to raise their visibility and take full advantage of the customers headed their way.
Not all signage is the same. It’s important to select signs made from reliable, consistent materials that can stand up to the harsh elements in your region: wind, rain, heat, and humidity.
For example, all Ultraflex products contain UV inhibitors, which prevent the sunshine from discoloring signs. Our materials for outdoor products are long-lasting, strong, and create the perfect canvas for even the most colorful graphics.
If it’s time to turn some heads – and traffic – your way, below are some great ideas to get you started.
There’s nothing quite as stunning as a vivid graphic that wraps around a multi-story building. Building wraps stop customers in their tracks. Jaws drop. Cell phones rise to capture the moment. And your business lights up social media.
Our mesh banner materials are excellent for building wraps. The mesh design allows the wind to flow through the banner without tearing the material or disrupting your message. Here’s a great example :
Mesh materials are weather-worthy and have lots of great applications. They can be used for billboards, exhibits, event signs, and even at construction sites, where mesh fence wraps protect workers, equipment, and consumers passing by. Take a look:
A show-stopping billboard can be a memorable way for businesses and institutions to positively persuade audiences. But those sad, peeling, fading, and degrading billboards can send a powerfully negative message that can impact a reputation for years to come. To help protect your brand and your billboard, we’ve developed a line of durable materials with high tensile and tear strength, fungus resistance, UV resistance, and black-backed substrates to provide complete opacity. Here are some of our favorites:
Stand out and stand up
We offer an ever-expanding portfolio of materials that make banners, pole signs, billboards, and wraps stand out and stand up in all kinds of weather. To find out more about our products, services, and innovative ideas, email us.
If you live in one of the colder regions of the U.S., you’re probably ditching your winter coat about now and enjoying the blooms and the breeze through open windows. Maybe you’re planning a trip to the farmer’s market, buying tickets for an outdoor concert, or getting your pool ready to open.
If you own a business, you should be thinking about something else too. With all those potential customers eager to get out and about, you have a fresh opportunity to get their attention and keep them coming back for more.
Now is the time to plan ahead and take full advantage of your space, whether you own a sandwich shop, run an amusement park, or have new products to showcase. Below are some ideas to help you engage, impress, and influence the crowds headed your way.
Turn special events into SPECTACULAR ones
Calendars everywhere are filling up with long-awaited outdoor events, such as food festivals, carnivals, concerts, and flea markets. You can easily add vibrant color and movement to your event with feather flags, like our VorTex™ Flag D110, a knitted flag fabric with excellent wind flow characteristics.
If you have outdoor tables, coolers, or other surfaces, consider covering them with stunning visuals. FabriTac® is our removable, adhesive fabric you can mount to any surface and reposition countless times. Who wouldn’t want to customize a cooler for the beach, or BBQ or even customize a golf cart for an event?
Planning an activity area for patrons? Why not use mat graphics to add extra pop to the cornhole game or play area. Printers everywhere use our FloorFlex® Plus printable vinyl solution for long-term indoor graphics and shorter-term outdoor displays.
Step up visibility with sidewalk signs and window graphics
The right signage can stop customers in their tracks as they stroll through town, shop for the new season, or search for outdoor dining. Take a look at some ways businesses are using MatFlex® Plus to decorate tabletops in fun and festive ways:
Do you have a big sale coming up? A new exhibit to promote? Maybe you simply need to reach out and encourage customers to come inside and look around. Your patrons will be mesmerized and motivated with the right window graphics, like these made from UltraVision® Window Perf:
Now’s the ideal time to create attention-grabbing graphics
To find out more about our products, services, and innovative ideas, email us.
Job & Department: Staff Accountant / Accounting
Years with Ultraflex: 21 years
We are proud to celebrate Annalie Carter’s 21 years with Ultraflex! Annalie has been an integral part of the accounting team during her tenure. Over the years, she has made many people who have sat near her laugh with her many jokes! What Annalie enjoys most about being a part of the Ultraflex team is how members support one another and the opportunity to work with many coworkers in various departments. As a mother of three, she loves going to the park, spending time outdoors with her family, and doing fun activities with her children. We truly appreciate all of her hard work over the last 21 years and look forward to hitting more milestones with her!
Virtual Events – Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?
What We’ve Learned about Virtual Meetings
It’s hard to believe a year has gone by since the beginning of the pandemic in America. During the past months, we’ve had to rethink the way we work, learn, play, and more. We’ve also had to figure out how to keep businesses going – and growing – despite significant obstacles.
Technology has helped us adjust to a new environment. And even though we miss the in-person connections with customers and co-workers, a virtual approach may be our reality for a while longer.
We jumped in with the first Ultraflex virtual trade show in October 2020. Our next one is March 17 – more about that in a moment. Since our first show, we’ve hosted and participated in many virtual trade shows and training sessions. Along the way, we’ve learned a lot.
Lesson 1: Do a Trial Run
Technical glitches can create a major disconnect. We’ve had our fair share and learned early on to devote enough time for a full run-through with technology and presenters. Our advice is to have a backup for anything and everything, such as the loss of an internet connection, a video that lags or won’t play, or a presenter who may or may not have experience with screen-sharing.
Lesson 2: Minimize the Monologue
We’ve all attended a virtual meeting or event where one talking head presents slide after slide. About 45 minutes later, the presenter announces: “Are there any questions?” By that time, many attendees have zoned out.
The challenge is to find ways to engage with participants throughout the event. Yes, it takes some work and creative thinking, but the extra effort will pay off. The best solutions are often born after engaging with customers who talk about their needs or concerns – things you may have never considered before.
If you want to keep participants on high alert during your virtual event, show videos, demonstrations, panel discussions, give them polls to answer and quizzes to take. Here’s a good article on how to keep attendees engaged before, during, and after your event.
Lesson 3: Show Your Customers You Care
Without face-to-face contact, your customers may not realize how much you care about their success. Whenever you engage virtually with customers, make sure they know you are thinking creatively about how to meet their needs.
For example, when businesses began reopening last summer, we helped customers learn how to implement signage, seat covers, wall and floor coverings, and more to help consumers feel safe while navigating seating, directions, and social distancing.
Lesson 4: Take Part in Virtual Trade Shows
We don’t know when we will be together again. In the meantime, virtual events can help us stay productive and allow us to continue inventing new and amazing solutions.
During the past few months, Ultraflex virtual trade shows have given customers a place where they can see, learn, experience, and talk about new applications, trends, and challenges for the industry.
Our next virtual trade show is March 17. We’ll be looking at important market trends, including green initiatives that allow products to evolve in an environmentally friendly way. Learn more and register for the March 17 virtual trade show here.
If you missed our previous virtual trade shows, you can view our archives anytime:
• The October 7, 2020 virtual trade show focused on working with digitally printable textiles.
• The October 21, 2020 virtual trade show focused on the latest innovations in décor solutions.
• The November 4, 2020 show explored how to finish fabrics using Bannerups and SEGDesign.
• The November 18, 2020 show explored a range of décor products and how they are tested for durability and certification.
• The January 13, 2021 show focused on navigating Personal Protective Gear (PPE) and how Ultraflex can assist.
• The January 27, 2021 virtual event showed ways to safely and comfortable invite people back to indoor dining and shopping with proper signage and social distancing signage and barriers.
• The February 24, 2021 event showcased the importance of color management with dye-sublimation.
You can also find us at the virtual ISA Sign Expo April 7 to 9. We’ll showcase the latest products, market trends, and solutions that can help you reach unique audiences and grow your business. Register for the event here.
We’re ready to explore the possibilities with you – on whatever device you choose. For more information about how to get started, email us.
Heading to Plan Ahead for Shipping Delays
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to test people and industries in ways we never imagined. Not only has it resulted in a worldwide health crisis, but it also has created bottlenecks and shipping delays for businesses trying to keep up with customer demands for imported products. Dock worker shortages, port congestion, cargo container shortages, lack of vessel space causing ship dates and arrival dates to push out. In addition, shipping costs are becoming more expensive. In the past year, the cost to ship goods has nearly tripled, according to key indexes and continue to rise. All these factors affect our industry too. Ultraflex is a leading supplier of digitally printable textiles and flexible and rigid substrates, and our customers depend on us.
Ultraflex is looking ahead to book our container shipments a minimum of 4 weeks in advance to help secure equipment and space. To assist with this, analyze your own planning and place orders ahead of time to compensate for any container delays.
Use Alternate Routes
We are looking at creative ways to transport inventory, such as transferring a shipment from one mode of transportation to another and alternative ports. We are also looking at availability of 40′ versus 20′ containers to minimize delays.
Flexible Arrival Times
Be more flexible on the receiving schedule as US dray capacity is extremely tight. With port congestion at an all time high, getting containers offloaded and delivered has become more difficult.
Avoid Air Freight
Air cargo rates out of Asia have risen for 4 straight weeks, surging through Chinese New Year with no sign of a slow down in demand that is traditionally seen. This is exuberated by delays at hubs because of rising volumes and staffing uses.
For more information or how we can help – contact an ultraflex representative
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to test people and industries in ways we never imagined. Not only has it resulted in a worldwide health crisis, but it also has created supply chain bottlenecks for businesses trying to keep up with customer demands for imported products. Dock worker shortages, port congestion, cargo container shortages, lack of vessel space causing ship dates and arrival dates to push out, and major holidays, like the Chinese New Year, are jeopardizing the timely delivery of food, clothing, medicine, and more.
In addition, shipping costs are becoming more expensive, as consumers spend less money on restaurants and entertainment and spend more money on online goods. In the past year, the cost to ship goods has nearly tripled, according to key indexes.
All these factors affect our industry too. Ultraflex is a leading supplier of digitally printable textiles and flexible and rigid substrates, and our customers depend on us.
How is Ultraflex responding to the transportation obstacles facing the industry? Below are three ways we’re taking action to help customers get the products they need to fuel their businesses.
#1: We Are Finding Alternative Ways to Transport Goods
We’re logistics professionals. For more than 30 years, we’ve successfully managed global inventory logistics, and we continue to do so in these challenging times.
Based on our expertise and extensive contacts, we’re working with multiple agents to find space on vessels for our inventory. We’re also looking at creative ways to transport inventory, such as transferring a shipment from one mode of transportation to another, known as transloading or cross-docking.
There are obstacles to overcome, but we’re thinking creatively and taking steps to minimize delays as much as possible.
#2: We Continue to Maintain a Large Inventory
With over 500,000 square feet of global stock holding space, we offer the world’s most comprehensive inventory across product lines. We know which materials are in highest demand and attempt to keep those on hand at our distribution centers to meet your needs.
For example, our SuperPrint Plus is a top-seller, and we keep a minimum of 6 months inventory on hand.
#3: We Help Customers Find Creative Solutions
Our inventory is vast, and so is the knowledge we bring to the market. When your business needs materials that are out of stock or delayed, we work with you to find alternative solutions to temporarily fulfill your needs.
For example, we carry four different 13-ounce banners: Ultima Pro, JetFlex/Normandy Pro, SuperPrint & ProFlex. The diverse inventory allows us to have various versions of the material in an easy replacement solution.
We have faced and overcome challenges many times. Our commitment is to constantly monitor the situation, do everything we can to alleviate delays, and to always offer diverse and consistently high-quality solutions that help you be successful.
When Will Things Get Back to ‘Normal’?
That’s the million-dollar question. Transportation experts predict the flow of supply will improve in the next few months.
In the meantime, the Ultraflex team is here to answer any questions you have about supply issues. We’re here to help you identify solutions that will grow your business. For more information, email us.
The way we go about our normal activities has changed dramatically during the pandemic. How can retail stores, restaurants, grocery stores, and others drive people into their locations, while at the same time, create a safe and enjoyable experience Ultraflex can help. We have multiple media solutions, tailored for your unique environment. With the right solutions, you can communicate effectively with your patrons, improve their onsite experience, and continue to build a powerful brand.
When businesses reopened during the pandemic, many rushed to create safe environments to get patrons back inside. The focus was on social distancing, rules regarding masks, and directional signage. Businesses paid little attention to aesthetics, ambience, and branding.
Now, months later, and to everyone’s disappointment, the virus continues to be a big part of our lives. Safety measures will too.
As consumers venture out of their homes to take care of their needs, how can you help them forget for a little while the reality of masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer? The answer is simple: graphics.
’Tis the Season
The months ahead offer big opportunities for businesses to attract consumers and lift a few spirits along the way – for patrons and employees.
With Ultraflex solutions, you can incorporate design, graphics, and decoration into existing social distancing features.
Think snowflakes and snowmen to welcome winter, gold and glitter for New Year’s Eve, velvety red roses for Valentine’s Day, and rainbow arches for St. Patrick’s Day.
Our innovative materials can help you transform your space to create a more inviting and memorable experience for everyone who walks through your doors.
Use Window Displays Wisely
What is one of the first things people see when they pass by your facility? Your windows. Window displays can promote a brand, create design, invite customers inside, and set the stage for an experience that will keep patrons coming back for more.
Here’s the key: Using the right materials in your window displays can help your advertising and promotions pop without sacrificing natural light or visibility.
For example, perforated window vinyl allows you to display a window graphic to people outside the building while allowing those inside to see out. Our UltraVision Window Perf is engineered for optimal two-way viewing and is ideal for exterior mounted window advertisements.
Look at these show-stopping window displays:
‘Where Do I Sit?’
It’s the question on everyone’s mind who takes public transportation, attends an appointment or event, goes to worship or out to dinner. And it’s a question that should be answered immediately when your patrons arrive.
Seat covers are a great way to visually communicate seating options, while also giving consumers peace of mind that social distancing has already been take care of for them.
Take a look:
Acrylic to the Rescue!
At many locations, employees must interact with consumers. Restaurants, salons, schools, gyms, and others are putting up protective barriers to keep everyone safe.
Whether your business needs a sneeze guard, small dividers, or large barriers, you want to choose a product you can count on – one that’s made from material that protects AND is visually appealing.
AcryliFlex from Ultraflex offers a transparent, durable surface that can create safe spaces and allow for social distancing.
We also offer face shields made of PETG material that is lightweight, has an anti-fog component, and is structurally sound.
Let’s Get Started
Now is a great time to look at your space in a whole new way. We have lots of solutions that can help, such as innovative banners, eye-catching floor graphics, and creative store front displays.
Our knowledge, expertise, and products can help you operate safely, deliver important messages, build consumer loyalty, and elevate brand visibility. For more information, email us.
Is your printing business facing tough times? We have an idea that could help printers expand into new markets, fuel profits and keep customers coming back for more.
Now is a great time to offer décor solutions that turn on the WOW factor in any space, from corporate lobbies to golf carts. Wherever people work, shop, play, study or even stand, décor solutions can create a more vibrant, compelling environment.
Think about it: People are more aware of their surroundings than ever before. What are the messages your customers need to send about their brand? With your excellent printing capabilities and our extensive lineup of décor solutions, you can create a truly customized feel for any space.
We’ve got you covered!
We offer a comprehensive lineup of décor solutions:
Need to help your customers transform walls from bland to grand? Our wallcoverings come in multiple options to fit unique settings. We have PVC and polyester options that can brand any space, such as hospitals, restaurants, daycare centers and other facilities of any size.
Need to create a stunning graphic for a special event or location? Glassless canvas prints are the way to go. Our canvas gallery wrap materials can be used in homes, restaurants, galleries, hotels and other indoor locations that need a show-stopping graphic.
While you are creating the ideal environment with wallcoverings and canvas graphics, why not reimagine seating areas, golf carts, corporate lobby chairs and more to tie it all together? Our highly durable suede and leather upholstery solutions provide an eye-catching pop to any environment.
And don’t forget the floor! Graphic flooring is an excellent way to create visual interest in any location. We have an extensive line of graphic flooring materials that direct consumers to a destination or inspire customers to support a brand. You can see our flooring materials everywhere, such as in bars, restaurants, office buildings and retail stores.
Seeing is believing
Under normal circumstances, we would be demonstrating our décor solutions during an interactive in-person trade show. We miss the trade show experience but have come up with another way to help you connect and explore new solutions that can benefit business growth.
You are invited to the Ultraflex virtual trade show where we will show you the latest innovations in décor solutions. The trade show is free. Simply register here. You can join us or watch the show on demand. A another virtual event on the Decor products takes place Nov. 18. It’s free too, and it’s easy to register here.
Also, watch this video any time to see how our suede and leather upholstery solutions can step up energy and inspiration in a variety of settings.
And always, please feel free to reach out with any questions or suggestions about how we can help you be successful, even when times are tough. For more information, email us.