Volume 11, Issue 6 - November/December 2007

SEMA 2007
Glancing Back

produced a strong turn out from the window film industry this year—including dealers, distributors, manufacturers, installers and more. Few events offer such a collective stage for those involved in automotive film, so it comes as no surprise that there were more than 40 film or film-related businesses exhibiting.

For some manufacturers the event is mostly about “showing face,” others say the event is an appropriate opportunity to simply say “thanks.”

Nothing Says Thank You Better Than Suds
“The way we look at it, it’s just a great opportunity to say ‘thanks,’” explains Fred Zwilling, director of training for Johnson Window Films in Carson, Calif. “We have a lot of dealers and distributors coming in from all over the states, Latin America and Asia, so that’s our angle this year.”

The company chose to forego its usual displays, demonstrations and a product-oriented booth style for a laid-back environment—complete with food and frosty beverages! Behind a walled area were small tables and seating where visitors could kick back and chat over a free lunch.

Film Technologies Inc. decided to take a different approach with its SunGard booth this year as well.

“We wanted to switch things up this year,” explains Angie Howard, marketing supervisor for the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based film manufacturer. A tropical theme, complete with tiki hut, surfboard and a working retro refrigerator, was originally for a themed “thank you” party for the company’s attending dealers, but Howard says the idea expanded to its booth.

“We did have one casualty,” Howard explained, while laughing and pointing to a laid-over palm tree.

SunGard chose to have a backlite on hand for product demonstrations. The company has introduced a 15 percent product to its Shadow line. Howard says this new shade and the recent ceramic trend have increased interest in this product.

Show and Tell
For those companies that performed demonstrations, there was plenty of audience on hand. Dublin, Ohio-based Performance Tools Distributing presented one of its newest film related tools—the ClearCut Box Slitter, a cutting system that mounts inside of manufacturers’ film boxes.

When Patric Fransko, the company’s marketing director, broke out the cutter to perform a demonstration, there was an immediate flood of interest. Onlookers’ comments ranged from, “Now that is a must have” to “Why didn’t someone think of this before?” Fransko says SEMA served as an excellent stage for this and other big news for Performance, including its recent joining with San Antonio-based paint protection provider, XPEL Technologies Corp. (see page 8 for more details).

Raj Sood, president of Protect Gard window films in Miami, Fla., chose to take a product oriented approach with his company’s booth.

“People appreciate being able to touch the products and feel their quality,” he says. Sood says his company focuses on a quick turn around time for product orders. When Protect Gard dealers place an order, the company usually ships them next day—something he feels is important to its customers.

Plotting Success
Plotters were a key point of interest at this year’s event as many manufacturers had their proprietary software and cutting systems on hand for installers to test out. And Rob Garlo, auto program sales manager for Bekaert Specialty Films LLC in San Diego, Calif., says he feels the technology is helping to draw more people into the industry.

“The service, along with the advantages of a cutting system, can quicken their entry into this product offering,” Garlo explains. “It was a draw for our booth.”

Roland Advanced Solutions Division had its plotter on hand, along with its software. Dana Curtis, the company’s application specialist, cutter solutions, attributes a drastic increase in visitors to this trend.

“I can’t think of a time in the last four years that we’ve had so much activity,” Curtis explains “Needless to say it was a very pleasant surprise.”

Zwilling of Johnson cautioned those in the industry about the use of plotters and likened it to learning to use a calculator, but never learning how to add.

“More and more people are asking for [plotter training]. Me, being a trainer, I really want the guys to learn how to physically do it themselves first,” he explains. “If you only learn how to cut with a plotter, what do you do when the power is out?”

Roland had an answer for this dilemma. Curtis says, as a matter of curiosity, his company decided to connect one of its plotters to a 12-volt car battery, using a power inverter. When the experiment proved successful, they decided to have the set-up on hand, to show installers that it would be possible to use its system in the field.

SolarGard also provided live demonstrations of its plotter and design software.

“We found the attendees to be very receptive to our High Performance Supreme series of window films, as well as the ComputerCut technology we demonstrated at our booth,” explains Kathryn Giblin, director of global marketing.

Solar Gard has graphic artists on staff who can convert its dealers’ free hand drawings, or graphic sketches into a pattern. For those who prefer less creative options, a $170 monthly fee also provides access to unlimited downloads of patterns and predesigned images.

While few window film products were unveiled at this year’s show, most film manufacturers had something new to offer. Whether it was paint protection film, new tools, pattern cutting software, plotters or good old-fashioned installation demos, most manufacturers looked ahead.

SEMA will return to the Las Vegas Convention Center, November 4 – 7, 2008.  

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