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Friday, February 12, 2016

The Goulet's Visit to Pilot USA



Back in November of 2015, Rachel and I had the honor to visit the Pilot USA headquarters in Jacksonville, FL. Pilot USA is the distributor for Pilot products in the US, and supplies their products to retailers like us. It's a very important, yet often overlooked part of the process of getting these incredible Japanese products to the US market. They opened up their doors to us and let us show you their operation and it is quite impressive!

We spent two days at Pilot USA touring their facility and meeting with some wonderful people at their company. While we were there we shot some video, which is what you see above here. Here is an outline of what we discuss in the video:

Focus: Goulet/Pilot relationship
  • GouletPens.com started 6 years ago, started Pilot relationship 4 years ago
  • Pilot was skeptical of us at first because we were a small mom-and-pop online only store
  • Been growing rapidly along with us, one of our larger suppliers. It’s grown to be our top brand in the last year
  • Nice values alignment between our companies
Products we carry
Pilot Backstory
  • Founded in 1918 in Tokyo, Japan by Ryosuke Namiki (hence the name)
  • Started making gold nib pens, has now expanded to a truly global enterprise with Subsidiaries all over the world

Pilot USA
  • Pilot USA distributor was started about 40 years ago
  • One of about a dozen distributors in the world, one of the larger ones
  • 300,000 sq ft facility in Jacksonville, FL
The Tour Itself
  • Visited for 2 days, toured the whole facility
  • Fulfillment center, 98,000 sq ft
    • highly automated
    • 5 stories of storage
    • conveyor belts
    • receiving around 1,200 cargo containers each year!
  • “The Cage"
    • where all of the Pilot Fine Writing is stored (except Metropolitans)
    • This is all the stuff you’d see on our site
  • Production, 140,000 sq ft
    • light manufacturing and assembly
    • making blister packs
    • labeling
    • imprinting
    • testing refills
    • assembly of certain pens and parts
  • Offices
    • Very professional, courteous, spacious, and clean
Tea room/CEO's chat
  • What the Goulet/Pilot relationship will look like in the future
    • heart and soul
    • not about quantity, but storytelling
    • passion and excitement
Namiki pens
  • Raden
  • Chinkin
  • Maki-e
  • works of art
  • 7th century
Our future together

  • It’s about carrying on Pilot’s legacy, their heritage
  • The passion and spirit we embody speaks to them, and they want us to help to tell their story 

A special thanks to everyone at Pilot USA for hosting us, it was an incredible experience and we're incredibly grateful for this insight into the inner workings of the company! If you have any questions or comments, be sure to let us know below. 

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Goulet Q&A Episode 112, Open Forum


Goulet Q&A is now available as an audio podcast! Click here  for the RSS feed to use in your podcast app of choice, or click here for a direct download.

In this week’s Q&A, I talk about why fountain pens are called fountain pens, how pen materials affect the pricing of a pen, and what a typical day at Goulet looks like for me.

New/Upcoming Products - (3:05)


Pens/Writing -(4:41)

1) Donovan P.- Facebook - (4:55)
Never have I heard it asked or answered, why is a fountain pen called a fountain pen? Why not a controlled leak pen?
  • fountain pens really are just controlled leaks!
  • before fountain pens you had dip pens, with ink WELLs
  • fountain pens really started to come into their own around the 1890’s
  • fountain pens became popular because they eliminated the need to dip your pen, the ink carried with it
  • the ink flows out of the pen naturally, like a FOUNTAIN (as opposed to a well)

2) Marcelo Duarte Ferrari- YouTube - (8:34)
I see Goulet Pens not carrying some pens with B nibs, apparently in the more expensive lines. I love broads myself, but that’s probably because I’m a lefty. If they don't sell that much, does Brian know why? Or is it out of another completely different reason? Was Brian traumatized by a B nib in his childhood?
  • i think it has a lot to do with paper
  • US paper is really absorbent, and it makes most broads write like Sharpies
  • I love broads, Rachel really loves broads, but no one buys them (hardly) so we couldn’t justify most of them
  • no trauma, I actually like them but I like being smart about my inventory, too
  • some manufacturers are cutting out broads altogether, like Conklin

3) Brian Jones- YouTube - (12:25)
Acrylic is a very popular material to make fountain pens. As a raw material, as far as I can tell, it is not that expensive. Just what goes into making an acrylic pen with a steel nib and plastic feed that makes them so pricey? I'm also ignorant to what "resin" means, or "macrolon," or anything else that the industry seems to advertise as anything other than "plastic". Any insight into the material science and/or manufacturing complexities that makes these things worth it to aficionados would be great. 
  • It’s not the raw material cost that’s expensive, usually, it’s the labor and equipment
  • cheap pens are injection-molded, which can cost $100k-250k or so for the mold, so you have to make millions of those pens to distribute the cost
  • acrylic acetate is a cast resin, not injection molded, which is amplitudes more expensive than injection-molded plastic
  • cast resin needs to be turned one-at-a-time on a lathe and shaped with tooling, it takes way, way, way more time than injection molding
  • the end result is a richer, more pearlescent appearance and more scratch resistance
  • other materials are more for various reasons:
    • Makrolon- Lamy 2000 material that is a fiberglass/resin blend
    • Acryloid- Visconti blend of celluloid and acrylic
    • Cotton Resin- Omas’s version of celluloid and resin
    • Celluloid- Delta Dolce Vita, older material with some pros and cons, but takes 2 years to prepare for usage in a pen
    • Metal- can be really cheap or really expensive, varies a lot based on the rarity and type
    • Carbon Fiber- difficult and messy to work with, looks sweet though!
    • Wood- really hard to work with, expensive

4) Brigido R.- Facebook - (25:04)
You have mentioned before how you don't believe lending your pen to somebody else for a moment "changes" the nib in any significant way; pens don't adapt that quickly. However, what are your thoughts on lending it to your other hand? I'm talking about ambidexterity, of course! While left hand dominant, I often let my right hand do the talking, so to speak. Do you think this will negatively impact my nibs in the long run? Should I have specific pens to use with each of my hands? 
  • I don’t think it’ll negatively affect your pens at all
  • writing lefty will put your pen in more of a ‘push’ motion than righty
  • will be a challenge with flex nibs or softer nibs, but you can work around that
  • Check out Fountain Pen 101 for Lefties

Business - (28:08)

5) Mary D.- Facebook - (28:35)
As your company grew, you had to develop specialized roles and eventually departments and reporting structures. What was/is your biggest challenge in managing that aspect of growth?
  • hands down, the biggest challenge has an continues to be clarity
  • managing expectations, clear communication, training, goals…all comes under clarity
  • Masters Degree from the school of hard knocks and my colors are Black and Blue
  • I’ve learned how to do things right but running out of wrong things to try!
  • hired too fast, hired too late, rushed things, didn’t set clear vision, didn’t address issues soon enough, you name it
  • there can never be too much communication in a company regarding people’s roles and expectations
  • we have job descriptions and key result areas
  • semi-annual development reviews with goal setting
  • regular 1-on-1 meetings
  • weekly company meeting
  • this challenge never goes away, and only gets tougher as we grow

‏6) @simonraulandrei- Twitter - (36:33)
Brian, how do you keep your employees motivated to work so hard? How can you gain their respect while being friendly?
  • the best way to motivate your people is to hire motivated people in the first place
  • we look for people with “batteries included”, not always easy to find
  • motivation often doesn’t look like the carrot-and-stick
  • we focus a ton on strong culture, good communication
  • I try to stay approachable, as much as I can be
  • Trust Is Our Currency, we work really hard to build trust, which requires vulnerability
  • Respect is often given to leaders to first show respect for their teams 

7) Kevin L.- Facebook - (47:11)
During last week"s Q&A section of the FP Master Class we discussed The Race to the Bottom and how it affects both retailers and consumers. Does the race to the top have similar effects on both parties?
  • check out the Pilot Pricing Puzzle blog post on Pen Economics that I referenced last week
  • people tend to think that products are just around, and that pricing is really arbitrary and that’s why it varies so much
  • target pricing is determined extremely intentionally by manufacturers and distributors
  • high volume/low margin or low volume/high margin, a lot which has to do with capacity
  • “race to the top” would be innovative and entrepreneurial ventures
  • you see this with bespoke products, limited editions, new designs, new filling mechanisms
  • RTTP products are a ton of work for retailers like us, but it’s exciting work that we love
  • RTTP products often don’t pull the financial wagon at most companies, as the cost of developing the products is high, and unless it’s a huge success over many years, it’ll just pay for itself and then a bit
  • what it really does is create marketing, brand loyalty, and recognition
  • example: Visconti Homo Sapiens
  • I’m a huge fan of RTTP products, because I want to see this industry grow and thrive

Personal - (57:18)

8) Andrew M.- email - (57:19)
What skill would you learn if it could be downloaded into you "Matrix" style?
  • practical answer: nib tuning
  • slightly less practical answer: woodworking (master craftsmanship) or playing piano

9) Jodi M.- Email/Periscope - (01:00:30)
Besides filming videos, what do you do on a typical Goulet day?
  • wake up between 5:45-6:30am (depending if I work out)
  • shower, get kids ready and take to school
  • 8:30am at work
  • 8:45am morning check-in with leadership team
  • 9:00am emails and planning
  • 9:30am meetings meetings meetings! all day long
  • 1-on-1’s with managers
  • 1-2 lunches a week with various business folks in the community
  • team lunches
  • MBWA
  • strategic planning
  • video prep
  • answering comments/tweets/emails/etc
  • inspecting quality issues
  • budgeting
  • sales reviews
  • brainstorming meetings for blogs
  • analytics
  • I really touch a lot of areas, especially from a vision/strategic front
  • It’s seldom that I don’t have my entire day planned out, with flex time of course
  • after work get kids
  • have dinner/play time
  • bedtime routine
  • most nights it’s second-shift starting at 9pm
  • might Periscope, answer emails, prep Q&A, talk strategy with Rachel
  • go to bed around midnight, which is too late

Troubleshooting - (01:07:33)

10) Ellen H.- Facebook - (01:07:34)
I have an Edison Collier silver marble, which I like a lot. Problem is that when I fill it, ink collects beneath the grip, and since the much of the grip is translucent white, it looks pretty unattractive. Why does that happen and whay can I do to stop it? 
  • ink is likely getting in there when you’re filling the pen from the bottle
  • You can remove the nib unit from the grip easily
  • may want to refill the converter directly into the bottle
  • use silicone grease on threads and grip

QOTW: What skill would you “download” Matrix-style into your brain if you could? - (01:08:45)

Thanks so much for joining me this week! You can catch up on any old Q&A videos you missed here

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue: Ink Review


Are you ready for some Inky goodness?

Hey guys, Jenni here and this week I am reviewing the deep, rich and beautiful Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue. I used this ink in my most recent Monday Matchup and absolutely fell in love with so many things about it. Not only is this color the perfect hue of blue, but it also surprises you with purple and red hues when water is applied to it. This makes it the perfect match for the Noodler's Tinian Treasure fountain pen. I'm sure by now you are asking yourself, "Can it be used in everyday writing?" and "How will it write inside my everyday carry notebook?" Let me assure you, this ink will not disappoint. Get ready to be introduced to your new favorite blue ink: Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue.


Supplies Used:

Smear Test (Dry Time):
  • Medium- This ink isn't necessarily a fast drying ink, it took around 25 seconds to dry. But it definitely dried fast enough for sketching and drawing without smearing everything around the page. 

Drip Test (Water Resistance):
  • Low- When water is applied to this ink magic happens! Yes, the blue disappears making it non-water resistant, BUT what you get left behind with is a beautiful mix of purple and red hues that are gorgeous and perfect for art.  

Saturation:
  • Medium- This ink has a whole lot of pigment to it but I wouldn't consider it a highly saturated ink. It is a deep, dark blue but it only gets slightly darker the more ink you apply to the paper. It does however, leave behind a beautiful red sheen that totally makes up for it. 

Ease of Cleaning:
  • Medium- Cleaning this ink can be very easy since it has such a low water resistance. However, because the ink mixes with water to produce purple and red hues, it can lead to the staining of your pen and/or converter. Keep that in mind when leaving your pen inked up for a long amounts of time. 
Shading:
  • Low- Unfortunately you don't get to see too much shading with this ink because it has a medium saturation. You can see a little bit of color variation every now and again, but overall the ink color is pretty consistent, which for me is fine because I LOVE the color!

Flow:
  • Medium- This is a fairly dry, but great flowing ink. When writing with both the Lamy Al-Star and the Noodler's Konrad I found that there was a bit of hard starting and skipping. Once the feed of the pen was full of the ink, it wrote smooth and without issue. I'd recommend using this ink with a wet writing pen for best results. 

Packaging and Aesthetics:
  • 75ml glass bottle with 2ml ink samples also available.  
  • Gorgeous medium sized bottle that sits wide and low. 
  • Shallow bottle could make filling difficult when ink gets low. You may need to tilt the bottle to get the best results.


 Inks Similar in Color:




Summary:

I haven't gotten the chance to try out many Faber-Castell inks but after using Cobalt Blue I have no doubt that I will be trying out more. This ink is great for everyday writing at work, home, in the art studio and beyond. Just make sure you are using it in the right wet writing pen for maximum enjoyment. Also, be sure to try adding a little water to the mix to see what kinds of purple and red hues you can get out of it.


You can find Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue at Gouletpens.com in a 75ml bottle for $30, a box of 6 cartridges for $3.50, or a 2ml ink sample for $1.50. Have you fallen in love with this beautiful blue yet? If not, please give it a try because it will most definitely surprise you.

What other inks have you been surprised by?

Write on,
Jenni

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