Chop Service


In the United States Chop Service has established deep roots. However, in Europe it has yet to take off. Why?

What is it and how does it work?
It is a phenomenon that has not yet taken off in Europe. We feel that above all it is a concept that has yet to be well understood by the European framer. Chop Service (which we will often simply call "Chop") basically consists of a moulding manufacturer or distributor supplying 4 45° pre-cut mouldings to the framers all ready for joining.
Let's see how it works in a rather simple manner (for those that understand the basics these first paragraphs can be skipped over). The framer purchases corner moulding samples from a supplier and displays them in his shop. When he receives a job from a customer he orders, from his supplier, the four sides of the frame pre-cut to size, of the moulding chosen by the customer.
The order is made up of the internal measurements of the frame. The order is not made for each job that he receives but is usually made every two to three days in order to accumulate a reasonable order and thus minimise transport charges. The order can be made by telephone.
The supplier cuts the four moulding sides of the frame and sends them to the framer as quickly as possible, usually by courier.
The rapid delivery time is an important feature of Chop as the framer receives the pieces cut and can then perform the joining and complete the whole job within the due date established with the customer.
There is also a possibility of receiving the four pieces cut and joined. In this case the service is called "Chop & Joint". It is a system that creates some packaging and transportation problems. There is a risk of damage during transport and the transport costs are greater due to the volume of the packages.
Made in USA
Chop Service was born in the USA about 40 years ago when the first aluminium mouldings or aluminium coated mouldings started appearing on the market. The cutting of aluminium mouldings required and still requires the use of special tools and equipment. Normal saws and guillotines cannot be used.
Most framers could not afford the additional cost of this equipment and hence in order to sell these types of mouldings, manufacturers decided to facilitate the framer by selling the mouldings already cut. Chop Service was born. As time went by American framers realised that it was a system that had advantages applicable also to wooden mouldings. Since then it has continued to grow.
In America, the percentage of mouldings sold with the chop service is estimated at around 70%.
It is a rather huge phenomenon and has constituted a real revolution in the States.
In Europe? Strangely enough it has not taken off anywhere in Europe. Apart from the Netherlands where the percentage is around 80% (even higher than in the States) it hasn't had much success anywhere else in Europe.
At a distant second we find Sweden at 20%, Germany 10%, Great Britain at 5%. In other countries such as France and Italy the sales percentage is not worth talking about.
The advantages for the framer
Less stock
The major advantage is that the framer is able to eliminate his stock or at least reduce it substantially. The framer simply displays the various corner samples without actually stocking the mouldings.
This means that he leaves the customer with an embarrassing choice.
It is a well known fact that a customer prefers to come into a shop that has a wide range. The American framer displays about 350 samples in his shop. There is no such reliable statistic in Europe but it can be safely stated that the average European framer stocks no more than half the average American amount.
One of the most obvious consequences of reducing stock, is the reduction of capital that is tied up. Moulding inventory is a substantial item on a framer's balance sheet.
An intermediate solution would be to keep a stock of the best sellers and use Chop for those mouldings seldom used, particularly the more expensive ones, that constitute a heavy investment of funds. Another advantage is the reduction of space.
Chop avoids the useless and disorganised storage of many mouldings in the back room allowing greater functionality and leaving greater space to that part of the shop dedicated to display and customers.
No more cut offs
Chop eliminates the problems associated with cut offs. Usually cut offs are piled up in a corner awaiting possible future use.
Cut offs constitute a cost because they are paid at full price. Even if they were to be used to make smaller frames they could never cover the cost. They also take up space that could be used more effectively.
By ordering the mouldings through Chop, the cut offs remain in the suppliers warehouse and the framer pays only for the mouldings supplied to him.
No more defective mouldings
Another nagging inconvenience that can be overcome with Chop is eliminating crooked or defective mouldings.
It is the supplier that is left with the responsibility and the cost of eliminating defective mouldings at the time of making the cut.
This constitutes a reduction in cost for the framer.
Identical mouldings
It must have happened to most framers to find themselves with four pieces of mouldings all nicely cut and ready for joining but unfortunately different in colour and/or finish.
This often happens when mouldings are used from two different batches purchased at lengthy intervals.
Try first and then buy
The advantages don't end here. There are others that a framer discovers as he acquires greater confidence with the whole system.
A framer will realise that it is not necessary to purchase new models of mouldings. It is more conv
enient to try them first with Chop. This way a framer can check them over and even evaluate customers' reactions. Only if the evaluation gives a positive result, will it be convenient to stock the mouldings.
There will be a substantial reduction in the risk of purchasing the wrong moulding.
A helping hand
Chop enables the framer to handle heavy work loads . There are times during the year when quiet periods alternate with not so quiet periods.
Chop allows you to have a casual employee on-call. This helping hand allows the framer to level out these alternating periods.
It is more comfortable to let your supplier do the work whilst you are busy. Chop comes in handy when personnel are sick or on holiday. Sometimes the owner himself is sick or away.
Whenever the framer has to overcome an emergency the burden of employing extra staff is no longer required with Chop. Reliable, organised, on call and economically less onerous. That's Chop.
For the beginner
If a framer was to exclusively use Chop there would be no need for any cutting equipment.
This can be particularly handy for a framer starting out.
In fact a framer could use Chop in the initial stages of his activity and only once his volume of work justified the investment would he purchase cutting equipment.
Moulding cutting is an essential part of the framer's activity and the buying of a good quality saw should be evaluated closely.
Those that are not framers
Photographers that are also framers, general shop owners, gift shops that sell small framed pictures and posters are all potential beneficiaries of Chop.
Instead of purchasing expensive cutting equipment and keeping a stock of mouldings it is more logical and less problematic to have a large range of samples on display limiting the work to joining and assembling the frame.
The inconveniences
Is it all nice and rosy? Not completely. There can be some disadvantages with Chop that discourage its use.
First of all the price. The cost of a pre-cut moulding is greater than the moulding supplied as a mitre. The surcharge is usually around 80%. This is counterbalanced by all the other economical advantages such as no cut offs and no defects, no work, etc.
There are inconveniences however with not keeping stock. The first is that when the supply of Chop doesn't arrive you are left stranded. Delays with the transport for example can occur. The supplier should be extremely rapid with delivery and needs to have a network of reliable and efficient transporters.
You must insist that your supplier informs you as quickly as possible when they are out of stock of a particular moulding requested by you. This way you can let your customer know as soon as possible.
If the moulding is damaged whilst handling or assembling it, the only option left is to re-order it with a consequent doubling of the expected completion times.
What happens when the mouldings arrive damaged or with chipped off edges. Even though your supplier will most likely reimburse you, the expected completion time previously communicated to the client can no longer be met. It is important that you have suppliers that package the mouldings well.
There is also an inconvenience with phone orders. Often mistakes can occur either in communicating the model or the dimensions. Model F-22 is often misunderstood as S-22 for example. A 45 x 40 cm frame is often misunderstood as a 55 x 40 one. If you telephonically order, then you should get the supplier to repeat the order back to you.
Often there is a misunderstanding over the measurement system you use compared to that of your supplier. For example when you state 30 x 40 cm you probably mean 30.2 x 40.2 (you are already allowing for the application of glass, mountboard and backboard). You must be careful that what you believe is obvious may not be so for the supplier.
Even though your supplier may deliver rapidly you will never be able to finish a job within a day or two. You will always have to allow for those few days for the preparation by the supplier and the subsequent delivery.
You must assure that the samples you display must be current ones that the supplier continues to stock. You must have a supplier that rapidly communicates to you any changes in production. Mouldings follow fashions and manufacturers stop production of those mouldings that are no longer requested. Your sample display must constantly be kept up to date.
In spite of a rather long list of disadvantages it has not discouraged American framers. From a recent survey it was found that 35% of American framers are very happy with Chop whilst 56% stated that they were reasonably happy. The two figures put together indicate that 91% of framers have a favourable opinion of Chop.
Suppliers of Chop in Europe
Why is it then that Chop has had so much success in the States but only met with relative success in Europe? A straightforward answer is not possible. It is possibly due to the fact that old habits die hard. Maybe it is lack of information. European framers have probably yet to understand the advantages of Chop and suppliers have not made much of an effort at marketing the service.

In Italy only the Rinaldin, providing mouldings, equipment and accessories for framers, it launched the Chop Service 30 years ago. "The results - admits Giorgio Rinaldin - they were still not up to expectations, but maybe it's just a matter of time and aging." No manufacturer of Italian mouldings, unlike competitors in Europe, has ever tried to offer the service.