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Tools for Sign-makers

Sign-makers are often against the clock to meet deadlines while also producing a high quality service. Genevieve Lewis reviews time-saving tools and solutions to make life smoother

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There are various options and solutions that can help a sign-maker save time, from tools to management

Time is money

Tools and solutions that save time for the sign-maker can appear in many forms, from an app that helps with writing sign surveys through to cutting tools that finish jobs quickly and easily without breaking the bank.

Extensive planning is involved in the installation process, to make sure that workers are safe and that the fittings go to plan. One printer and sign-maker realised that this planning, particularly sign surveys, was taking much longer than necessary and decided to rectify this.

Sign Survey is an app that can save sign-makers time through the collation of data without having to drive back to the office and is free to download

James Boatwright is the director of Bigprinting and also owns a software company, which was the mastermind behind the creation of a mobile application. This app can save a sign-maker time and effort as it cuts the need to write up sign surveys upon returning to the office. Boatwright explains: “Mid-2018, my Cambridge-based signage company highlighted that sign surveys were taking too long. We’d drive to the customer’s site, take notes on various pads, drive back and spend hours typing all the information up again into a good enough format to quote from, or present to the customer.

“Really, this document is the core of any sign job – it contains vital information so it’s important it’s correct. It shouldn’t be rushed and it should be consistent. For this reason, we tasked our development team (sister company) with the task of creating an app that would create a detailed survey while the surveyor is still at the job site – no need to drive back. It’s done there and then. Sign Survey was born.”

Boatwright continues: “We spent a couple of months testing it on live projects and have ironed out any bugs making it reliable for any specific jobs. We even added voice memos to make it quick and easy to reference things without having to type.”

Remove the most timely process of a survey and create it while at the job where the information can be checked before leaving

Sign-makers can benefit from downloading an app such as this, which is free to use, because it saves time while also allowing you to work to the highest standards. Boatwright adds: “Any signage company that wants to work more accurately and efficiently should download the free app. Remove the most timely process of a survey and create it while at the job where the information can be checked before leaving.”

How else will an application such as this benefit a sign-maker? Boatwright says: “Not only can you create a detailed report for your estimating team, you can create a reference for your customer, instantly. Any customer will be impressed with the instantly created clear format of the PDF report. You can even ask them to confirm they’re happy while you’re still onsite. Email straight from your device so that your team can be working on prices while you’re driving back.”

O Factoid: It is predicted that the number of app downloads will rise to 325bn in 2021 (businessofapps.com).O

The Sign Survey app not only creates the survey but can also alert the closest installation team which means that a sign-maker can highlight a job and send the team over. “You can even assign installation teams which flag in priority order depending on GPS distance from the job you’re surveying,” says Boatwright. “Send to the closest teams and await your estimate. I believe our app can help any signage company, whether traditional or digital – customise completely to suit your business for free.”

Tools of the trade

The development of technology in a number of areas in the industry, from wide-format printing through to the simplest of tools that can make any job easier, is important.

Sign-making Tools are a Telford-based company that provide the necessary equipment to complete many tasks when creating signage. It has all the bits and bobs that sign-makers did not even know they needed, including the simplest of kit. As well as supplying these tools, the company makes its own signs for customers.

Sign-making Tools are based in Telford and run by husband and wife duo, Paul and Julia Hughes

Julia and Paul Hughes run the company, and together have many years of experience under their belts, and one thing that Julia Hughes highlights is a cutting range: “There’s the Apollo, which is the substrate cutter, a freestanding cutter that’s actually made by FTC which we are a distributor for. So, if you imagine somebody has a huge sheet that needs to be cut up, with multiple cuts on it, you literally stop, cut and push the material rather than having to measure it and mark it.”

Sign-making Tools works closely with Finishing Technology Company (FTC), which also offers a number of solutions that can save time and money for a sign-maker, including the Apollo cutter. The firm also manufactures and sells the Trimalco range of large-format cutters. Katherine McLean, sales executive, explains: “Our target audience are the sign-makers who still use a straight edge and craft knife to cut sheets of PVC and Aluminium Composites. When we meet them at trade shows, they are amazed at how easy it is to cut those materials quickly, accurately, quietly, without dust and above all safely.

“With just one pass, we can produce a finished cut on PVC, aluminium composites, acrylics and more. There is no need to perform secondary finishing operations. A five second tool change and production stops for repeat cuts and are all designed to save the sign-maker time and money.”

The Trimalco range of large-format cutters has been designed to cut materials quickly and easily without breaking the bank

McLean continues: “FTC produces the Trimalco range of large-format cutters in its own fully equipped manufacturing facility near Wellingborough in the UK. All products have been designed specifically for the large-format sign and graphics markets and draw on the founders’ thirty years of experience in the industry. The Trimalco brand recently celebrated its sixth anniversary and those six years have included many firsts.”

Investing in equipment such as the Trimalco range of large-format cutters is just one way for a sign-maker to save time, and MacLean says that time and cost was an inspiration for the Trimalco brand: “The most common question I was asked in my first 22 years of providing cutting solutions with other manufacturers was, ‘we love your products but we can’t afford them just yet’. I saw an opportunity to build products that cost less but without sacrificing accuracy or performance. That was why I started the Trimalco brand and use the slogan ‘Affordable Accuracy’.”

Project management

Signage consultancy, Make it Happen, which offers training and sessions to inspire the sign-maker, says that perhaps hiring an external project manager to help out is the way forward. This means that members of staff will not be taken away from other jobs, especially if the sign-maker is a smaller firm, which many sign companies are. It may cost a fee, but it could save time and money in other areas. Sam Armstrong, Katie Asken and Zoe Wilkins-Read of Make it Happen can offer this service to help small and medium businesses (SMBs) roll out a project smoothly. The consultancy can help with site surveys, business meetings, technical assistance, sourcing from suppliers, and of course start to finish project management.

Make it Happen says that one way of saving time for a sign-maker could be working with a project management team, taking fewer members of the team away from other jobs

Recently, Make it Happen were employed by the FASTSIGNS Group to project manage a large roll out across the UK and Europe. John Davies, the UK managing director for FASTSIGNS International, explains: “With the challenge of our business being engaged with meeting the requirements of an extremely large multinational company, I sought to add the dedicated and experience project management resource and expertise of Sam and Katie to our project management team, when an initial nationwide roll out program expanded to the UK and Europe soon after commencement.”

Davies continues: “They helped organise a signage roll-out to warehouses across the UK and Europe working to exacting demands and extremely tight timescales and deadlines. Co-ordinating not only a number of FASTSIGNS franchisees but also surveys, artwork standards and installation across five different countries while often overcoming language barriers and other obstacles.

With many sign-makers being small businesses, there are ways to save time and money

“With their help the project was completed on time and to the customers’ delight. Numerous out of hours phone calls and emails were conducted to make sure all deadlines were met.”

Of course, this is only a snippet of what can help a sign-maker achieve high-quality work while not going over budget and working to a deadline. Over the next year, why not look into these solutions and tools to see if you could save time and money while working on a project?


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