Labeling a National Treasure
A Sign Shop Finds Regional Success in a Variety of Ways
by Melissa Tetreault
Dye sublimation, digital wall murals, wallpaper, vinyl banners, flexible substrates, rigid substrates, tradeshows, and vehicle wraps. The list of projects that Burlington, MA-based DGI-Invisuals creates could go on forever.
The shop, which opened in 1994, truly is a full service digital provider in every meaning of the word. "When we get a client, we don’t have to say, ‘we can give you anything you want as long as it is vinyl’," shares Bob Bekesha, VP of marketing and sales, DGI-Invisuals. "We are able to give them the whole gamut so they can get what they need at the best bang for their buck. We’re looking for a long-term relationship with our client that will eventually help build our business." Thanks to the variety DGI-Invisuals offers, they are a sole provider for their clients.
DGI-Invisuals has a large variety of digital print equipment. The shops large format printer collection includes a VUTEk UltraVu 150; VUTEk PressVu for printing whites; a Mimaki JV3 and JV4; three Durst Lambdas; and a couple Hewlett-Packard machines. The shop also relies on an i-cut router and Techno router.
Time Tested Variety
"It isn’t just about doing the latest and greatest thing in the market. A lot of people in this industry started out as big techies and they wanted to do what was new and different—print on their hand, printing on something while it was moving," explains Glen Fairbanks, production department, DGI-Invisuals. "These ideas sounded good, but were very expensive. We’d like to say DGI-Invisuals is time tested and rooted in a full array of tried and true services."
What helped this variety infused business grow was a series of acquisitions and mergers starting in the late 90s. Formerly known as DGI, the shop purchased Colonial Color in Boston, MA, which introduced them to photography. In 2002, DGI merged with another Boston-based company, Invisuals. After the merger the newly formed company moved all of their production to a 30,000-square-foot facility in Burlington. Additionally, in 2006 the company purchased selected assets of Castle Graphics.
The mergers led to not only both their project offering and client base growing, but also allowed them to add a handful of dedicated employees to their mix. "Thanks to the mergers we were fortunate to gain seasoned employees. As a result, our workforce has many years of experience in an industry that is very young," Bekesha points out. That workforce is a staggering 55 people who work around the clock to create quality output for DGI-Invisuals’ customers.
Home Grown Success
DGI-Invisuals’ clientele are located predominately in the northeastern region of the United States. At DGI-Invisuals’ inception, a lot of business was done outside of this area. As time elapsed, Bekesha and his team realized the reason for this was because there were not as many print shops similar to theirs spread out across the country. Today, however, you can find one in every major city.
Staying regional has done everything but hurt their business. In catering to the Northeast, DGI-Invisuals has made it even more possible to please their client.
For example, DGI-Invisuals has ongoing projects occurring at South Station in Boston, MA. Called "station domination," a team of generally 12 installs banners, adhesive, vinyl, and floor graphics overnight anytime new signage is needed at the train station. Thanks to the continuing need for new advertising, DGI-Invisuals created a system that allows the installers to function as if they aren’t even there. Commuters are not comprised when DGI-Invisuals is on the scene.
"We believe in this business that the customer service personal touch is important. So we see visiting and speaking with our clients and helping them through the process, from design to finish, as extremely important," quips Sylvia Mauro, head of customer service, DGI-Invisuals.
She continues, "We believe there is enough business regionally and that has really become where our strength is. By focusing on this we’ve been able to upgrade to the Reebok and Dunkin Donuts of the world."
With upgrading comes great reward, DGI-Invisuals handles the national output for many of their regional clients as well. Companies like Tweeter, Dunkin Donuts, and Citizens Bank all rely on DGI-Invisuals for output across the country.
The Good and the Ugly
It is all about the client at DGI-Invisuals. The client sets the pace of the project and it is the client that sets the breadth of DGI-Invisuals’ output.
Any given month leaves room for one type of application to be the designated star depending on the clients’ request. This is actually beneficial to DGI-Invisuals. They stay updated on every application, from design to installation, and are able to carry them out at a minutes notice because they never know what a client may need.
Granted, a minutes notice isn’t always favorable. Fairbanks shares the one frustration he has faced in the digital shop business. "It seems that at our end of the business, people just don’t understand scheduling. People contact us last minute but rather than fight it we embrace it. You have to think ‘that is why they come to us’. Ultimately, you have to be there for your client."
Good things can come from last minute orders and the output changing on a monthly basis. Shops like DGI-Invisuals have large fixed costs thanks to salaries and equipment. December, January, July, and August are slow, scary months for a large format print shop. With more then one discipline in their toolbox, DGI-Invisuals is able to keep their shop busy 12 months a year.
Printing for the Champs
This past Summer, DGI-Invisuals worked on a high profile project at the home of the 2007 World Series Champions, Fenway Park. Above left field, hugging the Green Monster, there are three, 25-foot-high Coca-Cola bottles attached to light towers. They’ve made their presence known since 1997. DGI-Invisuals’ task was to print labels for the bottles and then install them.
As with any project DGI-Invisuals is attempting to conquer, preliminary visits were scheduled at the park to get a sense of what they were dealing with. "We always look at the project and see what challenges we may have and then try and iron them out. Generally, we won’t do an installation unless we can do a preliminary site inspection. It helps us to figure out where our trucks can park, how many people we will need to hoof tools over to the site, and if lifts will fit in the elevators," explains Bekesha.
When they went to visit Fenway Park, they made sure to take a lot of pictures, which would eventually aid in mapping out the final sizes of the Coca-Cola labels. They also were concerned with the 120-foot lift they would have to bring in to install the labels.
Bekesha elaborates, "We basically had one chance to get it right and we were dealing with a national treasure while handling some big equipment. Just getting the equipment in and out of the park, on top of working around the Red Sox’ game schedule was very challenging."
Once the site evaluation was complete, the actual printing could begin. Using 3M IJ180, Bekesha and his team printed the labels in a day and after a round of color proofing that took two days, were ready to go. The color proofing was one of the hardest parts because the traditional red of the Coca-Cola label had to be just right.
Another issue was weather. When using 3M products, the DGI-Invisuals team always makes sure that the conditions are correct so that the customer qualifies for a five-year warranty from 3M. Working close with the manufacturer allows the shop to provide for their client in the best possible way. "You only do it once, so cooperation at all angles leads to no mistakes," explains Mauro.
One Last Detail
After a decade in the business, Bekesha continues to learn many lessons. Besides the all-important mantra of DGI-Invisuals—it is all about the client, he also advises that it be all about the details. "Projects don’t take time to produce and install, the time is in the detailsproofing, getting the files, the site inspections, etc."
Details go so far as to the hardware you consider purchasing, Fairbanks continues, "There is a huge business aspect to digital printing, you can’t be blinded by the technology. Before you invest in a machine, make sure you have a buyer—pay attention to the detail!"
DGI-Invisuals has certainly paid attention to the details, making them a leader in digital printing.