Our September issue highlighted the printers, media, and ink available for vehicle wraps. Once the technology is added to a shop’s line of services, there comes a very important challenge—installation. Here, we take a look at how some vehicle wrap installers tackle this task.
When it comes to installing a vehicle wrap many end users think of two things—training and patience. Over time patience develops into successful vehicle wraps and ultimately a profitable business, allowing training to occur and business to expand. SignZoo did not initially participate in training. The shop’s co-owner, Todd Stuart, comments, "We did not participate in training originally and it slowed our progress and negatively impacted our costs. At this time a focus on training is our highest priority, including video, mentoring programs, and planned certification programs."
Matt Richart of Digital EFX Wraps says that most of his company’s experience comes from hands-on training. "We learned from the hard knocks of business. Printing and re-printing, installing over and over, as well as design concepts. We are continually training our staff to meet the needs of our quality." Richart now lends his expertise to vehicle wrap classes and demonstrations by Roland.
Training should not have to be just for the install team, according to John McKenzie, CEO, Motorsports Designs, Inc. At this particular shop, both its design and layout teams are on hand to witness the application of a wrap. "I recommend that anyone involved in design and layout for a vehicle wrap for the first time become involved with the installation of it. The quickest way to eliminate mistakes is to let the design people get their hands on the application from the beginning and learn what the problems are; what areas the seams need to meet, where the templates need to be made, and what areas need solid colors," states McKenzie.
Paramount Promotions carries a full design staff, printing and finishing department, and installation staff and Brad Bergamo claims that the best training is frequency. "When you can wrap at least a couple vehicles a week, your results improve and so does your speed." Speed is key for the company. They produce everything from tradeshow graphics, posters, banners, wall murals, to vehicle graphics.
SkinzWraps was at the helm of vehicle wrapping five years ago according to Peter C. Salaverry, chairman and CEO, so there were few reliable resources available to them in connection with training. Thus the company compiled its own manual entitled Wrapping Vehicles the Skinz Way. The manual has formed the basis of their own internal training program. "Like a good military we train and do live fire exercises all the time," says Salaverry.
You Don’t Have to Do It Alone
Training does not have to be something that a sign shop does alone. Both media suppliers and print manufacturers are offering various options to get the training you need to create a successful, long lasting vehicle wrap. For example, Trevor Kräcker’s employees at Highet Kräcker Design attend Oracal’s school for continued training. The Oracal Wrapping Academy is a hands-on, two-day vehicle wrap training course. David Grant of Oracal says that the company also reaches out to its end users through both instructional tip and a detailed instructional video at no charge, available on their Web site.
Similar instructional help is available from 3M through their instruction bulletin on their Web site. Another option is the 3M DVD, Application Instructions for Complex Contours for Vehicles. The DVD teaches the basics of installing a vehicle wrap, and can be obtained from a 3M sales representative or distributor. 3M also holds installation seminars throughout the country in cooperation with its distributors. According to Tim Boxeth they have been very successful this past year. The certification program in St. Paul, MN is where all seven of Motorsports Designs’ installers became trained on how to correctly wrap a vehicle.
According to Gabriel Maxwell, product manager at Arlon Graphic Films, education plays a large part when it comes to installing and designing a vehicle wrap successfully. After SGIA in October 2006, the company is starting a 12-month road show. Traveling to 35 major metro cities, they plan on holding vehicle wrap seminars on not only how to install a wrap, but also how to design one, and how to profit from it.
Tiffany Witham shares that Avery also offers an installation DVD for vehicle graphics. "It is a very in-depth, step by step tutorial on how to apply a graphic, how to prepare a surface, etc. All to get a successful vehicle wrap." The DVD is available through Avery distributor partners.
MACtac offers an installation guide on tips and tricks for how to use its new bubble-free product. It also holds application seminars that go into great detail concerning the creation of a vehicle wrap. The seminars cover everything from product recommendations, surface preparation, and caring for a wrap after it is completed.
Many printer manufacturers also hold training classes to help the user learn the ins and outs of the machine they are printing on. VUTEk by EFI holds a five-day training course including classroom and hands-on learning. Roland hosted its first vehicle graphics workshop this past July in Irvine, CA. At the Wrap Session Vehicle Graphics Workshop, participants learned first hand how to create a successful wrap from design to installation. Industry professionals like Matt Richart from Digital EFX Wraps provided technical training.
"HP Scitex boasts the HP VisionCare customer care and educational programs that are delivered through offices and demo centers," explains Itai Halevy. The VisionCare customer care is a service provided by HP, and divided into three levels—remote, value, and premium. All levels include Web support and various degrees of on-site visits by the HP staff when you need them. Additionally, if you are a VisionCare member you can receive discounts on labor or spare parts depending on which level you fall into.
There is a lot that goes into making a successful vehicle wrap—people, time, and products. Digital EFX Wraps, Highet Kräcker Design, Motorsports Designs, Paramount Promotions, SignZoo, and SkinzWraps have all been through the ups and downs of the learning process and have their share of advice when it comes to vehicle wrapping.
Richart says that thanks to digital printing his company is able to convey a customer’s image in a totally new light. For a sign shop to do a wrap he firmly believes that they need to have a separate division. "The wrap business requires a full work week just like a sign shop. You have to pay attention to every detail."
Kräcker warns that a lot of printers are over priced. Investing in a small printer, no less than 36 inches, is a great way to start. "Vehicle wrapping is what is happening now. It is the most economical, cost effective way of advertising." So starting with a small printer is certainly cost effective for the user.
McKenzie forewarns, "Expect a lot of trial and error. It is not easy; it is not something you are going to do overnight. And it is also something you aren’t going to do without mistakes."
To get Paramount Promotion’s name out there, Bergamo advertised on his own vehicles. "Design and have your company vehicles and personal vehicles wrapped first by someone with a great deal of experience. It’s a great way to get exposure and referrals." That way your best selling piece is out being displayed to the masses.
Stuart of SignZoo suggests focusing on installation. "This focus will allow you to improve the integration of design to minimize errors." He also advises to manage customer expectations. "It’s important to let your customers know it’s not a paint job, and not to be looking for something with that cosmetic value."
The vehicle wrap business, as enticing as it may seem, may not be something to jump into right away.
Salaverry suggests that one can take baby steps into vehicle wraps by, "referring their client to an established, well respected vehicle wrap company. It is a true win-win for everyone. The sign shop gets a nice cash referral fee, its client gets their wrap done by the best, and client and the referring sign shop continue to do other business."
It may be a little scary to take the plunge into the churning waters of vehicle wrapping. However, the end users mentioned here have all taken part in training programs and have yet to regret branching out.