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Digitize and They Will Come

Re-Gaining Lost Customers

by Melissa Tetreault

Part 2 of a 4-part exclusive online series

According to Sign Source, a print shop based in Eden Prairie, MN, purchasing a digital flatbed initiated the return of loyal customers. The shop, whose more profitable applications include POP signage and marketing signs for builders and developers, has a large range of offerings. Randy Herman, president, describes Sign Source as a, "very broad based sign company." He continues, "In terms of capabilities, we have always tried to have a very broad range. We do a smattering of all sign types and digital fits into all of them."

When Sign Source bought its first digital device, an Encad back in 1991, it saw the purchase as a way to expand its product offerings and increase efficiency. Originally, the shop began in 1987 as a classic hand lettering shop. It eventually bought a vinyl plotter and started to migrate towards other high tech machinery.

Herman sees the invention of the vinyl plotter as one of first big evolutions in the printing industry. The next big evolution being using digital over vinyl and paint.

Taking part in this second evolution was a three-sided challenge for the company. There was the defensive angle; Herman knew his shop had to keep up with his competitors by adapting to new technologies. There was also the ability to do more at a lesser cost and offer more applications.

With the integration of the Encad, there was an immediate rise in customers. Unfortunately, a lot of those customers started to fade into the woodwork as Herman found himself on the defensive once again.

Herman explains, "From a cost standpoint a lot of POP work was going to companies that were printing directly to a substrate and the pricing of that work had gotten extremely competitive. Unless you can print directly to a material you probably canít compete in that world. We saw the work that we had and some of the customers that we had starting to drift away and saying we love you guys but call us when you can do a short run at a smaller price."

To gain back his lost customers, Herman decided to add a VUTEk PressVu 200/600 flatbed to the shop in March of 2006. Besides the reasoning that the flatbed would attract customers they once had, Herman also says the PressVu was purchased because of the savings. He states, "the biggest reason was the savings in labor and materials, for being able to print directly to substrate was far less expensive than printing to something and then applying it to a substrate."

Looking forward, Herman doesnít know what they did before they bought the flatbed. Labeling it the "lifeblood" of the shop, he finds that the PressVu can handle just about anything. His production team has run corrugated plastic, composite material like Alcan Compositeís Dibond, Alumalite, and an MDO coated in UV teared peat all the through the machine.

Thanks to the recent success brought on by the PressVu, Sign Source is now looking to expand. When asked if he had plans to purchase any other digital devices in the near future Herman said that they had no room for one. Sign Source also recently acquired an electrical sign manufacturer and hopes to combine the two shops into one major location in the near future.

Look for a full feature article on Profiting in the Digital Marketplace in the November issue of Digital Output.

Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, Transforming to Digital

Sep2006, Digital Output

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