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Does anybody run their sign shop without a printer?

Discussion in 'General Chit-Chat' started by WhatsYourSign?, Jan 4, 2019.

  1. WhatsYourSign?

    WhatsYourSign? Member

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    We have a great installer and designer on our team but I've struggled to find a good person to run production.

    I'm considering allocating the money we spend on our production salary to instead using outsourced printers instead.


    The biggest risk I see is it means we won't be able to do jobs on a short turnound and for vehicle wraps, if we mess up a piece it could cause an issue with the install.


    Has anybody home this route and been successful with it?
     
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  2. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Sure, lotsa people do it, but you hafta consider several things:
    • No control over quality control
    • Tight deadlines
    • Freight
    • Making a mistake and having them print another panel or whatever... over again and freight all over, again
    • Unexpected delays
    Think about it......if you are not doing more than 2 hours of printed work a week, don't get one. If you are doing 10 hours of digital printwork a week, then you oughta think about putting the money out for a printer, cutter, laminator and someone to run it.
     
    • Agree Agree x 4
  3. zspace

    zspace Merchant Member

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    We print for a lot of sign companies - some of my "brokers" tell me they would lose money if they stopped selling long enough to do their own production.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
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  4. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    You'll really have to sit down and figure out what it would cost for you to run a printer VS outsourcing.

    I run solo and out-source all my printing. For me, I can make more $$ installing, doing finial assembly and even brokering jobs than if I were to hire someone to run a printer. I love being able to sub out all my banners and them just show-up at my customer's door step. I also love just opening my prints, applying and being done with the job.

    Factor in the cost difference of the premium you pay for outsourcing VS what it would cost to hire someone to run the printer. If your installers are good, the mess-ups are not going to be a huge factor. I rarely mess up a print...and when I do it's usually because I rushed to order and didn't check my artwork. I use Signs365 so the shipping costs and turn-around is not an issue at all. I don't schedule myself in a bind and always figure in a day or two extra to account for any issues.
     
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  5. DerbyCitySignGuy

    DerbyCitySignGuy Very Active Member

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    Like Gino said, it depends on how much production you do.

    Nobody can give you the answer you're looking for except YOU (or your accountant if you have one). There's a tipping point where it makes more sense to do everything in house versus outsourcing and you just have to figure out where that point is for your business.

    If your other employees are sitting around killing time between jobs, cross train them and let them do production and finishing until there's a NEED for another employee.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. Mascitti Bro

    Mascitti Bro Member

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    We've had just a cutter for the last 12+years, but always ran into the occasional time when a good customer needed a decal printed and I hated to send them elsewhere (thinking "long-term effects" of that decision) so we'd outsource it. It was only last year before we found a source that we felt good about using on a semi-regular basis (and wasn't completely boning us on cost!) but I think it's an unavoidable feeling that you still feel like you have to factor your workload around their schedule, your crossing your fingers that the quality is where you need it to be, etc, so combining that end of things with the feeling I could to A TON MORE OF THIS DECAL/PRINT WORK if we had our own, we've pulled the trigger on our own printer/cutter combo, due in later this month....
     
  7. backwoodsgirl

    backwoodsgirl Member

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    I agree with cross training. Production is quick to learn. Outsourcing may be ok UNTIL that day that you've got to re-print part of a wrap, or a customer wants to pay dearly for an overnight job. Gotta print in house IMO! I'm selling my only printer and I'm nervous just for the downtime between selling and finding my next one!
     
  8. eahicks

    eahicks Magna Cum Laude - School of Hard Knocks

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    Yes. It's great for the economy to keep jobs away from people that need them. :noway:
     
    • Hilarious! Hilarious! x 1
  9. Solventinkjet

    Solventinkjet DIY Printer Fixing Guide

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    Your designer should be running production. Unless you are so busy that the designer is literally designing all day long, having to load some material and push print shouldn't be too much of an ask. Honestly, I have never had a job where I got paid to do one thing and one thing only. Must be nice.
     
    • Agree Agree x 7
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  10. Tattoosleeve

    Tattoosleeve Member

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    We got out first printer 6 years ago. Would never go back.

    I have 5 bodies out of 8 in the building that know how to run the printers. I have one main body (production) that is responsible for printing and production and the other 4 of us monitor and hop in where necessary.
     
  11. DerbyCitySignGuy

    DerbyCitySignGuy Very Active Member

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    I'm not sure I follow this logic. Time is a resource. If you have employees with extra time and you hire someone to do ANOTHER job, you're wasting resources.

    What's even worse for the economy is when a shop closes down and fires seven people because they hired two people they didn't need and couldn't stay afloat. Then you have seven people without jobs instead of two.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  12. RobertsPrinting

    RobertsPrinting New Member

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    We do a lot of wholesale printing for companies. They seem to do fine.
    You need to find someone that will work with you and prioritize your jobs in return for the loyalty and amount of business you are bringing them. You never know you may end up getting install jobs from them as well.
     
  13. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Active Member

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    Designer doing production??? Not very smart. A good designer is your best asset, and will make you more money than 10 production workers.

    Most of what we sell is a commodity. It's stuff that anybody with the right machine can make. What differentiates our product is design. A good design can greatly increase the value of a sign for the client, increasing profits for the smart sign company.
     
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    • Agree Agree x 1
  14. BobM

    BobM Very Active Member

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    It took me a few tries to find company that can handle my printing needs without the drama of outsourcing. Been using WLDF in NJ for 5 years. Two day service. I email pdf's with my requirements, they check them out, communicate when needed, print and ship next day.
    Most of my jobs are simple, usually less than a 4'x10' laminated panels, sometimes 25 or 30 15 or 18 square ft. They have never disappointed me.
    Their pricing is in low enough to allow me a profitable markup, and quality has always been top shelf.
    I don't do full wraps, I have screwed up a print or two, but they do reprints asap so I can get the job done.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
  15. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    Not at all.

    If you are doing production that has certain requirements of designs, a really good designer needs to know production and the only way to truly know production is to have actually been on the line doing it.

    I am not saying keep them on the line, but they should know production, it will improve what they are able to do when designing for production with less edits/fixes when things don't come out right the first time.

    This also serves when production has a quick serge of activity, they are able to help out until things go back to normal.

    Having cross training helps and it's better to already have planned for that when activity/needs aren't already in a fury pace.

    Designers should have that training of working the production line if they are dealing with productions that have needs/requirements that vary and are very particular.

    I've seen kickass designs that don't work in production, then I've seen designs that are still kickass and do work in production, but the designer doesn't necessarily know how to translate that into production for it to work. That don't know that it can work or how it can work etc.

    And having this production knowledge actually increases their worth even more.
     
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  16. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Active Member

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    WWD: I agree with you. Good design is a complete package, including technical requirements.

    Design is about making money. A good graphic design for the client will increase the value of their sign. A sound knowledge of best production practices will enable the designer to create designs appropriate to the production technology. An understanding of mechanical engineering will enable the designer to make critical design decisions that will influence production and maintenance costs.

    A good design will make the estimator's job easier, and give the account rep the confidence needed to support the price. The sign is no longer a commodity; it becomes an asset that adds value to the client's business. What is easier to sell – a $1k sign that is illegible and difficult to maintain, or a $10k sign that communicates the clients message and has a predictable useful life and maintenance schedule? It all starts with emphasizing the value of a sign rather than the cost. If my $10k sign increases the clients business by $10k a year, and it has a useful life of 10 years, then that is an additional $100k business, and the sign pays for itself. If the client cheaps out and buys the illegible $1k sign, then he just threw his money away. But more importantly, you lost out on a sale, and the client loses the additional revenue.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  17. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    Although we’re only 5 days in, I think this may endure as the understatement of the year.

    Seriously? If only design were a single task and material didn't weigh 57 lbs per roll and the print button also encompassed work order interpretation and file transfer and ink restrictions and calibration and linearization and channel curves and ink limits and ICC profiling and rendering intent and RIP and resolution and tile and overlap and flip and scale and ink changes and head maintenance and nozzle checks and platen gap and media advance and heater temps and waste disposal and ...

    It's beliefs like these that keep shops small. Not that small is bad, it's just "small." Small shops that have a good designer who is also the production person run a heavy risk of losing two key positions with just a single quit.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  18. DerbyCitySignGuy

    DerbyCitySignGuy Very Active Member

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    I understand why some people want designers to be doing designing, but a designer not designing is doing...? Nothing. Might as well get them doing anything.

    Second, like WWD said, a designer that knows production is a HUGE asset. You won't have to have an operator or a pre-press person fixing files, since they should be print ready straight from the designer.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  19. TheSignShop1316

    TheSignShop1316 New Member

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    I agree unless the overall shop volume is enough to keep a designer busy 40 hrs. I worked for a sign franchise for a decade and design and printing was one job...not necessarily full production though unless there was time. Designing with the print process in mind also increases the quality and speed of production.
     
  20. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    Businesses may be at different stages of growth. Back in the day, I was a designer and ran the printers. After the print was finished we had someone else take it from there. We were not big enough to have someone run the printer themselves.. Being the designer, I would see what came out of the printer and adjust colors/ design elements myself...worked for us at the time.
     
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