IRgA member firm Triangle Reproductions in Houston expanded its services with signage and outdoor graphics this summer. President Bob Christy answered six questions about the move:
1) Why did Triangle decide to get into signage and outdoor graphics business?
We were looking for something that fit with the skills of our employees and that was a growing, larger market than the traditional repro market, which has had a number of challenges.
We had previously done just standard inkjet graphics and mounting and laminating, but we had not done the UV resistant or outdoor or waterproof signage in-house. We had been farming some of that work out, such as construction signs and banners, but not producing it ourselves.
We visited a number of IRgA members and RSA members who had successfully made transition and followed their advice.
2) What new equipment did you acquire?
We started with Mutoh hybrid flatbed printer. It lets us print both on board materials – we’ve done boards up to 4 x 10 foot so far -- and also on rollstock material. The prints are outdoor durable. They use Ecosolvent inks, which are UV resistant and waterproof.
3) How difficult was it to train your staff?
We have some talented people on our staff, and they were able to pick it up easily. Basically if you can do wide format color on an inkjet device, for the most part you can operate one of these.
Installation is more of a challenge. We have contracted out some of the installation, and we have found some of our own employees are interested in doing installation. There are a lot of different types of installation – that is a challenge and an opportunity.
4) What competition do you face in this new market? How do you differentiate Triangle from the competition?
There are lots of sign companies out there, but I was surprised to learn how many people are using franchise sign companies. We have found our pricing to be very competitive to the franchise, and we offer a higher level of service. We find we can compete very effectively with the franchises.
5) What other surprises have you had?
I was surprised how many of our regular customers were already eying these products and services from others and were happy to talk to us about it. We’re doing outdoor signage, banners, and some interior high-end graphics for decorative purposes. We’re also doing work for some school districts, and we are presently working on a pilot project for some retailers to make removable wall graphics.
6) Any advice for others interested in getting into signage and outdoor graphics?
I think each person has to look at their own market with an open mind. If you want to test the waters, you can try to farm out some of the work. There are plenty of mom-and-pop sign companies without their own marketing staff who price things competitively for the reseller. We still use some national wholesale printers who have equipment that is far bigger than what we have.
Traditional sign makers are facing the same digital transition we are. Forty years ago signs were hand painted, and 25 years ago they switched to vinyl cut outs. Now they’re going through the same digital transition that the reprographics industry is facing. So we’ve been able to get in on the front end of the sign business instead of the back end. We already had some of those digital skills.