Untapped Resources: Utilizing Installer Expertise

"Installers can help you in ways you may have not previously thought about; they’re an invaluable resource for your company."

We all know that we wouldn’t be here without the masterful craftsmanship of our installers – they are a shop’s unsung heroes. But because their work comes at the tail-end of the job, they’re frequently forced to right all of the wrongs that have occurred along the way.

Amazingly, it seems that no matter what we screw up on the front end, the installers can fix it on the back end. Tile too small? They can stretch it. Phone number wrong? They can probably patch the correct number in. Forget to tell the client what time to arrive at the shop, or double-book two wraps? The installers willingly wait around or stay late to get the job done. The list of mishaps the install team is forced to clean up goes on and on.

But all of this is not only is it unfair to the installers, it’s simply bad business. These practices will cause stress – stress that can lead to mistakes and burnout, both damaging to profits. It’s important we realize not only how valuable these men and women are, but also how valuable their input can be.

In the design loop
Let’s begin with the design process: The design team should always get an installer’s opinion. Many times we run into issues during the install that could have easily been avoided if only the sales and design teams had involved the installers before the production began. Or, better yet, before the proof was sent to the client. I’m not saying that it’s absolutely essential to run proofs by the installers before you send them to a client, but if the design requires a potentially challenging install, the designers need to recognize that an installer’s opinion is a must. And, yes, I’m saying this should happen before the rep shows the proofs to the client and the client falls in love with something that will cause everyone issues down the line.

I define a successful job as a job with maximum client satisfaction, high-profits, uncomplicated production, and straightforward installation. To give your shop the likeliest probability for success, consider all aspects of the job before locking down the design. This is especially true when dealing with fleet wraps. If you don’t think about the install far enough in advance, you can end up with a problematic, client-approved design that complicates not just one install, but many – costing your shop time and money, and costing your installers their sanity.

Involve your installers and involve them early. The installer can suggest different courses of action for the design that will save the install team time and hassle on the back end. For instance, the installer can suggest ways to fade a color or suggest lowering a stripe to avoid a complicated door handle, or design the bumper so that the color breaks on the body line. These seemingly simple suggestions can save time, improve the quality of the vehicle wrap, and in turn, make for happier customers and more-profitable jobs.

Streamlining production
Installers also have the ability to streamline how the graphics are produced to ensure the most efficient install. Take tiling for example: It’s just as easy to print a vehicle wrap that will result in a complicated install as it is to produce a tiled vehicle wrap that saves a ton of time in the install bay. Consider, for example, tiling options for full-size trucks. Printing the bedside graphic panel in one long horizontal piece saves installers 15 minutes – that’s 30 minutes saved per truck. One hundred trucks later, you’ve saved your shop more than $1000 simply by tiling your truck beds horizontally.

Another tiling issue comes up when you have a vehicle with multiple windows that are close together, like a VW bus or Chevrolet Suburban. Should these windows get wrapped with one piece of perforated window film with a bleed, or should you produce an individual piece with a bleed for each window? Ask the installers before printing. I challenge you to utilize your installer’s wisdom to come up with more of these time-saving tweaks.

Speaking of bleed, how much extra material should you add to aid in the install process? A bleed is a built-in insurance policy in case a shape is not truly square or the tiling is imperfect. How much material should be on the top of the box-truck panels? How much on the bottom? Should they be the same amount? The real answer is: It depends. It’s all about what the installer wants. Too much bleed on the top can make handling the material more difficult and make it almost impossible to align the image from tile to tile. Not enough bleed can be cause for a reprint. In both cases time, material and money are dumped down the drain. The installer is tasked with finishing the install in the timeliest fashion possible while still producing a quality product – it’s everyone else’s responsibility to allow them to accomplish this.

Wowing the customer
Do you typically provide your installers with photographic mockups showing what the semi-truck should look like when it’s completed? Or do you just provide the proof on the vehicle template? Have you ever asked what the installers prefer? Do you give them checklists for tools for remote installations? Do you have a standard form that includes the name and phone number of the contact on-site as well as any gate codes they might need?

If you answered no to any of these questions, get on it: Sit down and create a well-planned agenda with one or two of your most trusted installers. The agenda should begin with design and end with packaging. Discuss with the install team how they would like the graphics sorted, labeled, named, and packaged. Certain jobs call for graphics to be delivered on cores to prevent creasing or wrinkling, while other jobs require multiple cut-vinyl elements that need to be delivered shrink-wrapped to flat Coroplast board to avoid damage. The agenda should also include topics like install mockups, diagrams, maps, and proofs.

Installers can help you in ways you may have not previously thought about; they’re an invaluable resource for your company. All teams within the print shop share one goal: to make money while still making it home at a decent hour after a job well done. Your installers are vital in accomplishing this task. Include them in each step of the production process and your shop will increase in efficiency and morale, all while adding more to the bottom line. Treat them well, and pay them well. Graphics in a box don’t help anyone – it’s only after the installers work their magic that the job is able really to wow the customer.

Jared Smith is president of bluemedia (, a leading provider of design and printing for use in vehicle, large-format, and enviornmental applications, in Tempe, Arizona.

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