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Harlan: Beyond Digital

(October 2009) posted on Wed Oct 14, 2009

More on the company that created the signage for Chi-nnati's, inside and out.

click an image below to view slideshow

By MaryKate Moran

“Anymore, the unusual is the norm for us,” says Dan Ehrman, Harlan’s vice president of purchasing. It was his brother Larry who started the company. Ehrman, who has been with Harlan for 15 years, recalls the day when the company began its switch to bigger and better things.

“A salesman came in one day with a 36-inch inkjet and said, ‘Sell one print a day and you’ll pay for it.’ That was the beginning,” he says. Ehrman can’t recall the brand of that inkjet, bought nearly 10 years ago, but, “As we continued to grow, we kept buying inkjets.” Now, years later, Harlan has an array of printers at its nearly 40,000-square-foot facility. In addition to the printers referenced in the text, the shop has in-house a DuPont Artistri 2020, Roland SolJet Pro III, an HP Designjet 5000ps, and a Mimaki CJV 30-160.

The company’s growth has largely been customer-driven, with clients suddenly demanding a variety of services. Harlan entered the cut-vinyl business, Ehrman says, and then customers began asking for more signage projects. “From there we received requests for large-scale vinyl and wall murals,” he says.

Harlan added fabric-printing capabilities six years ago. Its display division has grown over the last few years into a full metalworking and woodworking shop. Just last year, it shut its typesetting equipment down; it needed replacing, but no one was even asking for the service. The entire film department is gone as well.

But these new resources have landed Harlan some major clients, including Hilton Hotels. The company prints banners for the hotel chain’s food stations, consisting of the company’s namesake, Doubletree Hotels, Hampton Hotels, and Homewood Suites. When Harlan printed the laminated signs that sit on the buffets, Hilton needed to be sure they would be durable. “I took one of [the signs] home and washed it six times in the dishwasher,” says Ehrman, just to reassure them that the ink wouldn’t run.

Which is another thing Harlan has come to pride itself on: personal touches. The 35-person company often invites potential clients to tour its facility. “If we can get the customers to come in here—because we are so diversified—they see the different processes we have and it gets the creative juices flowing,” Ehrman says. Whenever a client brings him a quirky project—like creating a graphic backing for an industrial baking pan, or 3-foot long CNC-routed flying spoons, complete with wings—he checks with the fabrication team about the capabilities, but they almost always say “yes.”