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Solving Our Identity Crisis

(February 2013) posted on Wed Jan 30, 2013

How do you refer to your company?

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By Craig Miller

I no longer know how to refer to our company. I’m not comfortable with people calling us a “sign shop.” I’m not even sure I’m comfortable with the tag of “digital print operation.” Yes, we print, but printing has become just one of the services we provide.

Neither term – “sign shop” nor “print shop” – seems to be inclusive enough any longer. For us, being perceived solely based on the end product – sign, poster, banner, or even vehicle wrap – has become way too limiting. As many of you have done, we have broadened our horizons in recent years to include visual merchandising, interior decorating, architectural products (environmental graphics), garments, events, fine art, vehicle color-change wraps, and more.

Broadening the product mix
We have, for instance, added the following to our company’s product mix in recent years:

• We’ve added cutting to our finishing services. Before digital printing companies got into it, CNC firms with industrial-strength routing capabilities were mostly standalone cutting businesses. We bought our first large-format router table in 1997 because we wanted to contour-cut rigid boards with digital prints. Of course, this was before UV printing, so we had to first mount the prints to the boards. This was also before i-Cut, and it took some ingenuity to accurately contour-cut the digital prints, but we figured it out and did well with it. In 2002, when we adopted UV printing, we added a big multi-tool router table with i-Cut. Now, the pure CNC companies can’t compete with us for this print-and-cut business because they can’t image the boards. Our next step is to acquire a big, powerful laser table; we’re looking to add a 6 x 10-foot unit with a 450-watt laser that can cut plastic, glass, stone, metal, wood, etc.

• We moved into plastic fabrication, and can now do everything a plastic-fabrication company can – like bend and glue acrylic. And, with our expertise in Adobe CS6 and our design horsepower, we have an advantage over other company types when it comes to laser engraving images on acrylic. Plus, with our state-of-the-art UV printing equipment, we have imaging capabilities that other plastic fabricators do not. And, the fact that we’re executing fabrication in-house provides us with a price advantage when we sell plastic products to our regular client base.