What makes a #sign expensive? Signs as an investment.

What makes a sign ‘expensive’?

Expensive is a VERY subjective word, so lets look at the input costs and how that could, would or should influence one’s purchasing decision.

#SignForce, as all sign suppliers, work in a very competitive market. There are generally many sign businesses in a relatively small area, especially as #signage is a low entry cost business. Because of the high level of competition, each sign business needs to have ‘something’ that makes our business ‘stand out’. For the person making the purchase, the high level of competition means one SHOULD be able to compare various options and get the best solution to fit your requirements, although COST, OUTLAY or INITIAL INVESTMENT is often the deciding factor, very often at the sacrifice of long term investment or long term LIFE of the sign.

Because COST or INITIAL OUTLAY is such a HUGE determining factor for many buyers, one of the easiest ways to stand out  is on ‘price’. It is easy for clients to choose the lowest cost supplier, as, generally, all suppliers will quote to supply the same LOOKING sign.

Often how this works is the potential client (or buyer) will send out a ‘tender’, which consists of a picture of how the sign should look. Sophisticated buyers will also supply detailed specifications – which they understand and can check – but this is less common than only supplying a picture and sizes. Also too often the person supplying the specifications does not gave a great understanding of what they are specifying so their ability to ensure that they receive what was quoted could be limited.

Because EVERYONE is quoting on the same OUTCOME (read that as picture), when the buyer gets their three or more competing quotes, they naturally assume they are comparing ‘APPLES’ with ‘APPLES’, but because #signs are not standard, off the shelf items, the design, makeup and materials can (and generally will) differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. As such, although all the signs may (initially) LOOK the same when installed, they could, in reality, be EXTREMELY different.

In order to explain I am going to use the example of a modular, internally illuminated light box sign with an acrylic face that is illuminated using energy efficient LED lights. I am using a modular frame as we can then assume that everyone that is quoting is using the same external frame, so all the quotes would have the same (or similar) input costs for the frame.

Now lets look at the make up of the sign, starting with ILLUMINATION. There are a number of LED’s that can be used on a light box sign. The difference can be anything from in how much light the LED emits (lumens) to the size of the individual LED units (or modules) to the angle of the light emitted from the LED module (especially if the module has a LENS), the expected life of the units and the COST. Because there are so many variables, for the purpose of this article I will compare cost that can vary from about R35 (US$ 13) per meter to about R500 (US$ 186) per meter. It would seem obvious there are a number of variables that affect the cost, but for #SignForce the important differences are (a) the LED’s are the correct LED’s for the job (meaning they will give equal and sufficient light), (b) the expected life of the LED and (c) the LED’s are sure to do the job (preferably guaranteed) so that the business will not have any unnecessary call backs which can be substantially more costly than the cost of the LED’s.

Other factors that can have a GREAT  impact on the cost include, but are not limited to, (a) the size of the sign (this has way too many variables to reference in this article), (b) the cost of the decoration (print versus cut vinyl versus ink versus paint) (we will only refer to PRINT where costs have a range difference that can easily exceed 500%, with the quality and life span of the print varying greatly), (c) the thickness of the acrylic face (this is influenced by the size of the sign and possibly the location of the sign, and will in turn influence the cost of both the acrylic (the thicker the higher the cost) and the beading that holds (supports) the acrylic face). (d) If the frame is to be painted the make up and application method of the paint can also have a great impact on costs, both due to the large difference in cost of the base paint as well the time and process differences between the various application methods which range from ‘dipping’ to using a paint brush to spray painting and powder coating.

At #SignForce we take our guarantee VERY SERIOUSLY, and as such we use materials which, while generally more costly, will have a higher likelihood of lasting and not creating negative comebacks from clients. This does tend to make the initial outlay slightly higher, (historically this is generally no more than 20%), but #SignForce’s logic is that having to redo a sign after three to five years could be substantially more costly than having a sign that does it’s job well for it’s intended life, which is generally seven years, even if the decoration needs to be replaced more regurarly.

For more information on why SignForce views #signs as an investment or on purchasing  quality signs that will consistently keep you in your prospective clients eyes for many years to come, please contact #SignForce at info@signforce.co.za

How do I choose a sign supplier #2?

Illuminated signs

The same sign during the day and at night

Choosing a sign supplier #2, or how do you know what you are getting when you decide on your sign supplier?

I recently saw this sign at night – there is a photo attached. Big deal. I see this sign often – during the day, BUT, during the day the sign is very different.

I must say up front that SignForce did not make this sign. I am not making that statement because the sign is poorly made or is an example of a poorly made sign, quite the contrary. On the number of occasions I have seen this sign I have generally been impressed by it’s size and the seemed quality of it’s manufacture.

Seeing the sign at night got me thinking (again) about the components that go into the manufacturing of a sign, and the resultant costs associated with the manufacture and sale of the sign.

With signage it is ‘sometimes’ possible to compare “apples” with “apples”, especially when the signs are simple – say a Chromadek sign decorated with cut vinyl, yet even then the quality and life expectancy of the cut vinyl decoration can vary from six months to five to seven years, with the longer life vinyl having a higher input cost than the short term vinyl. The same applies when looking at outdoor digital prints, as not all inks or full colour printers are created equal, with some inks having longer life expectancy than others. And all this is for ‘simple’ signs.

When signs get more complicated – be it because the sign is illuminated or fabricated or on pins or painted or has been through one or more of a number of processes that result in the final finished product that you see – the situation can get exceptionally murky when comparing one supplier to another.

In order to keep this article short(ish), this article I will only cover illumination. I will cover fabrication – materials and processes, letters on pins and bonding components, paints – the various types and processes, and any other elements in separate articles.

Looking at the attached photo’s you can see that during the day the sign looks great. It is big and bold and tells any potential clients where the store is. It projects a professional, clean image and fits the available space well.

Looking at the same sign at night, when the lights are on, a lot of the professionalism that the sign projects during the day is lost. This is because at night, when illuminated the sign looks dull and dirty, and for me personally, being able to count the tubes inside means that it is most likely I will not actually be looking at the sign or it’s intended message, but I am more likely to spend my time getting the subliminal message that the sign, and thus the business it represents, is ‘cheap’ and dirty, and very likely not going to make my visit pleasurable.

Now these messages are generally not conscious, but they are subliminal (unconscious), which possibly makes them even stronger than the conscious, intended messages that the sign was designed to project. Now it is very easy to say the sign company is at fault for the sign looking bad (and they should possibly carry a portion of the responsibility), or to say that the store staff and management are ‘obviously’ unaware or unobservant or uncaring so they should be responsible, but in reality the staff either see the sign daily and are not noticing the progressive deterioration and / or the sign was ‘like that’ when they started working there or they may leave work before the sign comes on. [All positive arguments why businesses should enter into sign maintenance contracts with businesses like SignForce where we will independently and objectively check on the sign at regular, predetermined intervals, with reports and photo’s been provided.]

While it is easy to ‘blame’ all and sundry for the deterioration of the sign, the truth is that the sign will deteriorate over time, and it is a combination of ALL the factors mentioned above – as well as a number of other possible factors – that will lead to the sign looking as it does at night.

Now getting back to the issue at hand, deciding on a sign supplier, some of the ‘obvious’, visible (to sign suppliers) issues are that there are not enough florescent tubes and, as importantly, especially over a period of time, the placement of the said tubes.

In order for a sign to illuminate evenly so that the tubes cannot be seen three factors need to be considered. 1. The proximity of the tubes to the face of the sign. Tubes that are less than 70 mm have a great possibility of being visible, unless 2. The number of tubes is high. If there are tubes right next to the face, and the tubes are all almost touching each other, the light will be great, but the cost will be VERY high. 3. The third factor is the placement of the tubes. While it may be possible to use less tubes if the tubes are placed vertically, and there are times when there is no alternative but to place the tubes vertically, the reality is that the tubes run off gas, and when not in use, the gas will fall to the bottom of the tube. Over time, as the tube gets older, the gas no longer ignites as efficiently or brightly as when new. While this will happen to al tubes, it happens to vertical tubes noticeably faster.

It seems obvious to me, and I will thus assume all, that the number of tubes has a direct impact on the final cost of the sign. Since most businesses are cost sensitive, it is very likely that a supplier like SignForce, who as a matter of course, use more electronic over magnetic ballasts and place all tubes horizontally, will come in more costly than a supplier that uses magnetic ballasts and places the tubes vertically. As a rule SignForce also place tubes no more than 150 mm apart.

While electronic ballasts may cost more initially, over the five year expected life of a sign, there is a far greater possibility that a magnetic ballast failing, and an even greater possibility of the manual ‘starter’ failing, so in reality the additional cost of replacing and maintaining the electrics at least once over the life of the ‘cheaper’ sign should be costed into the initial costs, but this is seldom done, if ever.

As mentioned earlier, placing the tubes vertically may mean that the initial outlay for sign will be lower, but once again, the cost of maintenance, and almost unmeasurable reputation cost also need to be factored in.

Also as mentioned earlier, SignForce did not manufacture or install this sign, so without any knowledge of the client’s budget, or the size of the sign, I can only assume that SignForce may have used somewhere around the same number of tubes as have been used, but simply placing them horizontally should have resulted in a longer life of the tubes and thus better night visibility of the sign.

If you are in the market for professional looking illuminated signs that can be considered an investment in marketing, contact SignForce now on info@signforce for advice and / or an obligation free quote

 

 

What makes up the cost of a sign?

What makes up a sign’s cost?

This comment could be viewed as a follow up to the article ‘Are All Signs the Same’, because it stems from a similar thought.

Not only are all signs not the same, even when they look the same, the materials used to manufacture the signs can vary extensively.

A client asked me to replace a fallen letter on a sign consisting of a number of cut out letters. He sent me a blurry photo (taken while he was driving past the sign) so I thought it would be best for me to go see exactly what needed to be replaced. I went to the site to take measurements and photo’s, and when on site I touched one of the remaining letters of the sign and it fell off the wall. I subsequently removed the sign to repaint and re-secure it. When I returned it to the factory the first thing that was pointed out to me was that the paint was pealing BECAUSE the Aluminium had not been primed. A simple oversight?

In general the cost of a sign consists of the cost of material plus the cost of labor plus a margin for profit plus a contribution to overheads and such.

While there are a number of factors that contribute to the material cost – one tends to pay more for longer lasting material, material cost is generally 30 – 40% of the final cost of a sign. That said, if the cost of material can be kept down – either by getting larger discounts from suppliers OR by using cheaper material OR by leaving out steps in the process (regardless of the long term consequences), the business can make larger profits.

Sadly the thinking of many (sign) businesses is that they need to sell one level of quality but deliver a lesser quality, and although the material costs are not the largest single contributor to costs, they are the first and possibly easiest to be cut back on, as the sign maker knows that generally, by the time the ‘omission’ has been discovered the guarantee (assuming there is one) would have expired.

While it is possible for oversights to happen in any business – the reasons for oversights varying from lack of supervision to lack of training to lack of time and many more – if the oversight is that, an oversight, then it can and should be chalked up to an avoidable error.

The difficulty for new clients is to determine how often ‘oversights’ happen, and if any necessary re-do’s have been costed into the original quote – if it is not in the original costing the chances are the supplier will never come back.

While oversights can and do happen, even with the best of manufacturers and processes, from the buyers side, while it is almost always tempting to choose the ‘cheapest’ supplier, the buyer should always be aware that when a sign seems like a bargain, as with almost everything in life, there could well be hidden costs that you will only become aware of later, possibly too late.

It can thus be seen that not all signs are necessarily created equal, not all costing methods are the same and not all material inputs are of the same quality. Here are an additional three reasons why sign buyers are encouraged to improve their understanding about the signs they require, and also to stick with sign companies that have a reputation, or at least one with references that can be checked, and one who is known to honour their guarantees. If a sign company is not prepared to offer any guarantee why are you even considering using them?

If you are in the market for professional looking signs that are made using the material that has been quoted, or simply require advice on what signs may best market your business, email arnold@signforce.co.zaor david@signforce.co.za using the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE

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Who is SignForce South Africa and what do they do?

Who is SignForce South Africa and what do they do?

SignForce is a full service sign design, manufacture and installation business specializing in giving advice on signs for all custom made signs.

What that means is that SignForce is in the business of designing, manufacturing and installing EVERY conceivable type of sign. If it is something that your marketing department want – like a pylon, billboard, banner, flag, name slat, sign or vehicle decoration – or something that your HR or administration department want, like name badges, desk names or office names, SignForce is in the business of getting you these.

Having taken over an existing business in 1999 the current management team has extensive experience in ensuring that your signs are an investment in marketing, meaning that we believe that any sign we supply should be capable of generating more income than it cost.

SignForce is based in Johannesburg South Africa and works throughout South Africa, with a number of our signs being shipped to destinations as far afield as New York and Malawi.

The following is a comprehensive list of all the signs SignForce can assist you with.

2D Cut out letters & Logo

3D Lettering & Logos

3D cut out Logos

Advice on signs

Aluminium signs

Architectural signs

Banners

Banner walls

Billboards

Brass signs

Chromadek signs

Computer cut out vinyl

Corporate identity design

Cut out signs

Directional signs

Directory boards

Door signs

Electronic signs / Electronic Billboards

Engraved signs

Entrance signs

Fabricated signs

Flags

Free Standing Signs

Front illuminated signs

Full colour digital printing

Illuminated signs – Front illuminated signs

Illuminated signs – Internally illuminated signs

Illuminated signs – LED signs

Illuminated signs – Neon signs

Illuminated signs – Rear illuminated signs

Individual cut out signs

Interior signs

Interior design – Office signs

Interior design – Reception signs

Interior design – Sandblasting effect

Interior design – Stained glass effect

Interior design – Wallpaper

Interior design – Window tinting

Iron signs

Labels

Large outdoor signs – Billboards

Large outdoor signs – Free Standing Signs

Large outdoor signs – Pylons

Large outdoor signs – Signboards

LED signs

Lobby signs

Machine signs

Mandatory signs

Metal signs

Mine signs

Modular signs

Monument signs

Neon signs

Office signs

Parking signs

Plastic signs / Perspex signs / Plexiglas signs

Plaques & awards

POP up banners

Printed signs

Printed wallpaper

Pull up banners

Pylons / Pylon signs

Reception signs

Road signs

Safety signs

Sandblast effect decoration

Sandblast vinyl

Sandwich boards

Signboards

Sign advice

Sign design

Sign manufacture

Sign writing

Steel signs

Stainless steel signs

Stained glass signs

Vehicle decorations

Vehicle signs

Vista Modular signs

Wallpaper

Way finding signs

Window tinting

For advice on signs and how to best project your business’s image, or if you are in the market for professional looking signs at “FAIR VALUE” so that you can consider any funds you spend on marketing and signs as an investment, please contact the writer at arnold@signforce.co.za or david@signforce.co.za and use the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will get back to you.

 

 

Why SignForce believes teamwork is essential

Why Teamwork is essential for SignForce!

I was recently watching a soccer match and I found it entertaining that I was essentially watching 22 individuals with possibly as much as 44 ego’s all working for a ‘common cause’ – that is, to beat the other team – the opponents, “THE ENEMY”!

It got me thinking about teamwork in our business, because out of the entire 90 minutes of the game, there was only about 60 seconds of PURE TEAMWORK – and that teamwork produced TWO goals. Now if that isn’t an indicator of the power of teamwork, I have no idea what is.

It was funny that my introductory video on teamwork, partnerships and collaboration was made a few hours before I get to watch the match – you can view the video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-OoENj6cEQ because I was looking at teamwork from a very different perspective.

At SignForce we believe in working as a team, and strive to do so all the time. Sure, there are times when we don’t get it right, but I would like to believe that we do get it right the vast majority of the time, as shown by the fact that our client’s come back and we meet most of our deadlines – we are still working towards meeting them all!

We work to entrench teamwork from the start with the employment process being a collaborative one, where new employees are assessed by existing team members to ensure that the ‘newbie’ has the correct work ethic to fit into the team, and will support the team when necessary. Once again, this is not always easy, sometimes resulting in new people being with us for a short period, not because they cannot do the work but because they simply do not fit in with the rest of the team.

Next we instil teamwork (and sustainability) by training all interested parties to do everyone else’s work where possible. Yet again, this is not always a simple task, and it has to be ongoing, yet the rewards are great, as, with a business like ours where we keep the core staff as small as possible, if one person is not at work, and no-one else could do the required work, deadlines would be missed and clients lost.

We believe teamwork is also essential from a perspective of support, recognition and responsibility. Each team member is responsible for upholding the good name of the business AT ALL TIMES! If a bad decision is made by an individual, the individual is held accountable, and when brilliant decisions are made, where possible the individual is supported and rewarded.

The SignForce attitude towards teamwork can be seen when visitors enter our premises as well as when we go to site. It can also be seen by the manner in which we deal with our clients, suppliers and competitors, because we believe that teamwork is part of the life blood of our business being successful.

For great advice on how to have signs that make your team look great at a fair price, signs that will enhance your teams image and, as an investment, will generate greater income than their cost, contact SignForce now. David: david@signforce.co.za Arnold: arnold@signforce.co.za

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How do I know that the sign supplier I choose will be able to deliver on their promises?

This question was recently highlighted when Mr. Brian Neshan Adams, (a petty thief, who when he was found to be a petty thief became a FORMER employee of SignForce (Pty) LTD), made off with R30,000 (less than US$4,500) of a client’s money, on the pretence that his ‘company’ called Blow Marketing would get the work done by SignForce but at a discount because of the volume that he (as an employee of SignForce) and his ‘company’ were feeding to SignForce.

ALWAYS keep in mind the old adage: LET THE BUYER BEWARE’! 

  1. Look for the obvious. If a business has a registration number, check it out to make sure the business IS REGISRERED. Doing a simple check will also advise if the registration number is correct for the business type? If you find any errors, BE SUSPICIOUS!

     

  2. In South Africa, do the directors (for Companies) or members (for Close Corporations) (a) have a track record and (b) have any criminal or other negative record. I do believe that most people should get a second chance, but better to be forewarned than sorry.

     

  3. Is the offer made by the business seem legitimate and logical, or are they ‘too good to be true’


  1. Can they produce ‘live’ samples and references that YOU CAN CONTACT?

     

  2. Do their claims seem TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?

     

  3. What is their email address? It is not about being a snob, one does get a different impression of a business that uses their own URL (web address) on email’s instead of a @google.com or a @yahoo.com or a @hotmail.com. While some VERY large companies (for example sinosteel) do have @google.com accounts, most established businesses will have their own URL.


Also be aware of any picture’s that are being used. Are the pictures artist’s impressions (and if so, does it say so) or are the pictures they are purporting to be ‘installed’ signs are in fact generally ‘artwork’ for a client. 

 

Once again it cannot be stressed enough. Even though finances might be tight. You are better off paying more for a well manufactured, guaranteed sign than paying ANY money over to a company that simply takes your money and RUNS.

 

Should you require any signs or advice on signs, please email SignForce now on arnold@signforce.co.za or call the office on +27 (0)11 444 3331 to see how we can serve you.