The Phenomenon of Finishing
In today’s world everyone’s fighting for attention. Because let’s face it, your accomplishments might get a solid 10 seconds of admiration before a ding on someone’s phone tears them away, and then — it’s on to the next distraction.
What can print service providers (PSPs) do to help?
The answer is simple: finishing. For PSPs, it’s essential to offer finishing services and solutions to help your client really stand out. Whether it’s cutting, varnishing, or even laser engraving, finishing takes something that’s already great and makes it sensational.
It’s All About Being Unique
George Gross, CEO of Portland, Oregon-based Infinity Images, has noticed increasing demand in three-dimensional requests.
“They’re looking for things that are not necessarily flat. So, you need to have an ability to create three dimensional things that may have print on them — or maybe not. There are lots of combinations and things that are required now for displays,” Gross says.
Gross believes the reason for the increasing requests for dimensional signage is simply to stand out. Increasingly more clients want something that catches the eye so their potential customers will be drawn in while walking down the street or strolling on the sidewalk.
“For many of us, me included, if you go to a store and are presented with a bunch of flat signage, it’s not an inspiring environment. Our clients are looking for things that would attract people’s attention. If you have something that brings people over, then they’ll look at your product, and it’s more than likely going to increase the sales,” Gross says.
Randy Crow, CEO of Norton Shore, Michigan-based Source One Digital, agrees that dimensional shapes and products are “attention grabbing,” and he too has seen an uptick in the demand for unique shapes and sizes for the sheer reason that brands simply want to stand out.
More Events, More Event Signage, More Finishing
Mike Meshkati, president of Markham, Ontario-based Sinalite, says that when it comes to finishing there has been an increase in demand for both outdoor and promotional signage from customers that need cutting, grommetting, hemming etc., and he believes it’s because brands are realizing just how accessible on-demand printing is, and how many options there are.
“We’re seeing that outdoor signage is growing, it’s growing at a rapid pace, and I think the main reason is that cost has reduced to a degree, and a lot of people are doing concentrated promotions,” Meshkati says. “Because we’re a wholesaler, it seems that overall, our customer’s customer is realizing there are options in on-demand printing, which is a great thing — I think it’s caused by the online world, the ecommerce world, COVID, essentially bunch of things together — and it’s made customers realize they could do instant promotions to get the word out there.”
Investing In the Right Equipment
If you’re a shop that hasn’t made the leap when it comes to investing in finishing technology, Crow says finding the right equipment for your shop is essential.
“We have realized over the years that the right tools in each one of our departments is key. We invest in the best, and while there are lot of choices, making the right choice is key to growing,” Crow says.
Currently, Source One has Zünd cutters and routers, Fotoba cutters, and as Crow puts it, a “solid team of finishing specialists who have their eye on quality control and ensuring the finished product is the absolute best it can be.”
For Infinity Images, Gross says its current finishing equipment line-up consists of two 10x10' Zünd cutting tables, a 4x8' laser with 400-watt capacity, a 5x10' CNC cutting machine, three mounting laminating machines that are 63" wide, and a semi-automatic sewing machine for fabric finishing. For the future, Gross hopes to get a liquid laminator, and he’s tempted to get a laser cutter for fabric.
Meshkati says Sinalite is also looking to invest in fabric finishing equipment, and just like his peers, he has Zünd cutting equipment, as well as the Kongsberg C64 and Kongsberg C60 cutters.
Meshkati suggests that if your shop is currently doing finishing services by hand, take a step back and assess your volume and see if automation is the right route for your business.
“Look at how many operator hours are going towards things like that, and as we all know with COVID and with inflation, man hour costs have increased quite a bit. PSPs should assess their current situation to see if it’s feasible to put a machine in or not,” Meshkati says.
Gross shares a similar sentiment, saying that before Infinity Images invested in its first Zünd, everything was cut by hand. He describes getting that first cutting table as a “life-altering experience.”
“It was far more productive and obviously far more accurate, and the ability to do things beyond just cutting with a matte knife was amazing,” Gross says.
Finishing Is Fundamental
One major perk of offering finishing services is that PSPs can keep every aspect of a job in-house.
“I think if you’re keeping everything under one roof or one umbrella, then you have control. The turnaround time for work is becoming shorter and shorter, so lead times are reducing, and transportation is expensive,” Meshkati says. “So, let’s say if you’re printing and you need to transport it elsewhere, you’re getting factored in with the transportation costs, and you’re losing at least 24 hours for finishing. We firmly believe that if you control that, you could reduce your lead time, you can control quality.”
If you ask Gross, he believes a shop cannot operate without finishing services. When Infinity Images was founded 23 years ago, he says it only had the ability to print, and laughs saying, “that was a complete loser.”
“If you can’t provide the element in the manner that they [the customers] want to install, it’s a nonstarter, so the minimum thing you need to be able to do is cutting and edge finishing, and probably mounting and laminating. I don’t think you could function without those basic items,” Gross concludes.