Many applications for vinyl
The business vision for Marcom has always been to specialize in vinyl and digital printing, but for a wide range of potential applications, including vehicle wraps, storefront displays, perforated window films and decals.
“Having photographed jewellery for billboards, that’s the side of the sign industry I understand best,” Graham says. “I didn’t want to get into the electrical side of the business. Instead, we outsource that type of work to another shop in Surrey, B.C.”
The applications vary by client. For the car dealerships, for example, Marcom prints ‘courtesy vehicle’ wraps, floor graphics and retail displays. The company is contracted to produce decal kits for BC Hydro’s electric boxes and generators, with new orders coming in weekly. And existing monument signs are ‘reskinned’ with vinyl graphics when a given facility’s tenants change or rebrand.
One of the company’s biggest jobs to date is a 500-sign order for the rebranding of an entire corrections institute nearby, for which the design work has now started following a successful quote. Another area of growth has been subcontracted work for sign shops throughout Canada—they ship their finished graphics to Marcom, which in turn handles local site surveys and installations.
Standing out in the market
While Signal is defunct, Chilliwack is also home to other sign companies that pose local competition for Marcom. Given the risk of ‘commoditization’ in wide-format printing, Graham understands the need to differentiate his offerings from others.
“We don’t want to compete on price, so instead we do it by helping our community,” he says.
Indeed, Marcom has donated signs, graphics and other customized items to a broad range of organizations and events, including the Chilliwack Fair, the 4H Club, the Rotary Club of Chilliwack Fraser, the Wanted Children Foundation, the Fraser Valley Healthcare Foundation, the Salvation Army’s Santa Shuffle and the Chilliwack Chamber Business Excellence Awards. The company also helps its clients with their charitable efforts, such as Murray Honda’s ongoing collection of toys, backpacks, winter coats and boots for kids in need.
“Through these programs, our branding and marketing assistance helps ensure more than 1,000 local children do not go without,” says Graham.
How to keep up
To support growing demand with his five-person team, Graham starts each morning with a staff meeting in front of a job board. Together, they use cards on the board to define project timelines both in terms of days and through different types of production.
“Reliability can be an issue in the sign industry, but we promise to get our work to our clients on time,” says Graham. “This means keeping tight reins on things. Before printing on vinyl, for example, we look at how we can avoid wasting consumables and labour. We also work with suppliers like ND, All Graphic Supplies, Laird Plastics and Grimco that can get stuff to us the next day, so we don’t need to tie up our inventory.”
Similarly, the shop’s roster of equipment has been expanded with efficiency in mind. Having started out by picking up the lease for a Roland VersaCamm VS-540i large-format inkjet printer from Signal, Graham went on to add a Graphtec cutter, a Gerber Edge thermal printer for industrial labels on foil and a Ricoh printer for small-format work like business cards and booklets.
Most recently, the installation of a Rollover flatbed crease-free lamination applicator from ND has enabled one person to do work that used to take two or three. And next, an HP Scitex FB550 flatbed printer will speed up production and add the ability to print directly onto corrugated plastic substrates.
“We’ve already ordered it from ND, but will bring it in once we have more space,” Graham explains. “Right now, at 186 m2 (2,000 sf), space is very tight, but we’re planning to double that soon to 372 m2 (4,000 sf). We look forward to being able to do work faster and print on different substrates. We want to keep doing what we already do best, but better.”
And after expanding its current facility, Marcom’s next step may be to serve a wider territory.
“My intention in the next few years is to open ‘satellite’ shops,” Graham explains. “These would serve to take more orders, which we would still fulfil here from our base in Chilliwack.”