Signex Manufacturing celebrates 40 years of quality and service

by carly_mchugh | 10 June 2022 7:26 pm

Signex Manufacturing is celebrating 40 years of service in the signage industry. Photos courtesy Signex Manufacturing[1]

Signex Manufacturing is celebrating 40 years of service in the signage industry. Photos courtesy Signex Manufacturing

By Courtney Bachar

In the 1960s, an electrical company in Southeastern Manitoba, Pankratz Electric, began receiving requests for signage. Vernon Pankratz, the owner, took an interest in this development, began filling the requests, and started a sign shop out of the back of his electrical company. Soon word got out, the requests increased and, in 1982, Signex Manufacturing was born. Not too long after that, Vernon’s son, Ken, took over and started to grow the business. Through Ken’s vision, dedication, and strong leadership, Signex has thrived. Today, as company president, he continues to be a driving force behind all that Signex does. As the shop celebrates its 40th anniversary, Sign Media Canada spoke with Ken about recent projects, their secret to longevity, and what’s next for the company.

Sign Media Canada (SMC): What makes your company unique?

Ken Pankratz (KP): There are several reasons why our company is unique. We are centrally located, so this allows us to collaborate with many other sign companies across Canada. We are also a custom shop, and you can find our signs in most major construction builds in Manitoba, including Investors Group Field, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, and Outlet Collection shopping centre. In addition, we have a product line that is one-of-a-kind in the Prairies—trimless channel letters which is a unique offering for our clients. We also offer a consultation service for architects and general contractors to aid in the design, manufacturing, and sign installation process. Signex is actively involved in the Certificate of Recognition (COR) safety program, having been certified for well over 10 years, which means we have been recognized in Manitoba for having a safety program in place that is audited on a yearly basis. As well, we are a Canadian Standards Association (CSA)- certified sign shop.

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SMC: How large is the facility?

KP: We are one of the largest sign companies in Manitoba, with a huge yard and indoor manufacturing, and storage area of over 2322 m² (25,000 sf). We currently have 20-plus employees.

SMC: What type of signage does your shop primarily install and what have you been working on lately?

KP: You name it, and we probably have installed or manufactured it! Wayfinding, monuments, concrete vinyl applications, interior wall graphics, and pylon signs immediately come to mind.

We have also done custom projects for clients such as a donor fence at Victoria General Hospital in Winnipeg, and a teepee at the Variety Charity Children’s Park at the Forks in Winnipeg.

Recently, we provided wayfinding and donor signage for the Diversity Gardens and the Assiniboine Zoom and we will be providing interior signs for both in the very near future.

SMC: How much of the design process is handled in-house?

KP: The short answer is we do it all! For example, we have a dedicated vinyl department where we create vinyl and digitally printed graphics that can be applied directly to sign faces, or onsite to walls and windows. We can also create brackets and fastening systems in-house that would normally have required us to outsource to other companies. In addition, we have our own fleet of bucket trucks, pick-ups, and trailers to haul signage back and forth to sites.

This entrance sign for Hillside Construction features a combination of metal and acrylic construction. The metal panels are accented with digital vinyl graphics and acrylic push-thru router-cut areas to allow for maximum illumination.[2]

This entrance sign for Hillside Construction features a combination of metal and acrylic construction. The metal panels are accented with digital vinyl graphics and acrylic push-thru router-cut areas to allow for maximum illumination.

SMC: What tools/equipment do you currently use to complete your projects?

KP: We use a CNC router, welding equipment, Braille & tactile machine, channel bender, roller table, and a digital printer and a cold-press laminating machine. We are always looking at what type of machine will help us do a project more efficiently and cost effectively without sacrificing quality, so I am sure there is more new equipment to come!

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SMC: What does your planning process involve?

KP: Our planning process starts with us sitting down and discussing our client’s project—what they want, when they want it, and what they are hoping to achieve with their sign. The answers to these questions help us to determine the path we take to finalize the project. The sales and design team work together to provide a layout with options based on these discussions. Several options are presented based on budget, material availability, or time constraints. Once we receive approval and a deposit, we begin pre-production. At this stage, anything that prevents us from going into production is dealt with. This usually involves permits, engineering, or ordering of material. From there, job sheets can be made and the work is divided amongst the different departments: vinyl, CNC, braille/tactile, channel, and fabrication. Once all the work is completed, the client is made aware and arrangements are made for installation.

SMC: How is technology changing your business?

KP: I think COVID has really accelerated the change in technology. We have more meetings via Zoom or Microsoft Teams, which has reduced the need for travel. However, we have always felt that in our industry, people need to see and touch samples to understand what we are recommending or providing. In that sense, technology hasn’t caught up. On the production side, there are many machines that have made jobs easier and faster, such as digital printers, not to mention computers and intuitive design programs.

SMC: What is the key to staying successful in this industry?

KP: The key to staying successful in this industry is to always be willing to change and adapt. Listening to our clients helps us to be aware of their evolving needs and identifying any new trends. Continued education and product awareness are also key deliverables to ensuring we are providing the best product and solution for our clients. It is also important to challenge yourself, which is why we always say yes to something new.

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SMC: What are the future plans for your business?

KP: Immediate plans for this year is to celebrate our 40th anniversary! We are immensely proud of not just weathering, but thriving, during all sorts of economic and pandemic-related storms over the years and we want to celebrate. How are we going to do this remains to be seen. Beyond this, we are always looking to expand our services and, as we listen to our clients, we will know which direction we need to take to achieve our goals.

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