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Young couple make a big impact with trade printing

Wide format trade printing is a highly specialised sector of the sign industry. Since participants are printing for other printers and other non printing members of the industry, they have to gear themselves for customers that are possibly "know it alls", demand impossible deadlines, want the absolute best price, want the best quality and usually pay much later than the customer's own clients.

If you agree that these problems are very real, you would also think that the most likely candidates for the trade printing sector are the older generation that have accumulated heaps of experience and thick skins in order to deflect the abuse when a problem occurs.

Paul_and_LisaThink again. Queensland is host to two young entrepreneurs who are out to teach the older generation a thing or two on print quality and service.

Paul Vidler and his fiancée Lisa McIntosh have been running Reliable Designs and Print for two years and have built an enviable client list across the country.

They have figured out how to iron out many of the 'kinks' in this traditionally difficult industry sector. By giving their clients direct contact with production staff at all times, it erases all to common communication breakdowns between production staff and sales staff and leaves important media choices in the hands of professional printers, not sales staff.

They have also had to learn the generic lessons on running a good solid business so that they do not fall down on the back end of all business’s – accounts, etc.

Wide Format Online paid a visit to Paul and Lisa in early February and we were both impressed and surprised at the depth of knowledge that Paul has as well as the progress the company has made in the short life span of the business. Paul’s  reputation is obviously growing as he admits that he is called upon for advice quite frequently.

Paul told us, "There are many little problems and queries that crop up, the type of problems that you don't want to involve the support from the supplier since it might involve an expense. It is typically these kinds of problems and queries that clients call for advice. Obviously I like to help as much as possible as we consider this all part of the service we provide. Their clients understand this and It’s already paying dividends whilst helping to cement relationships."

Typically other signies and even printers may call Paul and ask what type of substrate and ink combination was best for a particular job; colour profiling queries and the most frequently asked - to laminate or not to laminate. “Print resolution was another classic", he said. "Many of the customers want the best possible resolution that we can provide and they sometimes find it difficult to understand that we often talk them down to the normal 360dpi for larger or short term aplications when the application does not warrant the high resolution or associated production cost”.

Many of these signage companies should know better, but we do print for several companies that don't have a printer and of course it is often these companies that have much to learn about specifying print for a particular application. “We see it as our job to help the client with these choices; no-one can afford to do rework!” Says Paul. Then of course there are the technical questions about machine problems, applications and colour management.

BA_2009_finalist-logoPaul has spent the last ten years working for a range of well-known WF printers and sign writers in SE QLD as well as working for a national WF supplier. "Between these few companies, I was lucky enough to have built up considerable knowledge of the equipment how to get the best out of it and the problems associated with high end solvent and UV printing equipment.

“When I was working for a well known supplier, I discovered that selling equipment and consumables wasn't really for me and I yearned to get back into the print shop and produce wide format print. So after a good stint at equipment and media supply side of the business I returned to producing print, only this time I was working for myself."

“It's taken us nearly two years to build the portfolio of clients that provide the bulk of our work, as well as the necessary equipment to produce the work that we do and quite frankly there is nothing stopping us from continuing to grow.”

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   Just some of the work produced by Paul and Lisa  

“When the pressure is on, Lisa and myself can work through the night and on occasions we bring in some excellent contract helpers to stay on top of the workload. We obviously don't like that aspect of this business but understand that it is the nature of the business we are in and is necessary to meet the tight deadlines that we commit to.”

Lisa compliments Paul is so many ways. With a background in administration, she often leaves Paul to get on with the production of the jobs that come in to focus on ensuring the companies systems and processes are adhered to, this ensures that the admin side of the business and machine scheduling are kept as tight as possible. She is able though, to help out with production functions and can operate the machinery when required.

Reliable Designs and Print use the 2.5 metre Seiko ColorPainter as their printer. This unit is capable of producing many more square metres of print in a single shift than a handful of people can finish. With a wide colour gamut and extremely UV stable inks, it ensures that this machine is well suited to the high demand applications of signage printing.

The ubiquitous Ezytaper sits next to the Seiko and is used extensively for the many laminating and mounting jobs that pass through the shop. “Our customers use us regularly for mounting work as we can produce a higher quality print at a very reasonable cost when compared to most UV direct to substrate printers. Solvent mounted prints may not be suitable for all applications from a price perspective, but we feel it is always a better finish”

A Mimaki cutter resides in an adjacent room and again, considering most jobs need to be trimmed or cut, the unit is running almost constantly. Jobs are also set up in an adjacent room with a sophisticated array of high-powered computers and software.

“The nature of our business requires us to have a sizeable stock of the various media that we are called upon to use for various projects” said Paul. True enough, we witnessed one side of the print room was stacked with a multitude of different media.

Much attention has been made to colour management and Paul considers himself lucky here as in his former positions, colour management and colour quality were important parts of the job. “It’s been drummed into me how important this side of the business is and I am appreciative of the training that I have received from my previous employers. That training has stood me in good stead and will continue to do so.”

“We have profiles for all the media that we carry and it’s no big deal for us to generate extra profiles when required”, he said.

Dye sublimation work can also be catered for as well as just about any other facet of flexible media printing.

So what of the future for this young go ahead company? Never wanting to stagnate in such a technology driven environment, Paul is studying the myriad of options available to them. Latex is attractive but he feels that it needs a bit more commercial usage as well as time for HP’s claims of outdoor life span to be proven before he commits.

Direct to Textile and flatbeds are also on option although he feels that the flatbed market is pretty saturated (at least until the next generation starts being shipped) and feels there is far more growth options with flexible media.

Online quotes and online ordering is a side of the business that could be extremely attractive and certainly fits with the thinking of this very modern couple and work is underway on a streamlined system to be implemented.

There is a quotation that Paul claims they both live by and is embedded into their long term business plan. The quotation goes as follows:

“We do not like winning our work on price alone, price wars are fought and won by lower material costs and lowering service, both of which are not advisable by anyone in this industry who wishes to remain there. Instead we prefer to have a QUALITY war, fought with quality products, quality service and quality support. That way, the customer will ALWAYS be the winner!”

Paul has agreed to write a regular column for Wide Format Online, something along the lines of Frequently Asked Questions where he will be trying to pose the most frequent questions as well as propose the best answers.

Reliable Designs & Print