Spike Stories: AlphaGraphics Denton Improves Productivity With Spike

1 March 2016

Before entering the signage market, Denton, Texas-based AlphaGraphics offered a suite of printing services – from business cards to brochures, booklets, pamphlets and direct mail, says Rob Chatwin, sign specialist for the shop. AlphaGraphics Denton also produced banners, but with only a 42-inch aqueous printer in a small space, the shop was limited in its signage capabilities.

However, when some of the larger AlphaGraphics franchisees dabbled into the signage market, the AlphaGraphics corporate office saw the potential for success and implemented a company-wide signage initiative for all franchisees, Chatwin says. With growth on its mind, AlphaGraphics Denton decided to move into a bigger shop that could accommodate the demands of signage fabrication and upgraded to a 52-inch HP Latex 260 printer.

“We’ve always valued ourselves as being a turnkey, one-stop-shop operation,” Chatwin says. “Once we got into large-format signage, it really helped us improve that marketing ability and our value to customers.”
Although AlphaGraphics Denton moved into a large, well-equipped space, its signage department was still a one-man operation run by Chatwin, which often posed logistical challenges, he says. Conducting site surveys on his own wasn’t practical because no one was there to hold the ladder steady or provide support on both ends of the tape measure. For the large projects, Chatwin had to bring someone from another department of AlphaGraphics Denton, but that drove productivity down in other parts of the business.

Finding a productivity solution

But that all changed when Chatwin received an email from one of the signage publications about Spike, a smart laser measurement solution for conducting signage site surveys and estimations, he says. Chatwin shared the email with his team, and his manager immediately purchased Spike to help with site surveys. Instead of taking manual measurements, Chatwin now attaches his Spike to his iPad and snaps a picture of a sign location.

From that picture, Spike captures measurements of the location’s width, height and area, which Chatwin can access immediately on his iPad or when he returns to the office on the Spike cloud. The cloud is especially helpful, Chatwin says, because it allows him to measure the location on a bigger screen. Chatwin can also export the measurements as a PDF in the field and send the dimensions to his estimators or installers to give them a head start on the project.

“With it being just me taking measurements on-site, Spike made a lot of sense,” Chatwin says. “I don’t have to get on a ladder with a tape measure and hope it stays stiff enough to extend the full length before breaking. Not only does Spike save me time but it’s also much safer and more professional because I don’t have to ask the customer to hold the other end of a tape measure.”

Once Chatwin has the measurements he needs, he can set the artwork to a specific size, making for more accurate renderings, he says. This gives clients a better idea of what the sign will look like on the building, which helps simplify the customer proofing stage as well as the permitting process.

“I’ve had several customers who needed a rendering of the proposed sign to submit to the county for permit approval,” Chatwin says. “Spike makes the process easy. The measurements are right there, and I can accurately make the artwork to scale whereas I used to guesstimate. The Spike photo is exactly what counties require.”

Spike in the field

Spike especially comes in handy when hard-to-reach areas are in play. During a recent project with the University of Texas, Arlington, Chatwin needed to capture measurements that were about 20 feet high.

AlphaGraphics Denton didn’t have the necessary equipment to measure that height, and Chatwin didn’t want to spend the money for a bucket truck when he hadn’t won the job yet. Chatwin instead snapped a photo of the sign location with Spike, and after he won the job, he used the measurements to determine what type of truck he needed and spent money on the rental once he was under contract.

Chatwin also finds that Spike is helpful when estimating partial vehicle wraps. Because revenue margins are low on vehicle wraps, Chatwin has little room for error when creating estimates. With Spike, Chatwin can quickly capture exactly how much room he has to work with and accurately size the artwork based on the vehicle’s dimensions.

“For partial wraps, you don’t necessarily want to spend the money to buy a vehicle template,” Chatwin says. “You don’t really need one, but the measurements are still important. Spike has helped us make sure the artwork is the right size and cleanly fits on the vehicle.”

As Chatwin reflects on future growth potential, he’s optimistic that Spike can help AlphaGraphics Denton solidify its place in the signage market. In 2015, AlphaGraphics Denton doubled its signage sales, and the shop plans to do so again in 2016. Given how Spike helps Chatwin and his team turnaround site surveys in a matter of minutes, AlphaGraphics Denton is on the right path for continued growth.

Want to learn more about Spike for the sign and graphics industry?

Visit our Spike product page to see how Spike can help your shop work more efficiently and save on its bottom line.

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