City Signs, which was originally started in Luton by Horace Wilkins upon the completion of his apprenticeship,
has been trading for 60 years. The company moved to Worcester in the late 1960s and has been trading in the area ever since.
City Signs now operates from its 2700sq ft HQ in Worcester and two of Horace’s children, Darren and Deanne have ensured that City Signs is now the region’s leading sign specialist.
City Signs specialises in vehicle graphics, banners, signage for business and retail along with exhibition stands. More recently, due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, City Signs has manufactured and supplied protective screens, floor graphics and personalised sanitising stations.
2020 saw City Signs invest in a new DYSS X7-1624C digital cutter. The machine was purchased with support from Worcestershire County Council and EU funding using a Proof of Concept Grant. The addition of digital cutting and routing has revolutionised signage and display production at their facility, creating new jobs and expanding their client base to serve the UK.
Darren Wilkins, managing director at City Signs explains, “It’s a great milestone in the history of City Signs and a big investment that will springboard the growth of the business. This year we are celebrating our 60th anniversary as a second-generation signage company and believe me 2020 has presented us with challenges, like many businesses across the county. Having this new digital cutting facility inhouse will completely change the way we work and expand our capabilities throughout the country.”
Justification for the Investment in a Digital cutter
Historically, City Signs relied on their Gerber Edge 2 and Gerber Envision for label finishing. Any routing of Dibond and acrylic, or larger knife cutting of vinyl, Foamex and Correx had to be outsourced. Darren says, “When you added it all up, we were spending around £18K PA with outside suppliers.”
In 2020, City Signs 60th year of trading got off to a good start, the order book was full, and everything was going on as normal, then came Covid-19. Darren explains, “When the national lockdown happened at the beginning of March, all of our exhibition work dried up and most of our sign and graphic work was put on hold. It was at this time that I had the opportunity to step back and think about the company going forward. Up until that point, I had not given any thought to the idea of acquiring a flatbed cutter. As I started to investigate what was available, one of my first contacts was Ian at G4B in Droitwich. Some of my routing work was outsourced to G4B so it seemed a natural place to start.” G4B have had a DYSS X5-1630C digital cutter installed since 2016.
Darren says, “When I started talking to Ian, I had another manufactures machine in mind, Ian made it quite clear, I should contact AG/CAD and look at their DYSS digital cutter solution.”
Darren also took advice from other professionals at networking sessions that he is involved in. He explains, “At a time of massive upheaval in the economy, it was very difficult to make a decision on a large capital purchase. The unanimous feedback that I got back from my networking sessions was ‘when is it ever a good time to invest, go for it’. The availability of the EU grant made the decision easier, but the payback from bringing work in house paired with the ability to keep track of jobs was the final decider.”
It is like having an extra person working for us.
During the initial conversations with AG/CAD, it became apparent that to make financial sense, any digital cutter purchased would have to do all the cutting, creasing, and routing that City Signs were outsourcing. The DYSS X7-1624C was the obvious choice.
With its two tangential tool slots and integrated 1kW high frequency router, the DYSS X7 and Superhead combination is the perfect production machine for City Signs. Kiss cutting of vinyl and carton board, knife cutting of Foamex, Correx, PVC banners and display board along with the ability to route Dibond, thicker Foamex and 3 -21mm Acrylic means that the company has all its current cutting and routing requirements covered.
Deanne explains, “We have a Chevron label job that repeats 2-3 times a year, we can now print the job on our HP Latex and finish it on the DYSS. The job takes less than half the time it did and is finished to a higher standard. It is like having an extra person working with us.”
When City Signs were outsourcing their cutting and routing work, there was a charge to have the cut files for each job generated. Although this was a relatively small cost per job, it mounted up. Having the full KASEMAKE Vision Pro suite means that the operator can now easily generate cut files to use on the DYSS. The work can be carried out on the machines dedicated workstation, saving time and money.
Darren says, “Having KASEMAKE has immediately made a difference to us, but we realise that we have barely scratched the surface of its capabilities. During the coming year we intend to undertake further dedicated training offered by AG/CAD. The possibilities offered by the vast Parametric library are appealing to us and we would like to get into new markets going forward. The ability to do cartons and corrugated packaging, plus point of sale means that we can broaden the services offered to our customers.”
Training can be carried out at a customer’s premises, in house at AG/CADs Winsford offices, or online via TeamViewer. The Online TeamViewer training facility has been utilised well during COVID-19 restrictions giving customers the option to train their staff, whilst maintaining safe working practices.
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