No two signs are alike. But to keep with brand standards of national clients, the difference should be undetectable. When seeking a sign manufacturing company to create dozens or hundreds of brand signs, inquire about its processes that ensure signage consistency.
Mike Lev, operations manager, explains the quality control checkpoints Harbinger uses when building multiple signs for a national account.
"Sign consistency and quality control begins with standards for each customer's product lines," Lev said. "Shop drawings and CAD drawings are set for every department, enabling us to perform several different fabrication functions simultaneously. When it’s time for final assembly, all the pieces are ready."
Harbinger uses lean manufacturing processes, such as cells instead of "assembly lines." When a product is moved from cell to cell, it is inspected and the work order is reviewed. Quality control measures including visual controls, templates and guides are in place at various cells to help equipment operators avoid mistakes.
Upon completion, the sign is thoroughly inspected for workmanship, safety and whether it meets the customer"s brand standards. Lastly, the product is inspected for proper labeling and destination before being loaded onto the freight truck for delivery.
"Lean manufacturing enables us to closely inspect and QC every single sign we manufacture, not just every three or five signs. As well, we provide this individual attention while actually increasing efficiency and product flow," Lev stated.
Do all your vendors or suppliers use Lean principles? This manufacturing process focuses on eliminating waste, both in materials and time, and has a ripple effect to businesses of all types, even non-manufacturing ones. Harbinger implemented Lean techniques nearly three years ago, and the payoff for its clients has been significant.
The turnaround time to make a custom sign (from taking the order to finishing production) has been reduced from 30 days to nine. Also, Harbinger has experienced labor cost savings, which enabled the company to keep its prices steady despite the economic downturn.
“Adopting Lean principles made it possible for Harbinger to ramp-up production and sales,” Steve Williams explained. “We are able to efficiently fabricate a large number of high-quality signs even quicker than before, meaning better service and better signs for our clients.”
Lean manufacturing is a mind-set and a culture. It’s about breaking down the steps of a business’ operations and analyzing each one for errors, inefficiencies, delays and wasted materials. For example, Harbinger previously had a large two-story structure in the middle of its production floor so the foreman could have a “bird’s eye” view of the manufacturing. However every time workers needed to provide paperwork to the foreman, they had to climb up a 13-step flight of stairs. Due to Lean principles, Harbinger decided to remove the structure and place the foreman’s desk on the floor. This resulted in more space for production and an annual savings of up to $37,000 in labor costs by reducing the “walking around” time.
Harbinger also has implemented one-piece flow manufacturing, value stream mapping, and heijunka. The company is a member of the Jacksonville Lean Consortium, comprised of nearly 50 companies, government agencies and universities that share best practices in Lean.