workflow folders

Let’s Talk Shop: Wrap Shop Workflow

Charity Jackson is owner of Visual Horizons Custom signs, a full-service commercial sign company based in Modesto, Calif.  She has been in business since 1995 and specializes in vehicle wraps, design and project management and workflow. You can visit her Web site at www.vhsigns.com.

If you find that your shop is getting phone calls from wrap customers checking the status on their job, and you have no idea what the status is and have no efficient way to check, then you need to improve the workflow in your shop. Having a clear system in place not only makes your shop more efficient, it also makes you more profitable and professional.

Our shop is full service, which means that in addition to our fleet and wrap work we offer signs, banners, engraving and design work. It's important that we're able to clearly track all of our jobs from the front counter, through production and installation.

The Front Counter

Efficient workflow begins at the front counter. Our vehicle wrap jobs require a lot of steps to stay on track. We've created wrap checklists for our customers and our employees that make sure we've asked all the right questions and reviewed all the important information with the customer right from the beginning.

Working through the checklist is a professional way to inform the customer of the steps involved in the process. We use two checklists—one informs the customer, while the other keeps our sales person on track at the counter. The checklists also move with the job through the rest of the steps in the process.

Note: For more information on the checklists we use, check out my article in the October, 2017 issue of SDG magazine.

The Calendar

One of the most important parts of our workflow process is our folder system and the online scheduling program we use. The folders are simply legal size folders that are each numbered. All paperwork, checklists, artwork thumb drives or disks and sketches are placed in the folder.

The folder goes in a rack system that is divided by the stage in the workflow process that the job is at. Usually at this point it will be “Waiting for a Proof”. Each section is divided by a large, labeled divider. Unless a job is on a desk being worked on or it's made it's way to the production organizers, it should be in one of the divided sections.

Once the job is "boxed" in one of the folders, the corresponding folder number, customer name and a brief description is entered into our online productivity software program. We use the Toodledo suite as our system. It's very inexpensive and completely customizable.

Each time the job moves from one stage to the next in the workflow, the information is updated in Toodledo. So when we get that phone call from a customer checking status, we can easily look up their job online so we can tell them exactly where it is.

Proof

The first stage the wrap job goes into is the proofing process. The checklists, notes on the design and coverage, color choices and gathered artwork should all be in the folder. An invoice with the deposit information and customer contact information should also be in the folder.

If the person doing the design work isn't the same person that took the job at the counter, they should have a good understanding of the job coverage and design ideas from the information already gathered. This doesn't mean the sales person and designer can't meet up to review expectations, but clear note taking keeps the job workflow efficient.

Once the designer emails the wrap proof to the customer, a copy of the proof is printed out and added to the folder. On our shop checklist we also have an area to note the date when the proof was sent, and the date we received either approval or changes so we have a record of how quick our shop and the customer are getting back to one another.

If the customer complains about the turnaround time on their project, but they didn't get back to us for five days, we can point that out to them and remind them that quicker responses will speed the process. This is helpful information to have in front of you, without having to search through emails or check with your coworkers, if the customer calls to check status.

Sample Print

Once we've received final approval from the customer we like to do a sample print, on our wrap media, for the customer to approve prior to production. This step can be skipped if the customer has ordered a wrap before, but any other wrap projects should have a sample print for the customer to sign off on.

On our checklist we also note when the customer was contacted to come in to approve the sample print. Once they do come in we make a note of that date as well. Again this keeps track of the timing of the customer response.

Install Calendar

Sometimes our wrap job installations aren't scheduled until they're further along in the production process, but we try to get them scheduled once the customer approves the sample print. We know that output, drying time and production will typically take three days so we'll schedule our vehicles accordingly.

We use Google Calendar for our scheduling so that it can be accessed from any computer. A customer can be added to the calendar at the front counter or from any desk and it updates the calendar for everyone. This eliminates overbooking wraps on any particular day.

We use this same calendar to track when a staff member will be out of the office on another install, on vacation or at another appointment as well so this can be taken into account while scheduling. Using an online calendar also allows us to log in from home if we need access to the schedule after hours.

Print Setup

In our shop the person designing the wrap also sets up the approved artwork for output. Every wrap is unique and there are different obstacles and approaches that will ensure the wrap can be installed quicker and with better results.

The panel setup will completely change how the installers apply the graphics. If it's a box truck we'll typically do vertical panels. If it's a smaller car or the bed of a pickup truck we'll typically do one large horizontal panel. If we're trying to go as seamless as possible then we manually setup each panel to fall over existing body lines that we can trim and tuck to.

It's important that designers understand the installation process so that they're able to anticipate the best way to setup the wrap panels for the most efficient install. Unless it's a straight forward install, the designer should meet with an installer to gather their thoughts on the panel setup until they're able to figure it out on their own.

Output

In our shop our setup panels are RIPed through Roland VersaWorks Dual. We try to import and RIP all the panels in a job prior to printing the first panel. We find that having the panels already RIPed makes the output more efficient, eliminating any cool down and re-heating of the printer between panels.

We always print an entire side of a vehicle on the same day to avoid any possible color shift from one day to the next. Our RIP software has an estimated print time so we're able to monitor how long each panel will take to print and we can plan accordingly.

Once the panels have finished printing we take the roll of printed media and hang it on a drying rack. We use vinyl wall racks so that the printed rolls can hang to dry and we don't have to worry about them being knocked over or unrolling while standing up to dry. Printed media should dry a full 24 hours before lamination.

Folders

Once a job has finished the output stage the folder is moved into production. The desktop folder rack tracks the job's status with labeled slots: Proofs, Waiting for Approval, (Ready for) Output, Outside Orders, CNC/Routing jobs, and it holds our empty folders.

By moving the folder to a separate rack in the production area the paperwork stays with the graphics. On the wall in the production department we have a rack labeled Production and a rack labeled Installs. If the job is still being laminated, contour cut, trimmed or otherwise prepped, the folder is in the Production rack. Once it's ready for installation the folder is moved to the Installs rack while we wait for the day of installation.

On the wall we have a dry erase board that we jot down the folder number, customer name and a brief description. While we do move the job from 'Output' to 'Production' in our Toodledo program, the wall rack helps us track jobs at a glance, prioritize production and jot a note if needed.

At the bottom of the dry erase chart we also keep a one week calendar to jot down the vehicle installs scheduled for the current week. This information is also in Google Calendar which we access for future install scheduling. Jotting it on the calendar in production makes it easy to plan for the jobs coming in that week and is an easy checks & balance as we prepare for that week's installs.

Lamination

When we're ready to laminate the printed rolls we group our lamination by laminate type to minimizing changing out laminate rolls. Our drying racks are hung right behind our laminator and our laminate rolls are stored upright next to the laminator. Organization keeps us efficient.

Production

When we output the wrap artwork we try to group the panels that will need to be contour cut. When the panels are ran through the laminator, we set aside the panels that will simply be cut down on the table. The panels that will need to be contour cut are rolled and stood up vertically in another section near the cutter.

One person loads these on the cutter and outputs the cut files while another person keeps production flowing on the rest of the panels by cutting them down and labeling the panels. We tape the rolled panels and label which side of the vehicle they go on and if they're the 1st, 2nd or 3rd panel, or the top or bottom panel, etc.

Rolled panels for a particular job are stored upright and grouped together. Any contour cut graphics are laid flat and stacked together on a separate production table awaiting installation.

Installation

One side of our in-house checklist is an Installer Checklist. The day before or morning of installation the installer(s) should review the wrap layout with the designer or salesperson to confirm any requests, parts removal or extra parts that are being wrapped.

The installers should also double check that all panels are labeled and ready, that the installation carts are fully stocked and the installation space is clear and clean. Proofs of the vehicle wrap should be printed and ready to take out to the installation space. Those proofs and the install checklist should be the only paperwork that goes to the back shop. We keep all other paperwork in the folder in production so artwork, payment slips and invoices don't get lost or damaged in the back shop.

It's important that a vehicle is dropped off on time, clean and ready to start installation. On our checklist we can note the drop off time and the condition it's in. This information is important as we take into account any delays that may push back completion or increase our labor costs.

Vehicle inspection notes prior to wrapping, which includes the paint condition and any damage, are also noted on the checklist. Any parts removed are also noted to ensure they are put back on when the install is complete.

Post Install

The last item on our wrap workflow is a post install checklist. This is simply a checklist of reminders for the installers to be sure the vehicle has been post heated, vinyl edges are checked, bubbles have been popped, the vehicle has been wiped down and photos of the completed wrap have been taken.

We also have created a post wrap care sheet that we place in the customer's vehicle. This reminds them to bring the car back in for a free inspection and covers the post-wrap washing instructions.