Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Domestic Design and Engineering - Fundamental Concepts in LED Sign Manufacturing

One of the most fundamental concepts when building something is to have a good solid plan. A plan before you begin, a plan to adjust during the project, and a plan to support the finished product on a long term basis. Engineering and Design in both the product and factory operations are vital to this pre-production, adjustment, and support structure when producing quality LED signs. Unfortunately, if you buy a “value line” LED sign, you tend to get a “value line” plan to go along with it.

There are too many “manufacturers” these days who rely almost completely on overseas talent to design, engineer, and produce their product. This is done for a host of reasons, sometimes the company doesn't have the tooling, or money, or sometimes they just do it because it’s cheaper.  Whatever the reason, the end-user usually gets the short end of the stick, and has to suffer for years with a faulty product. This can be avoided by focusing on the guys with domestic design and engineering teams and who are doing as much production as possible here in the US. Here are some reasons why this is so important.

Incentive and Ownership
Engineers who work in-house at a US factory will have more incentive to create a better product. They live here, they eat here, they interact here. The end-users are closer and their voices stronger when things go bad and when they go well.

It is easier for designers and engineers (and the entire factory staff for that matter) to take ownership of a product that will have a direct impact on their career. Individualism is a key concept in this regard. We celebrate our individual achievements and benefit greatly from a culture that embraces this concept.

Culture and Language
Our world is diverse; people do things a little differently in their own country. Translating these differences across continents can be difficult in its own right. Doing it without the benefit of a translator is next to impossible. Having a domestic design and engineering team fills this role, and should be a minimum requirement when sourcing anything overseas.

Accountability
Even the most honest and upstanding individuals will feel more accountable to someone in the same office, than a company thousands of mile away in another country. When companies outsource too much of the work overseas, they find this out very quickly. Unfortunately the LED sign industry is not quite big enough for specific international trade regulations. Holding an overseas manufacturer successfully accountable for their product is largely dependent on that manufacturers good will.  American companies have found it very difficult to get significant leverage when solving issues with their overseas suppliers.

Effective Feedback, Reaction and Support
Local staff will see issues and implement improvements in a product design much faster and more efficiently than an overseas team. The coordination and collaboration are sped up by face to face interaction with the production team, and solutions can be implemented immediately. Feedback from local technicians is passed on directly to local engineers who make the adjustments needed to improve product in the local factory. This is very difficult to do with parties separated by distance, time, culture and language.

The bottom line; domestic design and engineering are fundamental to producing quality LED signs. In my opinion, this should be a minimum requirement for any manufacturer who claims a product “Made in the USA” and who actually builds a major portion of the product in the US. Avoid LED signs that are designed, engineered and produced overseas then shipped to a US distributor to be sold as a US made product. This is a losing situation for the LED sign industry in general, but the end-user ultimately feels the brunt of the effects with a poor street front image, and a very costly yet in-effective advertising tool.


- Scott Hofheins


I hope this post has been informative and helpful. As usual, I welcome ALL constructive comments. Please feel free to comment and add anything I’ve missed, or additional tips you may have regarding this topic. Please visit www.vantageled.com for many other resources, white papers, and of course: Great looking LED Signs!

**All posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically stated.

1 comment:

Dave Coulter said...

All excellent points, Scott.

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