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.

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.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Negative Electronic Message Center Buying Experience

"Somewhere, over the..."
“Since the object of sign boards was to attract the public, they were often of an elaborate character. Not only were the signs themselves large and sometimes of great artistic merit (especially in the 16th and 17th centuries, when they reached their greatest vogue) but the posts or metal supports protruding from the houses over the street, from which the signs were swung, were often elaborately worked, and many beautiful examples of wrought-iron supports survive both in England and continental Europe.” 1

There is very compelling history related to the use of outdoor signage and few would argue the importance of signs to identify a business, give directions, or to provide other timely communication. Whether the sign is a terracotta signboard from ancient Rome, or a state-of-the art outdoor LED electronic billboard, every sign has a lifespan.

Great expectations accompany the birth of a sign. The small business, like an expectant parent, invests both money and time before the Electronic Message Center (EMC) project arrives. They’ve spoken with several sign companies, reviewed many project bids, perhaps secured financing, obtained permits and other permissions and do not take the arrival of their new flashy “electronic baby” lightly.

It is a large investment that they have made, and they have waited patiently during the manufacturing gestation period. When the “freight company stork” delivers the EMC project to the sign company for installation, congratulatory cigars are broken out for all!

The sign company has high expectations too. They have fought hard to win the contract, perhaps weathered price concessions, spent much time designing the total sign project, obtained the permits… and their list goes on, perhaps longer than the end-user’s list.

The Electronic Message Center (EMC) is finally installed and turned on- “WOW- pretty lights!”

At the moment when their new EMC gets powered up for the first time, the “gold at the end of the rainbow” has been found. But just as fast as the beautiful rainbow vanishes, so do the dreams of improved sales and company branding as service issues begin with a problem EMC.

A negative buyer experience is a commercial tragedy for the end-user, the sign company, the community and the industry.


1) End-users and sign companies have expectations that are legitimate and should be easily met with quality EMC product that is readily available.

2) An EMC that is not reliable does more damage to the brand image of the end-user and the sign company than never installing the sign. Which LED Sign Manufacturer?

3) The cost for servicing a low-quality EMC can greatly exceed any profit realized in the transaction for the reseller, even with a great profit margin project. Cost of Service

4) Time is important- wasting time servicing and dealing with customer complaints cost time, and time is real money.

5) Every EMC project is a direct reflection on the industry. Each new EMC is seen by thousands of passing motorists not only once it’s powered-up, but also during the installation!  A reliable EMC with gorgeous content can drive additional sales, but a poor EMC project presentation can make an end-user think twice or stick with conventional signage.

6) The old adage “There’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over” causes pain for some sign companies. Their supply chain has repeatedly disappointed them with poor-quality product and service, but the promise of a cheap EMC has provided the hope that the next project will be that one “winning project”. With the wrong supplier, it never happens.

Buy smart from a domestic supplier that has a proven track record of performance and who can provide references. Always insist that your product conforms to the National Electrical Code requirements and is certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory.

Do your homework and do not allow a fantasy promise of a “free lunch” on EMC pricing to cause long-term pain and disappointment with the end-user customer. There is a finite number of customers, embrace and satisfy each one of them, no exceptions. When you do this, you will also be protecting the reputation of the industry.

1-  Wikipedia reference: “signage”.

Note 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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Quality in the components: How a single capacitor or process can make a HUGE difference.

-Deacon Wardlow

It’s the little things in life which can make a huge difference. Reaching into your pocket and finding a dime which makes for exact change at the coffee shop or being glad you paid that little extra to buy the nicer watch which has lasted for years when others have long been retired to the back of the catch-all drawer. Over time, electronic components have become more versatile, more reliable and cheaper. The difference between a high-end and a low-end capacitor can be a few pennies. It doesn't seem like much, but those pennies make a big difference to a manufacturer who buys hundreds of thousands of them.

if you’ve ever had to run a home DIY project, you’ve gone to the hardware store and picked out the bits and pieces you needed. Maybe you noticed a few different types of nails and you buy a bunch of the cheaper ones to save a few dollars on a project that is already going over budget. If you’ve been there, you’ve probably also noticed how those cheaper nails bent, wouldn’t go in easily, and (in many cases) just didn’t get the job done. You go back and spend a few dollars more and find the slightly more expensive nails really made a difference. The same thing occurs in manufacturing.

A manufacturer will look at the overall performance and the failure rate of a component. Component X costs 5 cents less than Component Y, but it’s prone to a 5% higher failure rate. The manufacturer looks at how many they’re buying, how important to the performance of the system that component is, and will decide whether it’s worth the cost savings to put the cheaper component in and put up with a few RMA replacements vs. the greater expense of the more reliable (and costly) unit.

How much attention to detail is paid by the manufacturer of choice? You have to ask them. How do they source their parts? How much of a failure tolerance does the manufacturer have? When they look at processes which could extend the lifetime optimal performance of the system (for example, conformal coating on power supplies), do they see the value added for the end-user or do they see an expense they don’t want to be burdened with?

When a manufacturer is pinching pennies, it doesn’t always mean those savings are passed along to you. They likely sell the same system at the same price (and often a higher cost) than the competition and you’re stuck playing a game of chance to see if the components will function for the projected lifetime of the system or if “Warranty Deadline” day comes and goes and things start falling apart well before their time.

Make sure you’re being told, up front, what really goes into the system you’re investing in. Make sure neither you, nor the manufacturer are saving a few pennies now which will cost a lot of dollars to fix later. Usually the axiom “penny saved is a penny earned,” is a good one. In this case, the manufacturer reaps rewards and the buyer ends up with the risk. You’re investing in them by choosing the manufacturer as a partner, make sure they’re making the right decisions to ensure your investment and trust are well placed.

*I invite you to comment here and/or email me directly with requests at deacon@vantageled.com. Vantage LED has white paper resources and more educational material on the website (http://www.vantageled.com), please check it out when you have a moment. Note 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.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Short Term Gain - Long Term Cost: The Direct and Indirect Costs and Effects of Poor Quality LED Signs on Business

When an organization is looking for a new LED sign many of the same common factors apply as any major purchase, like a car or the latest HD television. What is the best product? What is the best value for the money? Who is the best manufacturer? Who has the best support? For items such as cars and televisions, consumer reports, websites and reviews are abundantly available to assist the buyer. Unfortunately, these types of resources are not as common in the LED sign industry and the buyer is sometimes left to decide based on limited information and eager salesmen.

Many are convinced to buy a cheaper, inferior product with the promise that they are “buying direct” or “getting the same sign, for ½ the cost”.  Some are even convinced that it’s worth buying a cheaper product, because the price is so good that they can just buy another one if it fails in 2 years. Unfortunately many have learned the hard way that there is no such thing as an “LED-Mart” where you can get cheap prices and reasonable quality product.

Poor quality LED signs do not just stop working after 1-2 years of operation. They break down continually as a function of their poor design and materials. This costs you time, money, reputation (see Deacon's Post) and a constant worry about the street image of your business or organization. Lets look at some of the actual costs for a poorly manufactured LED Sign.

Service Costs:

Signs are not like smart phones or cars. You can’t bring them into the shop, or ship them back to the manufacturer for repair. These are permanent fixtures on your property, and they are usually high off the ground requiring a bucket truck for access.

Some of the average rates for service are:

  • Standard bucket truck w/ technician: $150 per hour, 2 hr min.
  • Extended bucket or crane w/ technician: $250 per hour. 2 hr min.
  • A typical service call to troubleshoot a sign will take 2-3 hours: $450 - $750
  • A second trip to install parts usually takes 1-2 hours: $300 - $500

So you are potentially spending: $750 - $1250 per incident. If you’re servicing a sign just 5 times a year you looking at a yearly cost of $3750 - $6250, this adds up to $18,750 - $31,250 over five years. Rates and repair times do vary, but even conservative estimates add up over time.

But what about manufacturers that offer a labor warranty to cover these costs? The effectiveness of a labor warranty is highly dependent on the company that issues it. If they go out of business or are slow to respond to issues, you're stuck with a disabled sign and sometimes have to cover the costs anyway. A good labor warranty should be insured by a third party and the manufacture that issues it must be financially strong and in it for the long term.

Indirect Costs:

Your time is money. Time spent coordinating service calls, troubleshooting the sign, and navigating through poorly designed software costs you money in the long run. It’s hard to quantify the actual dollars lost, but the fact stands that a small business owner who is spending time fixing a sign, is not spending time making money for the business.

Visual appeal is important for any organization or business. When you buy an LED sign you are investing in it’s ability to do one major job: Advertise. When your sign is constantly broken it is not doing it job, and you are losing the return on your investment. To the public, the quality of a sign will reflect the quality of the organization it promotes. A broken sign will cost you business in the long run.

The initial gain from a low cost product is quickly overcome by the cost and negative effect it has on your organization. This is not to say that a higher quality or more expensive sign will never have issues, but the frequency and fix-ability of these issues will be significantly different.  A high quality sign will stay fixed because the design is sound, and the manufacturer cares about the long term operation of the product. When looking for a good LED sign supplier, don’t trade short term value for long term headaches.

- Scott Hofheins

* 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.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Importing Electronic Message Centers from China

- Mike Prongue   

If you’ve been involved in the Electronic Message Center (EMC) industry for any length of time, chances are you probably have strong opinions regarding the pros and cons of importing EMCs from China. Whether your believe importing EMCs from China is an excellent possible way to compete because of the low factory pricing, or you believe the general quality and technology of Chinese product is still evolving and you wouldn’t do it for any reason… well, it doesn’t matter for this discussion.

Let’s suspend the debate for a few minutes and insert the old adage “it is what it is.” Whatever it is, good, bad or ugly there are definite realities associated with importing, particularly from China.
  •  Is importing really what you want to do? This means- does your company want to consume the real extra man hours of payroll, have the international business skills and finally have the eternal on-going, daily patience,  to buy direct from a Chinese manufacturer or would you rather do what your business does best and just focus on SELLING EMC displays? 
  • How do you select a Chinese partner to do business with? There are literally hundreds  of “professional leading suppliers” waiting for you. How do you select the right one, check them out, explore their reputation, and their ability to respond to your requests. It’s challenging enough to select a partner in North America, let alone a company 9,000 miles away.
  •  Are you aware of the 12-13 hour time difference and are you prepared to wait a day for almost any question, order, request or emergency? They are asleep when you are awake and this impractical issue reduces service to your customer dramatically.
  • How do you handle parts warranty claims? It costs almost as much to ship a power supply, an LED module, or a controller card back to China in an expedite mode as the part is worth. If they have a three year parts warranty, that is really YOUR warranty obligation.
  • Can you and your customer wait 12-14 weeks for delivery? Sure, they can make it in two weeks but that is only the start. You have Chinese government quality inspections, shipping to port, loading of the transport vessel, 14 days across the Pacific, offloading in some port (Long Beach for example), custom holds, transfers, lost containers, strikes and of course, sometimes a week to get it trucked across the country. Then you must set it up in your shop to ensure it works before installing it at the job site.
  • A little secret- they speak Chinese. Many of your contacts speak decent English, but it is a very stilted and difficult communication process.
  • Where is your order? What do you tell your customer? How do you explain why another project is late because one of the many Chinese Holidays, shut the plant down for 10 days?
  •  Is the software and the documentation sufficiently Americanized for your customer to feel good about the purchase? What do those Chinese symbols mean to the Deli owner in Chicago?
The seductive factory-direct pricing may catch your attention. But when you add the stress, the worry, the communication issues, the time delays, promises not kept or even understood… then you may think twice about the real cost of importing direct from China.

The secondary costs of your time and manpower, customer disappointment, delayed delivery, shipping expense, can be expressed in real dollars and you must look at the big picture before getting involved in the Asian theater.

It can be a very frustrating scenario, and as one dealer stated “A very slow boat”.

**Note 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.

17 18 19

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Defending your brand: Cheap Components/LED Sign Systems cost you more than money.

-Deacon Wardlow

Over the years I’ve worked with, bought from, worked-on, serviced, taken-down, sold and installed systems from LED Sign manufacturers all over the world. I’ve been asked to come in on installations to consult and I’ve seen the best of signs and the worst of signs. LED Signs, more than other forms of signage, are particularly unnerving for both the experienced Digital Signage shop and sign shops just getting into the market. The signs are big ticket items and when something goes south, the sign shop who sold the deal is going to hear about it from the customer, their competition and people in the area. They definitely draw attention and the worst kind of attention is from a system which isn’t working properly.

LED Signs are all the same right? not really. If you’ve been following the blog or take a look at past articles like this one you’ll see huge differences. Manufacturers often buyout engineering and software development instead of keeping it in-house. Components are sometimes scaled down and cheaper parts swapped in for “economy lines.” There are a lot of lemons in the apple tree making apples-to-apples comparisons difficult. Even worse, many manufacturers try to create specs around perceived “unique” qualities of their systems which don’t have any relevance to actual system performance. They're parlor tricks meant to divert the buyers attention.

The worst reality of LED signage is a lot of the poorly constructed systems actually look great. Put it up, give it power and it runs like any other; for a month or a year, maybe even two years. Unfortunately, the end-user doesn’t pay out for a 1 year system. The investment is not a small one. Most small businesses will commit a substantial portion of their revenue towards buying an LED sign. It’s a big investment. When that investment fails (starts to look dim, has had five service calls in one month to fix a controller issue, has LED modules which failed and the replacement modules don’t match the color, etc.) it fails spectacularly. 

When I’m going out to eat, I’ll take a look at the sign and if the sign doesn’t look good, I’ll pass the restaurant up. It’s a bit superficial of me but really... Do you want to eat at a place where the owners don’t care enough about their business image to keep the sign looking good... What do you think they’re doing in the kitchen where you can’t see what’s being skimped on? What's the cost of a failing/failed Digital Signage? Beyond the multiple trips out to fix the system and the growing burden on the end-user to pay for the service calls (as most systems aren’t warranted on labor), the reputation takes a big hit.

The reputation you get is the one you’ve earned. The sign industry itself is surprisingly smaller than you’d think. Often I’ve spoken with a sign shop owner in CA who is friends with other sign shop owners in FL and NH. At the national tradeshows, people can point out the shops who cut corners and the ones who refuse to do anything but the best builds (even if the price is high). The reputation you earn is important and unfortunately can be lost in a heartbeat. A lot of pain, suffering, money and bad feelings can be saved by doing a little research now to ensure you’re not buying low-end systems touted as quality. 

I’m not saying the most expensive systems out there are the best, just make sure your investment is made with a company who cares about your reputation and is working hard to ensure both your reputation and theirs continue to grow positively. Saving a few dollars by going with the cheapest thing out there will cost you in more ways than one when the system brings the reality check in for payment. Dig deeper and make sure you're getting what you pay for, a balance of cost-conscious build and solid design/engineering. Don't let a bad sign cost you and your end users hard earned money and reputations. The money can be made back, but a reputation takes a lot longer to recover.

*I invite you to comment here and/or email me directly with requests at deacon@vantageled.com. Vantage LED has white paper resources and more educational material on the website (http://www.vantageled.com), please check it out when you have a moment. Note 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.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Quality Control for LED Sign Supply Chains

Anyone who has experienced the unique challenges of trying to source product or components overseas will tell you it is not for the weak spirited. Even Apple, one of the most successful companies in the world today is not immune to troubles with oversea suppliers (see here). The logistical, cultural, linguistic, and engineering aspects of sourcing products overseas do not always align correctly. Although It’s safe to say that virtually every LED sign manufacturer uses some components that are sourced from overseas manufactures in one way or another, not all of them have been able to control the quality of these components effectively. This post is written mainly for sign companies who are considering buying “direct” from overseas suppliers, but it will also be educational for end users who are in the market for an LED sign.

Quality control is hard to manage when you're working with factories that are 7000 miles away. It can be done, but it takes a balanced approach and a major commitment by the US based organization. When you buy from organizations that do this well, you significantly decrease your risk of getting a sub-par product and ultimately save time and money by avoiding lengthy service issues and sign outages. However, when you buy from an organization that does this poorly or manufactures most of their LED sign overseas, the risk of poor quality product increases greatly. Here are some reasons why:

Limited Oversight
US distributors or manufacturers who do not have direct contract with the supplier find themselves completely at the mercy of their quality control system...if one exists at all. It is crucial to have direct contact with the suppliers, the ability to meet face to face, speak the language, and to know the right people. There are a large number of overseas component suppliers, but a smaller number of good suppliers out there. Knowing the right supplier to use, and having a good relationship with them is key to a successful quality control program.

Component Swapping
This is something that continues to plague distributors of overseas products. Mike’s last blog post addressed some important aspects of this issue (see here). Many overseas manufacturers will build the sample product (and even the first production run) with high quality components. The initial product seems to work well, and the distributor puts more orders in. This is where many manufacturers will start to swap out the internal components with less expensive alternatives over time. This is done without notifying the US distributor and the end result is a sub-par product that may work initially, but fail miserably after only 1-2 years of service.

Inconsistent Product
Distributors that do not have the resources to design, engineer, and oversee production find out very quickly that their product will be changed to suite the needs of the overseas supplier, without consultation. Component locations, LED Binning (color grading), connector locations, and physical materials are common areas for unannounced changes.

Multiple Sources
When US manufacturers rely too heavily on a single source for a particular component, they lose the ability to respond to product shortages quickly and effectively. The ability to demand quality control is also diminished if the manufacturer doesn’t have an alternate supplier to go to if the quality suffers.

Over the past 5-6 years, sourcing overseas suppliers has expanded in a way not friendly to the sign distributor, or the end users themselves. Unfortunately many sign companies believed they had found a perfect solution to increase profit margins by “going direct” to an overseas manufacturer. However, they did not realize what it really takes to reliably source, produce, and bring components into the US while maintaining the quality expected by today's consumer.

In my opinion, the best manufacturers commit the resources and spend the money needed to support a solid high quality supply chain. They don’t source the entire production overseas, but only the components that make sense. They develop relationships with the best suppliers, and work with them directly. Controlling the quality of the supply chain is an important aspect of our industry and must be actively addressed by the manufacturer. Doing this effectively benefits everyone, including the end users who ultimately feel the effects of a good, or bad supply chain.

-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.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

EMC- Specification Switchout

- Mike Prongue 

Imagine if you will, you are the sales manager at an exclusive automobile dealership specializing in importing Italian sports cars. Brand names are not important for this exercise, but think “red, shiny, fast, 750 horsepower and expensive.”

Your client, Daniel J. Smith, Esq., corporate lawyer for a Fortune 500 company has walked into your 11th Avenue exotic sports car showroom in Manhattan.

“Good morning Don,” Mr. Smith said, extending his hand for a firm shake, his diamond cufflinks showing from under the cuff of his Gieves & Hawkes custom-tailored $4,000 suit. Mr. Smith is 52 years-old and an exacting professional who does not always please easily

“Let me look at my new car,” he said with excitement.

“Well Mr. Smith, we are almost done with the final detailing and it should be ready within the hour, “ you say smiling, “I know you’ve waited three months for this car, and it was hand-assembled to your specification requests.”

“But…” you say, as the showroom clears out and a deathly silence descends.

“They changed the color from red to green, and the 6-speed transmission was replaced with an automatic.”

“No extra charge!” you add, failing in your desperate attempt at levity. You can see the legal papers already being filed at the courthouse.

Of course this type of last minute switch-out would create an issue of apocalyptic proportion and would never be tolerated by the car dealership or any customer.

In the Electronic Message Center (EMC) industry, this happens every day, much more so with imported projects. Manufacturers need not be named as it occurs across a broad spectrum of suppliers.

What does a Sign Company or EMC distributor do when this occurs? What leverage do they have? It seems like very little, actually.

The Sign Company or EMC distributor placed an order in good faith usually after receiving a deposit from the customer. They ordered the project from some supplier, sometimes off-shore, precisely communicating the exact specifications the customer requested, money is wired to begin the project and the final payment is wired before the project ships, usually about 6-weeks later.

The customer is waiting. The EMC comes in and it is the wrong pixel size, has rear opening cabinets instead of front removable modules, or the amber grayscale request has been changed out with a red screen.

Two and a half months have passed since the order was placed and the project is late, having been placed on an extended hold in US Customs at the Long Beach, CA port. Now it must be installed in only 7 days to support the grand opening of an auto parts store. The clock is ticking!

You can’t send it back to China (for example), as it would take at least 4 weeks to get there. What do you do? Make excuses or give the customer a discount? Not good enough to ensure a customer for a week much less a customer for life. There is no good strategy at this point.

You can call and complain and perhaps get a discount on the next order, but then somehow that order is also wrong and now you have two compromised customers and the dysfunction continues.

Project specifications for your order are not wishes- they are a precise requirement. When an order is placed however, it never seems to occur to the Sign Company or EMC distributor that such an egregious error could happen. The Sign Company may never know if the system was manufactured in “error” or if it was actually a pre-built project which had been canceled by some other customer ("close enough" to match the dealer's order). This is called a “switch out”. One never knows, does one?

It is important to know your supplier, have legal recourse, have timely production updates, and a signed sales order showing you exactly what to expect. Ordering an EMC is not game of roulette if you have done your homework by calling references and checking them out. As they say “You get what you inspect, rather than what you expect.”

So, it’s critical to choose wisely and do not become the victim of the “last minute switch out”. It does happen every day in the EMC industry.

Isolated production mistakes with U.S. manufacturers can be rapidly resolved because contract law is honored here and solutions can be shipped rapidly. Rectifying the much more common international situation, perhaps a last-minute “switch out”, is an entirely different problem and for which a good solution remains elusive.

**Note 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.