FD Signs goes from mothballed to 18-hour days to support TFL


FD Signs, which initially mothballed after the lockdown meant it saw “no light at the end of the tunnel”, stepped up and ended up working 18-hour days last month to play an integral role in keeping the London Underground safe for key workers.

Teams worked overnight to install graphics
Teams worked overnight to install graphics

“We closed down and put everyone on furlough, we didn’t see light at the end of the tunnel at all,” said founder Fintan Delaney, who started the sign and display printer as a one-man operation 25 years ago.

“But then we got an enquiry from London Underground and the next day everybody was back in again.”

The firm's four unfurloughed staff produced 6,000 sets of floor graphics per day for 10 consecutive days up to 20 April. The graphics were delivered to 30 teams across the Tube network for overnight installation.

This enabled Transport for London, a regular FD Signs customer, to display social distancing guidance across the tube network to protect commuting key workers.

Simultaneously, the business produced floor graphics for Croydon Tramlink and Network Rail. In total it has produced 100,000 sets of floor graphics for London’s transport network.

Ordinarily the business’s six-strong team work single day shifts, Monday to Friday across its two units in Uxbridge, each one running one printer.

However, the four unfurloughed staff worked 18-hour days for ten days straight to complete the TFL floor graphics on time. Two staff remain on furlough so it can maintain social distancing across its small units.

“We had a guy coming in at three o’clock in the morning to change the rolls on the printers every night – so they could keep printing right through. I even celebrated my 50th birthday on the job,” said Delaney.

“The staff have really gone over and above. I can’t fault their dedication. We really wouldn’t have been able to do this without them.

The firm produced the graphics on its two-year old hybrid flatbed/roll-to-roll Fujifilm Acuity LED 1600 and a print and cut roll-to-roll Roland DG Soljet Pro 4 XR-640.

The graphics were printed on Drytac's Polar Grip polymeric self-adhesive vinyl, which was laminated with R11 slip rated material.

“As our ink and media requirements went up exponentially during this job we were really impressed that, despite the logistical challenges posed by the coronavirus lockdown, our suppliers managed to get what we needed to us,” said Delaney.

“Our distributor, CSL Digital, was reliable as always, and Fujifilm also stepped in to send ink to us directly when our requirements exceeded what CSL was able to supply within the very tight timeframe we were working to.”

Delaney also praised the firm’s Fujifilm Acuity, not least because the TFL job was the first time he had used the machine’s roll-to-roll feature.

“We bought the Acuity for printing to rigid board primarily. We’ve been very impressed with its quality and reliability. It is a little slower than our other machine – but the quality is noticeably better.”

The firm has now switched its focus to social distancing graphics for other clients across a variety of sectors, and is currently producing 10,000 floor graphics, signs and stickers for UK Power Networks and has completed jobs for a number of blue-chip brands.

It’s also preparing for an anticipated influx of retail enquiries in advance of the anticipated easing of lockdown measures.

“We’re anticipating quite a few jobs like this in the coming weeks and months and we’ve also been providing some of this sort of signage free of charge to small local businesses and to the NHS,” said Delaney.

Under normal circumstances the business produces a wide range of signage and large format graphics, including illuminated retail and commercial facias, interior signage, wall, floor and window graphics, PoS, flags and banners.

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