Me & my: Roland VersaUV S-Series LEC-330S F200

By Barney Cox, Monday 04 February 2019

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They’re a plain speaking bunch at The Sign Shed, as befits the North Yorkshire location. That approach is exemplified by the name, which references the firm’s origins in a garden shed making signs.

sign-shed-roland

From left: directors Beth and Rob Haywood with designer Chloe Haywood and production manager Dan Cooper

It is a family-owned company founded by Rob and Beth Haywood and run from the family home in Sherburn-in-Elmet, North Yorkshire. The success of the business means it has outgrown the shed and is now split across a production site in a converted garage space and a purpose-built home office for admin.

With a background in online business, when the boss of the signage business he was working for made clear that they didn’t see any potential in venturing online, Rob decided to give it a go himself. The business has been operating for five years and has grown steadily to reach a turnover of £250,000, with a team of around half a dozen, which includes the Haywood’s eldest daughter Chloe, who works as a designer. Growth has been ahead of expectations with Rob Haywood quipping that it is now “10 years into our five year plan”. 

Sherburn is “out of the way” but conveniently located between York and Leeds with good access to the rest of the country. The firm is proud of its location and according to Haywood seeks to embody Yorkshire qualities of being: “friendly, down to earth and as helpful as possible, while also offering great value”. 

Sign of the times

Starting off producing safety signs the firm has continually expanded its product range and now produces decorative as well as information signs in an increasing range of materials, which now includes wood in addition to the more common plastics and aluminium composites that form the bulk of signage substrates. 

Customers cover a wide gamut from corporates through local authorities, health service providers and schools through to individuals.

Although Haywood says its online presence has been good for the company, and was particularly useful in the early days for attracting new business, as time has passed it has built up a loyal client base that keeps coming back. He’s also particularly proud of the company’s Trust Pilot rating of 9.9.

“To get customers coming back we focus on offering fantastic quality products, top quality service and good pricing,” he says, adding that the Roland printers that it has been using since the beginning are central to that. “In five years we have never had a complaint about the product quality.”

Last summer it invested in the latest addition to its fleet, a Roland VersaUV S-Series LEC-330S-F200 UV flatbed printer, which like the rest of its machines it bought from PrintMax. The LEC-330S F200 is the smallest of four models in the VersaUV S-Series of flatbed machines with a bed size of 826x2,090mm. It replaced a smaller Roland VersaUV LEF-20, a desktop UV flatbed with a bed size of 508x330mm, which the firm had been running for a couple of years

With strong and steady growth since its founding the firm has had to invest in additional capacity to keep up with demand. Having established with the LEF that it could drastically streamline its production process by printing direct to substrate with a UV flatbed, it decided to invest in a higher capacity and larger format machine.

“We’ve taken out two processes – laminating and mounting – which has slashed our labour and turnaround times by between 50%-75%,” he says. 

That has had a big impact on the business, especially the ability to turnaround work as quickly as possible. 

“We pride ourselves in being able to get 95% of orders received before 3pm produced and out of the door the same day for next day delivery,” he says.

As a small family firm the benefits of getting more work through the machine more quickly is freeing up time to be a family in the evenings rather than working into the night to meet customer needs.

An added advantage of the new machine is that it can produce all its health & safety signage up to 800x600mm direct to substrate, whereas the LEF-20 was limited to 508x330mm, so for anything larger it was back to the old method of printing on its TruVis, laminating and then mounting.

“We were geared up for expansion, so our building was ready.” However, as a converted double garage space is at a premium, so while a bigger machine than the existing one was better, anything too big would not have fitted.

“We did look at the Mimaki JFX200 but the machine was too big,” he adds. 

Even if another manufacturer had produced a machine that was the right format he would be reluctant to switch vendors because “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. 

Having moved into the refurbished double garage earlier last year it was ready and waiting for the VersaUV to be installed.

“Installation was a bit of a squash and a squeeze and we needed to move things around to fit it in but it was up and running within a day.”

“Because we had the LEF-20 and the VersaUV is the same setup and software we didn’t need additional training and it was as if it had been part of the team for years.”

“We had a couple of teething problems but they were solved within 24 hours.” 

“We’ve got the Gold cover package and service has not been an issue. The couple of occasions when we have had problems have been swiftly resolved. We’ve never had more than 18 hours of downtime.

“The machine only needs a service a couple of times a year. Everything else is down to us to look after, but it only needs a clean once a week.”

Changing the inks is as easy as on a home printer. 

“There really aren’t any negatives to report – it can’t be faulted. The best thing about it is the quality of the product produced.”

By eliminating lamination and mounting, the printer has enabled Sign Shed to reduce labour time and cost substantially and helped it deliver fast turnaround times, including a speedier exit from work at the end of the day.

Now it is bedded in Haywood is exploring all the options that the machine opens up, including using new materials to widen its product range. In particular it is adding wooden signs for more decorative uses. “It’s allowed us to add services, such as printing onto wood and has really cut our costs and time by streamlining production.”

Space is an issue, and at the moment capacity isn’t, so there are no immediate plans, or need for, an additional machine but he would “highly recommend” the VersaUV to anyone else. 


SPECIFICATIONS

Printing method Piezo inkjet

Ink type UV cured

Bed size 826x2,090mm

Max printing size 236x1,420mm

Max object height 200mm

Colours CMYK plus white and varnish

Resolution 440dpi

Price £47,999

Contact Roland DG UK 01275 335540 www.rolanddg.co.uk 


Company profile 

The Sign Shed is a family-owned company founded by Rob and Beth Haywood and run from a converted double garage and a purpose built home office in Sherburn-In-Elmet, North Yorkshire. The business has been operating for five years and has grown steadily to reach a turnover of £250,000, with a team of around half a dozen, which includes the Haywood’s eldest daughter Chloe. Starting off producing safety signs the firm has expanded its product range and now produces decorative as well as information signs in an increasing range of materials.

Why it was bought...

Previously the firm was having to print, laminate and then mount all its signs. An earlier investment in the LEC-330S F200’s smaller sibling the LEF20, enabled it to print direct reducing three process to one step, saving huge amounts of labour and time. Investing in the larger machine (although still relatively compact to enable it to fit the premises) has enabled the firm to work even faster and to produce all of its signs, even the largest sizes, directly.

How it has performed...

“There really aren’t any negatives to report – it can’t be faulted,” says Rob Haywood. “The best thing about it is the quality of the product produced.”

The throughput of the new machine means the team are finishing on time rather than working late into the night on next day deliveries. This year the firm is looking to use the direct to substrate capabilities to widen its product range to include wood and to focus on more personalised and customised signs.

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