Make vs. Buy: Weighing the Options for Profitable Commercial Signage Production

Delivering a quality product and balancing profitability is key when determining whether to make commercial signage in-house or buy from a seasoned signage manufacturer like Gemini. There are important variables to consider like equipment capabilities, skilled workforce, order volume, custom project requirements, and last but not least, budget considerations. We explore the pros and cons of both approaches to help you determine the best path for your business.

Making Commerical Signage In-House: The Pros and Cons

The Upside of In-House Production:

  • Control Over Production: Making signage in-house means you have complete control over the quality and the production process, allowing for immediate adjustments and quality checks.
  • Customization and Flexibility: It's easier to offer bespoke solutions and implement last-minute changes based on client feedback.
  • Faster Turnaround: Not relying on a third party's schedule can lead to quicker order fulfillment.
  • Potential Cost Savings: Over time, making in-house can be more economical, particularly if you handle a steady stream of orders or large customers with repeat design needs.

The Downside of In-House Production:

  • Initial Investment: Acquiring equipment and keeping it in great condition can be costly. This approach requires a significant up-front investment in equipment, materials, and training, and you might need additional staff.
  • Space and Maintenance Requirements: You need adequate space for production and must regularly maintain your machinery, along with managing new waste streams.
  • Inventory Challenges: Keeping a stock of various materials can be costly and require considerable space.
  • Capability Limitations: Certain products and materials like metal plaques and fabricated letters are often challenging to make in-house due to production constraints in size, materials, or complexity of the signs that your setup can produce. You’ll want to consider special equipment needs or skills too. In this case study, you can read more about Notre Dame’s unique project made up of over 4,000 signs and 750 thematic graphic elements, including precision tooled plaques and cast metal prismatic letters, and why partnering with a manufacturer was the ideal solution for their design firm.

Pros and Cons of Buying from a Signage Manufacturer

The Benefits of Buying:

  • Access to Advanced Technology: Buying from manufacturers gives you access to more sophisticated equipment and technologies.
  • No Need for Large Investment: This approach eliminates the need for heavy upfront investment in equipment, materials, and training.
  • Handling Large Volumes: Manufacturers are typically better suited to manage large volumes or oversized signage. At Gemini, the Large Project Team provides our partners with the ability to undertake larger projects and still deliver tailored solutions.
  • Resources: Manufacturers often have the dedicated resources to support special projects. Gemini specializes in supporting unique requests from sizing and mounting to lighting solutions.
  • Wide Range of Materials: You have the option to work with a broader range of materials and more complex designs.
  • Comprehensive Product Guarantees: Gemini’s unparalleled Lifetime Guarantee ensures that the sign is taken care of should any Gemini produced product fade, break, or contain any defect.

The Drawbacks of Buying:

  • Reduced Control: Buying from a manufacturer can lead to less control over the production process and quality assurance. Gemini's approach to whole project solutions, such as those for hotels or retail chains, offers a significant advantage in ensuring project consistency and meeting specifications.
  • Potential Delays: You are dependent on the manufacturer’s schedule.
  • Higher Cost per Unit: This could be more expensive per unit, especially for smaller runs.
  • Minimum Order Requirements: Some manufacturers may impose minimum order requirements, posing a challenge for small or custom orders.

Deciding What’s Best for Your Business

To make the right choice for your business, consider:

  • Order Volume and Frequency: Evaluate the number and regularity of signs you produce.
  • Types of Signage: Think about the materials, sizes, and complexity of the signs you usually create. Plaques, fabricated letters, and special sizes can be cost-prohibitive to produce in-house.
  • In-House Capabilities: Assess your current equipment and skills.
  • Budget for Investment: Decide how much you’re willing to invest in in-house production.
  • Space Availability: Ensure your facility has the space for the required equipment and materials. If you have large, repeat productions space for inventory should be considered.
  • Client Preferences: Consider if your clients often need custom, fast-turnaround jobs. Gemini’s is equipped with experience in managing large-scale national and regional programs as well as their exacting specifications and requirements.
  • Revenue Analysis: Examine whether making in-house will maintain or improve your profit margins compared to buying.

Evaluating the best options for your business and your customers can be daunting. With over 60 years of experience, Gemini provides deep expertise in manufacturing, and with our portfolio of materials and resources, we can help you find solutions for your project. Ready to start a project with us? Learn more about our capabilities or apply to become a partner.

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