Ocean Graphics & Signs, of East Hampton, New York, is a small company with great abilities and an even bigger potential. Established in 1989, the company came into new ownership early in 2014 when Will McLear bought the company after deciding to leave the insurance industry.
“I’ve always loved working with my hands and designing things,” he said. “When I decided to make a career change, I worked for Ocean Graphics & Signs for part of 2013 and completed the acquisition early this year.”
Ocean Graphics & Signs had been an SAi Flexi customer for many years, but McLear noticed that several versions were in use, as were multiple different versions of Microsoft® Windows®.
“I liked what Flexi could do, but differences in versions, platforms and licenses mean that things were more complicated than they need be,” McLear said. “I was in the process of upgrading equipment – including a new laptop for myself – and it made sense to upgrade our SAi software, too.”
McLear visited a show hosted by the US Sign Council in Atlantic City, in December 2013, and met with SAi there.
“I was impressed with Flexi 11 with Cloud and felt it would suit us very well,” he said. “After the acquisition of the company was complete, I spoke with SAi again and within a few hours, I took out two subscriptions and downloaded Flexi and Flexi Design. At the time, I didn’t realize that the package was SAi’s one millionth software sale!
“By the following week, I was convinced of the decision and took out additional licenses so we could install it on all the computers we needed to,” he explained. “The beauty of using Flexi software via subscription is that you can have it instantly and very inexpensively – which was important as I was making a number of investments in capital equipment and I liked the fact that we’d always have the most up-to-date versions.”
Versatility for a changing market
Producing PVC signs and vinyl lettering are bread and butter activities for Ocean Graphics & Signs.
“Vinyl lettering for vehicles is a standard job for us,” McLear said. “Curiously, there’s not that much demand for full vehicle wraps, but the cut lettering is steady work. The truth is, the work is highly variable.”
East Hampton is on the Atlantic coast of Long Island, and as the company’s name suggests, there is also regular work that comes from its proximity to the ocean.
“Recently, there’s been demand for full boat wraps,” said McLear. “We also do signage for boat names and we’ve even wrapped a surfboard or two.”
McLear also noted a fad for wrapping baby strollers, an application he had never before encountered. A canoe and ice-cream cart are other examples of recent, less usual, jobs that have come his way.
“Working out how to do jobs like that with efficient use of materials can be tricky, but Flexi and Flexi Design simplify the process, and using the Cloud makes things a lot easier,” he said.
Using the Cloud to improve business
“The ability to upload jobs to the Cloud is a huge step forward in terms of flexibility and suits the way I work,” McLear said. “At the end of the day, I can upload a design we’ve been working on and access it from home on my laptop and fine-tune the design. It also means that it’s clear to everyone what the latest version of the job is.”
The Cloud is also a great asset to McLear when visiting customers.
“I can be at a customer site and I can make changes to designs on the spot, get immediate approval, and advise my team that they can start production,” he explained. “The job might even be underway by the time I get back.
Of the feature-rich functionality offered by Flexi, McLear cites the vectorization tool as one of his favorites.
“One customer gave me a rough sketch that I scanned in and vectorized, and together we finalized the design and tidied it up within 15 minutes,” he said. “He approved the artwork there and then, and had it on his vehicle the next day.
“We have customers up and down Long Island; we’ve recently also been doing work in Manhattan, and out of state, so Flexi and the Cloud offer great benefits when working away from the office.”
The beauty of cast vinyl
McLear is also a strong advocate of cast vinyl and is always looking for new colors and effects to offer his customers:
“Our customers have a taste for simple, clean lines and contemporary design and they like quality materials,” he said. “By choosing the right materials, the overall effect can be enhanced. Cast vinyl has great depth of color, and new colors, metallics and clear vinyls with gloss, satin or matte finishes can differentiate our customers’ image. Next to good vinyl, print looks like a sticker.”
According to McLear, choosing substrates is also made easier by SAi Flexi: “Flexi has the color palettes for all the manufacturers in its library,” he explained. “I can pull them up on the screen and customers get a very good representation of the color and effect. It’s so good, we seldom need to send physical samples anymore.”
Within a few months of taking the helm, McLear overhauled Ocean Graphics & Signs’ software, computers and equipment, but the goal to provide high quality work and respond quickly to customers has not changed.
“We don’t want to be pigeon-holed,” McLear said. “I love the challenge of new designs, applications and materials – and customers love seeing the range of colors and vinyls we can offer. Using SAi Flexi saves time, increases our efficiency and provides us with the functionality needed to undertake any customer requirement. I can’t imagine life without it.”