In early 2019, VGL implemented Vism, an easy-to-use project management software system specifically designed and built for the signage, graphics and installation industry. Vism was selected to save time and improve customer service and satisfaction for VGL’s installation process, replacing the company’s existing systems and embarking on a long term relationship to help further improve operational efficiency. Technical Editor Jason Price reports.
Vinyl Graphics Limited (VGL) has a long history in the digital print market. The company was formed by Ted Ayerst who saw the potential of pre-spaced lettering for marking signs and vehicles and set up Jadecal, the fore-runner of VGL, in 1976. The company has since built an unrivalled reputation for excellence and has been improving and growing its business ever since.
VGL specialises in cut vinyl display solutions for vehicles, buildings and retail stores. The company is particularly strong in the retail market and has many leading high street brands as customers. In terms of installations, VGL’s turnover is more than £1million each year.
The Challenge - Managing Installations
With large numbers of installations required across the UK, each of varying size and complexity, managing the process is very important to VGL. Richard Brown, Installation Project Manager at VGL, explains: “We offer a full range of installation and fitting styles for projects both large and small. From site survey to completion, our nationwide network of highly skilled installers enables us to choose the most experienced team for each project. This is a key part of our business and we are always looking to improve efficiency and customer satisfaction.”
He continues: “Until recently we used Dropbox to communicate install information to our installers. This system had become unwieldy and inefficient, particularly as folder trees built up quickly resulting in installers and VGL co-ordinators spending lots of time clicking through multiple folder layers until they found the right place.”
VGL was also using Dropbox to receive and store photos, documents and other information associated with the installation sites. “There was no clear notification that completion photos had been uploaded, which meant we had to continually check the Dropbox folders to see if pictures were in there and then keep chasing the installers if they weren’t. Similarly, there was nothing to let installers know when additional documents or other information had been uploaded by VGL.”
Further restrictions created by using Dropbox were that documentation needed to be created on other software systems, meaning there was no central locations for job bags, proofs, purchase orders and other associated documents. “There was also no clear and simple way for customers to sign off installation work, thereby enabling us to close the job and invoice the customer,” he adds.
It was becoming increasingly clear that a system that was designed to specifically handle the installation process would provide VGL with a host of productivity and efficiency benefits. Richard says, “We wanted to implement a system that would provide more thorough communication between co-ordinators and installers. This was particularly important for communications from installers to co-ordinators to ensure that we knew exactly when the job had been signed off by the customer and that completion pictures were taken and properly stored.”
Identifying a Seamless Installation Management System
VGL decided to research potential solutions that would fully automate the installation process and deliver the key benefits of recording and communicating client sign off and completion photos. “We had a good look at Vism and felt that it was an easy to use system that could comfortably handle the key requirements we were looking for,” says Richard, adding, “The implementation process went very smoothly. I drafted a few emails with basic instructions on how to use Vism, whilst also sending out the invites for installers to sign up. Most were able to figure out how to use Vism with these simple instructions and were up and running almost immediately. The biggest battle was convincing installers to use a different method of working but as soon as they saw the simplicity of Vism, most were much happier to get on board.”
Vism is now up and running and 100% of VGL’s installation work is now booked using the system. “We do not operate multiple systems so if an installer is not signed up for Vism we are not able to communicate install information to them. If they want to work with us they have to sign up. Fortunately, this is not an issue because sign up only takes a few minutes for an installer. By insisting on signing up, we can ensure that we have every install logged on the system, which gives us a complete view of all our current, completed and pending installations,” he says.
Seeing the Benefits
“We can clearly see from the colour coded calendar on Vism all of the jobs we are still waiting sign-off for and are able to chase installers with accurate, up-to-date information to hand. This is something we simply couldn’t do when we were running things on Dropbox,” adds Richard.
VGL’s clients are now receiving completion photos and on-site sign-off confirmations the moment jobs are fully completed by the installers. According to Richard, “This has dramatically improved the customer service level of the install department at VGL, making us much more responsive and able to give the customer the information they need. Written job information was previously communicated by us to the installer on the PO which meant that if any additional information was provided to us late we had to reproduce the entire PO and send it to the installer again, causing delays and adding the potential for errors.”
He continues, “Vism has a Notes function that allows us to add notes at any time after the job has been created and the installers receive an immediate notification on their smartphones to let them know additional info has been added. This also saves time in the installation process and ensures we complete the install to the customers’ up-to-date specification, even if these requirements change late in the day. This is something that happens quite often in this business.”
Dan Tyler, Managing Director of Vism, comments, “Vism is a specifically designed and comprehensive system for installations and we are in constant discussion with our clients to ensure we keep adding new functionality that is relevant and required. For example, our latest monthly release includes a sub-contract module that now makes it possible for two companies to collaborate on the same jobs simultaneously. This provides an important saving in time by reducing the need to gather and enter information from other parties and also reduces the potential for errors in the process.”
Vism runs an online chat function that is always available for any users that require some help. Richard is very impressed with this system of support, “They often respond within 5 to 10 minutes to all issues. They welcome feedback on the software and are keen to make changes if the changes will benefit users across the board. Vism software is updated on a regular basis so is constantly evolving to suit industry needs. As a company, we have already played a part in some of these updates to the software.”
Vism allows VGL to store and instantly access all of their client data, including site contacts and addresses. Richard says, “This saves us a huge amount of time because we used to have to manually track down this information each time installs were booked. For example, one of our large retail customers has more than 500 stores and these have all been uploaded into Vism so all we have to do is type in the store name and it will show us the full address. The time this saves reduces the overall time for the install, which has a positive effect on our bottom line profitability.”
VGL’s Managing Director, David Gray, adds: “My main focus is to ensure that VGL offers a first class service to all customers. Vism is a welcome addition to our business and has already improved the quality of our communication with our installers and customers alike. What has been clearly demonstrated since my first interaction with Dan Tyler, is that Vism are here to work with their customers, listen to how we work and the challenges we face and develop their software in a collaborative way. We have already had updates that have been a direct consequence of feedback we have given and this makes it feel like a true partnership between the two companies.”
In conclusion, Richard Brown says he is delighted with how Vism has helped the company improve its installation process. “Vism has improved both the customer service aspect of VGL’s install department and improved the efficiency of how we communicate install information to installers. This helps us to invoice jobs more quickly and also reduce the cost of errors or delayed installations due to lack of information. Vism is a great system that has had a hugely positive effect on our business and will continue to do so as our business and the software develops.”