Roland DGA interview with Shawn Marko, Founder and Director of Printology Digital
The COVID-19 virus is impacting all our lives and will undoubtedly continue to change the way we work for years to come. With that in mind, it’s important for sign and graphics shops to pivot their businesses to adjust to this new reality. Despite recent challenges, print service providers like Printology Digital in Alberta, Canada are discovering new ways to remain productive during the pandemic — they understand the vital part that print has to play in this crisis and are helping local businesses with their services.
After noticing what Printology Digital was printing early-on in the outbreak, Roland DGA contacted Shawn Marko, Founder and Director of Printology Digital to talk about his company’s new focus on COVID-19 signage that they are generously offering to customers at a “not-for-profit” rate.
Roland DGA: Printology Digital is currently printing signs that include social distancing floor graphics, workplace signs, and other emergency signage – were you printing hazard and warning signs before the outbreak?
Shawn: We’ve had a huge surge in demand for COVID-19 messaging in the past few weeks. Before the outbreak, Printology Digital had been producing signs for the construction industry including safety site signage and fence banners. We’ve also been specializing lately in large surface murals and art installations. These applications have helped us in scaling-up our current COVID-19 sign production.
Are you printing differently, or doing anything else differently with your sign output?
Yes, we decided to produce our COVID-19 signage as “not-for-profit” products to help out our local small business during this time. We feel that this should be top priority for sign companies right now. I think it’s important to build trust and to continue to do what we do best which is to provide great products and customer service that will have our clients and new customers reaching out to us when this pandemic is over. In this sense, we're not doing anything particularly differently. We’ve had to come up with some unique signs and displays to accommodate our customers’ needs, but the basics are all there. The Alberta Government has helped a lot by posting excellent print files with all the necessary information that our customers need in regard to providing technical information for their COVID-19 signage.
COVID-19 signs for small business customers coming off the Roland DG VersaEXPRESS RF-640 8-Color printer at Printology Digital.
What are you doing to manage the COVID-19 print volume you’re experiencing?
To deal with the added volume and need for COVID-19 signage, we’ve set up some of our extra security cameras and pointed them at our printers to monitor the additional print production. We’ve also made maximum use of the Roland DG OnSupport feature that sends us email alerts when we’ve had to run our Roland DG printers overnight. I've been in constant daily communication with my suppliers to make sure all special inks and supplies I need are in stock or on order. We’ve also done what we can to eliminate physical interactions with our clients to keep everyone safe, like daily cleaning and sanitizing, curbside pickup, staff processing orders from home, and having just myself in the shop doing production and maintenance.
How important do you think these signs are to make people aware of COVID-19 safety measures?
Having safety measures constantly in our faces in public areas is more important than ever. It’s crucial that our industry is doing its part to support our communities and keep each other safe by proving these reminders.
After the quarantine period is over, do you think these signs will become the “normal” in retail stores, restaurants, offices and other workplaces? And will they become an important new application for sign shops?
It's pretty hard to tell what the future holds after the quarantine is over, as every country and individual city has a unique situation and I don't think there will be an all-encompassing solution for the “new normal." For now, all of the COVID-19 signage will be very important until a vaccine is developed and administered. After we get through this difficult time, maintaining handwashing and hygiene messaging, and signs that encourage people to stay home when they’re sick should be commonplace. All sign shops should definitely have a portfolio of common safety signage for their customers. It’s more important than ever to be flexible and creative. Speaking for our own business, Printology Digital is already looking at what new sign products we can offer once everyone is in recovery mode.
Shawn Marko believes social distancing signs like the one they produced (above) may become the “new norm” in shops, groceries and other businesses in the future.
Like many businesses, the print industry has been impacted by COVID-19 – do you have a business strategy to cope with the difficulties that this pandemic has caused?
We were, like so many others, unmistakably dealt a bad hand with this outbreak. Printology Digital officially opened our doors this past December and by the time we had all of our equipment in the door and calibrated, the outbreak was making the news.
We had to double-down on the relationships we’ve built in a short amount of time. We've done a little online marketing before the outbreak and got a large number of positive clients. Once COVID-19 hit it has been very quiet on converting new customers and many of our clients have unfortunately had to go into lockdown. Word-of-mouth and producing exceptional quality work during this time has been our saving grace. We've also gained huge support on social media over the past few weeks and have built a lot of great relationships with our local community and small businesses. Moving forward, I think supporting local businesses should be a primary focus of every print shop.
Large-format signs being printed on a Roland DG VersaEXPRESS RF-640 8-Color and cut with a CAMM-1 GR2 cutter at Printology Digital for local Alberta businesses.
What advice would you give to other print shops right now?
I think print shops should focus on customer service and quality. We’ve been making sure every order is 100% before leaving the door. This means color matching every print, printing in high-quality modes, constant spot checks, making sure everything’s trimmed perfect and square, and adding a personalized signed thank you card in every order. Everyone has got extra time on their hands and "good enough" will not get your business through this difficult time. We all need to go that extra mile. It’s our view that positive interactions with clients during this pandemic will really pay off once everyone recovers.
Additionally, now is a good time to reorganize for efficiency, reprofile printers, move equipment around, re-merchandise showrooms, produce sales samples, do some training on print programs, and do some creative projects. You'd be surprised how few people have actually read their owner’s manual for their equipment!
What’s next for Printology Digital? Are there any other important print projects you’d like to share with us?
We have built a great partnership with Alberta Decal Installers and we have a lot of exciting projects that we have been working on together that have been put on hold. Nothing I can discuss at this time, but our social media accounts will have the latest news that you can follow. Our closing message for print shops and other Roland DG users would be to stay safe and healthy right now.
We’d like to thank Shawn Marko and the other employees at Printology Digital for providing essential services for their local businesses during this time. At Roland DGA, we are proud of customers like them who have stepped up to help their communities. For more ideas and insights on how your business can respond to COVID-19, check out our Facebook Live series of posts or visit our special “We Are Here” page for related videos, content, and company updates.