Vehicle Wraps, Inc.: Strong Results in Pressure Sensitive Graphics
For companies operating in the pressure-sensitive graphics space, know-how of printing and installation is essential, but it only gets you so far. Those companies operating at the top of the “wrap game” also possess key partnerships to help them succeed and grow.
Like many small business owners, Burt Erdman, head of Vehicle Wraps, Inc., located in Sacramento, California, wanted “to control his own fate.” Having left the foodservice industry, he started the business out of his garage, initially doing decals for friends. Over time, the jobs got bigger and more lucrative. “I started getting decent sized jobs,” Erdman says, “including trucks and trailers.” Vehicle Wraps, Inc., as it is known today, was founded in March 2010, and in the years since, the business has seen profound growth – it is now the largest wrap shop in Northern California, he says, with 16 employees and a 25,000 square foot installation facility.
While the company specializes in fleet graphics, Vehicle Wraps, Inc. does it all, including indoor graphics, vehicle color change work, and special projects. “We like to donate when we can,” Erdman says, “like wrapping firetrucks pink for breast cancer awareness.” The company has also done signage where pressure-sensitive materials are mounted to corrugated plastic board, wall graphics included cutouts, and 4’x8’ real-estate signage.
Speaking with Erdman, who says the company has “every single fleet locked down in this area,” it is clear the company has two guiding philosophies. First is to never say “no” to a job. Second, success in business is about building relationships.
While Erdman considers the company’s service area to be “definitely local,” that local area is quite large – ranging from its home base in Sacramento, to Reno, California and the San Francisco Bay area. While the company is getting some national accounts, Erdman says, “We get so much work locally, we’re staying busy.”
Tamara Baumann, Regional Sales Manager for Avery Dennison Graphic Solutions, who works with Vehicle Wraps, Inc., says the company “is one of our largest converters in the Northern California area.” With Baumann’s help, and that of Grimco, their supplier, the company continues to expand its product breadth with Avery Dennison to include calendered vinyl, cast vinyl and the company’s Supreme Wrapping™ Film for color change vehicle wraps. Baumann and others at Avery Dennison have worked with Vehicle Wraps, Inc., to provide product and installation support to ensure top-notch installs. She describes Vehicle Wraps, Inc. as having a state-of-the-art facility, attentive customer service, and a strong marketing approach.
The Work and the Tools
As a producer offering both printing and installation services, Vehicle Wraps, Inc. truly is a full-service shop, and well-equipped to do any work that comes its way. The company has a fleet of six HP Latex 370 printers in house, as well as three solvent-based Epson SureColor S80600 printers.
For pressure-sensitive vinyl, Erdman says the company uses Avery Dennison MPI 1105 vinyl, along with the Avery Dennison DOL 1460 overlaminate. About this material choice, Erdman is to the point, “It does what it says it’s going to do,” he says. In the past, the company had used materials from another manufacturer, but experienced pull-back problems and issues with print quality, which is essential. “We print long horizontal panels up to 54 feet long,” he says, “so we can’t have defects in the vinyl.” About the Avery Dennison MPI 1105 film, Erdman says he particularly likes the product’s handling and white balance. He adds that the Avery Dennison DOL 1460 overlaminate is more conformable and has a better warranty.
Baumann says that, in her experience, installers sometimes drive the purchasing of material, stating that, “once an installer knows how to use the materials, they become customers for life.” She says that the installation team at Vehicle Wraps, Inc., like the Avery Dennison materials’ ease of installation, noting its slidability and that it “spreads on like butter.”
Strategies for Success
Asked what makes any installation of pressure-sensitive graphics successful, Erdman says it all starts with good design. He works to make the installer’s job as easy as possible, he says, by not simply letting the design program do the work for him. He works to hide seams and takes steps to ensure that graphics will line up as expected, panel to panel. Further, his installation team is provided with panel layouts and, if it’s fleet work, where similar vehicles receive similar graphics, after-installation photos – including measurements – are included.
Essential in any install is careful cleaning, says Erdman. He says that even if the client delivers the vehicle clean, he still gives it a once-over to ensure that surfaces to be wrapped are verifiably clean. Cleaning best practices practiced by Erdman and his team include paying attention to every edge, shaking out the hood of the vehicle to release particles that could release during the install, taking apart pieces such as mirrors and door handles before the install commences, and working from the top of the vehicle down as to not have dust or grime fall from above.
Even with Avery Dennison materials as his preference, Erdman knows that due diligence on the behalf of the installer is still essential to success. This includes careful post-install inspection; post-heating of the material, particularly in channels or where the material has been stretched; and along all edges. “When we have time,” he says, “we like to have a vehicle sit outside in the sun to see if any edges or seams come up.”
For any installer, Erdman says, learning and experience are essential. He urges learning from online videos and resources, with friends and colleagues, and from mistakes. “Learn and continue to learn,” he stresses.
The Avery Dennison films Erdman has chosen are the cornerstone materials for his business. He says Vehicle Wraps, Inc. has been able to take advantage of all aspects of these products. “Once we find a good brand,” he says, “we stick with it.”
The Manufacturer Partnership
About the vehicle wrapping segment, Baumann sees it as growing, and stresses that knowing how to differentiate to get customers is a key aspect for success. She believes companies that set themselves apart are those that demonstrate creativity and have an energized and inspired team that work well together. Shops that focus on output quality and take time to educate their customers on their business process, the films and those that can manage expectations are poised for continued long-term growth. Vehicle Wraps, Inc. demonstrates this level of commitment and business prowess. In addition, they have a clean, well-maintained facility, and hold certifications and insurance.
As for the relationship between materials manufacturers like Avery Dennison and those who use their products, Baumann says feedback is essential. As a manufacturer representative, she wants to know how people are using the materials, noting it is an essential part of the product-focused learning process. Baumann says Vehicle Wraps, Inc., has been a strong advocate for Avery Dennison products, promoting them to their customers and offering brand exposure. This, in turn, builds legitimacy for the products, and speaks to their workability and quality. Baumann stresses the strong relationship between Avery Dennison, Grimco, and Vehicle Wraps, Inc. “Burt picks up the phone and is receptive,” she says, adding that Erdman has made his facility available for testing and training, and gets his team involved in the process.
For Vehicle Wraps, Inc., and its partners in success, being one of the industry’s best requires strong skills, great materials, a well-run business, and the ability to establish and maintain strategic partnerships with customers and suppliers. Success comes to those who set strong goals, and use the tools needed to reach them.
To learn more about Avery Dennison films and services, visit graphics.averydennison.com/covered.