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At This Pennsylvania Printer, Color Consistency is King

Pannier Graphics promises service that is “outside of ordinary”.




FOR A BUSINESS that was established way back in 1979, Pannier Graphics has its sights set firmly on the future. This is with a commitment to offer its clients high-quality, innovative, and sustainable signage that exceeds customer expectations again and again. I spoke to Pannier’s senior production artist Kelly Phillips to learn about how its supplier Caldera is helping the company to fulfill these commitments.

“Outside of Ordinary”

This is the first line you’ll read on Pannier Graphics’ website. It not only sums up the company’s product offering, but also its philosophy of going above and beyond to supply the best in outdoor signage, panels, exhibit bases, and frames for use in national and state parks, museums, zoos, and other outdoor attractions. Located near Pittsburgh, PA, the company started as a family-run business about 125 years ago and has been creating signage for more than four decades.
The proud boast that they “stand the test of time” can be applied not only to the company, but also to the products it supplies. “Our specialty is creating fiberglass embedded graphics,” says Phillips. “We’re essentially the market leader in this type of signage and our customers include national parks, transportation, utility industries, wayfinding, and more.”
“We take printed graphics and embed them in fiberglass to make our signs,” she adds. “With post-production processes, they lend themselves to a 10-year warranty for durability.” Every sign Pannier Graphics makes starts its life in the art department and one of the most important aspects of working with long-term clients is being able to offer color consistency across all their signage over many years.
“Color consistency is important to our customers and the RIP we were using was starting to become a little unreliable,” says Phillips. “It’s not uncommon for clients to call us up and say, ‘Hey, do you still have the proofs from 2004?’ Often, we’re trying to match some brand identity that’s been around for 15, 20, or even 30 years, so we really needed a RIP that would allow us to keep our colors consistent over the long run. We found we were having difficulties with the program we were using, and even though we’d upgraded our printers, the technology wasn’t keeping up.”
Luckily, a color management expert introduced the company’s execs to Caldera, a French software company specializing in wide-format printing solutions. “We met through one of the SGIA (Specialty Graphic Imaging Association) bootcamps, where we send employees to learn how to manage color,” recalls Phillips. “It’s an area that really can be complex, so we invited this particular expert to come onsite and Caldera was the recommendation. We did some research and spoke to the Caldera accounts team, and it seemed like the right fit.”
Once the firm had Caldera installed, things seemed to just pop into place. “It’s so much more fluid than the previous RIP,” says Phillips. “We work in a fast-paced environment where things can change on a dime. Sometimes we need to do quick re-runs; sometimes a customer needs a sign in two days flat…people need things printed as fast as possible. Switching to Caldera meant we had color management problems taken care of in the workflow.”
“Our company uses a variety of wide-format printers and with this variability of the materials we were working on, it was a little finicky to get our colors matched. With a bit of R&D, we found that we could get a tighter match with a larger color gamut using Caldera. Basically, it means we can print on a larger variety of media with fewer iterations.”

Automation Puts Customers First

Pannier Graphics works with a wide range of clients from large organizations who might want CPR ICC profiles to small businesses who are not at the same level of stringency with their colors. Phillips says, “We get some customers who might go, ‘Hey, my nephew made this sign in PowerPoint. Could you guys kind of spruce it up and get it ready to go?’ We have lots of customers at this level and for us it’s just as important to make sure their product turns out great.”

“But where the automation side of Caldera really shines for us is when we get large-batch workflows,” Phillips adds. “The nesting feature alone is just amazing. It means we can apply the same print mode to a bunch of things at once, and with a couple of clicks, we’ve matched the colors. I can’t tell you what a time saver that’s been. Another key feature for us is the compose window, which is a great help to us when we offer customers different embedment finishes on their signs. We can take six, seven, or eight files and drop them into the compose window and get them fitted into a certain amount of space, already at the preset size and parameters and with color management already sorted. It makes everything so fast. If we have problems, we can easily reprint by just opening the compose window and start printing again within a minute.”
“The thing we’re really thrilled with is the attention Caldera gives its customers,” says Phillips. “When we first got the product last spring, there was a big learning curve. To explain, for every one of our jobs we save a small set of paper proofs so we can compare the color accuracy year to year. This means we have a whole archive of proofs that have been created using different RIPs and different paper, and now I needed to match these colors.”

“It was really challenging and in the first couple of days I was hitting my head off the desk, but between myself and our other artist here, Cassandra, we found that we could raise support tickets with Caldera and get a reply straight away. No one ever made us feel stupid with our questions, because the program was totally new to us. The guidelines on the Caldera website are easy to follow and we use them to answer lots of our questions.”




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