Sign Manufacturing Collaboration Success Story: Priority Graphics Teams up with CAOSBA and Manex

Written by: Juliana Choy Sommer
Published: October 12, 2021
Category: The Inside Scoop

When Priority Architectural Graphics was founded in 1995  by company President and owner Juliana Choy Sommer, she saw an opportunity to  to better serve growing Bay Area businesses in need of quality workmanship, outstanding design, and expert union installation of commercial signage. Since then, Priority Graphics has grown into a multimillion-dollar solution for general contractors, architects and graphic design studies and private and public sector clients. Earlier in 2021, Priority Graphics completed the acquisition of VKK Signmakers, another well-respected leader based in Redwood City, CA serving Silicon Valley, and is now the leading local commercial signage business in the Bay Area.

With over 500 clients spanning across the public and private sector in technology, housing, government, transportation, education, healthcare, and retail, Priority Graphics streamlines the design, production, and installation process for commercial signage. The 40+ team at the company leverages their deep experience and strong relationships with certification agencies and union installers to overdeliver for its clients and continues a strong tradition of innovation in both sign fabrication techniques and client-company real-time collaboration.

Beginning in 2019-2020, Priority retained the team at the Corporation for Manufacturing Excellence (Manex) to conduct an in-depth assessment of manufacturing practices, policies and procedures across the company. Manex was originally formed 25 years ago as a nonprofit 501c3 corporation to partner with the US Department of Commerce as an NGO Manufacturing Extension Center under NIST MEP and today works with the California Manufacturing Network to increase manufacturing jobs, improve manufacturing processes and drive success within manufacturing businesses throughout California.

The Challenge

Building on their successful joint collaboration, Priority chose to continue the company’s work with Manex as it executed the VKK acquisition in the summer of 2021, effectively doubling Priority’s manufacturing capacity. The team at Manex engaged with the newly expanded team at the company to partner together on the acquisition integration across departments including skill building to enable capacity growth in Sales, Estimating, Project Management, Operations and Installation.

The Solutions

Manex recommended a four-pronged approach to solve Priority’s acquisition integration challenges:

  • Conduct a risk assessment of the existing manufacturing equipment and layout at the VKK production facility as well as at the Priority production facility to determine risks and solutions.
  • Utilize Manex’s expertise in manufacturing scaling and acquisition integration activities to identify and resolve risks in a more timely fashion and reduce costs:
    • Faster ramp up of operational capacity
    • Faster knowledge transfer and integration
    • Faster cause analysis for operational issues and subsequent remediation
    • Avoidance of quality issues
    • More on-time deliveries
  • Implement Kaizen-method training in Spanish for newly acquired staff.
  • Complete an assessment of Corebridge, to identify opportunities for improvement regarding the setup of product costing through proposal generation. 

The Impact

Priority Architectural Graphics as a high-growth company has substantial cashflow requirements, and so the acquisition of another small business needed to pay off quickly. There was a short “on ramp” to get the two businesses integrated and working as one. With help from Manex, the team at Priority was able to keep this on ramp period as short as possible, allowing the company to begin recouping acquisition costs quickly. New staff at the company (including the VKK Signmaker team) did not have any previous Lean or Kaizen training and needed to be brought up to speed quickly. Manex was able to leverage the previous training of legacy Priority team members, use of Kaizen methods for team problem solving and strong company culture to quickly bring new team members up the Lean and Kaizen learning curves. 

As a result of the SBTAEP program and the strategies implemented by Manex, Priority Graphics continues to align their post-acquisition goals to improve, grow, and support customers. In 2021, Priority Architectural Graphics expects an increase in sales of $3mm in incremental sales versus FY2020 with retained sales of $5mm in 2022.

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