Taking over a wide format business


Well-known member
I have a small digital print dept that mostly specializes in on demand / mailing / quality higher margin work that we can’t trust local partners with, underneath the umbrella of a non print business (but their customers get a lot of the print work from us). We don’t currently do any in house wide format work, we have a frequent trade partner who I just found out is retiring and closing shop. It is currently a small two person operation, and my employer is considering acquiring their equipment and accounts. Likely the decision is heavily weighed on my opinions / ability to do the work.

We went down there yesterday to see what they’re doing…seems like a pretty basic setup, Roland VF 640, Mimaki CG 160 fx plotter, a laminator, a couple drill presses, and that’s more or less it. I have some wide format experience but it’s been 16 years probably and with HP units. Printing banners / etc is a capability that we outsource frequently so it seems like a logical and relatively easy next step to me (the owner said they have a former employee that would train us), however we also found out that they also do installations in banks, museum, grocery stores, etc….so a bit more complex than just printing banners. I understand it’s also not great for a wide format machine to sit for any length of time so we wouldn’t just want to use it for our own work and forget about it.

On one hand, the value to be able to meet their customers and sell them on our other work would be high…on the other hand are we just looking at a headache? We are not currently staffed to do the installation side or extra sales, would certainly have to hire at least another person. Any thoughts on the above equipment - I see it’s not the newest or most high end stuff, and they had several old computers and software running it…but it seems to work and seems good enough for the jobs they do. Not sure what red flags to look for on the equipment side to avoid buying a problem.

Also, do current paper shortages heavily affect the rolls these machines take?
Signs101.com is a wide formt printing forum that I highly recommend checking out and echoing your questions. Grimco's wide format inventory has been reliable for me with the occasional back order taking a week. Is adding this service a good idea? Look at their sales numbers and do the math. If you like the math, but the equipment is going to be a headache, you could replace the Mimaki printer for $10,000 to $12,000 and the plotter for way less than that.
I agree with the above. However you also need to factor in the time it will take to familiarize yourself with the technology and the programs they use, as well as the production process needed to do this. I wouldn't be surprised if it took you years to get up to the caliber they were doing, and figure out a system that works for your business, but if you can at least get out a decent product and not too long of a production delay, then it should be good, as long as all the numbers work.
No comment on the equipment side but the install part would be a red flag for me. If you decide not to do the installations you probably lose some of the business to a sign shop that does all kinds of installs. I do large format more as a convenience for my customers but I do make a decent profit on some of it.


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