21 Jul 2024

Pannier Graphics develops with Caldera software innovations

Pannier Graphics explains their confidence in Caldera.

For a business that was established way back in 1979, Pannier Graphics has its sights set firmly on the future, with a commitment to offer its clients high quality, innovative, and sustainable signage that exceeds customer expectations again and again.

We spoke to Pannier’s Senior Production Artist Kelly Phillips to learn about how Caldera is helping the company to fulfill these commitments.

“Outside of Ordinary”
This is the first line you’ll read on Pannier Graphics’ website, and it sums up not only their product offering, but also their philosophy of going above and beyond to supply the very best in outdoor signage, panels, exhibit bases and frames for use in national and state parks, museums, zoos and other outdoor attractions. Located in the Pittsburgh, PA, area, 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 they supply. “Our specialty is creating fiberglass embedded graphics,” explains Kelly. “We’re essentially the market leader in this type of signage and our customers include national parks, transportation, utility industries, wayfinding and more.” In other words, anyone with a requirement for outdoor signage and exhibit graphics.

“The actual way our product works is that we take printed graphics and embed them in fiberglass. 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.

The switch to Caldera
“Color consistency is important to our customers and the RIP we were using was starting to become a little unreliable,” says Kelly. “It’s not uncommon for clients to call us up and say, ‘Hey, do you still have the proofs from 2004?’ A lot of the time, 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 to Caldera. “We met through one of the SGIA (Specialty Graphic Imaging Association) bootcamps, where we send employees to learn how to manage color. It’s an area that can be really 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 they had Caldera installed, things seemed to just pop into place. “It’s so much more fluid than the previous RIP,” says Kelly. “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 – it was just fantastic!”

“The 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 – perfect for our needs.”

Using automation to put 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. Kelly 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 – 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 or 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 Caldera difference
Just as we were wrapping up our conversation with Kelly, she had one more thing to add: “I guess that if I had one more thing to say about Caldera, the thing we’re really thrilled with, truly from the bottom of my heart, is the attention you give to your customers. When we first got Caldera 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 using Caldera. 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, and we feel that the quality of your technical service is awesome. The guidelines on the Caldera website are easy to follow and we use them to answer lots of our questions.

“To us, as a small business which tries to treat our customers as personally and attentively as possible, it has meant a lot to know that Caldera does the same thing for us. It’s been a smooth transition and we’ve been dealing with people who are committed to getting our questions answered. If they don’t know the answer, they’ll reach out to someone who does, and this is something I’ve really appreciated very much.”

Of course, Kelly’s words are music to our ears, because just like Pannier Graphics, Caldera always aim to put the customers first – and we’ll always do whatever is needed to ensure they reap the full benefit of every Caldera product they use.