Watchfire Signs Achieved Their Goals in 1 Year with VKS

May 18, 2021

As a leader in the digital billboard market, Watchfire Signs maintains a record of elegantly engineering high-quality signage for any environment. Since 1932, the company has evolved with the growing market and incorporated the best technologies into their products.

All of Watchfire Signs’ products are developed, designed, tested, and maintained in-house. From their proprietary LED selection process to their custom-built billboards for any environment, Watchfire Signs produces bright and colorful signage that gets the right message to the right people in the right way.

It was this dedication to quality and innovation that made Watchfire Signs pursue new ways to boost their employees' knowledge and strengthen their training resources.

In one year with work instruction software, they were able to meet their initial goals of improving training, decreasing document creation times, and facilitating an efficient approval process.

Striving to Achieve their Goals

Watchfire Signs made the transition to a paperless system a few years before implementing VKS. They did this by formatting Microsoft Word documents with pictures and written instructions.

But after two years, they came to realize the limitations of this system. Using Microsoft Word requires intense formatting to mold it to the purpose of an SOP or work instruction. Not to mention, Microsoft Word is unable to track data or guide employees through complex processes in an interactive platform.

Word documents simply are not built for modern manufacturing.

What they needed was a faster and more efficient way to create documents, train employees, and approve processes as a team. With this in mind, Watchfire Signs chose to implement a cloud-based system with VKS Enterprise that allowed them to accomplish the following 4 primary goals:

  1. Streamline their documentation creation and updates
  2. Better management of approval groups
  3. Leverage videos for in-depth instructions
  4. Enhance employee training and compliance with best practices

Let’s take a look and see how Watchfire Signs was able to achieve these goals within 1 year of implementing work instruction software.

Goal 1: Decrease the Time it takes to Create & Update Documents

With VKS, Watchfire Signs has been able to significantly speed up their document creation. As we talked with Justin Hart, Watchfire Signs’ Project Admin Engineer, he relayed that under their old system, simply editing a document would take hours depending on the size of the process. Creating new documents would take even longer.

Now with VKS, every document saves the company at least an hour or more. Over the past year, using VKS has added up to countless hours saved that can be devoted elsewhere.

“The bigger the instruction, the more VKS helps us. Just formatting a Word document to look professional and spaced correctly takes time. This is all removed by using VKS. So the larger and descriptive the document, the more helpful VKS is to our purpose and the more time we save.”

Justin Hart

Justin Hart

Watchfire Signs Project Admin Engineer

With a program optimized for process comprehension, Watchfire Signs’ engineers can simply place their pictures, videos, and text into an easy-to-read format. Work instruction authors and engineers do not need to worry about the formatting as they now rely on our work instruction software layout instead.

Additionally, storing and accessing their instructions on the cloud enables their engineers and authors to update their instructions and training documents from anywhere. Process improvement is easier and faster for everyone involved.

With this enhanced capability to easily format instructions from any place and at any time, Watchfire Signs’ process documents are created, updated, and sent to approval groups at an accelerated rate.

Goal 2: Streamline the Approval Process

Before any process document can be used on the shop floor or for training purposes, it needs to be approved by the right personnel. Justin Hart relayed that their previous paperless system had a few specific downsides in this area.

“The process of getting the Word documents approved by our team of engineers was altogether inefficient and long. We wanted to transition to a cloud-based system that would be easier to review by our team. The power of revision control and preset approval groups within VKS has helped us a lot in getting our instructions and training documents approved faster.”

Justin Hart, Watchfire Signs Project Admin Engineer

Under their old system, employees were notified and given access each time a document needed to be approved. This means that some employees were getting notifications for process approval that did not relate to them. Engineers would have to sift through their emails to find the appropriate notifications concerning the projects in which they were involved. Subsequently, some notifications were lost and the process was slowed down.

Now, approval and revision are organized in a step-by-step fashion with the right people accessing the documents at the right time. With their preset approval groups, Watchfire Signs has been able to effectively organize their instructions and job types around the appropriate departments and people. No notifications are lost and engineers can find and approve the right processes more efficiently.

Goal 3: Powerful Context with Video

Within VKS, the capability to leverage the power of video has become a favorite feature for their training presentations, instructional resources, SOPs, and guidebooks. This capability has made a big impact on their operators in training.

“The processes as well as the operators have really benefited from the video capability. We get to show someone do the work and not rely heavily on a description of the procedure. It gives us the freedom to provide a wider context for complex jobs.”

Justin Hart, Watchfire Signs Project Admin Engineer

The operators have appreciated the added context that powerful visuals like video provide. Operators can see someone perform the job right in front of their eyes before executing the work themselves. With the whole action and best practices accurately presented, operators can pick up on other factors that may not be in a written interpretation.

The sequence of actions presented in a visual format has helped operators to get a thorough overview of how a job should be accomplished and what it should look like when being performed.

Easy-to-understand visuals have been effective for new employees as well as for their well-established workforce. The power of high-quality visuals is benefiting how Watchfire Signs shares knowledge and trains their employees.

Goal 4: Diversified Products Need Stable and Repeatable Training Methods

Watchfire Signs builds a wide variety of illuminated signs. Each one is built specifically for the needs of their customers. The size, pixel pitch, spacing, angle, and a host of other factors make every finished product unique.

They needed a way to share key knowledge with operators while mitigating the need for specific instructions for every assembly job. What they came to realize is that although each product is different, the operators’ role remains consistent for each product. There is a great deal of overlap between their machines, tools, and procedures.

“Due to the nature of our products, our work instructions need to be oriented around training our employees on specific machines and best practices. We needed an effective way for operators to be trained and retain that experience.”

Justin Hart, Watchfire Signs Project Admin Engineer

watcfire signs employee

Watchfire Signs uses VKS to teach operators how to use the required machines and tools under their best practices. Operators then use the design specifications for reference with each assembly while following what they learned with VKS.

An example of this is how operators build the structure for an LED sign. Watchfire Signs employees use a machine that takes a piece of aluminum extrusion and mills different holes and features based on the requirements of the customer. But the process of putting the piece into the machine, using the machine, and performing quality checks on the piece is the same for every job.

Once employees are trained and signed off on a procedure, Watchfire Signs has made it so that employees can always access intelligent SOPs and instructional guides for reference if they need them.

VKS is being Used in a Growing Number of Departments

VKS is being implemented into each area of production for Watchfire Signs. From module creation and assembly to LED selection and color calibration. But the enhanced capabilities of work instruction software are getting noticed outside of departments dedicated to production.

The potential to streamline training and working methods has allured other departments within the company, causing them to adopt the software into other fields.

An example of this is with the marketing team. They have started recording videos and creating their own instructional documents for their new employees. These are designed to advise and train employees on interacting with customers, converting leads in their system, and informing sales to reach out to new clients.

“These processes had never had documentation before. We’re seeing other departments picking up on how easy it is to create visual instructions. VKS started as a manufacturing process documentation tool and is transitioning to other places in the company.”

Justin Hart, Watchfire Signs Project Admin Engineer

What's Next for Watchfire Signs?

Despite only implementing the software in the early half of 2020, Watchfire Signs has accomplished some incredible goals in the year. And the benefits seem to keep coming as they discover new and innovative ways to incorporate the software into their operations.

Watchfire Signs remains on the cutting edge of creating quality and long-lasting LED signs and billboards. By implementing innovative tools like VKS, they have been able to streamline document creation and approval while providing greater knowledge to their workforce.

VKS is proud to work with innovative companies like Watchfire Signs that push the boundaries of modern manufacturing with elegant engineering and precision.

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