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Signature Card — What’s in Your Wallet?

February 2008 By Cheryl Adams
Managing Editor
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IS YOUR wallet packed with “Preferred Customer” cards from rental car agencies, airlines and hotels? Is your keychain filled with supermarket, retail and food discount key fobs? Does your child have a stack of gift cards that he/she received as birthday gifts?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, chances are pretty good that you’re already familiar with Richardson, TX-based Signature Card. That’s because there’s a pretty good chance that at least one of those cards was manufactured by Signature.

“Our products are everywhere,” says Jack Farris, partner/owner. “Signature Card produces almost any type of customized plastic card, just short of the secure MC/Visa and Amex product lines. This includes gift cards, loyalty cards, frequent shopper cards, supermarket keytags, hotel keycards and many more.

“On your next hotel stay, please throw away that plastic hotel keycard,” he quips. “We’d like to print some more of them!”

Signature Card is a leading manufacturer in this short-run niche, which includes card runs from a few hundred up to a million cards. By utilizing multicolor Plextor UV presses, the company is able to print in a one-up fashion, as opposed to printing on large sheets and then cutting them down to individual cards. “We are able to turn on a dime with our production,” says Farris, “experiencing very little waste product along the way.”

The vast majority of cards manufactured today require some sort of personalization, whether it’s a barcode, magnetic encoding or turnkey fulfillment, including affixing, folding, addressing and mailing services, he explains. Signature Card built a secure data facility that runs high-speed Atlantic Zeiser and Ga-Vehren personalization systems as part of the company’s recent expansion to accommodate these needs.

In accommodating the need for “green,” the company offers short runs of cards printed on either corn stock for a biodegradable solution or on recycled card, whereby Signature Card donates a portion of the proceeds to the preservation of rain forests.

“Printing on plastic is a very tough and demanding business that has few specialists within a rapidly growing market segment,” Farris claims. But Signature Card—which operates with 58 employees in 10,000 square feet, running nine Plextor press lines two shifts per day (plus its secure data facility)—has become a major player in plastic card manufacturing.

Short Runs, Fast Turns

“Many of North America’s leading large-format card houses and printing companies have come to rely upon us as their short-run, fast-turn partner,” says Farris. “Although the gift card market has been around for more than a decade and is very mature among the ‘big box’ retailers, growth and acceptance have been pushed down to the broader, small retail marketplace. It is in this small-run, fast-turn segment that Signature Card has thrived.”

Signature Card started out as a small plastic card printer focused on printing discount and fundraiser cards. “The company hobbled along, just keeping its nose above water,” says Farris, noting that Signature Card has been in business 11 years through three sets of owners. Mounting debts forced the sale of the business in 2002 to its second owner, who had extensive operational background, but no printing knowledge.

The second owner was able to regain profitability, adding additional press lines and staff to expand the business into direct and small reseller channels. A Web-based advertising initiative was started to let the world know that Signature Card was available for short-run plastic card production.

In 2004, the third and current set of owners purchased Signature Card. The acquisition team comprised three individuals: Farris, Tom Kissell and Michael Gallant.

“Michael heads up finance, marketing and HR. Tom oversees production. My focus is sales,” Farris continues. “The partnership works perfectly with everyone sharing the common goal of producing a great customer experience and establishing Signature Card as the premier short-run producer of customized plastic cards in North America.”

The hard work has paid off, as Signature Card has nearly quadrupled in volume in the past three and a half years. Today, the company—with nearly $8 million in annual sales—employs two shifts, has a fully automated system for complete job tracking, and the data department fills a wing in the building.

Farris credits the company’s success to its employees and points to the fact that Signature has little turnover in its staff. “We truly foster an all-for-one and family attitude within our company. The common goal is zero defects, and we are constantly going through process improvements within every department to streamline order flow and eliminate mistakes. Because a plastic card goes through so many ‘touches’ in its lifecycle, one mistake by one individual will nullify all of the hard work done by the team.”

Another area of achievement for the three partner-owners is the company’s tracking software that streams quotes directly from the Web into the sales department’s quoting system. “We take great pride in our rapid response to a customer inquiry. We consider ourselves sales consultants, not order takers. This same software enables every employee to access a customer and their projects from any terminal in the facility. It empowers every employee to be a customer-focused representative and able to provide immediate status as to where their job is within our plant.”

With graphics, printing, production, personalization, fulfillment and shipping all within one facility, Farris concludes that he and his partners see Signature Card doubling its capacity within the next 12 months—adding more printing and personalization lines to the infrastructure, as the plastic card industry continues to grow into every facet of everyday life. PI

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