It’s always good to tell a success story, meet the people behind it and discover what’s helped them get to where they are today.
Glasgow-based Daw Signs is a real success story; proof positive that keeping a finger on the pulse and an open mind when opportunities present themselves are always worthwhile.
When I first met Gary Daw, the owner and managing director of Daw Signs, he didn’t immediately strike me as a stereotypical entrepreneur. There’s no flamboyance about him. He’s been incredibly successful and is clearly very shrewd but he’s not one for shouting from the rooftops. Modest, unassuming, informal, quietly spoken… if you met him in your local pub, it would never cross your mind that he was the driving force behind a small sign-manufacturing company that’s expanded into fit-outs for developers, the manufacture of cabinetry for their marketing suites and more recently, kitchens for housing developments as far afield as Warwickshire.
His company has recently become one of only 20 to be accepted onto the prestigious Scale up Scotland programme, which provides funding and guidance to encourage some of the most promising businesses in Scotland to grow. It’s a sure sign that Daw Signs is a name to keep an eye on.
“We started in 1990 as a general sign manufacturer,” he tells me. “The signage we were producing was always for the housing industry. We developed really good relationships with our customers but it wasn’t until about 2015 that we really started to grow. Our first move was into marketing suite fit-outs for our house-builder clients, then we started manufacturing cabinetry for marketing suites on their housing developments. Gradually, the business grew and we began to invest in more machinery.
“The turning point for us was when we started buying bigger machines. We went to see SCM at the W16 show. We were on their stand for about three hours. That’s where the relationship started but what we came away with gave us more capacity than we needed at the time, so, as our existing customer base was buying thousands of kitchens every year, we made the decision to offer kitchens as well.
“It took a couple of years to convince our customer base that a sign company really could manufacture kitchens and do it well but in the last three years we’ve gone from strength to strength. We’re making about 600 kitchens a year and supplying developers from Glasgow down as far as Warwick. The business has doubled in size in the last two years and we expect it to treble from where it is now over the next two or three years.”
That’s all good news for SCM’s Lee Gibson, the technical sales guy on whose shoulders Gary heaps credit for supporting Daw Signs’ growth. “It’s all his fault,” he says, a broad smile creasing his face.
“He keeps selling us machines. Now we need even more. “We’ve moved from a unit of 8,000 square feet to a unit of 33,000 square feet. We think what will happen is this entire unit will eventually end up as a machine shop.
Our plan is to manufacture here in Glasgow and open an assembly plant somewhere down south so we can pallet the parts and move the cabinet presses. The South is a big market for us; 50% of what we do goes south of the border.”
Gary’s most recent investment in machines, which adds to his existing SCM lineup, includes a “gabbiani st 115” beam saw with a rear loading platform that enables Daw Signs to cut five 3,200mm x 2,200mm sheets at once; a “stefani kd” edgebander with a fast changeover SGP gluepot; a “morbidelli cx 220” vertical drilling machine (“cyflex hp” before rebranding) with some pretty impressive additional features; and an “action e” manual operated clamp.
The “gabbiani st”, which is available with several loading platform options from 3,200mm x 1,850mm to 4,500mm x 2,200mm, is rear loaded with a powered ballscrew lifting system and an automatic pallet management device.
Thanks to Maestro active software, the advanced multi-touch man-machine interface, you always have complete control over production with the possibility of running programmes and programme lists in fully automatic or semi-automatic step-by-step mode; you can alternate between the 2 working modes as required. Programming and other control functions can be performed by the operator even while the machine is in operation.
SCM’s optimisation program, Maestro pattern is included. It generates the cutting layouts and converts them automatically into cutting programs without any operator involvement and each cutting pattern is saved automatically in the program directory.
Throughout the cutting cycle, Maestro active provides real time graphics to illustrate each cut as it is being made as well as guidance for the operator on subsequent handling. Self-diagnosis of faults or errors is backed up by alarm messages and tips with recommended actions and at the end of the working day, the “gabbiani st” stores a production report on its hard drive that includes machine start and end times as well as the surface area and volume of material that’s been cut.
The “stefani kd” edgebander is a machine we’ve reported on many times and its popularity among manufacturers who want a relatively compact (just over 5.6 metres) industrial workhorse speaks volumes. It offers many advantages in terms of versatility and quality as well as an optimal glue line. and those who have bought into the Stefani brand speak highly of the quality of the glue line they get from their KDs. Gary is certainly delighted with his and his operators find it very easy to use.
The “stefani kd” at Daw Signs – one of two SCM edgebanders in the factory – is an automatic single-sided machine equipped with a Fastback 21-25 return system. It’s an efficient system for gluing and finishing all four sides of a straight panel.
Daw Signs opted for the edgebander in HP version with Multiedge operating units equipped with electronic axes which allow automatic setting for machining of different radii. To improve the quality of gluing, especially when it is cold in the factory, there is a ceramic infrared lamp infrared ceramic lamp that heats the edge of the panel before the glue is applied.
A quick release system enables fast changeover of the SGP gluepot from EVA to PUR, or one colour to the next, and dosing is completely NC controlled. Both a manual-fed gluepot and a pre-melter version are available as alternatives and access for routine maintenance is very good compared with many systems. The unit is quite compact so heat up of glue is quick – under ten minutes – and the quantity of hotmelt in the unit at any one time is relatively small, ensuring the adhesive is at its optimum immediately prior to application.
When it came to choosing a drilling machine, Gary had some quite specific requirements: “We needed a very heavy-duty piece of kit because we wanted to machine 1800mm x 1200mm reception desks that would not go through the standard machines on the market – and we wanted to be able to put gables through it, lots of them. The ‘morbidelli cx220’ we bought is drilling gables at a rate of 500 per day.”
“It’s quite a unique solution – Lee Ginson confirms -. Most machines on the market like this have one bank of drilling heads. This has two. It can also cope with a 1300mm-high panel compared with the market standard of 900mm.”
The upper and lower drilling heads are equipped with a total of 35 Rotoaxial spindles powered by a 6.6kW electrospindle with HSK63F attachment that delivers 24,000rpm. For additional flexibility, the machine at Daw Signs has a six-position tool-changer.
The twin clamps on the X-axis are NC controlled and move independently of each other. Like the operating units in the Y-axis, they are driven by a linear guide system with brushless motors and integrated braking. Lubrication is automatic and thus reduces maintenance time.
Completing the lineup at Daw Signs are a couple of SCM assembly presses, the most recent of which is an “action e”.
Designed for manual loading of preassembled workpieces, the operator aligns each workpiece against a fixed vertical support that’s positioned by means of a gear motor. The cabinet is pressed in both directions at the same time by single bars equipped with a comb system that provides effective pressing across the entire surface of the workpiece.
When he first started looking at larger machines, Gary freely admits he did look at other manufacturers but the advice, the service and the training he’s received from SCM, coupled with the reliability and the quality he’s getting out of his SCM machines, have made him loyal to the brand.
His next move will most likely be to add a MES software so all the machines in the workshop he expects Lee Gibson to help him grow further will communicate with each other.
The quiet entrepreneur is on a roll. Daw Signs is growing and branching out. The future is bright and Gary is confident that with SCM at his side, his business will continue to snowball.
By Melvyn Earle for Furniture Journal
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