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Alternatives To SignAgent For Plan Reviews?

Kimberly Hiles

DarkerKat
Our company works primarily in apartment/development signage so having a way to go through plans and get sign counts is critically important. I'm curious what other companies use to get this process done efficiently.

We used to do them primarily in AI but have moved over to InDesign. After a designer manually places icons and labels on the plans, we use these icons to count up our sign totals. We later have to go back and setup an excel to work production & inventory off of. I know there has to be a better way to do this and we've been getting so much work in the door we can't keep hogging up designer time on PRs.

I tried using SignAgent.com back in 2019 but felt it was too expensive for the lack of functionality - Examples: there was no way to sort signs by building or level for export - making it useless for inventory, the sign type names were limiting and hard to modify after the fact if new sign types needed to be added, export document feature limited in an attempt to force the user to make others joint the program to view plans. I don't know if they have improved any of these features in the few years since, I have reached out to them to find out - but I'd like an alternative, I'm just not sure there is one.

We use these counts for quoting jobs and production/inventory - they're a critical part of our workflow so we can't move away from them entirely, but I need them to stop choking us in design.

(attached some example files from older/completed jobs)
 

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CanuckSigns

Active Member
One of our good clients uses sign agent, I really don't like it, I find it completly unintuitive and poorly designed.

We use Vista style signs with this customer, so printed paper insert, then tactile and braille on the lens, they told me it's impossible for them to supply 2 separate files, 1 print file and 1 laser cutting tactile file, so we have to manually separate every file ourselves, massive PITA
 

Kimberly Hiles

DarkerKat
One of our good clients uses sign agent, I really don't like it, I find it completely unintuitive and poorly designed.

We use Vista style signs with this customer, so printed paper insert, then tactile and braille on the lens, they told me it's impossible for them to supply 2 separate files, 1 print file and 1 laser cutting tactile file, so we have to manually separate every file ourselves, massive PITA
Agreed, hence why I'm looking for alternatives. Our clients expect us to provide the counts & content for all of their signs, but the way we do that right now is really inefficient.
 

IndianaAve

New Member
We have been using an alternative for two years with good success. It has good tracking/count features and the ability to export to excel or csv (we import into our ERP). You can build message schedules and even do some light project management. It also has fantastic install photo tracking capbilities which have been a godsend (and free for third party installers to use). I you are interested in more info, shoot me your email and I will get you connected with their bd folks.
 

ColorCrest

New Member
I'm curious what other companies use to get this process done efficiently.
Since you've used SignAgent in the past, you might be familiar with its (former?) database platform, FileMaker. Depends upon which versions you've used. You may have FileMaker on a workstation or more already. Regardless, I'm sure you or someone in your office can use it to build you own solution to do what you're looking for and without anything you're not looking for, as do many shops like yours and others such as exhibit companies and retail merchandising firms.

Often, graphic art files are used for backgrounds and variable data is printed directly from the database. So, for example, there is just a few Illustrator or InDesign files necessary.

Creating fields for sign names or attributes as long as you need, finding and sorting, and counting is very simple
in the database.
 

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Kimberly Hiles

DarkerKat
Since you've used SignAgent in the past, you might be familiar with its (former?) database platform, FileMaker. Depends upon which versions you've used. You may have FileMaker on a workstation or more already. Regardless, I'm sure you or someone in your office can use it to build you own solution to do what you're looking for and without anything you're not looking for, as do many shops like yours and others such as exhibit companies and retail merchandising firms.

Often, graphic art files are used for backgrounds and variable data is printed directly from the database. So, for example, there is just a few Illustrator or InDesign files necessary.

Creating fields for sign names or attributes as long as you need, finding and sorting, and counting is very simple
in the database.
Honestly we're considering building something from scratch. We have a custom dashboard for keeping track of jobs/different department tasks, inventory, etc. but it took ages to build (we hired out for the that project, don't have anyone in house that can do it) I'm surprised there isn't another "pre-fab" product for sign counting though.
 

IndianaAve

New Member
Custom code rarely provides a positive return. Cloud based solution that is years ahead and costs a few hundred dollars per seat per year…winning.
 

ColorCrest

New Member
I'm surprised there isn't another "pre-fab" product for sign counting though.
Can you explain what is, or is not, happening with any methods or solutions you've tried to "count signs?" Do you expect a software function to count icons (signs) on floor plans or do the counts stem from spreadsheets or ???
 

visual800

New Member
First Ive heard of this. I always go thru plans myself and "count" signs. Its hard to fathom a software could be able to do this accurately since all plans are different. Putting your own eyes on plans is always better IMO. Especially since plans change constantly
 

IndianaAve

New Member
Custom code rarely provides a positive return. Cloud based solution that is years ahead and costs a few hundred dollars per seat per year…

First Ive heard of this. I always go thru plans myself and "count" signs. Its hard to fathom a software could be able to do this accurately since all plans are different. Putting your own eyes on plans is always better IMO. Especially since plans change constantly
Digital takeoffs are a vast improvement over manual takeoffs.

- Architects always get the counts wrong because they manually count. Digital takeoffs provide a calculated tabulation of all signs.
- Architects/building owners/installers will tell you the counts are wrong. Digital takeoffs are shareable so everyone can center on one version of the truth and collaborate to get the counts and locations correct.
- Surveys are hard to interpret at times. Digital surveys are available via the same tool as digital takeoffs. No need to transcribe info or photos.
- Install completion status and photos are difficult. Digital takeoff tools provide a digital install and photo log. Real time status and two click access to the the correct completion photo.

It still utilizes the trained, human eye. The programs that have tried to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) are only partially successful at best. But you do it once and then reuse the work over and over again through the process.

Call or email me if you want an intro to the third party software vendor that we use. It has revolutionized our survey, takeoff, and install processes. Inexpensive monthly subscription that you can cancel at any time. I want more users so that the software can get better and better.
 

Kimberly Hiles

DarkerKat
Digital takeoffs are a vast improvement over manual takeoffs.

- Architects always get the counts wrong because they manually count. Digital takeoffs provide a calculated tabulation of all signs.
- Architects/building owners/installers will tell you the counts are wrong. Digital takeoffs are shareable so everyone can center on one version of the truth and collaborate to get the counts and locations correct.
- Surveys are hard to interpret at times. Digital surveys are available via the same tool as digital takeoffs. No need to transcribe info or photos.
- Install completion status and photos are difficult. Digital takeoff tools provide a digital install and photo log. Real time status and two click access to the the correct completion photo.

It still utilizes the trained, human eye. The programs that have tried to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) are only partially successful at best. But you do it once and then reuse the work over and over again through the process.

Call or email me if you want an intro to the third party software vendor that we use. It has revolutionized our survey, takeoff, and install processes. Inexpensive monthly subscription that you can cancel at any time. I want more users so that the software can get better and better.
I'm sorry, why can't you just tell us the name of the software you use? I'm not going to give my email to a random chat board user based on.. nothing?
 

Kimberly Hiles

DarkerKat
Can you explain what is, or is not, happening with any methods or solutions you've tried to "count signs?" Do you expect a software function to count icons (signs) on floor plans or do the counts stem from spreadsheets or ???
The way we do it right now is incredibly time-consuming and because we do them in AI or InDesign they can only be done by designers who know how to use those. I don't expect anything?? - you're making it sound like I'm asking out of laziness? I'm just asking in general how other sign companies get those counts - I've only worked for this one company, don't know if there is a standard that others use or if it is always a manual process.
 

Kimberly Hiles

DarkerKat
First Ive heard of this. I always go thru plans myself and "count" signs. Its hard to fathom a software could be able to do this accurately since all plans are different. Putting your own eyes on plans is always better IMO. Especially since plans change constantly
SignAgent & the process we use now, still has a user manually placing what are essentially icons at each sign location - the software aspect just lets us automatically count how many of each icon has been placed (IE: how many amenity room signs vs utility or back of house signs). When plans change we just swap in the new set and adjust the icons & counts to match. I promise we're still looking at the plans!
 

ColorCrest

New Member
Alternatives To SignAgent For Plan Reviews?

Kimberly,

Two other primary options of SignAgent as quoted by SEDG, your trade organization, is PAM and Wayfindit. All three of these solutions are, or at sometime were, based on the FileMaker database platform.

There is far, far more to this interesting topic...

...if I find the time.
 

garyroy

New Member
Why doesn't the architect just provide a sign count at the end of his plans? Then base your pricing on that.
It would seem like his software would be able to "count" and itemize all the signs.

If not, I would charge the customer for a sign quote. This sounds risky. If you miss a sign and it was on the plan, you have to eat the cost.
The building owner can also take your totals on your quote and then spec it to another sign company. The other sign company put no effort into it.
I would get the architect to give the totals.
 

Zendavor Signs

New Member
Why doesn't the architect just provide a sign count at the end of his plans? Then base your pricing on that.
It would seem like his software would be able to "count" and itemize all the signs.

If not, I would charge the customer for a sign quote. This sounds risky. If you miss a sign and it was on the plan, you have to eat the cost.
The building owner can also take your totals on your quote and then spec it to another sign company. The other sign company put no effort into it.
I would get the architect to give the totals.
I was wondering if it was normal to be given floor plans and have to figure out the sign schedule. That seems really risky. I did it for a school this summer, but I was pretty certain I was getting the job. The customer was not bidding it out. I put a qualification on my quote that stated we did our best to figure out what was needed, but architects/inspectors/etc may find additional signs. And that did happen. Most competitive bid projects have a "sign schedule" to quote from.
 
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