The pressure to reduce both upfront and operational costs can be quite substantial for systems integrators. But where can you afford to cut corners? The real answer is, nowhere. However, with some strategic decision making, there is money to be saved in operational costs.
Reducing the total cost of operations is quite an important topic for the end user (customer). Why? Because end users often may not even be aware of these costs until it is too late. By being more informed about all associated costs, integrators and end users can work well together to choose the best solution to fit the end user’s needs and budget.
When considering any reduction of operating costs, forcing a reduction in the purchase price may be an attractive target, but it would also negatively impact the end user’s experience or harm the integrator’s reputation in the long run if the product does not perform as needed. Integrators must work with end users to first and foremost determine exactly what they expect from their digital signage, particularly the lifespan of hardware as relative to cost. If you anticipate wanting the signage to last for three years, you must consider not only its upfront price, but also the cost of service, maintenance and software updates. Cutting corners on hardware can certainly cost you more in the long run.
Furthermore, being precisely aware of who the signage targets and its function are key to making decisions. What will the content communicate and to whom? When communicating sales and events to consumers, the signage is a direct reflection of the sponsoring company and you’ll want it to be of top quality and design at all times.
However, if the signage is for internal purposes only, end users may, indeed, be able to reduce operational costs by purchasing software with their signage that allows content to be updated easily with premade templates, or they may even find themselves using PowerPoint. As an integrator, you’ll want to provide end users with an overview of the components and software they will require to display and update their content. Often, the intricacies of this and associated costs are not top considerations understood by customers when making the decision to install digital signage.
Location Is Key
Although it may not readily strike end users as an operational concern, location is also key. Where will the display(s) be located? How high? How easy is it for you to access the signage? Can it be accessed and updated remotely? These will all affect operational costs. Even so, in terms of functionality and return on objective (ROO), access to the display can often make or break your digital signage install, particularly if you cut corners upfront.
For example, secure locations in airports may not be accessed quickly and easily for service. Servicing displays in major retail locations can be even more difficult. In the middle of the holiday buying season, major retailers won’t allow maintenance workers in their stores because this is when they do 75% of their annual sales.
If the display will be located outside, there are even more considerations. Operational costs can be tied heavily to decisions made upfront, particularly in outdoor environments. It could be tempting to put a consumer TV outdoors to reduce costs; however, this will void the warranty and ultimately lead to higher costs when servicing and repairing. It could also be quite tempting to think only of the “bare necessities” and skimp on protection and advanced features when pushed to cut costs by the end user.
However, items like safety glass are ever-so-important for durability and longevity because the display will face a great deal of natural elements, as well as potential security issues associated with an unattended display. You’ll want to ensure that the display is protected from scratches and blunt force.
You may try to save money by avoiding advanced features, but these upgrades can actually reduce operational costs, which is indeed the consistent tossup in digital signage decision making (upfront versus operational costs). Features such as optic bonding will reduce operational costs significantly in the long run. Optic bonding not only reduces glare and makes the display much stronger, but also reduces a display’s solar load, keeping it cool and thus negating the need for fans and filters or air-conditioned, protective enclosures. This ultimately decreases energy consumption and maintenance costs.
Smart choices can also be made with indoor digital signage to reduce operational costs related to energy consumption. This lies in the choice between the LCD and LED display. LCD displays, which use the light modulating properties of crystals, do, indeed, use less energy than traditional tube displays. However, by moving to LED displays rather than LCD displays, end users can find anywhere from a 30% to 60% reduction in energy and power consumption. This can mean huge savings for applications with multiple displays. Use of LED displays can also be incorporated into energy-efficient and green-certified buildings.
Beyond selecting solid hardware that may reduce energy consumption, the way to reduce maintenance costs is quite simple: Perform maintenance. A proper service package/regimen is the best way to reduce costly malfunctions. A remote monitoring system can keep an eye on signage, while negating the cost of the man-hours required to physically check on displays. By simply plugging the device into a display, you can remotely check if the display turned on and off when it was supposed to, among other items, and the system will alert you when something goes wrong.
For example, through a monitoring system’s power cycle, each display in a network can be checked to ensure that it is up and running. If it cannot be found, an email will be sent. Knowing something is wrong before the end user is the best-case scenario for all parties involved.
Long Term Benefit
Although systems integrators are not responsible for operational costs, being cognizant of them will make you more competitive in the long term, particularly in reference to our earlier discussion. By knowing something is wrong before your customer does, you validate your expertise as a professional, thus making it more likely you will be brought on for projects in the future, if applicable.
As is true in many industries, word of mouth can be quite a powerful tool. When things go wrong, the information spreads like wildfire. However, when done right, folks will also want to know who was responsible for both the installation and for keeping it in tip-top shape at a reasonable cost.
Editor’s Note: Brian McClimans has spoken at Digital Signage Expo and will be a panel participant at the full-day DSE ONE New York Event on October 21 during Digital Signage Week. For more information or to register for DSE ONE go to www.digitalsignageexpo.net/dse-one.
Brian McClimans is Vice President, Global Business Development, Peerless-AV (www.peerless-av.com). He was nominated to the Board of Directors for the Digital Signage Federation in 2013, and has been a member of the Stadium Managers Association, the Digital Screen Media Association and the Society of Information Displays.
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