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Digital Signage – A Green Alternative

By Jim Huber

As a corporate communication vehicle, digital signage not only informs the viewer but also creates a connection, in part because employees are conditioned to receive information and entertainment digitally. In addition, digital media improves the look and adds a professional feel to the environment.

By comparison, easel farms often sport poorly mounted printed foam core posters and convey a lack of organizational credibility while presenting an unprofessional corporate image.

With digital media, managers are able to control the organization’s brand equity, enforcing company standards with the addition of quick and easy updates. Plus, digital media offers facility managers more clutter-free control over areas where information is presented.

Essentially, design costs for static printed posters and dynamic digital media are the same. Digital media, however, take advantage of lower resolution images, which have a cost advantage. When purchasing stock photos or images through a standard service, the stock photos at 300 dpi, the standard for print, are five times more expensive than the same stock photos or images at 72 dpi, the standard for digital. In addition, digital media designs often can be reused in website applications and presentations. What’s more, the hardware itself can be multi-purposed for video conferencing and internal or external TV broadcasting.

Cost Comparisons
Generally, when factoring the entire printing budget for an organization on an annual basis, the cost of designing, printing, transporting and setting up posters often can be around $300K to $350K, including the salaries of those who maintain the signs. In contrast, the cost for screens, hardware, software, installation, etc., for the same organization’s first year with digital signage computes to more than 30 percent cost savings, including the salaries of those who would manage it.

This savings is partially due to the more efficient management method of digital media. Updating the signage in just a few minutes for an entire organization even on a global scale can be part of an existing employee’s assignment, eliminating the coordination of several individuals.

The following is a real world digital signage cost justification, with which we were involved at a Fortune 100 organization.

In a single lobby within one building, an average of 10 posters are displayed on easels per month. The printing and mounting of one poster is approximately $150. The design work for one poster is approximately $300. The logistics outlined includes delivery, setup, removal and disposal costs.

As you can see from the breakdown in the accompanying table, the signage for this single lobby will cost $5,000 per month, bringing the first-year total to $60,000. And after the fifth year, you would have spent $300,000.

Print Media Summation
Printing and mounting   $1,500
Design work    $3,000
Logistics    $500
Average monthly poster expense $5,000
First Year Total    $60,000
Fifth Year Total   $300,000

Using the same scenario, the digital media system in that lobby, which includes all hardware, software, power, LAN and installation charges, is about $5,000. The design work for one image is still approximately $300, so for the 10 images per month, the cost remains $3,000. Logistics only includes scheduling of content delivery and power consumption, reducing the cost to $200.

As you can see from the accompanying table for the digital signage lobby, the average cost is $3,200 per month. When you factor in the purchase of the system, installation and monthly costs, the first year total is $43,400. And after the fifth year, you would have spent $197,000.

Digital Media Summation
Digital Media System   $5,000
Design work    $3,000
Logistics    $200
Average monthly expense:  $3,200
First Year Total    $43,400
Fifth Year Total   $197,000

In this example, the return on investment (ROI) of the digital signage is realized after the third month.

Ecofriendly Impact
Green or sustainability initiatives are top of mind in many industries today. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 246 million tons of trash were created in the U.S. in 2008. About 50 percent of all paper products were recycled, or about 42 million tons. Greenhouse gas emissions are ever increasing, fueled by incineration, methane release from landfill decomposition and the transportation logistics of paper products throughout the paper signage creation cycle.

Even if the paper products come from a recycling plant, the process is changed only slightly. The consideration is not just for the paper but also for the chemicals, inks, solvents and adhesives, all of which are necessary for the remainder of the printing process. The logistics involved also contribute to the carbon footprint.

Still, digital signage is a green business, as it replaces paper signage. It alleviates  companies from the task of printing and reprinting paper signs, eliminating the transportation and logistics of those signs and eliminating disposal costs of obsolescent signage.

Digital displays are constantly evolving, offering increased display real estate in thinner, lighter and more energy efficient packages. As the process to manufacture these electronics refines over time, more of the materials used are reused, with the products becoming more environmentally friendly and less expensive to produce, transport and deliver to the customer.

It is said that the display manufacturing process prompts release of nitrous tri-fluoride and causes damage to the ozone layer. In actuality, 95 percent is destroyed in the manufacturing process, 3 to 4 percent is reclaimed and the remaining 1 to 2 percent is indeed lost to the environment. The manufacturing community has mitigated that process.

The world of digital electronics is one of planned obsolescence. Electronic items such as cell phones and PCs are constantly being upgraded and thrown away. This has spawned a recycling movement that benefits not only the environment but also charitable organizations and schools that sponsor recycling drives to fund their causes. Many retailers are also participating as drop-off locations for recyclables.

The superior ability of digital signage to inform while capturing the viewer’s attention in a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way makes it the practical solution for any company’s future signage needs.

About the Author
Jim Huber is director of sales and marketing for NOR-COM Inc.,
www.nor-com.com), a nationally recognized audio/visual and security system integration corporation in the Greater Cincinnati area. Reach him at jhuber@nor-com.com.



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