HW Martin (Traffic Management) Ltd and Viewtec are celebrating almost 30 years working together. To mark the occasion our Marketing and Communications Manager Joanna Hill, visited Viewtec’s factory with National Sign Compliance Manager Jay Taylor, to find out where our temporary traffic management signs came from. This is her report.
A family-run, local business
Nottingham-based SME (Small-Medium Enterprise), Viewtec, has been creating our temporary traffic management signage since the early 1990s. This long-standing partnership has been nurtured by two generations of the Christian and Taylor families.
Viewtec is a family-run business. It started life as Vista, owned and run by the father of current owner, Scott Christian. It became Viewtec in 2011 when Scott took over after Vista closed its doors following the banking collapse in 2010. Now in 2023, Scott’s son has started a two-year sign technician apprenticeship with the firm continuing the family tradition.
Jay Taylor, National Sign Compliance Manager at HW Martin (Traffic Management) Ltd remembers visiting Viewtec to pick up orders when he started with us over 19 years ago. Before that, Jay’s father Ronnie, Yard Foreman and uncle Gary Taylor, Project Manager at Blackwell, nurtured the partnership.
Since the partnership began we have created a whopping £9,256,454 of social value (National TOMs Reference NT19) helping a small, family-run business to thrive.
Walking into the workshop
What strikes me first as I walk around the workshop is the smell of ink and printing. As a marketer for many years I’ve visited lots of workshops like this, and before that I studied and worked as a photographer; so it feels like returning home!
The atmosphere is relaxed despite how obviously busy everyone is, and Jay Taylor immediately spies a palette of our signage hot off the press and ready for collection. It’s impressive to think that these signs, finished today, could well be out on the network within the next 48 hours.
But, as Jay explains, that’s exactly why we have worked together for so long: “Viewtec deliver on time, so that we can deliver on time”. And in an industry where being reliable and able to react at short notice is the difference between success and failure, you need a supplier who can turn it around at a moments notice.
Scott agrees, telling me that they’re used to meeting those ‘crazy’ deadlines so typical of the highways industry. “It’s the nature of the beast” he explains, laughing. The two companies have worked together so long, Scott and his team probably know what signs we will need before even we do! They have all our most common signage on file ready to go.
Crucially, those ‘crazy’ deadlines are met in a way that gives Jay confidence that what’s going out on the road will be exactly the quality and specification we need.
And behind it all is Andrea Robinson, Viewtec’s Account Manager for HW Martin (Traffic Management) Ltd. She has been in the industry for over 40 years and has been looking after our account for as long as she can remember!
How our signs are made
Viewtec currently produce our signage on two types of material; aluminium, and more commonly, an aluminium composite which looks the same and is just as durable but is much lighter. This is a necessity when you consider the amount of manual handling that goes on in a single nightshift. A crew will shift more than 5,000kg in cones alone on the average lane closure.
Visiting the graphic design department Scott explains that the ink used to produce the signs is the same used on permanent road signage. This is something that sets Viewtec apart and ensures the reflective qualities of each sign we put on the network are the right specification for road use.
Although the workshop was filled with machinery to increase efficiency, I was surprised, and pleased, to see that every sign is still finished by hand. It was a pleasure to watch the team at work, printing and finishing orders with speed and accuracy.
Scott explained that, although they have a precision machine for the quick fit holes needed on traffic management signs, his crew are so experienced they can drill them just as quickly! There’s a lot of talent in that workshop, and our orders are in good hands.
The future of the partnership looks bright.
Viewtec currently makes around £3 million turnover per year and operates predominantly in the traffic management and permanent road and rail signage sectors. Scott has no plans to grow his business any further for the foreseeable future. Instead, he wants to maintain his current scale to ensure his employees are looked after during the cost-of-living crisis. More than half of Scott’s workforce have been with him since the very beginning.
He has got plans to scale up operations, however. He wants to buy much larger premises so that Viewtec can invest in more equipment and create more storage space to hold stock of client’s orders in reserve. Something that will certainly be of benefit to us in the future.
Significantly, Scott and Jay are looking at ways the partnership can become more sustainable. Viewtec already reuse all packaging materials to prepare our orders for delivery, but this year, Jay explains, we have committed to producing any signage at 1,050mm and below on regenerated PVC.
Regenerated PVC is 100% recycled plastic which matches the aluminum composite for weight and durability. I asked why it was only the smaller signs we were committed to at this stage, and Scott explained that the durability is compromised when the signs get larger. This is because signs above 1,050mm need to be fabricated from two pieces of material or more creating weak points in the structure that could result in a failure. Safety on the roads is of paramount importance so further investigation into alternative materials for bigger sign sizes is needed.
But there’s no denying this is a great step in the right direction. I was excited to hear that we are committed to making changes for the betterment of the environment in a way that doesn’t compromise on the quality and safety of the finished product.
A few hours well spent.
I thoroughly enjoyed my site visit to Viewtec to learn more about how our temporary traffic management signs are made and to learn more about the social value work we are doing in this arena to help the environment and local economy.