Vulcan Utility Signs: Greater Flexibility with Digital Printing

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Here at Vulcan Utility Signs, screen printing has long been our bread and butter method for producing quality signage for the utility industry. However, as part of our effort to offer a diverse product line enriched by a multitude of manufacturing capabilities, we have expanded the ways we can produce signs and markers to better meet those needs.

One example that is representative of our growth is our digital print capability. This versatile printing process gives us the ability to produce almost any type of sign our customers can dream up. Whether it is a sign with a hundred different colors, a complex graphic or a high-resolution photograph, we have the capability of printing it. Have a celebration or special event coming up? We can design and fabricate eye-catching banners to celebrate achievements or promote events. Digital printing has also proven to be a more cost-effective method for small orders with multiple colors when compared to traditional screen printing.

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Take a look at the sign below. The intricate details of the “litterbug” can easily be digitally printed in the time it takes to get photos made at the local pharmacy.

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Operating a sign business inevitably means you are going to get unusual requests for signs. With the digital printer, we can handle most, if not all, of those requests that come our way.

#manufacturing #signage #signs #digitalprint

 

 

Vulcan Utility Signs: Going Beyond Providing a Product

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We hate to toot our own horn, but there is something extremely gratifying about working with a customer to provide a solution that truly makes a difference in the productivity and efficiency of their business. As the leading manufacturer of pipeline marking products in the industry today, we often promote the fact that we are a “Marking Solutions Provider.” What does that mean exactly? Well, we don’t just sell products that you see pictured in our catalog or on our website. When a customer comes to us with a specific marking issue they are having, that’s when we roll up our sleeves and put our thinking caps on. We assemble a team consisting of a variety of disciplines from engineering, to production, to customer service, all with the same goal in mind… develop a marking solution that will fit our customer’s needs. This was exactly the case when we received a call from Zackery Gravely, with Virginia Natural Gas. Once Zackery explained the issues he was experiencing, we were able to design and fabricate a custom Vulcan Bullet Marker that incorporated a locator.

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Virginia Natural Gas- Zack Gravely1

“So with the installation of this one marker, we increased our visibility, aided with public awareness showing 811 and the QR code linking to Vulcan’s website, we are using something that can actually be found, opposed to our flush locate stations we’ve been using, created superior ground hopefully ensuring an excellent locate, and due to the design of the marker, we never have to worry about the locate tech disassembling and not putting back together our equipment; ensures good housekeeping.” – Zackery Gravely, Asset Management Group, Virginia Natural Gas

By the end of the project, Zackery got exactly what he was looking for and our team felt accomplished knowing they had worked through several challenges to meet the needs of a customer looking to us for a solution.

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Stacy Holland, Sales Representative for Vulcan, worked closely with Zackary Gravely coordinating the project.

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Left to Right: Boston Sherrier, Rocky Stewart and Mark Walker from Vulcan designed and developed a prototype marker to ensure its functionality, then shipped it to Zackary for testing.

#manufacturing #custom #solutionsprovider #quality #prideinworkmanship #happycustomer

The Legacy Continues: 30+ Years of Vulcan Scholars

In 1984 Vulcan’s founder, Cater Lee, started a tradition that we are proud to say lives on today. Vulcan Scholarships, Inc. was founded in 1984 to provide financial aid to Foley and Robertsdale High School students who elected to pursue an engineering career. In 2001 Gulf Shores High School students became eligible for the scholarship awards. The scholarship awards seek to espouse Cater’s belief that… “No one makes it all alone, no one is successful without help from someone, somewhere along the line”. By providing financial support to engineering students it was his wish that during the course of their professional careers they might make a meaningful and lasting contribution to society.

Since 1985, the Foundation has awarded 90 scholarships with a total value in excess of $500,000. Our mission is to influence qualified Foley, Gulf Shores and Robertsdale High School students’ career paths by providing financial assistance in the pursuit of study in a qualified engineering curriculum.

This past week, the 2015 recipients were announced. We would like to congratulate these students, as they have shown excellence in their dedication to the pursuit of their academic aspirations.

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Vulcan scholars in front row pictured left to right.

Shawn Tedder – Robertsdale High School – Vulcan Scholar Award

Jordon Hess – Robertsdale High School – Vulcan Scholar Award

Seth Clark – Gulf Shores High School – Vulcan Scholar Award

Logan Maloy – Foley High School – Cater Lee Distinguished Scholar for Engineering Study

Vulcan Scholarship Committee in back row pictured left to right.

Will Rice, David Mullins, Jim Stewart and Tommy Lee

#Vulcan #Engineering #AlabamaGulfCoast #VulcanScholarships

Vulcan Aluminum Mill’s Journey to ISO 9001:2008 Certification

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On March 20, 2015, Vulcan Aluminum Mill completed the last major hurdle to becoming ISO certified. This was stage II of a two stage audit process conducted by an internationally recognized registrar. However, the journey actually started almost a year ago. This article is meant to describe the purpose of the ISO system as well as to explain why a company may choose to adopt it.

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What is ISO? What is a QMS?

We’ll start with an explanation of ISO 9001:2008. To put it briefly, “say what you do and do what you say.” ISO is a quality management system (QMS) based on a continuous improvement process with 6 required procedures.

  1. Control of Documents
  2. Control of Records
  3. Internal Audit
  4. Control of Nonconforming Product
  5. Corrective action
  6. Preventive action

Quality has always been a top priority, but we did not have the most efficient method in place for documentation and control. Thus, we began to systematically improve our approach to delivering a quality product efficiently and in a timely manner. In our case, the Mill was able to lean on our sister plant, Vulcan Metal Stampings, to help us transition to ISO9001:2008. Vulcan Metal Stampings started their ISO journey back in 2003 and was able to share their expertise, which really gave the Mill the momentum and information we needed. Because of this, during 6 total days of auditing, the Mill and multiple staff members were able to show evidence of effectiveness for all 6 of the required procedures. All employees interviewed by our outside auditor were complemented on their professionalism and job knowledge.

Why would a company pursue an ISO 9001:2008 certification?

The second part of this article is to give an explanation of why it was so important for the Mill to adopt ISO 9001:2008 as our QMS. While there are numerous other recognized QMS’s available in industry today, ISO 9001:2008 is an internationally recognized QMS that opens the door for Vulcan Aluminum Mill to do business directly with a whole new level of businesses, primarily automotive. That is certainly one of the driving forces behind pursuing this certification.

Another driving force is the fact that it mandates a controlled approach to improving results in most of the key facets of business. Vulcan Aluminum Mill discusses quality, documentation, customer satisfaction, non-conformances, etc. on a daily basis. Whenever an issue arises that can’t be fixed with a conversation, or when a change to our process or product is required, an action item/corrective action is assigned and monitored until it’s closed.

One other benefit is that the QMS helps create and maintain a culture of open dialogue where problems can become opportunities. This is because as each problem is solved, several things are happening, such as, the customer is getting a better product, our operations are becoming more efficient, more profit is generated, lines of communication are paved and surprises become less common.

Although a huge accomplishment, completing the ISO 9001:2008 Certification Process isn’t the conclusion to our journey. Rather, it simply set the stage for where we’re going in the years ahead.

“A certificate does not make you certified. Attitude, performance, commitment to self and team — these and a certificate make you certified.” ~Author Unknown

#VulcanAluminumMill #manufacturing #aluminum #quality #ISO

Retroreflectivity in the World of Traffic Signs

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Example of Visual Nighttime Inspection

We all see traffic signs on all roads, which provide all types of information necessary for operating our vehicles safely. What many drivers do not know is that traffic signs are required to maintain a minimum level of retroreflectivity.

What is retroreflectivity? In simplest terms, it is the light that returns to the user from the light source, which in most cases is an automobile’s headlights.

Governmental agencies are required to ensure their signs meet or exceed retroreflectivity standards established by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). They accomplish this requirement by implementing an assessment or management methodology to ensure traffic signs adhere to uniform standards defined by the FHWA.

The two most widely used assessment methods are Visual Nighttime Inspection and Measured Sign Retroreflectivity. They are defined as follows:

  • Visual Nighttime Inspection is performed at night by a trained inspector from a moving vehicle with the headlights on low beam.
  • Measured Sign Retroreflectivity is measured by a retroreflectometer. These devices are typically very expensive and tend to be cost prohibitive for small agencies.

The three most widely used management methods are Expected Sign Life, Blanket Replacement, and Control Signs. They are defined as follows:

  • Expected Sign Life is measured from the date of installation of the sign by labeling and recording. There are many factors that affect a sign’s retroreflectivity like geographical area, the direction the sign is facing and type of reflective sheeting just to name a few.
  • Blanket Replacement is just what the name implies, in that all signs are replaced in a specified area. Some agencies segregate their city or county into sectors, with one sector getting replaced each year.
  • The Control Signs method is a group of signs normally maintained in a maintenance yard. They are erected at the same time signs are installed on the streets, and when they fail to meet the minimum standards, all signs associated with that control group are replaced.

Meeting the Minimum Retroreflectivity Standards established by FHWA is not an option…it is a requirement. For further information about upgrading to these standards, please contact Vulcan Signs today! 1.800.633.6845 | vulcan3@vulcaninc.com

#VulcanSigns #retroreflectivity #trafficsigns #transportationsigns #highwaysigns #fhwa #stopsigns #madeintheusa #foleyalabama #manufacturing

Welcome to Foley, Alabama | Vulcan’s Hometown

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Vulcan began as a small sign manufacturer in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1935 and has continued growing for over 80 years. The first production facility was established in Foley, Alabama in 1968. The decision to move to Foley has proven to be the right one. We have an incredibly close working relationship with the city and are very proud of that. The current Mayor of Foley, Mr. John Koniar worked for Vulcan for many years beginning as a Sales and Product Manager and rising to Vice President of Mill Sales at the time of his retirement. He currently serves on our Board of Directors.

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In honor of Foley’s recent Centennial celebration, a 52-foot clock and bell tower was erected in Foley Heritage Park and the plaque above was inserted into one of the cornerstone posts. It reads “Vulcan, Inc. – An employee owned company that expects Foley to be its home for the next 100 years.”

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Proudly bearing the title of An Employee Owned Company, Vulcan has made it a priority to invest in the community in which our employees live and work. Our active involvement with the area Chamber of Commerce and other organizations such as The United Way of Baldwin County and local schools has strengthened our connection to Foley and its residents. In 1985, Cater Lee, Founder of Vulcan, Inc. initiated the Vulcan Scholarship Program for students beginning their college career in Engineering. Since its inception, Vulcan has awarded over $500,000 in scholarship monies to graduating seniors from Foley, Robertsdale and Gulf Shores High Schools. Our goal is to not only see our business continue to grow, but also to re-invest in the city and local community that we have been blessed to call home for the past 47 years.

#VulcanAluminum #FoleyAlabama #AlabamaGulfCoast #Manufacturing

 

 

Vulcan Driveable Markers: One Product, Two Uses

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The Vulcan Driveable Marker, or more commonly called DRV Marker, is a product manufactured by Vulcan that is sold by both of our sign divisions, Vulcan Signs and Vulcan Utility Signs. It is a fiberglass based composite marker developed to drive easily in all soil conditions, while maintaining flexibility. Standard lengths of the marker are 66” and 72”, with other lengths available. The DRV is comprised of 65% fiberglass and is the strongest fiberglass marker available on the market today. Other benefits of the DRV include:

  • Will not rust, rot or corrode
  • Remains stable in temperatures from -30 to +120 and will not embrittle in cold temperatures nor soften in heat
  • Superior strength and easy to drive in soil
  • Absorbs vehicular impacts and returns to original position
  • Ultraviolet inhibitors provide long-term product stability and color retention
  • Never needs painting, as color is the same throughout the marker

Will survive controlled ditch burns which often melt or destroy plastic markers

Even though both Vulcan Signs and Vulcan Utility Signs market this product, customers that purchase this item from the two divisions utilize it in very different ways.

Vulcan Signs’ customers utilize the DRV as a delineator post. The marker is commonly used in areas where traffic merges, as well as sharp curves in the roadway. Typically, a strip of reflective sheeting is applied to the DRV, in order to enhance nighttime visibility.

Vulcan Delineator

 Vulcan DRV Used As Delineator Post

Vulcan Utility Signs markets and sells the DRV as a marking solution for underground pipelines. After WARNING labels with all federally regulated information are screen-printed, one is applied to both sides of the DRV.

Vulcan Flexible Fiberglass Marker

Vulcan DRV Used To Mark Buried Pipelines

Vulcan’s unique design helps protect the decals from damage during installation or vehicle impacts, enabling the markers to have a longer field life. DRVs are available in a wide variety of colors, with custom colors available as well. The DRV also has an available anchor kit which is designed to secure the marker in loose, sandy or marsh type conditions.

Vulcan’s unique design includes recessed sides which protect the vinyl sheeting from damage during installation or vehicle impacts.

Flexible Fiberglass Colors

Vulcan also manufactures a specialized tool for installation of DRVs. Using the VF-105 Installation Tool, a worker can install a DRV in less than one minute.

Vulcan Flexible Fiberglass Driver

For more information or to place an order, please call 1.888.846.2728 or send us an email to vulcan@vulcaninc.com.

 

Movin’ On Up! Vulcan’s Latest Expansion Complete

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Vulcan Utility Signs’ team gathers at expansion site for a groundbreaking photo!

On Wednesday, the fourth of June, Vulcan broke ground for an 11,041 sq ft expansion project for its utility sign division, bringing this facility to a total of 41,000 sq ft.

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Expansion View 1

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Expansion View 2

This division specializes in the manufacture of high-performance marking products for the utility industry, with primary focus on the oil and gas market.

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Custom Marking Products Manufactured at Vulcan Utility Signs in Foley, Alabama

Vulcan Utility Signs has experienced a steady increase of business due in part to the boom of shale plays including the Eagle Ford, Marcellus and Bakken, leading to the need for additional manufacturing space. The primary end products are signs and related marking products used to identify the location of the thousands of miles of pipelines that move petroleum and natural gas. Vulcan proudly provides products directly to the majority of energy companies throughout the US, while also serving Mexico, Canada and the Middle East.

For more information, please visit www.vulcanutilitysigns.com or call 1.800.426.1314 to connect with one of our experienced team members.

 

The History of Highway Signs

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Traffic Flow in the Early 1900s

Highway signs have been a part of this nation’s history for many years. When the nation’s first turnpike – Philadelphia, PA to Lancaster, PA – was authorized by the Pennsylvania State Legislature in 1794, the Act required mileposts and directional signs.

Signing as we know it today got its start in the early 1900’s from Automotive Clubs who wanted to provide direction for their touring groups. These efforts were often enthusiastic, but were neither effective nor consistent.

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Early Highway Signing

Wisconsin was the first to start making sense and system out of disorder. The Badger State initiated the erection of official route signs as part of its maintenance function in 1918.

As more states became active in signing it became obvious some standardization was necessary. In January of 1923 the Mississippi Valley of State Highway Departments agreed on a signing and marking plan which was to become the basis for national standards. Its plan called for all signs to have white background with letters and/or symbols in black:

1) Round signs to be used only as warnings of railroad crossings

2) Octagonal signs always signifying “STOP”

3) Diamond shaped signs for “SLOW WARNINGS”

4) Square shaped signs for “CAUTION” or “ATTENTION” signs

5) Regulatory signs for directional and regulatory information

6) Route markers of some characteristic or conventional shape different from above

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Interstate Highway 1986

It was not until 1927 that the first national manual was issued on traffic signs. This manual stated “all signs of a precautionary nature, including the circular railroad sign, the octagonal stop sign, the diamond shaped slow sign, and the square caution sign, have black designs on a yellow background.”

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Steel Embossed Stop Sign

It was some years later, in 1955, that stop signs were changed from black on yellow to white on red.

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Steel Embossed Stop Signs with Cat’s Eye Marbles

The major change over the years was in the driving public’s desire to drive at night. Retroflection was applied to traffic signs in the 1920’s; the glass cat’s eye marbles were embedded in traffic signs. It was in the 1930’s when someone discovered a way to make more of the sign’s surface reflective by making the marbles smaller – reducing them to microscopic glass beads in the paint on the surface of the sign. This was known as “beads on paint.” This product was extremely low in reflective brightness and rainy conditions made the sign useless because water acted as another lens and scattered light that should have been reflected.

Some improvements were made over the years, but it was in the late 1940’s when 3M Company coated the glass beads with a tough clear plastic that held the water off the beads and offset the light scattering effect. For the first time the complete surface of the sign became a warning in the dark.

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Interstate Highway Circa 1955

As noted earlier, in the 1950’s additional colors were added to the signing spectrum – red for stop and green for go – used on the first tollway directional signs. While early signs were made of wood and stone, and eventually steel, the standard backing material in use today throughout this country and the modern world is aluminum.

Today, high performance reflective materials are available that are eight times brighter than those of the 50’s. This, combined with lightweight – yet strong – aluminum provides signs with a guaranteed ten (10) to twelve (12) year life. These brighter, longer lasting materials have played a significant role in making our roads safer and helping to reduce accidents on our nation’s highways.

 

Chemical Conversion Treatment on Aluminum Sign Blanks

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I once heard the statement that aluminum sign blanks are a fairly vanilla product, meaning that from one supplier to the next, there isn’t much of a difference. We beg to differ. Not only is there a difference, there is a significant one. Why? At Vulcan Aluminum, our sign blanks go through a rigorous Chemical Conversion Treatment ensuring the best corrosion-fighting coverage in the industry. Our 340-foot long, 7-Step Power Spray System utilized in our Alodizing Line is the finishing touch in our manufacturing process.

Step 1: Cleaning. A liquid etching type alkaline cleaner is used per manufacturer’s recommendations.

Step 2: Rinse. An overflowing water rinse is used.

Step 3: Deoxidizer is used to desmut and remove heat treatment and residual oxides remaining on metal.

Step 4: Rinse. An overflowing water rinse is used.

Step 5: Chemical Conversion Treatment. A chemical conversion treatment is utilized to produce a protective golden coating.

Step 6: Rinse. An overflowing water rinse is used.

Step 7: Drying. A forced, hot air drying process is used.

Our 7-Step treating system at Vulcan not only provides the best coating coverage in the business, but it also allows us to process material faster which lowers our lead times.

After 40+ years in the sign fabrication business, Vulcan Aluminum’s process has proven to stand the test of time. For more information on Vulcan products, please visit us online at www.vulcaninc.com.

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