GUTHMAN BLOG

What Types of Outdoor LED Church Signs Are There?

Churches are adopting LED display technology at record numbers and many companies are pouncing on this trend. Each company and/or factory are making increasingly broad and often exaggerated claims to gather the attention of church leaders. This leaves church leaders with a very difficult problem to solve. How do we know what makes one outdoor programmable LED display different from the next? How can you even tell? What are the real variables church leaders should be considering, and how do you separate fact from fiction? The following variables are what you should consider as you hear marketing and sales pitches from these companies about their products.

#1: Made in America

What could be more attractive to patriotic church leaders than to tell them their sign will be made in the USA? The truth is that there is no such thing as a 100% American made LED sign. In fact, the truth is actually much more faceted than these claims would lead people to believe. There are only 3 factories in the United States that make their own LED sign modules within the United States. However, regardless of the factory, all LED diodes are made overseas, as the LED diode price is such that a US-made diode would be far too expensive to compete in the American market. In addition to diodes, power supplies, cables, controllers, processing chips, and most LED sign components are made in China, primarily in the Shenzen region. Manufacturing modules within the United States means these companies are able to control quality better than their competitors and produce many longer-lasting products. Companies that integrate foreign components into cabinets at assembly lines in the USA often price themselves equal to the US manufacturers making their own modules in house. They make the US-made claims at the same time to align themselves further, although these claims are at the least hyperbolic.

Pro Tip: Check for examples in the field from the manufacturer if possible to see LED displays in operation over 5 years. If there are examples in the field over 5 years that are still operational, the probability is that it is a US-made LED module.

#2: Integrators

Often times the factories manufacturing LED modules in the USA are simply too high in price. So, the market addresses this gap through LED display integrators. Integrators bring components from many different parts of the world and integrate them into aluminum cabinets at assembly lines based in the USA. This reduces cost, allowing the customer’s price to be much lower for what would seem at face value, to be the same quality as a US-made module. This is not the case, of course, but some integrators do reach a good quality at a reasonable price. They do this by controlling and testing quality of the components they bring in from overseas. However, it is notoriously difficult for US-based companies to control the quality of the components they are supplied with. Research and development, including testing and weathering of components are extremely costly, so most integrators do not perform these processes of quality control. Integrators do provide an attractive alternative to the high price points in the industry, but unbiased and transparent information should be sought out before making a decision based on hearsay or marketing and sales claims. Control software packages are competitive in this space, so it is important to understand the options and how each applies to your circumstances. Most integrators offer competitive cloud-based software solutions allowing you to manage the LED sign from anywhere.

Pro Tip: Ask about tech support warranties and content creation solutions. You will need to service the LED sign from an integrator within the first few years in most cases, and content can be hard to create for these software solutions, so it is important to have a solid plan for tech support and content creation or content libraries where available. Many integrators offer labor warranties as well as content creation and tech support plans. Ask, compare, contrast, and pit options against one another to find the best most reliable information. An unbiased Sign Specialist can come in handy for this as well.

#3: Drop-Ship Importers

Drop-ship importers bring LED displays to the US as out of the box solutions. Just like integrators like to market themselves as US-made factories, drop-ship importers attempt to align themselves with integrators to reassure clients. Local sign companies often resort to these options due to the low price as they typically do not work with more than 2-3 LED signs per year, thus cashing in on these projects is their modus operandi. Warranties vary from 1-3 years typically although some companies will increase the price of these LED displays so they can add years to the warranty in order to further align themselves with the integrators of the market. Software options for these products are extremely limited and almost never offer cloud-based functionality. If you see a quote for an LED display with a 5-year warranty, but the software is limited or requires a separate laptop to operate it, most likely it is a drop-ship sign that has been marked up. Another telltale sign of a drop-ship product is the way definition is described. Definition in the United States market is measured in millimeters such as 10mm, 16mm, 20mm, etc. Chinese markets denominate these measurements as P10, P16, or P20 for example. However, a drop-ship product can fulfill the needs of organizations under circumstances of low budget, and/or short timelines where 1-3 year longevity is acceptable with a low upfront cost.

Pro tip: If you notice a long lead time of 10+ weeks for delivery, or if the timeline is a matter of a few days, this should raise suspicion that the product is a drop ship product. 10+ weeks on delivery can mean the sign needs time to be built and shipped from China and if the lead time is just a few days, the sign is not being manufactured for your project but is being pulled from a shelf in a warehouse, thus it is most likely an importer.

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