High Visibility


Port Melbourne based company Adherettes started, as the name implies, making stickers in 1956 but as it grew, that emphasis moved towards a more diversified view of signs in general. The Ernst family took over the company in 1976 and Mark and Morris Ernst are the Directors today. Their strong leadership and an ever growing strong, dedicated and professional team has taken the company from a small operation to a successful, modern and diversified sign project management company with an impressive reputation for providing innovative, quality signage, and the capacity to undertake continuing project management of high profile corporate clients’ brand assets in the retail and banking sectors as well as companies across a broad spectrum. Clients include the full range of high-street and shopping centre names: from ANZ and Coles through NAB and Subaru to Westfield and Westpac.

Adar Hamamy is General Manager. She says it is “always important to discuss what clients want and then figure out how to achieve it, rather than simply slapping a set logo on a signboard. Awareness of the brand is what counts – that’s basically what makes the point of differentiation that prompts the consumer to buy your brand or go to your shop instead of to a competitor. We don’t just talk about the nuts and bolts but about a strategy – what we are going to do and how, offering a solution.”

Adherettes can provide turnkey operations, “thinking ahead and understanding the brand awareness with our in-house design department and project managers.” Adar is keen to get across the point that here is a consulting company, not just a sign maker and this is made up partly of design – what looks good – and most significantly the execution, “how you are going to build it? What we are good at is taking something that looks good on paper and bringing it to life.” She herself joined the company five years ago in a marketing and HR capacity and on assuming the GM role she made some changes. “One of the things I changed was that we don’t only want to be recognised as a manufacturing company. Why not utilise all the beautiful skills we have here and offer it all to our clients? Over the last 18 months we have created a massive change and we are seeing the results of it.” A change of management and an infusion of extra talent essentially “transformed the company from a small operation into a very successful medium-size company,” with 40 employees operating Australia-wide.

Adar describes the industry as something of a roller-coaster with highs and lows through the year – a distinct ‘low season’ around financial year end and another after the Christmas period. She works hard on trying to even out this cycle, changing the very habits of the industry.

Even the big-name clients, she says, sometimes ask for input rather than simply slapping down a cut-and-dried drawing of their requirements. Cost is also a factor, inevitably, and Adherettes is adept at matching solutions to budgets too. Adar says no two jobs are alike all are tailored to individual needs. “We have a great project management team here; everyone has different capabilities. Some have a background in signage, some in construction and some even in IT because the industry is moving that way,” with developments such as touch-screen.

A case in point is ANZ, with more than 800 branches around Australia wearing Adherettes identification. The signs all look more or less the same – that’s the idea, after all, to establish brand identity – but nearly all are quite different in execution to allow for the different sizes and substrates that each outlet has. Each design is worked out in the Port Melbourne office and after manufacture it comes back to the office for test assembly to ensure everything fits perfectly before being shipped to site. An installation manager coordinates a network of local subcontractors that are used to fix the signage throughout Australia.

There is more to a good sign than meets the eye, if you’ll pardon the pun. A whole raft of technical issues cover weatherproofing to ensure it doesn’t get waterlogged – or injure passers-by in a high wind – and diverse safety regulations must be taken account of; Adherettes must be assessed each year and accredited by Westfield and several other clients. “Indeed, many clients including Westfield, Coles and ANZ have required us to be nationally accredited by Noel Arnold and Associates, the leading risk management service company in Australia. QA and ISO 9001 programmes are also in train.”

New ideas in signage go hand in hand with evolving manufacturing techniques, and Adar says there is a distinct possibility of influence in this area of lower-cost manufacturing in Asian countries, although she doubts the company would change in kind. “The point of differentiation we have in manufacturing here in Australia is the control of quality, which is important.” But to really be on top of its game, Adherettes must monitor what is coming from China or Europe – in terms of technology as well as manufacture – and what will or might influence the national market. She cites moving messages – if you go to New York they are “everywhere.” And as LEDs have, to a large extent, replaced the traditional neon sign, being greener and more cost-effective, so lasers could take over from them. “It will come eventually, but when? That’s the million dollar question.”

It is the job of her team to be ready with whatever is wanted, whenever it is wanted; they travel widely to check out trends in other countries, some of which – especially around Asia – tend to allow an almost unlimited proliferation of signage. Whether you regard that as aesthetically good or bad, Adar believes it is unlikely to spread to relatively conservative and regulated Australia. “Times Square in New York is fabulous, with everything flashing. But if you stand in the middle of Sydney or Melbourne and try to visualise the same effect, how would that change the landscape of the city? In some ways, conservative is not such a bad thing.”

Interactive signage is on the way in – “you already see it in shopping centres,” Adar explains. Echoing the movie industry (remember ‘Minority Report’?) and in some ways parallel to what Google is trying to achieve online and in the field of mobile communications, this kind of display investigates the consumer’s preferences and pushes information through the cell phone or tablet. “It’s all about the end consumer experience in the shopping centre. Speaking from the marketing point of view, that is definitely something the shopping centres are looking to do.”

Leading edge IT pushes Adherettes toward highly dynamic trends and Adar is happy to be there. “After all, what is a sign?” She quotes the example of work done for Monash University – a bespoke fabricated canopy that creates a striking feature, blurring the distinction between signage and architecture. Over 500 square metres in area, with a suspended steel structure, digitally printed dibond cladding, and illuminated with LEDs, the installation has softened the industrial look and created a livelier environment. “Is it a sign or a ceiling or some other architectural feature? It’s beautiful.”

A five-year plan is a must, says Adar, yet she admits that trying to forecast what the leading trends will be in that timeframe is near impossible. But change must feature in the plan. “Marketing is changing, the clients are changing, so we must change as well. This is what makes it a challenge, what makes it exciting. Taking note of what is happening outside Australia is so important too.” Oh, and keeping her staff is also vital to the five-year plan. “We are a team and we work with our suppliers to build long-term relationships based on mutual trust; that’s how you get results.” One of those results is that Adherettes keeps on booming while the industry remains generally in the doldrums. “But it’s not about what others do – it’s about what we do to keep improving all the time.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

November 21, 2018, 3:46 AM AEDT