Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Production’

Classic Exhibits Inc. | A Glimpse Into Our Production Capabilities

January 10th, 2018 COMMENTS

If you are in the trade show business, as a designer, builder, marketer, general contractor, etc., you often get a puzzled look when someone asks, “What do you do?” It can be frustrating, particularly if the person asking has never attended a large trade show (as opposed to a home and garden show or craft fair).

Now imagine you are a Classic Exhibits employee. How frustrating would it be to get that same question from a Classic Exhibits Distributor. For example, “Don’t you build portable hybrid displays?” Yes we do… but we also build custom modular, custom, iPad stands, charging stations, LED lightboxes, and even hanging signs. We design and build what you ask us to build. Sometimes it’s a table top, but more often, it’s a highly customized display for a trade show, retail store, event, or corporate environment.

It’s a New Year and Time for Resolutions

This year, my #1 resolution is to do a much better job of communicating our capabilities. That way, I don’t have to kill you when you visit our shop and say, “Oh, I didn’t know you did that!” Please watch the video below which shows our extensive production capabilities. The life you save may be yours. 😉

–Mel White


Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or

Mi Casa es Su Casa: Word on the Street — Jan. 21st thru Jan. 25th

January 27th, 2013 COMMENTS
Mi Casa,Su Casa: Word on the Street -- Jan. 21st thru Jan. 25th

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

What It’s Like to Visit Classic Exhibits

While many distributors have visited us over the years, to review projects, for one-on-one training, for Shared Knowledge University, it sometimes slips my mind that many of you haven’t been to our facility. So, if you have haven’t been to the Classic shop before, you’re probably wondering what it’s like. Well . . . it’s impressive and it’s weird. And when I say weird, I don’t mean “hellhole weird” with chains, dungeons, and pits with spikes .  .  . or Portland Weird (cause let’s face it, that’s a given), I mean the office layout and the entrances can sometimes be jarring to new visitors.

I’ll use the entrance as an example. Those of you who have been to our place know what I mean when I refer to the Little Red Door. If it sounds like you need a special knock or code word to get in, you don’t.  But we do have a Little Red Door that lets you into our world. And when you open it, it’s clear what we do. We are a manufacturer. You walk right into Production. What we often refer to as our “Showroom.”

It’s always a kick for me to see the reaction of our customers when they enter the building. They are expecting to walk into a big beautiful showroom. And I would argue that they do. Just our version of a showroom.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently because Mel and I have been looking at other buildings, buildings that would accommodate our growth over the next 5-10 years. We’ve seen some impressive facilities, with extensive offices, formal entrances, and flexible production floors. It’s hard not to drool. Mel has slipped on mine couple times already. It doesn’t mean we’re moving. Our landlord is really interested in keeping us and is hard at work on plans to expand our current site.

That said, allow me take you on a tour of Classic. I’ll include an informal video we shot a few years ago which will (hopefully) fill in some of the blanks. The shop has changed some, but you’ll see the overall organization. We’re proud of the Classic facility. It’s designed to be efficient and to maximize our flexible manufacturing capabilities.

For those who have been here, bear with me while I explain the layout. When we moved into our space over 10 years ago, our Ops Manager at the time had been a Process Engineer with Boeing in his previous life. And if you have ever seen the Boeing plant on TV or in person, then you know the process is laid out so that at one end of the building you start with raw materials, parts, and pieces. Then at the other end of the building a plane rolls out fully assembled.

Milling Department

Now I know we don’t build planes, but the overall thought process is the same. Nearly everything we build starts with one common denominator — aluminum extrusion. Whether it’s pop-up extrusion for a Quadro S, internal framing for a Euro LT or Intro panel, or exposed engineered extrusion for the Visionary Design Hybrid Exhibits. Extrusion is the starting point.

Video from November 2011

The metal gets cut, then either milled (CNC or by hand), then CNC bent (if necessary), then customized and assembled with connections, inserts, etc. Once done, the metal for hybrids moves all the way to the Set-up Area and then to the end of the line. The metal for Euro LT and Intro moves into the Panel Building Department where it is married with the CNC cut infill panels.

Wood Fabrication Department

Next you have the Wood Fabrication Department. This is where all soft materials, such as acrylics, wood, foam, etc. are CNC cut and assembled. Because everything is built off the CNC, it allows us to work right off the detail files. We cut parts and then the guys “assemble.” People are often amazed at our approach. We have two master cabinet makers on staff, but we have ten assemblers who are guided by the cabinet makers on how to assemble the parts that come off the CNC, including laminating, routing, and finishing.

Once counters, panels, custom components, and jigging for packaging or acrylic work is completed in Wood Fab, it is moved to the Set-up Area to meet up with any metal components.

Set-up Department

The next step is where we create the biggest difference between Classic and our competitors. The Set-up Area. It’s the place in the process where our true transparency shines through. The Set-up Department also acts as our ultimate quality control system. Everything is fully assembled, setup, and photographed regardless of size. Meaning, if you ordered an Intro 3-panel fabric table top, we set it up and take a photo of it just like we would with a complete Double Deck exhibit. And to prove it, we have three webcams in our Set-up Area that you can log into at any given time to check the progress of your booth. The Peek-a-Booth webcams have become a very familiar tool for many of our distributors.

So once the booth is setup, your Project Manager at Classic reviews the exhibit. At that point, they are your eyes and ears on our floor to ensure that the exhibit meets your preset expectations. If it does, they sign the order prior to tear-down and packaging.

Once the exhibit is torn down, it is packaged, most often in die-cut foam inserted into jigged cases or crates. The PM is then called out once more to review the packaged exhibit. The PM reviews the packaging, including anything you shipped to us to include such as monitors, graphics, etc. If it passes the review, they sign the order one final time.

At that point, our production process makes its only “non-linear” move. It makes a hard right turn into Shipping and into the waiting truck.

Now I understand that this is a really brief explanation and does not do justice to what our facility is like and how it functions. You don’t see the offices, the Rental Division, or Inventory Storage. So please don’t hesitate to schedule time to see us. We welcome client reviews, always a great time to come see the exhibit with your client and see our place. And since we stage everything, you should take advantage of that, rather than shipping it to your location for a client review.

We welcome onsite training as well, whether one-on-one or during Shared Knowledge University, our semi-annual training program. Plus SKU offers you the opportunity to be with distributors from other markets and share ideas during two days of comprehensive group training.

We hope your January is off to an amazing start. And hope to see you here in Portland sometime soon. We may be a little weird, but we are happy to share that weirdness with you. 🙂

See Classic’s Facebook page for daily photos and posts.

Kevin Carty


Word on the Street — November 1st thru November 5th

November 7th, 2010 1 COMMENT
Why we participate in the TS2 Show

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Our People / Our Success

Many of you, who have been distributors, vendor partners, and industry friends for many years, have heard us speak about how the “heart and soul” of Classic Exhibits is its people. They are the key to our success.

To be successful in this business, we have to have attractive designs, quality products, and advanced manufacturing capabilities, but at the end of the day, its our people that make Classic a truly remarkable and great company. So please indulge me today as I share some information and some praise about our people.

Customer Service / Project Management

To most of you, they are the voice of Classic. This uniquely talented group is responsible for handling all quotes, order details, and job folders for our Production team. Unlike other companies where Customer Service representatives have very narrow duties  and authority, the Project Managers at Classic are tasked with broad responsibilities. They are expected to answer your product-related questions, complete CAD details for orders, arrange shipping, and function as the final quality control check on your jobs.

To be a PM at Classic takes a very unique skill set. They have to be detail-oriented, efficient, imaginative, and charming. Very few of us have two of these characteristics, let alone all four. Classic PM’s are your “internal advocate,”  or more specifically your “eyes and ears” throughout the entire process from the moment an order is turned over to Production until it leaves our shipping dock.

I am proud of how our group works as a team. They are always on the alert for ways to improve internal processes which not only makes their jobs more efficient, but also improves our ability to serve your requests.

Design Department

Design is often the first point of contact for many of you. Most of our competitors funnel everyone into Customer Service first. We don’t, which can present a challenge for our Designers. At Classic, we urge you to start with the Design Department on any orders that are not “as is” kits. As a result, a Designer at Classic might be working on 12-15 projects during a week. Your expectations, and the expectations of your client, are that  each project will be unique and creative. And that the project will be delivered in 2-5 days (depending on size and scope).

After reading what I just wrote . . . that challenge can seem almost impossible on some weeks. But to their credit, they do it and they do it very well.

On top of all that, the Design Department must balance the demands of the Marketing Department as well. Design Monday, new kit renderings, animations, rental requests, and a wide variety of other design-related assignments are handled by Design. There is rarely, if ever, any down time in Design.


I have often said and will continue to say that we have the absolute best Production staff anywhere. In these days of short turn times and client-driven last minute changes and unique challenges, they find a way to make it happen day in and day out. As a crew, they are continually striving to learn new techniques and cross train each other so we can remain efficient and profitable.

The vast majority of our Production staff has or will be celebrating ten plus years with the company. As a group, they care about Classic, and they care about the products our customers receive. They are faced with enormous challenges every single day, challenges that push them to engineer new solutions and develop new methods to handle our diverse product line. On any given day they are asked to solve difficult custom solutions, and to retain that knowledge so it can be replicated it in a week, a month, or in two years.

For those distributors and suppliers who have visited Classic Exhibits, you know. You have commented on our manufacturing capabilities, on our work ethic, on the positive energy of our Production team, and on the organization and cleanliness of our facility. I am proud of them and encourage more of our distributors to visit us and see what we see every day.

Accounting, Purchasing, Shipping, and Inventory Control

They pay the bills, pay the people, purchase the supplies, and keep us organized. They are the folks behind the scenes who rarely get “Top Billing” or much recognition outside of Classic Exhibits.  But you know, as well as we do, that they are the glue that keeps us from falling apart.

Just like our Production team, these folks have been with Classic Exhibits for many years, and as Classic has grown and as we have added divisions over the years, they have been asked to do more and to keep us organized. We are fortunate to have employees in these positions who are smart, resourceful, and team players.

I often hear from colleagues who tell me that their Accounting, Purchasing, or Shipping Departments make their lives miserable. Rather than working with their colleagues, they create mini-fiefdoms within the organization. I can’t relate. At Classic, our team works hard to keep us on task and to follow procedures, but it’s never with an “us vs. them” mentality. It’s about making Classic better.

At the end of the day, there’s no substitute for a dedicated team of employees. Yes, we all want to get paid, but it should be about more than just the paycheck. At Classic, our team comes in everyday ready to work and always with an eye on how to make the company better and our customers happier. For that I am grateful every single day.

Be well and have a wonderful weekend!

–Kevin Carty

Word on the Street — September 14th thru September 18th

September 19th, 2009 COMMENTS
Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Where Have All the Turnaround Times Gone?

Of course, I say this partially in jest, but boy isn’t it true right now?!?

And please don’t get me wrong. Like you, we are delighted to have the business. As many of you have shared with me this week, everyone is ordering much later this year.

Every morning at Classic, we hold a 15 minute Lead Meeting. It is designed to give the Production Leads and the Purchasing, Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service Managers a quick review of the day’s business as well as an opportunity to look ahead at upcoming orders, quotes, and purchasing requests.

We use our Shipping Report as our guide in these 15 minute morning meetings. So naturally, I review it before the meeting begins. It looks much different these days than it did this time last year.

As many of you know, Classic Exhibits already has the fastest lead times in the industry, so we are used to being nimble when it comes to your client’s “unrealistic” requests. One of the ideals we adhere to in Production is:  “Do enough of tomorrow’s work today, so that when tomorrow goes to hell or someone has a rush need, we are prepared to handle it.”

Sometimes even I forget these basic ideals. But I am always amazed by how our Production and Customer Service teams live by them. Looking at the Shipping Report this week, I have seen everything from 10 x 10 Visionary Designs Custom Hybrids with 4 day turnaround times to a Euro LT 20 x 30 Island that has to deliver in 8 days. It’s crazy! And yet . . .

We make it happen!

Now, to be fair to our Project Management and Production team, this is not a invitation to hammer our lead times.  We do everything we can to meet your requests, which you already know, but when we say, “Sorry” which is very, very rare, or when we add rush charges, you know those are real and not arbitrary.

That said, we are very happy to have the business and even happier to see Classic Distributors busy. 

Have a safe and restful weekend.

Be Well!

–Kevin Carty