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Staying Relevant In The Competitive QSR and Fast Casual Market = Change

cheapMenuBoardIn an effort to stay relevant in today’s competitive QSR market, many organizations are turning to digital technology. The interesting part is what technologies they are investing in.

Most places have realized the benefits of utilizing a POS (Point of Sale) system. This enables them to track inventory and sales, so adjustments can be made in what to order and how much to charge per item, etc. A very useful tool.

Some have also turned to digital TVs as a way to engage customers. These are usually in the eating area and display the news or weather channels. Most people don’t watch them (too busy looking at smart phone) and usually people can’t hear the TV because of the noise from other customers. I was in a QSR dining area and a news item came on the TV about employees being disgruntled about their treatment from their employers, and the employer was the QSR I was eating at!


With the digital screens, the QSRs are so close to having an actual business tool. One place everyone looks when they come in is the menu boards. Everyone. One of the benefits of having digital menu boards is the ability to control easily what the customer, the captive audience, is looking at. Promos can be changed, prices updated, menu items switched out, dayparting, all the while tied in to the POS, so many of these changes happen automatically. Not only does this give the customer a more targeted dining experience, but it makes for better management of inventory for increased profits.

While there is a recognition of the benefits of digital technology, it is the know how of best usage that brings the mostly gain for all.


Digital Signage In a Manufacturing Environment: A Case Study (Updated)

By Mark Anderson, AV Systems Mag – Commercial AV and Automation eMagazine

(Editor’s Note – The Noventri SF-100e was originally used for this project. Recently they upgraded to the Noventri SF-200 ECO-Series Digital Signage Player.)


A large manufacturing company (whose name must, unfortunately remain confidential) was in search of a solution for displaying shift assignment information (on multiple screens) for up to 300 temporary workers a day, across 49 resources. Before the implementation, shift assignments were carried out by departmental supervisors using Excel, but a shift change operation (or large job change) turned into a very large marshaling exercise. As data would be entered by several users per shift and over three shifts per day, minimal training was a key factor. Ideally, Excel would remain as the “data-entry” tool. CAT-blog-banner-manufacturing eBook Although SaaS solutions we not ruled out (several were evaluated), security was a concern. The Corporation undergoes rigorous security audits on a regular basis, so anything that connected to the outside world would be of concern. Keeping Excel as the source data would also involve either automating transfer of the file to, or reading it from, an remote server.

Dynamic Content

The data required for the sign was simple:

  • Date
  • ShiftNo
  • ResourceID
  • EmployeeID

Initially, the idea of using a local SQL database was investigated; however, it was soon discounted as an application would have to be designed to allow users to enter and manipulate data, or Excel data would have to be imported on a regular basis. Even though the tools and skills required to implement this existed, it would have delayed the project and added needless complexity. Despite a database being ruled out, SQL wasn’t. Using ODBC, any Excel sheet or cell range could be treated like an table and queried using SQL. This list of candidate products suddenly expanded from those that could support Excel or delimited text files (such as CSV) to anything that supported SQL and ODBC. The screen shot below shows the requested Excel sheet layout for entering the data (partial view).

  • Rows 1 and 9 contain resource names
  • Rows 2-7 and 10-13 contain employee ID’s. (These were preferred over Employee names, and are retrieved from the time and attendance system)

In the screenshot above, we can see the selected area (F9:F15) is a named range called “Attach1” (see top. left). This is a resource that requires up to 6 staff. As named ranges are used, the Excel sheet layout can be changed without breaking the connection as long as entire ranges are moved.

Querying the Data Source

This was the killer for most SaaS services. Every SaaS product evaluated was unable to obtain dynamic data from an SQL database or an Excel or csv file (even if the file were uploaded to the SaaS server). All the vendors said the same:

  • “Just create an RSS feed or an XML web service”
  • “You could write a script to do it”
  • ‘We could build a custom app/widget to do it”
  • “You can save the Excel as XML…Send me the Excel file…Oh, I didn’t realize it was that complicated”

Creating a web service or RSS feed from the source data isn’t rocket science, but there are/were many reasons not to do it:

  1. Longer implementation time
  2. More costly to implement
  3. Introduces unnecessary complexity and another single point of failure
  4. Makes the signage project an real IT project
  5. Increases total cost of ownership (TCO)

The chances of rolling out digital signage to many other areas of the business are much higher when the IT department’s involvement is limited to providing the hardware and network. If it’s simple enough for end users to use, they’ll experiment. In Noventri Suite software, querying the data was a simple three-step process:

  1. Create a text area
  2. Link the Excel sheet
  3. Write a very simple line of SQL (or click the named range)

The screen shot below shows this in the Noventri user interface. Clicking the connect button allows the user to connect to the required data source: in this case, browse to the Excel file. The refresh interval can also be set. In the above example, the Excel files is queried every five minutes. The select button allows the user to select a table or enter an SQL statement. In the screenshot below, the named ranges appear as tables (in the top half of the dialog) and the user simply selects the table where the source data is located. As the user was pretty familiar with SQL, advanced mode was selected and a simple SQL statement tidied up the results and formatting. The “Cstr()” converted the number to a string (losing the decimals) and the “WHERE [AT-1] is not null” clause filtered out empty cells. (An ORDER BY clause be added to sort the data, but in this application it’s already sorted.)

Final Design

Ultimately, three pages were designed that covered three departmental groups. The source data was split among three Excel spreadsheets and the supervisors simply edit the file and copy it to a mapped network drive. The updated information is displayed on the sign no longer than five minutes after a new version is copied. The screenshot below shows the final design of one of the pages (branding removed).


The sequence for the initial roll-out of this application was very simple: display each of the three screens for 15 seconds.


Like the sequence, the schedule is initially very simple: play the same sequence 24/7. In future, the shift assignments will be display 30 minutes either side of shift change and live job performance information (from the ERP system) will be displayed during the shift.

Serving it Up

The Noventri software also includes a free server component (Windows-based). This allows projects to be retrieved for editing and uploaded for deployment. It also manages communication with the players. The workflow is very simple:

  1. Create/update the project (pages design and sequence)
  2. Deploy to server
  3. Create a schedule (which sequence plays when)
  4. Activate the schedule on the selected player (or groups of players)


The hardware used for the project was a Noventri SF-200 player connected via 100BaseT.
SF-200 Digital Signage Player
The display selected was a commercial grade Samsung 46” LCD 460UX-3 connect via HDMI.

A Peerless freestanding display mount FPZ-600 was used to mount the test installation. Ultimately the monitors will be suspended from the ceiling.


There were several surprises for the client along the way. The three biggest ones were:

  • Most of the software is free. Unless you’re looking for high-end integration/metrics, there’s a free software package (or low-cost SaaS service) for many players.
  • Many SaaS services fall down quickly in areas where dynamic data is not available in XML format.
  • Many editing tools are very poor: they either look like they were ported from an Atari or have a level of functionality below PowerPoint v1.0. (No alignment or distribution tools, no multiple object copy and paste, no step and repeat, no multi-object property editing, little use of context sensitive menu, very strange user interfaces, etc.)


Further players have been ordered for additional screens in the manufacturing plant, and another player has been ordered to replace a PC and PowerPoint slide show in reception. Currently, the receptionist updates this every day with visitors and current weather. In future, visitors will be listed in an Excel file (or possibly retrieved from Outlook) and the weather will be populated automatically from an RSS feed. With the software being so easy to use and central management of the players, many other projects will follow.


At the start of the project, the client envisaged a several thousand dollar software/player combination. They were amazed at how much was possible with such a small, low power (4W), inexpensive player. Bang for the buck with Noventri was outstanding. Several much higher end products were evaluated and didn’t come close to Noventri, especially when considering the amount of integration that would have been required and the total cost of ownership. The final solution required less than five minutes training for the users who were to enter data, as it was the same Excel format they were already using. The cost of entry and skill level required to enter into digital signage is within the grasp of any business (big or small). Being so inexpensive and easy to use will make digital signage much more pervasive, which, at the end of the day, is what everyone wants: better, more focused communication. Manufacturing Articles btn

Using RSS Feeds For Digital Signage Content – Cautions and Benefits

Noventri RSS FeedDigital signage content is, and always has been at a premium and good content is worth-its-weight-in-gold. That is why RSS/XML feeds have been used for years in digital signage. The main reason why is because it’s fresh content that can update on its own when there is news, weather updates, etc.

Websites such as CNN, The Weather Channel, AccuWeather, ESPN and others provide free RSS feeds. Since these organizations are well known, having their feeds can provide name recognition and added value to your content.

The only ‘gotcha’ is these type of feeds were intended for personal use only, otherwise you are breaking the Terms of Use.

What does this mean?


If you read the Terms of Use for the RSS feeds, you will find a common piece of legal language, “for non-commercial use only”. Part of the stipulation for use of the RSS feed is you must be able to link back to the full article on the author’s website. This is not an option with most digital signage content. If you are violating the terms, the broadcaster can at any time discontinue the feed.

While it is unknown how much this in enforced, there are ‘legal’ RSS feeds available at unsubstantial fees. Using such services will help you avoid plagiarism of content that was not intended for commercial use to begin with.

Why You Should Always Check Digital Signage Screens After Shipping

Cracked ScreenThe most visible part of digital signage is the screen that will be displaying your content. We have posted articles and videos about placement of the screens, what size to get, what type to buy, and how to protect them.

Another element that is important is checking your screens for any damage that may have happened during shipping. Most carriers are extremely careful when shipping screens. Yet, screens may face dangers in transit from the manufacturer to the signage company and then out to the install site.

In the warehouse, accidental run-ins with fork lifts and careless handling can render a screen damaged beyond use. Often, there are other deliveries made before the screens make it to their destination, presenting opportunities where the screens could be damaged by other cargo.Smashed Screen Box

While these instances are rare, it still is best practice to inspect each screen as soon as it arrives. Even if there seems to only be slight damage to the shipping box, take the screen out and power it up to make sure it is functioning properly. If there is an issue, it is best to know quickly so arrangements can be made to rectify the situation.

3 Things To Consider When Shopping For Digital Signage Kiosks

touch-screenMost of population is acclimated to touch screen technology on a personal level. We have smart phones and tablets. And now it is becoming more common for usage in Digital Signage kiosks. Despite its prevalence, there are some factors to keep in mind when planning to implement touch screens.

1. Will your audience have time to interact? While placed in a convenient area and providing relevant information, kiosks require the user to stop and interact. If your audience is typically moving or in a rush to get from Point A to Point B, touch screen wayfinding kiosks can provide directions to the individual, but it may be more difficult to direct a group. Only one person at a time can use a kiosk, so the content needs to be designed in such a way for the user to get the information quickly so they can get on their way, freeing up the kiosk for the next person.

2. How much information will they really need to access? We find that many start off with ‘pie-in-the-sky’ ideas of what should be included in the touch screen content; giving the audience the ability to drill down through many levels of information about a product or location. Doing this could appear to be a way to get extra value from the kiosk. This can be great for use in a museum or art gallery, where the audience is expecting to ‘stop and smell the roses’ from a content perspective. In other cases, such as wayfinding, their objective is to move the user quickly, so emphasis should be given to quick, efficient information so they can go about their business.

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3. Maintenance of content costs. Let’s face it, touch screens are very easy to operate from the user side, but there is a lot of work that goes into making the interface work and to have a smooth flow. Basically it is the equivalent to designing a website, with the select-able areas linking to the proper pages. Any design changes, including adding new pages requires more coding and implementation than regular digital signage, meaning there will be more cost involved.

While in some applications a digital signage kiosk is required, in others, it may be more cost effective to use a non-touch solution.  For example, the cost of one touch screen kiosk, about 3-4 non-touch screen solutions can be implemented.



Comparison of Commercial and Consumer Screens – Noventri Classroom Video

We are often asked about the difference between consumer and commercial screens. Does this matter when considering digital signage?

The following Noventri Classroom Video examines this question.

Click here to view on mobile devices.

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If you are looking into Digital Signage, whether it be for menu boards for a QSR, or Reader Boards for a Hotel or even for Data Metric Displays in Manufacturing, there is one question that is probably going to pop up into your mind. Why is there such a variety of Commercial screens, when I can just go to the department store and take a TV off the shelf there and use that for my digital signage?

That’s certainly a valid question, and one we hear quite often. Let’s look at 4 different things that you should consider when it comes to choosing what type of screen to use for your digital signage.

1. Price – The most obvious point of comparison with commercial and consumer screens is the price tag.  Consumer screens start off a little easier on the wallet, whereas commercial screens have a little heftier price tag. Well why is this? It all starts with the internal circuitry. Commercial screens have been designed with heavy-duty components inside. This is because they are going to be in an extended use application. This means the screens could be running from 10, 16, maybe even 24 hours a day, seven days a week because of commercial use.

Consumer screens are designed for a less intensive run time. Used in the same way, you could heat-soak a consumer screens’ internal components and thereby shortening its life expectancy.  As you can see, consumer screens offer little in the way of heat protection. The commercial screen has heavy-duty heat sinks as well as fans built in for cooler operating temperatures.  It is not uncommon for a consumer screen to need to be replaced every year or 2 when it’s in a commercial environment. Whereas a commercial grade screen can run 4, 5, even 6 years with no issues.

2. Warranty –  Most department stores offer you the ability to get extended warranties on your electronic products. This is something you certainly want to look into if you are going to be using consumer screens for your digital signage. You want to make sure that you look at the warranty that they have listed. Many manufacturers of consumer screens have language written in there that if you are going to use those screens for commercial use, they will severely limit or could even void the warranty.

Commercial screens usually come with a 2 or 3 year warranty right out of the box and it is easy to get those extended to up to even 5 years. Because these screens are made to be serviceable, you can even get on-site warranties where if on the rare occasion something happens to your screen, a technician would be out within 24 hours to fix your screen or replace it. And you can have your signage back up and running in no time.

3. Features – Consumer screens do offer some features. You can even get access to your NetFlix account or be able to stream YouTube videos from your TV. But with commercial screens, that is where you get the real enterprise level features. For example RS232 commands.  Through these your digital signage actually can control when your TV comes on and off. And it can control the brightness, contrasting and other menu settings.

There are special fans and venting built into Commercial grade screens that enables you to mount them in a vertical or portrait position, gives you a little more options for how you would like to design your digital signage. And you don’t have to worry about them burning up or becoming heat soaked when they are handled that way. They also display brighter. This is because they are designed to be in a well-lit environment, where Consumer screens are okay with the lighting you might find in your living room or family room.

4. Availability – Consumer screens are readily available. If you need to add or replace a screen you can easily go to the department store and get another one off the shelf. You want to be careful though because it can be difficult to find an exact match for what you already have installed in your facility. This is because their production life is shorter and even within a few months, to go to that store and find an exact match for what you already have could be very difficult.

Commercial screens have a longer production life. This means obviously that it would be easier to find an exact replacement for the particular models that you are already using. That way your digital signage system will all look like a cohesive unit.

Also because of that production cycle, digital signage companies are able to test their players and software against those screens to make sure there is no compatibility issues. This can be very important because with consumer screens, there is no guarantee that what you get out of the box is going to work with your preexisting signage system.

The last link between your audience and your message is your screen. You can have the greatest content in the world but it does no good if the audience cannot see it because your screens are down. Commercial screens have been designed to handle the rigorous use that they will be put through with digital signage. So you want to take careful consideration to make sure you are choosing the best screen for your application as it will be displaying your content successfully for years to come.

Using digital signage with commercial grade screens can go a long way to improving communications within manufacturing facilities. To see 10 advantages for using digital signage for communications in manufacturing, please download our eBook.

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3 Ways To Stop Poor Air Quality From Ruining Digital Signage In A Manufacturing Environment

In manufacturing environments, air quality is notAir Quality In Manufacturing always cool and clean. When installing digital signage on the manufacturing floor, you must consider the air quality. For example, there may be a lot of heat, residue, including grease, metal particles or wood shavings. Even food manufacturers can have flour and other small particles that become airborne.

These types of environments aren’t always conducive to digital signage technology.

We are going to discuss 3 things that can be done to ensure that your digital signage network will last for years to come.

1. Extenders – To guarantee that your digital signage is going to last a long time, one option is to mount your players in a server room or office that is clean and air conditioned. The job of the extender is to amplify your video signal for very long runs. Extenders consist of a transmitter box that connects to the receiver box at the LCD display with a CAT5e cable. When considering this option, you must take into account two things, a.) the additional cost of the extender hardware and b.) the loss in quality on the LCD side. While the extenders for HDMI formats do much better than the older analog formats, nothing compares to a short video cable with no conversions or compression distorting your video signal.

2. PC Enclosures – By mounting the player close to or directly behind the LCD display, shorter cable runs can be achieved, meaning better video quality. This option doesn’t come without it’s challenges. Since most digital signage players are PCs or are mini-PCs, they won’t last long in a poor air quality environment. This is such a problem, that companies such as ITS Enclosures make special enclosures for PCs to stay clean and cool when on the factory floor. The cost of this solution must be added to the overall budget of the digital signage solution

3. Solid State Player – This option is ideal but is hard to find for the manufacturing factory floor application. Solid-State means that there are no moving parts in the player so air quality becomes a non-issue, for the most part. Even though a digital signage player is solid-state, in most cases, heat could still be an issue. When searching, you would want a solid-state player that draws the least amount of electricity thereby running cooler.

In addition to the three recommendations, it is advisable that commercial grade LCD screens be used.

Click here for more information on the SF-200 solid-state digital signage player. With solutions like the SF-200, not only will you have an environmentally agnostic digital signage player, but you will have software, the Noventri Suite, that can pull from the databases needed for the manufacturing application. You will not need to pay the additional cost for video extenders or enclosures and it will last for years.

PSI Improves Corporate Communications with Noventri Manufacturing Digital Signage Technology

Noventri has announced that PSI Packaging Services, Inc., a corrugated box manufacturer, has chosen to use Noventri corporate communications technology and digital signage at their facilities.

August 21, 2014 – Smithsburg, MD – With corporate communications at the forefront in bringing excellence to productivity and manufacturing, Packaging Services, Inc. (PSI), a dominant force in the corrugated boxPSI_LobbyPhoto marketplace for the Mid-Atlantic, chose Noventri to roll-out their manufacturing technology digital signage solution to their Williamsport, MD and McAdoo, PA locations.

PSI wanted to redesign the way they communicated with clients and vendors so they chose Noventri manufacturing digital signage technology. Previously PSI was using an outdated letter board stand which limited what could be displayed and resulted in a less than professional look. Replaced by Noventri digital signage displays, PSI lobbies now provide up-to-the-minute information while utilizing the displays as a marketing tool by working in product and services highlights that showcase how diverse PSI is as a company.

“This has proven to be a great conversation starter with new clients who don’t realize just how expansive our client services are,” says Jessica Knipe, Lead Graphic Designer at PSI. “Noventri digital signage displays have been a great way to interact and inform clients as well as our staff. Looking to the future, we are planning an additional digital signage network expansion that will integrate into our manufacturing floor, where quality control, production and safety managers will be able to post daily and weekly statistics related to production workflow.”

Additionally, Knipe says, “From a technical standpoint, the installation of the Noventri Eco-Series SF-200 was incredibly easy to install and network right into our own servers. Any ‘hiccups’ that we have encountered have always been addressed by Noventri tech support immediately, which has been above-par compared to the response time of many other vendors.”

PSI services include corrugated packaging, foam packaging, packaging supplies, as well as glass cutting and packaging. With corporate headquarters located in Williamsport, MD, and additional manufacturing facilities in McAdoo and Connellsville, PA, Packaging Services Industries has provided professional, quality and affordable packaging solutions to individuals and companies all over the Mid-Atlantic area for over 35 years.

Manufacturing facilities, like PSI, use Noventri Corporate Communications Displays and find that they allow Shift Supervisors, Plant or Production Managers access to an efficient means of communicating pertinent plant and facility information easily. Noventri Displays can be linked to existing spreadsheets or ODBC compliant databases, like Excel, Oracle, SQL, and MySQL.  The data can be displayed automatically and dynamically on screens in front of personnel on the manufacturing floor, production line, break rooms and lobbies.

The Noventri Displays increase productivity and play a significant role in healthy competition and situational awareness that creates improved efficiency and employee morale while supporting a LEAN strategy for manufacturing initiatives. By using 98% less electricity than PC-based solutions, Noventri digital displays eliminate the worry of high operation costs for automating data on the production line and other locations throughout the plant.

Noventri, a US digital signage solutions company, excels at automation; utilizing data based content, and establishing a stellar work-flow for a wide range of manufacturers. To learn more about how Noventri solutions can benefit manufacturing applications, download the free eBook “10 Advantages Of Using Digital Signage For Communications In Manufacturing”.

Noventri – a division of Specialized Communications Corporation (est. 1978) – Noventri succeeds by simplifying the digital signage experience through solid automation and data based content solutions and serves such names as Procter & Gamble, Lockheed Martin, Schlumberger and numerous other facilities in a wide range of industries worldwide. Noventri headquarters is located at 20940 Twin Springs Dr., Smithsburg, Maryland 21783-1510. URL:

PSI Packaging Services, Inc., – a leading provider of provided professional, quality and affordable packaging solutions to individuals and companies in  the Mid-Atlantic region.  URL:

6 Reasons Why Free Digital Signage Software Is Not Always Free

Free-Digital-SignageThere are many types of digital signage solutions available. Some are affordable, others are relatively expensive, and some are free. But is free digital signage really free?

We are going to discuss 6 points that explain why there may be more to the claim of FREE digital signage software.

1. PC players must be purchased. That’s right, each LCD screen must have a PC player running the content. Granted, if you choose a multi-head PC player, that cuts the PC purchases in half. However, there is still a substantial cost to get up and running. This is a short-term and a long-term problem. Why? For the short-term, the PC’s must be purchased. In the long-term, the PC’s must be maintained.

2. Supporting software is required and it isn’t always free. For example, some digital signage software allows a PowerPoint file to be played. This feature requires a Microsoft PowerPoint license to be purchased. Another example, anti-virus software is required to ensure the reliability of the digital signage solution. Most anti-virus software solutions have a subscription fee or a license fee. Just one more cost that must be considered.

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3. Every PC must have an operating system. Depending on the type of PC, you may need to purchase a copy of Microsoft Windows. Not cheap.

4. The time that it takes to get all of these systems working, that weren’t necessarily designed to work with one another, can be excessive. It’s common to hear from clients that it took so long to get the DIY digital signage network that included the “free” software to work, that they would have paid less by purchasing the “paid” solution.

5. In most cases, the “basic” version of the software is free, but once server hosting is required, or other enterprise-level features are needed, they become a “paid” solution very quickly. The truth of the matter is that all digital signage companies need to make money. In most digital signage applications, enterprise-level features are required, and that is where they get you! If you are looking at a free solution, it’s best to ask how they make their money and you will see how those costs will effect you.

6. Tech support is hard-to-get in a “free” solution. When it does exist, it is generally very expensive.

Free digital signage software is not the same as a free digital signage solution. Make sure you look for a solution that is affordable, comes with all of the enterprise-level features out-of-the-box, and most importantly, designed to work with the hardware and software systems without requiring hours and hours of build time.

To learn more about how Noventri digital signage can fit your needs, click HERE.


4 Reasons To Display Manufacturing KPIs With Digital Signage

Getting the proper data to the right people in a timely manner presents a challenge on the factory floor. Consider these four reasons to use digital signage for displaying Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in a manufacturing environment.

Number 1 AceMetrics01   Some manufacturing facilities rely on a once a day reports on yesterday’s results at the morning meeting. However, we are a society trained to expect instant access to important information. (How many times over the course of an hour do you look at your smartphone?) Real time presentation of KPIs on digital signage provides immediate data transferal to the workforce.

Number 2 With automatic data display and scheduling features, producing fresh, useful content becomes a hands-free experience. Pulling data from an excel sheet or SQL database can be automatic and worry free. Schedule content to start and stop on a time table that suits your factory’s needs.CTA-blog-banner-manufactuing ebook

Number 3 Experimentation and tweaking. Maybe you have a bunch of data but are not quite sure what to show. With digital KPI displays, you can easily change the data, formatting and graphs that are shown. If you find out you are displaying metrics or KPIs that are not helping your staff? Digital signage used for data metrics displays make it easy to change the info to something more beneficial.

Number 4  Your competitors know that displaying data metrics to employees improves moral, efficiency, and internal communications.

The better the communication with in an organization translates into better efficiency for the company. For more on how digital signage can benefit your facility, download our eBook entitled “10 Advantages Of Using Digital Signage For Communications In Manufacturing.”

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