By Colleen Wolf

Over the past decade the LED sign industry has grown by leaps and bounds. New companies offering LED signs emerge on the internet every day. Great news for the sign buyer! More LED sign companies = more competition = competitive pricing. 

BUT all LED signs are not created equal. It’s important for the buyer to understand the difference between manufacturing and assembling LED signs before making a purchase. The bargain price for an LED sign might not be the great deal it appears to be if the sign is an inferior product with a short lifespan. 

Many companies represent themselves as the manufacturer or “builder” of the LED signs they sell. But in truth, they are purchasing components through commodity markets and assembling them. They place the components in a sign cabinet, stick a label with their nameplate on the front of the sign and call themselves a manufacturer. That’s not manufacturing. 

An LED sign manufacturer starts with design and engineering. The design process considers important requirements for quality and performance. Every generation of a sign is an engineering improvement on the last. Every component is designed to provide optimal performance when combined with all the other elements of the LED sign. The manufacturer has complete control over every aspect of the process – ensuring adherence to quality control standards and guaranteeing excellence.

An assembler purchases components through a commodity marketplace. This is often a price-competitive bidding process which encourages suppliers to “beat” the lowest price in order to win the sale. While the assembler may have specific requirements for the size, build and performance of those components, they have no control over the production process itself.  They simply can’t guarantee the quality of those components nor their compatibility.

Over time, the assembler’s suppliers can make changes to their production process or pricing prompting the assembler to purchase components from another source.  This leads to problems with consistency and parts availability. The signs assembled today built with components from supplier X may be very different from the signs built three months from now with components purchased from supplier Y. 

If you’ve ever seen an LED sign with noticeably different color or brightness levels in their LED modules, you’re looking at a sign with LEDs sourced from different suppliers. The sign looks like a patchwork quilt because the components might be the same size and pixel resolution – but they were built by different suppliers. 

This change in suppliers can also cause a shortage of replacement parts which results in wildly erratic prices for those parts. 

How do you know if your LED sign company is really a manufacturer? 

  • Ask if they hold any patents. If they say yes, ask for the patent numbers. You can search for those patent numbers online to confirm the LED sign company is representing their products honestly.
  • Is the LED sign company the sole provider of replacement parts for their signs? A legitimate US manufacturer will provide replacement parts to any sign or service company. 
  • Ask your LED sign company to provide you with references for signs that have been in service for a minimum of five years. 
  • Read the fine print in the sign company’s contract terms and conditions. Do they list a number of reasons why they would NOT honor their warranty promise? 

A good-quality LED sign should last for 10 years or longer. Purchasing a sign designed, engineered and built by an experienced manufacturer will ensure your satisfaction.

* This blog is a reflection of my opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Signs Plus. You can email me at for any comments, questions or assistance.