E-signs provide solution to communication problem
From her desk in VMS, Karen Seifrid controls Wilson Hall's electronic signs.
On most days, Wilson Hall looks more like a beehive than an office building. Lab personnel, users and visitors come and go, directed by the electronic signs located at Wilson Hall's main entrances.
While these signs keep up-to-the-minute information on the many workshops, meetings and activities at Wilson Hall, Visual Media Services Manager Fred Ullrich said that this wasn't always the case. The signs are a fairly recent solution to the building's communication challenge. "There has always been a sign problem [in Wilson Hall] in terms of knowing where certain things are going on," Ullrich said.
Inspired by an electronic PowerPoint display system in the Feynman Computing Center, Ullrich gained approval in April '06 to test a similar set-up in Wilson Hall. The original was quickly deemed a success and two others were installed at the other entrances. Initially, Ullrich predicted that the project would cost around $20,000, but thanks to a collaboration between the Computing Division, who provided spare screens and desktop computers; Desktop Support, who programmed the auto features to the system; and VMS who handled installation, template design and operation; Fermilab's only cost was labor.
The electronic signs are a model of efficiency. From her desk in VMS, Karen Seifrid can edit a universal template that automatically uploads to the signs at midnight. She usually inputs info from NALCAL and other schedules once a day, but sudden changes require nothing more than a few keystrokes. Other benefits include a reduction in paper waste and unnecessary labor.
From her office, Seifrid observes that "many more people stop to read the e-signs than they did for the paper signs." In the future, Ullrich plans to install "larger, more easily identifiable monitors," but for now, he is proud to say, "The system works."
-- J. Bryan Lowder