Blue Rhine Industries (Blue Rhine), a static and digital sign manufacturer, started out in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the late 1990s, meaning it was well-positioned to develop retail signs for the rapidly growing rise of Dubai. Having experienced tremendous success, Blue Rhine then began manufacturing in-house and expanded into other markets.
“Although we started off as a retail sign manufacturer, our reputation spiraled and we organically grew a larger portfolio of clients,” begins John V. Joseph, Blue Rhine’s Director. “By 2010, we had our own manufacturing facility, and at that time, we were the only company capable of producing 30-millimeter, fully encapsulated block letters with no screws or joints, and fully embedded LEDs.
“That gave us a key competitive advantage and we quickly became one of the UAE’s biggest exclusive sign suppliers. Our portfolio grew alongside our expertise and confidence. We diversified into other markets like department stores, supermarkets, and hospitality, which require additional products like directions and category signs.
“Around the same time, we expanded our presence in digital signage in response to the market shift from static light box signs to digital screens, especially in the food and beverage industry. We made the strategic decision to invest in resources and onboard some very talented individuals with extensive experience to kickstart our digital division and drive the business forward. Today, we operate an equal balance of expertise in both static and digital signage and are one of few companies that have successfully merged and simultaneously deliver both techniques.”
Fast-forwarding to today’s operations, John continues: “We currently operate four segregated business units; retail, gas stations, hospitality, and leisure and entertainment. We have three manufacturing facilities across the UAE, with one specifically for heavy metal work for our gas station customers, as well as our original facility to produce all our smaller signs.
“Our third site is dedicated to express production, which is an interesting, smaller division with a team of highly skilled technicians that can produce signs on a rapid seven-day turnaround. The team can maintain our quality standards while working at such a high speed, which is particularly important for us to provide freedom and flexibility to some of our regular, longstanding clients.
Turning to recent projects, John reflects: “We recently worked on a desert conservation reserve here in the UAE, which was a personal project of the Crown Prince. We were involved with making signs, not out of conventional aluminum, but out of a specialist type of wood that was treated against termites and could withstand heat. It was an interesting project because the landscape and materials challenged us to think ‘outside the box.’
“Just this week, the new Terminal A opened at Abu Dhabi International Airport: a project we’ve been working on for the last five years. We collaborated with designers on the product, as it required unique forms in terms of shape and visual aesthetic, so it’s rewarding to see the signs in place in a now operational terminal.”
While Blue Rhine’s portfolio growth has been driven by internal forces, its geographic expansion has been very much driven by consumer demand. “We launched the business in 2006 when Dubai was on the rise,” John recalls. “As one of the first established retail sign manufacturers in the UAE, our business grew alongside the shopping malls and entertainment spaces of the region.
“We’re aiming to do the same in Saudi Arabia in line with the country’s goals and ambitions for its 2030 vision,” John reveals. “It’s a very promising market for us, so we were already operating a well-oiled machine in Saudi Arabia, which enabled us to rapidly mobilize when the market and demand picked up.
“Specifically, we’ve been chosen to deliver the complete wayfinding signage, comprising 18,000 signs, across two projects: the Red Sea Project (a desert city aimed at increasing tourism) and the King Abdullah Financial district (KAFD) in Riyadh. We’ve completed around 60 percent of the product requirements in what is the single largest project we’ve ever worked on. The signage is the first-of-its-kind – AI-powered, hyper personalized wayfinding – combining our 15 years of experience in static and digital signage in a natural progression of digital transformation.
“We also expanded into Egypt last year, again to follow the demands of our clients. We’ve seen an interest from customers around North Africa ever since, so we envision a growing presence in Africa over the next three years, whether in the north or east of the continent.”
As our conversation draws to a close, talk turns to investments, and, of course, the future. “We’re investing in various sustainability initiatives, as we strive to become a more environmentally responsible manufacturer,” John details. “We’ve adopted recycled packaging, invested in a machine that allows us to recycle excess paint and thinner that would have previously gone to waste, and in 2024, we’re converting our installation fleet from petrol to biodiesel.
“However, our biggest investment in recent years has been the complete digitization of our manufacturing process through the implementation of Salesforce and NetSuite. It’s enabled us to access real-time data and gain full visibility over the entire process, from inquiry all the way through to design, production, and installation.
“The next stage of investment will see us create a customer portal, where clients will also have access to real-time data and be able to track their projects,” John concludes. “Overall, our goal for the future is to be a fully-fledged digital signage provider, working on everything from content creation to software development and system integration.”