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David Currie – Shogun of Japanese printing technology in Australia

Monday, 19 February 2007
By Print 21 Online Article

Doing business in Japan for almost 30 years, the proprietor of the Currie Group of companies knows how the market works better than anyone.

In the halls of Big Site Toyko, few visiting graphic arts merchants have the same connections and authority as David Currie (pictured). He is greeted as an old friend by the heads of companies on the Shinohara and Horizon stands. People stop him in the corridors to shake his hand. Everywhere he goes doors are opened, welcomes extended.

He and his company’s involvement with Japanese printing machinery goes back a long way. He made his first trip to IGAS in 1976, at a time when very few Japanese presses were in Australia and New Zealand, and the industry here was decidedly Euro-centric.

The mission then was with erstwhile business associate, Gerald Brandjes, the KBA agent for Australia, and partner with David and his father and another, in Integrated Printing Equipment Services (IPES). His goal was to investigate the opportunities afforded by a favourable exchange rate for bringing Japanese equipment in to Australia.

He tells the story of being stranded for two days during that first trip in Hong Kong waiting for a visa for Japan, totally unlike the free movement we enjoy today. When he eventually landed in Tokyo, from the multitude of manufacturers ready to deal he picked Shinohara for presses, and Itoh and Shoei for saddlestitchers, guillotines and other finishing equiment.

So began an involvement that has flourished to this day. Horizon finishing followed in the early 1980s, and along with Shinohara has provided the foundation of the Currie Group’s Japanese equipment range ever since.

It is no coincidence that Shinohara and Horizon are both family-owned businesses, with the principals now in second generation engagement with David Currie. As the owner of the largest privately-owned graphic arts merchant in Australia and New Zealand, he appreciates the personal touch and attributes much of the Group’s success to the desire of printers to deal with similar companies.

First customers remain as customers

The first Shinohara brought in under the IPES banner was a Fuji 58, sold to the Finkelstein family of Patterson Press. Nothing ever goes smoothly and the original machine was not in specification when it arrived. It had to be taken out and re-engineered with larger cylinders that were flown down from Japan, a relatively easy job for Currie & Company, which was the preeminent printing engineering firm in the business.

A member of the Finkelstein family, Robert, long sold out of Patterson Press, now owns Neon Press in Melbourne – and is still a Currie Group customer.

It took until the mid-1980s before Shinohara got around to manufacturing a multi-colour press and the first 66 4P was brought in for GT Graphics in 1986. Partners Mike Gleeson and Steve Thistlethwaite still operate GT Graphics in Melbourne and have flourished to the stage where they now operate one six-colour, two five-colour, and a two-colour press, all Shinoharas, and all from Currie Group.

These days David Currie (right) is to be found at IGAS in the company of Bernie Robinson (centre), general manager Currie Group, and Ian Wood (left), of AM International New Zealand with whom he has close ties. Together they make a formidable team, with the keen eye of experience to note what will and will not suit the local market.

This time around they are enthusiastic about the new Shinohara 66IVP low-pile press. They have already brought in the Horizon StitchLiner 5000 for this year’s PrintTec in Sydney.

These days it is not only Japanese equipment that makes up the Currie Group range (it never really was with a stint of delivering KBA presses following the takeover of Planeta). The Group has branched out into digital print with the HP Indigo agency, and is also enjoying great success with the ECRM Mako and the EskoGraphics DPX platesetters.

There is little wonder that at this IGAS David Currie has reason to be proud of how far the cooperation between his company and its Japanese suppliers has developed. The Australian and New Zealand industry is transformed for the better from the days when there were few Japanese presses in operation, and its transformation owes not a little to David Currie’s love affair with Japan.

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