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Engineering a reunion sets wheels in motion for old mates

Monday, 16 September 2013
By Print 21 Online Article

As most offset press supply companies downsize their service teams to cope with the new reality, many engineers continue to operate in the industry on a freelance basis. John Turner got a few of his old engineering colleagues from Print & Pack together in Sydney and Melbourne to reminisce about the ‘good old days’.

Reunions are a great way to reconnect with old mates and colleagues. It usually starts off small and as interest builds, the confirmations come rolling in. So it was, when I started the ring around during an installation in Sydney earlier this year. Having moved to Melbourne in 1990 there were many of the old team that I hadn’t spoken to for some time so it was heart-warming to get such a positive response. When it came to the night 14 former colleagues came along to renew old acquaintance.

The German Club in Cabramatta was the fitting venue for a reunion of a German manufactured machine and the fine food and European beer complemented the evening. The hardest thing was to be able to get to everyone in such a short time.

Printing engineers never die… they turn up at Melbourne reunions

I worked at the agency for MAN Roland printing machines for nearly 20 years before setting out as an independent contractor seven years ago installing and repairing offset machines. Many of my mates had been there during the evolution of the company, from the transition of A&S Graphics to Craven Print and Pack, Print and Pack Services, Intergrafica, Ferrostaal and currently manroland Australasia. So there was a lot of history to share.

One who turned up was our mentor and director, Eric Aldinger. He and Bob Stewart formed A&S Graphics and were incorporated with Cravens to provide the installation and service needs of the company. Eric was a firm but fair director of service. It is an enduring credit to him that through his guidance and perseverance nearly all of his protégés are still at the coalface of offset machine service, both mechanical and electrical.

Another engineer who had made the reunion in Sydney was Johnny Hopkinson. He is 87 years of age and of course we all used to say he had worked on Guttenberg’s first machine. Bruce Hughes would remember the customers wearing the carpet from the front door to his sales desk in the halcyon days where MAN Roland machines and many other brands for that matter, would sell themselves.

One of the talking points at the table was the extravaganza that PacPrint used to be, where each manufacturer put on enormous product displays with three or four different models of offset machines on each stand.  As we shuffled out, we sadly knew it would possibly be the last time we would see some of our old colleagues. But a good time was had by all.

Marvellous Melbourne does it better

Buoyed by the enthusiasm of the Sydney reunion, we felt we could do even better in Melbourne, so we started making a list. Apart from a few that had not kept contact with anyone, most of our old colleagues were fortunately still alive and keen to catch up. Several were away overseas or had commitments but sent their apologies. When the numbers were tallied up there were 20 of us around the table.

The German Club Tivoli in Windsor was again a fitting venue and the management and staff very accommodating for our group. The other thing the Germans do, as well as making great printing machines, is a fine pork knuckle and great traditional beer. It was against this backdrop that the happy memories of our careers in the different forms of the company were remembered, the classic characters and challenges we had to overcome to get the projects done

Again, only a couple of attendees had been drawn away from the printing industry, but the overwhelming majority were still in sales, service and management connected to printing.  The overall feeling was as the offset industry was shrinking, diversification was the key to ongoing success, and that networking and professionalism would always bring back a satisfied customer.

With few apprentices and trainees coming up behind us, it’s important to recognise the offset  industry will rely on the independent contractors that have all the relevant skills and training to fill the void in the service market. New innovations and procedures mean that we also  have to be more dynamic in some of our approaches. With the positive attitude from our room full of like-minded colleagues, it can only be a good future.

John Turner is an independent service and installation contractor at Zed Grafix


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