Posts Tagged ‘Alison’

  • Rollers set for shake-up – Print21 magazine feature

    The offset roller business is not one that regularly makes the headlines but with the entry of US giant, RotaDyne, into the local market, this key component sector looks set for a shake-up. Alison Stieven-Taylor examines the changing dynamics of the local supply scene.

    In what is likely to be a positive move for manufacturing in Australia, US roller company Rotation Dynamics Corp (RotaDyne) announced late last year its decision to acquire two local roller businesses, Ace Rollers/Rollmakers, giving it an Australian base for the Asia Pacific region.

    According to industry sources, RotaDyne had been looking for some time for an opportunity to set up a manufacturing facility in the Australian market where its rollers are distributed by Heidelberg under that company’s Saphira consumables brand. According to US-based president and CEO, Tom Gilson, RotaDyne sees Australia as a viable manufacturing base in which “to grow our business… and to further expand into other industries in the Asia Pacific region.” This is good news for local print service providers.

    But in a contracting market like print, another player, especially one with close ties to major press manufacturers, is bound to shake things up amongst the suppliers.

    The roller market in Australia has been serviced for many years by only a handful of companies. Brissett Rollers, founded by Terry Brissett, is the longest standing printing press roller manufacturer and supplier in Australia. Alongside Brissetts, German giant Böttcher is also a major supplier locally and is recognised as the largest manufacturer of rollers on a global scale. And now there’s RotaDyne, a heavy hitter with a presence in more than 50 countries and a vast range of roller products for all sorts of applications.

    “We have a long tradition of investing in R&D,” Mitch Mulligan, Böttcher Australia.

    Local legend

    The elder statesman of the roller industry in Australia, Terry Brissett, has been supplying the local market since 1960. The company’s success is largely attributable to his technical capacity to develop solutions for various roller applications, as well as a personal approach to service. The company has a manufacturing site in Sydney and national representation.

    Brissett Rollers has experienced the highs and lows of the printing industry, in its halcyon days employing more than 100 staff and manufacturing for the region. Today, its staff of 40 services a reduced client base, reflecting the changes in the print sector. For many years, Brissett Rollers had the market sewn up but the entry of other players has eroded market share, says Terry Brissett matter-of-factly, as has the continued attrition of print businesses.

    “We are still very strong in newspapers and the web area and we do that very well, but I expect these segments will continue to decline also,” although he asserts that the downturn will bottom out and “newspapers won’t go away completely”.

    Given Brissett Rollers’ longevity, I am curious to know if RotaDyne made an approach before acquiring Ace. Brissett confirms there was interest. “But there are always three or four people interested in our company. Interested is one thing and going ahead is another, especially in the print market, where nothing is concrete.”

    Anticipating further contraction in the print roller sector, Brissett Rollers, like its counterparts, is expanding its range to encompass other industrial markets.

    Made in Melbourne

    Since December 2012, RotaDyne Australia has been operating from its new Australian manufacturing site in Cheltenham, around 20km south-east of Melbourne’s CBD, in what was the Rollmakers plant. The company has already invested in updating the Cheltenham site with further improvements and additional process machinery including state-of-the-art quality testing equipment to be installed later this year.

    RotaDyne currently operates manufacturing facilities in Europe, Asia and across the US. As a major manufacturer, it is one of the few international companies that can control all phases of manufacturing, producing a diverse range of roller and rubber-compound products. The company’s new Australian managing director, Angus Scott, former owner of Ace Rollers, says: “The decision to manufacture in Australia was made to give a no delay service to the local print market. This includes common type press rollers as well as rollers for other industries such as wood, metal, glass, board, film, food and so on.”

    This diversity reflects Ace’s supply channel which includes light industrial markets as well as the printing industry.

    Scott continues: “The confidence by RotaDyne Corporate to invest in manufacturing in Australia exhibits strength in commitment, knowing that customers benefit in service levels and flexibility by using locally manufactured products. We at RotaDyne work closely with our customers, bringing the skills of our people, with the latest technology, to work as a team so as to offer solutions which meet exacting specifications. We have the ability to adapt to the ever-changing market and intend to take a larger share.”

    RotaDyne is a member of the Global Roller Technologies Group which consists of more than 50 manufacturing facilities located in the US, UK, Germany, Canada, Mexico, South America and Asia. It also has ten R&D facilities around the globe. Tom Gilson says the acquisition of Ace supports the company’s global philosophy to manufacture locally.

    “Our investment in Ace is another example of our commitment to the print media industry and also to Heidelberg our worldwide distributor.”

    The Australian facility will be accredited by Heidelberg whose fastidious approach to quality bodes well for those using the RotaDyne product. As Glenn Plummer explains, ”Heidelberg has a relationship with RotaDyne that spans the globe and we have been selling RotaDyne made rollers under our Saphira brand in Australia and New Zealand for some time. Local production means faster response to our customers and the ability to supply large orders and specials on short notice. Having Heidelberg accredited manufacturing in Melbourne gives total peace of mind to our customers.”

    Focus on R&D

    While the current focus is on new entrant RotaDyne with the market watching what impact the US player will have, German consumables giant, Böttcher, is also seeking to grow its market share through innovation and ongoing R&D.

    A family-owned business founded in 1725, Böttcher has a global footprint and a history of partnering with many of the world’s press manufacturers to develop roller technology. The company devotes around 6 per cent of its total sales to research and development.

    “We have a long tradition of investing in R&D,” says managing director, Mitchell Mulligan, Böttcher Australia. He reveals the company employs approximately 180 R&D/Quality Control personnel who are involved with all aspects of product development and polymer engineering.

    “We test in excess of 3,000 new compound formulas annually in a bid to solve complex issues faced by the rapid changes in press speeds, chemistry and dynamics. Our commitment to R&D adds value to our customers and provides stable and dependable processes.”

    He continues: “As a company we are still in a growth phase due to the development of innovations we offer the market and the breadth of our product portfolio, which is constantly being expanded to service many market segments both within and outside the printing industry. As it stands today, we can see no limits to the opportunities we have in front of our group of companies and will continue to work hard to deliver value to our customers by listening to what they need and developing the right solutions.”

    Böttcher services a pool of 80,000 customers globally and works collaboratively with its customers and partners, says Mulligan.

    “Our mantra is to deliver lower operating costs through the appropriate use of technology and the reduction in consumption of raw materials. Our products are engineered for longer life, superior performance, longer service intervals and dependable productivity.

    “Such attributes strengthen our position as a valued long term partner,” he concludes.

    In Australia, the customer pool is getting smaller and while servicing the local market with locally manufactured products makes perfect sense from a number of perspectives – greater quality assurance and accountability, local service and support, quick response times and ease of delivery – is the entry of another major supplier into the segment overkill?

    As to the question of competition Terry Brissett says, “RotaDyne, Böttcher and ourselves are the biggest players. Someone will have to amalgamate as it is not efficient, it doesn’t make sense from a profit or a commonsense point of view.”

    Watch this space.

  • The Quiet Achiever – Print21 Magazine feature

    Some companies are incredibly successful at building a strong business whilst flying under the radar. Melbourne’s Direct Paper Supplies in Dingley, 40 minutes south of the CBD, is a case in point. Over the past decade, this family-run business has quietly gone about establishing itself as a significant player in the paper merchant business. Alison Stieven-Taylor went along to find out more.

    Everyone loves a good news story and Direct Paper Supplies, owned and operated by the O’Neill family, certainly fits into that category. The company started life as a small provider of stationery products in 1996 with the company founder Charlie O’Neill and one worker producing writing pads for stationers and newsagents. When the limitations for growth in this market soon became apparent, the company changed its focus to become a converting provider to the paper and packaging industry. With the company experiencing rapid growth, Charlie’s two sons, Dale and Todd, soon came into the fold.

    Keeping it in the family (L-R) Todd, Charlie and Dale O’Neill of Direct Paper Supplies.

    “Growth really came through the demand from our customers to provide more than just converting services,” explains Todd. “As they requested more products, we expanded our range, which involved sourcing different lines of paper and moving beyond trade work to become a merchant.”

    Today the company competes with the multi-national paper merchants, carrying around 6,000 tonnes of paper and board products that are housed in its custom-built 13,000sqm high-tech warehouse.

    Direct Paper Supplies has come up in an industry that is highly competitive, and, in the process, has faced enormous hurdles and market pressures that would have beaten lesser men. Todd says, “In the early years it was difficult to access good quality paper because, at that time, all the major merchants had those avenues covered. It was a struggle trying to get good product because everything was closed to us. Supply today is plentiful and, pleasingly, we partner some of the world’s largest and best manufacturers.”

    A tour of the temperature-controlled stores that house the company’s range of papers and boards demonstrates the reach of the company in terms of sourcing product. There are labels from Austria, Germany, Sweden, Finland, the USA, China… and the list goes on.

    Strong service ethic

    The company’s reputation is built on its commitment to personal service. Go on, roll your eyes, everyone says the same thing, but the fact is this family business actually does go above and beyond to make sure they meet their customers’ expectations. As a result they have a strong base of very loyal printers who rely on them.

    “The fact that we are a family business is a real point of difference because our customers deal directly with the owners,” says Dale, who is in charge of the sales force. “I’m on the road all the time, however the other directors are always accessible, so we can make decisions on the spot.”

    Todd adds, “We run an open office and all the directors sit together with our staff so if there’s an order to be processed it happens straight away and everyone is aware of what’s going on. We have a flatter structure than the big corporations, so we can respond faster. The other thing our customers like is that we are an independent Australian-owned family company so we meet our customers on common ground with common understanding.”

    Direct Paper Supplies is focused on working with other family-owned businesses, an approach which Todd says is very deliberate.

    “We are playing to our strengths. The super printers are not on our radar. They have a different philosophy to us and we’ve always made our alliance with the smaller and middle tiers in the industry.”

    Fast turnarounds

    At this point in the interview Charlie O’Neill enters the boardroom. I’ve just asked about credit issues and if they’ve had to tighten their credit practices as other paper merchants have.

    “No, we’ve always been pretty tight with our terms, and we’ve never offered the extended terms that others have,” he says. “It doesn’t help the customer to offer extended terms as it gives them a false sense of where they are financially.”

    Todd says the company’s approach has always been “big is not necessarily the best”. He says their success is built on the fact that they are not a huge, unwieldy corporation that has to jump through its own hoops before helping out its customers.

    “We’ve got the flexibility to react quickly, to help our customers out of a bind, so if they pick up a job and need to turn it around quickly, we’ve got the stock on hand and can get it to them. Last weekend Dale was out in the truck delivering paper because one of our customers had an urgent job. We can do that because of the size of the company and our structure.”

    He continues: “If a customer has a job that is a little bit different, they can ring up in the afternoon and we can have the converted stock to them by 7am the next morning. That’s how we’ve structured the business, so we can cover any request from our customers. That’s our ethos – no problem.”

    Direct Paper Supplies offers a 24-hour, five days a week service. Its Dingley site sports the latest converting, sheeting and rewinding equipment which can process product from 30gsm up to 1,000gsm, and can provide any size from as small as A4 to the largest of wide format sizes, an expansive range that delivers maximum flexibility. New equipment has been installed in the past two years with the investment sitting at around $5 million.

    “We have the best and latest equipment in the country. In producing just-in-time work we are second to none,” says Dale proudly.

    The plant is minutes from the new Peninsula Freeway that connects Melbourne to the south and next to the site pegged for the Freeway’s expansion, giving the company direct access to the city’s main transport links. It predominantly supplies customers in Victoria but also ships product to Sydney and Brisbane.

    “It’s like five warehouses in one,” says Todd of the company’s five acre Dingley facility, “and there’s room to grow.”

    Even though the company has been in this location for only three years, its stores are stacked to the rafters with jumbo reels and pallets of cut sheets, and expansion plans are already on the table. There are individual stores for uncoated, coated and packaging products and the plant is about as hi-tech as you can get, clean, efficient and automated. The intelligence behind the design, including interior driveways that are large enough for delivery trucks to drive through from one side of the building to the other, is more evidence that the O’Neill’s are seriously smart operators.

    Sydney in sights

    At present Direct Paper Supplies employs a staff of almost 40 people, including a sales team of nine, positioning the company as a medium-sized business. Todd says, “There’s a perception in the market held by some that we are a small player.” A walk through the plant at Dingley should stop that thought in its tracks.

    Growth for the company has been consistent. “I’d like to say our growth has been all my doing,” laughs Dale who has been on the road for ten years, “but it’s not. We’ve got a great team of sales reps who are out there visiting customers daily.” I ask how important face-to-face communication is in the digital age. “It is a relationship-based business, there’s no doubt about that,” says Dale.

    But this doesn’t mean they’ve rejected electronic communications; all the sales people are armed with iPads which enable them to show customers a range of products and to get live stock updates so when they are at a customer’s site they know immediately if a particular stock is in the store and can get the order underway on the spot.

    Dale says the company has its eyes on the Sydney market, and has plans for expansion, but they are waiting for the right time and for the turmoil in the industry to settle before they make the jump. “We are looking for a sustainable solution so we are not going to rush in.”

    “We don’t want unmanageable growth,” states Todd. “We are at a position now where we can supply 90 per cent of customers’ requirements from our stores. With those who know us, we are very well-received, and we are now knocking on more doors. But we’ve never been frantic about growth and we’ll never let our service levels be compromised.”

    Dale adds, “The Melbourne marketplace is tougher because there are more merchants here, so we’re lean and battle hardened. We think we could do some good things in the Sydney market, and it would be beneficial for everyone because we have a very strong service mentality, terrific capabilities with our converting plant, and our time to market is better than anyone.”

    Todd concurs, adding that printers in Sydney haven’t benefited from the competition of the merchants as printers in Melbourne have. “We see ourselves as a good fit in Sydney if we can replicate what we do here.”

    In conclusion, the O’Neills tell me, “We’re a good strong business. We’re profitable and well-positioned for growth. The trade is not all doom and gloom. We’re a family business like a lot of the printers who are our customers. We really love the printing industry and there are a lot of great people working in it. We’re confident of a bright future.”