Advance management pressing ahead

12/07/2013 - 11:43

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Advance management pressing ahead
Ian Smith (L), Paul Meloncelli, Steve Carrier and John Hartley at the Advance Press facility in Bassendean.

The printing business has made headlines recently for redundancies and corporate failures, but not everyone is pessimistic about the sector as new technology and competition from the internet change the industry’s structure.

Many in the sector are replacing traditional offset printing with digital alternatives which need fewer staff to run them and are more economical for smaller printing contracts.

The change in technology has dramatically affected some businesses like PMP Print’s WA division which was number two in Business News’s Book of Lists last year with 106 staff but dropped to eight this year after making 42 people redundant.

Others have been even more drastically affected. GEON, for instance, WA’s 10th biggest print company at the beginning of the year went into administration and parts of its business have been sold off, including the Perth-based Advance Press which is now owned by managers who ran the business.

Previous managing director Ian Smith, and managers Paul Meloncelli, Steve Carrier and John Hartley jointly bought the business at the asset sale organized by receivers McGrathNicol earlier this year.

They believe the business is sound and unlinked to the troubles of the bigger GEON group, which was owned by Gresham Private Equity.

“As a business unit we provided positive cash each month to the corporate body so our views were that it wasn’t a business that was struggling,” Mr Smith.

In February GEON’s debt holders KKRM placed the company into administration.

Advance Press, which was established in 1938 as the in-house print shop for Wesfarmers has had a long history of trading through volatile times, including two management changes.

Transport and logistics company CTI Logistics bought Advance Press in 1987, later selling it in 2007 to print group Gresham Private Equity who put it under its GEON brand.

After GEON went into administration, the four managers from Advance Press banded together to bid for the company in an asset sale.

At the time the business had 61 employees, a main facility in Bassandean with offset and digital printers, a smaller office at Curtin University and a number of ongoing long-term contracts.

“It was an incredible time because when it happened we were printing the election papers for the state election,” Mr Smith said.

“We were right in the middle of it.

“We were working 24 hours, 7 days a week.”

For Mr Smith, Mr Hartley and Mr Carrier, buying Advance Press meant they could secure jobs for themselves and the staff, many of whom had been with the company for more than 10 years.

For Mr Meloncelli, who had been with the business for 17 years before leaving five months prior to manage the bookshop and print department at Murdoch University, history proved too strong not to get involved again.

“We’re all at an age where we’ve still got 15 to 20 years left. We’ve got a lot to look forward to, but the industry’s changing so we need to be open to those changes. Look at them, adopt them if we think they’re going to be right and continually talk to our customers to see what they want,” he said.

The directors’ immediate plan is to assure its customers and staff of 54, down from 61 following six redundancies during the administration and one member leaving afterwards, that the business is stable.

“The biggest priority is consolidating our position and making sure we keep all our staff, all our customers. After that we’ll start to explore opportunities as we think we should,” he said.

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