Printing and the printing industry is a very different affair back in the middle of the 20th century when printing engineers Currie and Southward hang out their shingle in Melbourne in 1949.
Craft reigns supreme with printing companies tightly controlled by ‘chapels’ of union style networks. Letterpress and hot metal are the dominant print technologies with the offset revolution still awaiting its opportunity in the 1960s.
William ‘Bill’ Currie begins his career as a maintenance engineer at the Herald and Weekly Times. From the start he is in demand by commercial printers to service their presses out of hours. With work mate Tom Southward, he steps out to form an independent ‘printing machinery service and engineering company’. Soon after, the two part ways, leaving Bill as master of his own destiny, sole owner of the business even as the company name remains the same.
1969: Over the next couple of decades printing undergoes a massive revolution as it transforms from letterpress to offset. This is quite as major a shift as anything seen since in the move to the digital world.
Throughout the furore, the future Currie and Company maintains its reputation for service, reliability and technical expertise. By the time son David joins the business in 1969, it is a recognised and valued member of the Melbourne printing industry.
Then things really begin to change.
The addition of youthful enthusiasm and vigour gives the company new impetus to expand and diversify from its core mechanical services business. A transport division specialising in shifting presses and used equipment soon grows into a major revenue source. Transporting machinery ineluctably leads to trading in used equipment. From there it is a small but significant step to importing new presses from Europe and Japan.
1976: A new company, Integrated Printing Equipment Services (IPES), is formed in conjunction with Sydney-based merchants. David Currie makes his first visit to Japan. The new venture imports both European (Konig & Bauer) and Japanese presses (Shinohara) along with finishing equipment from manufacturers such as Horizon and Shoei.
Soon after the company dissolves, David Currie emerges to begin his pioneering lifelong engagement with the Japanese industry. His decision to concentrate on Japanese technology proves to be one of a number of very successful decisions over the years.
The company rebrands as Currie & Co, and its pioneering work in introducing Japanese printing equipment to the Australian market is paying off in terms of customer acceptance and supplier loyalty.
1988: Currie & Co moves to new purpose built premises in Hawthorn, just up the road from where it all began. Bill Currie steps back from day-to-day involvement, leaving David Currie in charge. The company survives recession as well as the exhilaration of boom times.
1996: Currie & Co, now under the sole management of David, is determined to acquire a consumables business. Machinery sales are a good business but produce a bumpy cash flow. An opportunity presents itself in the form of the local arm of AM International, the US-based multinational supplier. Australian management organises a buyout following a crash. Currie & Co becomes a substantial 25 per cent shareholder. Four years later, in 2000, it has grown to be the majority shareholder. It enters consumables supply with such products as Agfa printing plates and T&K Toka inks. Bernie Robinson joins the business. Formerly a key AM International manager and stakeholder; ultimately he goes on to become managing director and an influential shareholder of Currie Group.
2002: At PacPrint in 2002, David Currie takes up the opportunity to become the regional distributor of the Indigo, latterly HP Indigo, digital press. It is a transformative decision. From being a major offset press supplier, mainly through its agency with the Shinohara brand, Currie & Co sets out to become the leading digital press supplier and high technology company it is today.
Now synonymous with digital printing, and after celebrating 25 years in 2003 representing Shinohara in the local Australian and New Zealand market, the decision is made to no longer sell offset presses.
2005: Few in the industry will be unaware of the brightly coloured Currie & Co Mobile Showroom. The 18-wheeler branded truck rolls out to travel the continent and beyond the Tasman Sea bringing the latest in digital printing technology to the regions. Many printers making the transition to digital also access the purpose-built Currie Training Centre.
2008: The company rebrands as Currie Group, reflecting its broadening appeal.
2010: Currie Group goes from strength to strength reframing the industry with HP Indigo. It opens offices and warehouses across the region. A new headquarters building in Melbourne reinforces its success.
2013: The company installs the first B2 digital press in the region, the HP Indigo 10000.
2017: A second generation, at least, of operators learn their trade and refine their practice in the Melbourne Training Centre. The 500th HP Indigo operator graduates from the centre.
2019: Currie Group celebrates 70 years in business.