Perth Graphics Centre, 23 years old and still growing
In 1993, Gerber launched a thermal transfer printer that suddenly put short run digital printing within reach of signmakers. It was called the Gerber Edge, and coupled with a Gerber Signmaker 4B, it also allowed die-cut stickers, and kicked off the sign industry’s digital print revolution.
|Tony & Julie Peskett, owners of PGC|
It was this machine that was to become the backbone of a fledgling company in Perth two years later.
Perth Graphics Centre began in an upstairs room in Malaga, Western Australia, and was initially set up to be a trade service for signwriters and screenprinters. Tony and Julie Peskett, bought the machine and tasked their son, Karl, with running the Edge and servicing the industry.
|The Gerber Edge|
Fast forward almost 23 years and the business, which is still based in Malaga, has grown to be a full service sign shop, running five digital printers, two cutters, laminating and mounting equipment plus numerous work stations.
The company has seen various changes over the years, notably adding more printers to maintain both its trade printing service (which it still offers) but also to keep up with demand from its loyal customer base.
Covering all technologies, Perth Graphics Centre (PGC) runs solvent, latex, aqueous, UV-curable and thermal-transfer printers – yes, there is still a Gerber Edge (II) as part of its digital-print fleet. But with a focus on high-quality, fast-turnaround printing, the machines the company has chosen have enabled PGC to keep its demanding clientele happy.
Large format work is covered by a 2.5m-wide Seiko Colorpainter, and is backed up by an HP Latex 260, which the company says changed its view on vinyl printing.
“We were very much against latex printing for a while,” explains Mr Peskett. “It never seemed to have the colour depth that our Seiko always exhibited. But after a few demos locally, we visited the Visual Impact show a few years ago, and wrote a pros-and-cons sheet for latex printing.”
|The Jetrix 2030FRK, still going strong|
“Eventually, the case for latex was won when we saw that with correct colour management, it could easily match the solvent printer, but it was the instant drying and lack of outgassing needed that really sold us.”
Since then, the company has been able to increase its throughput, adding to the large flatbed printer that was purchased five years ago. After extensive research, which is what PGC prides itself on, the company settled on a Jetrix 2030FRK.
“We had been looking closely at a second-hand Durst flatbed, but after travelling to Sydney for an exhaustive demonstration with the Jetrix team, we bought the 2030FRK. Its high quality print with no banding, excellent adhesion, high speed and low running costs were what got it over the line.”
“More important to us, though, was that trained service technicians were based here in Perth, unlike Durst, which would have had to fly a tech out. Downtime is money lost, so that wasn’t an option.”
Putting a high value on service, the company prides itself on being able to offer solutions that give the customer what they want rather than what’s easiest or makes the most money. This, says Mr Peskett, builds loyalty and ensures that the customer returns for any other signage projects they may have.
“We have people constantly coming back to us, thanking us for how helpful we have been, and when you have repeat customers, you don’t have to spend time cold-calling or trying to build a customer base.”
This philosophy has kept the company going through the mining downturn of the last couple of years. The team made a conscious decision to keep at arm’s length from mining work, so while there wasn’t the huge incomes that other companies benefitted from, there has also been less stress and a calmer workplace, something that a family business needs. And when the mining boom collapsed, PGC was kept safe from the house-of-cards effect that has wiped out several sign companies in Perth.
The company also offers a full graphic design service, handled by daughter Clare, while Ian Resetar is PGC’s installation manager, tackling major building projects involving metalwork, spray-painting and lightboxes.
Most of the staff have completed vinyl application courses, but critically it was decided to do courses with different manufacturers. “Each vinyl handles differently, and manufacturers train with different techniques. For example, Avery’s post-heating temperature for a certain product is 70 degrees. This is far lower than 3M and Arlon, so it’s good to know how to use every vinyl properly so that it doesn’t fail.”
One of the changes in the business came in the early 2000s, when it was decided to go public and offer its services to more than just the trade. It was met with some resistance from within the trade, but with more sign companies purchasing their own digital printing equipment as prices came down, PGC decided that its knowledge and expertise could benefit retail customers.
It was a decision that turned the business around and launched it into competition with the hundreds of other sign shops in Perth, but its experience with colour and choice of fit-for-purpose materials has meant that customers keep coming back.
“These days, we’re competing against anyone who has bought themselves a printer and a cutter,” says Mr Peskett. “But what makes us different is that we understand the granular differences between vinyls and laminates, as well as the manufacturing processes behind them.”
“We explain to our customers why we recommend cast vinyls as opposed to polymeric vinyls, and we’ve settled on a range of overlaminates that extend the life of our prints rather than just protect from scuffing.”
In the harsh Western Australian sun, the right products are critical, with a quick drive through the streets of Perth revealing that wrong material choices have led to a plethora of signs failing earlier than they should.
While the company certainly has the knowledge to make its prints last – a point of difference compared with other sign companies - PGC isn’t resting on its laurels.
“We’re always looking for the next step to grow the business,” says Mr Peskett. “Whether it’s a new piece of equipment that offers better colour and speed, or a new production process, we’re investigating constantly.”
“That means importing products, testing them, getting demonstrations, asking questions, researching on the ‘net – we don’t just stick to what we know. We grow what we know.”
Perth Graphics Centre