The story of Product Distribution Australia and Keith Scott, its founder

By Colleen Bate
Over the span of 25 years, Wide-format distributor Product Distribution Australia's foundation of innovation, quality, versatility and service has remained strong. The company continues to evolve and so does its founder Keith Scott, who has journeyed this vast and interesting industry terrain over many decades of change.

Tenacity is a word that springs to my mind when he shares his story with us and I can't help likening his character to a quote by Napoleon Hill:  "Persistence is to the character of man as carbon is to steel."

IMG 20150904 090011
Keith Scott, the engineer

Married with four sons and one daughter, Keith's interests are almost as vast as his work experience - he is fascinated with the technology and competitiveness of motor sports, and also, quite left of field: trout, berry and chicken subsistence farming.
He believes that anyone can try to be an expert at whatever they choose to do, and he lives by the creed of:  "If I can help, I will."
The profile you are about to read most certainly vouches for this ..
Keith's career kicked off in the Australian Navy, where he learned all about communications electronics and plenty of discipline. He says that he initially started out with "pretty much zero education."
"I was interested in computers, read a lot and used that knowledge 'imaginatively' to win a job with the Australian distributor, Management Information Systems Pty Ltd (MIS), for US CAD/CAM company, Gerber Scientific Instruments (GSI)," he explains, pointing out that
Gerber CAD systems revolutionised a great many industries and designed very well known 70s and 80s aircraft. In fact, their machine control language is still used in millions of computer systems around the world.
While at Gerber, Keith entered the sign industry via Letraset Australia. "The MD of Letraset Australia asked me to help him distribute its revolutionary sign cutting machines. Not one to shy away from challenge, I quit my job at Gerber and started Quality Maintenance Management Pty Ltd - a company that was closely associated with Letraset, to market sign making machine division, Gerber Special Products. We installed more than 2000 Gerber systems in the Australian sign industry over a period of 6 years. They were exciting, sometimes, frustrating times."
After this amazing stint, Keith moved on to work with American father and son duo Aries Graphics, and PDA was born - with a view towards developing Aries Graphics' Sign Wizard software.
"We created a fantastic, easy to use sign making program and quickly became the dominant sign software product in Australia with around 2500 packages installed," says Keith.
He then went on to develop the wide format sign and graphics print market for Roland Digital Group and was Roland's largest dealer in Victoria and Nationally for several years.
"My success with Gerber and Sign Wizard dovetailed in nicely with selling Roland’s sign cutters and when Roland started making printers, my company quickly became the largest Roland dealer in Australia. I was a beta tester for Amiable Technologies when they were developing their first RIP software. (The Amiable Flexi Photoprint RIP was one of the reasons for Roland’s success with printers.)”
Unfortunately the relationship did not end as amicably as both parties would have hoped, but Keith's buoyant spirit re-emerged fairly quickly and he moved on the develop the market for the DGI line, thanks to a fortuitous one day visit to Melbourne by DGI’s President and International Sales Manager, the day before Christmas.
"DGI agreed to give me the distribution of their printers and PDA then developed the market for their product line with over 100 systems sold,  and became the first major supplier of serious solvent inkjet printers," explains Keith.
With the advent of UV cured inkjet printers PDA did not hesitate to get involved with the initial flatbed printers from DGI/Dilli and Agfa and subsequently commenced work on its own Vivex branded product lines, thanks to Keith's association with Amiable Technologies.
"After selling Amiable to their main opposition, Scanvec, the owners, started a hardware/software R&D operation in Beijing. They now design and manufacture printers for companies all over the world. They employ over 300, mainly engineers, in China and have offices in several countries including the USA. Back in 2008 I decided to make a large UV flatbed printer 4000x2000mm in Australia using the print engine from this American company in China, the first 'Vivex' printer.

Vivex guv3200v1
The Vivex GUV-LED roll to roll (1600mm, 1900mm, 2500mm or 3200mm)

The project was completed but proved to be a crazy idea with the resources I had available here in Australia," says Keith, explaining that the Vivex name is now trademarked and used by PDA for all the printers sourced from the American company in Beijing.
"I have available over 20 types of roll to roll and flatbed printers using solvent, eco solvent, UV and dye inks," he states.
Four years ago, PDA added the DYSS Print and Cut solutions to its product line. This was a major coup, as DYSS offer the only single supplier fully integrated Print and Cut solution for rigid and flexible media in any market.
"I maintained a close relationship/friendship with the ex owners of Amiable Technology and although my efforts to get them to make a new model Vivex UV 2600x1600mm Flatbed failed, they felt one of their clients could do it and put me in touch with DYSS in Korea. Peak Digital in Seaford became my first customer for this DYSS printer, GF-2616 and also purchased a DYSS X7-2630C cutting table. Thanks to Peak's Andrew Robertson, who helped secure the distribution for PDA, we have since sold several of the DYSS X5 and X7 cutting tables."
Because the Vivex and DYSS product lines utilise print technology from Amica, PDA has since become involved in all types of graphic print technology, from traditional roll to roll through high speed UV and one pass. Keith is grateful and proud to be associated with Amica and cites them as "a fantastic hardware business."

DYSS cutting table
DYSS cutting table

Over time, PDA continues to climb onward and upward. The company has extended its services to offer trade back and pick up of second hand equipment with the added advantage of supporting and refurbishing machines they choose to resell. (Note to readers - some of these are advertised in this issue of All Print Classifieds)
As a supplier distributor, Keith has seen many changes in the industry. He has witnessed the impact of automation and the global economy in all industries. "I believe it is now very difficult to compete with the likes of Agfa or HP. These companies not only bring excellent products to the table, they also bring finance packages and huge support organisations. Our industry and in fact, all industries, are risk averse, so the big brands seem to be a safer bet, even if they are more expensive. This is making it tough for the smaller players, even if they have great products, real expertise and support. As the smaller companies fade away, prices will be higher due to lack of competition, we see it now with high production flatbed printing machines being priced 30 percent higher than they need to be. Where competition still exists, the big players can cut this 30 percent, bundle outstanding finance and still keep smiling, the small brands can’t do that."
Regardless of witnessing much change and impermanence, Keith remains steadfast in his view of success. "To me, success is about relationships, support and honesty.  It is not necessarily about wealth but rather whether you enjoy what you do and feel that it has all been worthwhile."

 

Product Distribution Australia
www.signimage.com

 

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