Never doubt Cameron Sutherland’s ability to understand the needs of the digital print, sign and display Industry. His uncanny ability to identify where the industry is headed, how it will change and most importantly – what it will need – has seen him build Australian Visual Solutions into one of the leading suppliers of equipment and consumables. He’s consistently been right with his product choices, and made the job a lot easier for 1000s of print and sign professionals around the country.
Now, as AVS introduces the range of Flora printers to the Australian market, AVS once again looks set to deliver another winning solution.
The AVS story begins back in 1991. The Industry was all about paint and brushwork, but a new development – vinyl cut lettering – would change the Industry forever. For Cameron and the fledgling AVS, the writing was literally on the wall, and would prove to be the first of a series of very smart moves that would steer the company on a path of continued growth.
“AVS first started as a means to help provide solutions to the Australian sign industry, to help it transition from paint to vinyl,” said Cameron.
“From day one, we had major PVC manufacturers looking for new companies who were keen to enter the market to educate and work with Screen Printers, Sign writers and display companies looking to advance into computerised sign systems.”
“After a few false starts, in 1996, we started a new relationship distributing 3M Self Adhesive films. 3M was not the market leader at the time as it was an emerging market and we were literally starting and exploring new business opportunities. AVS’s commitment and 3M product range quickly enabled AVS to establish itself as a key player in the Australian Market.”
The partnership with 3M was the first of many successful partnerships that AVS would form.
The company built a very loyal customer base in Victoria. With the 3M brand, they were able to take their services to a national market.
“During this growth period, we also added Roland Printers and Cutters to our range,” said Cameron.
“The ability to sell hardware and consumables enabled us to work hand in hand with our customers to profile and provide solutions for their business.”
From 2000, AVS have continuously increased their product portfolio by importing new and innovative brands from overseas with the General Formulation range of Concept Digital Media being the first to expand their consumable brand offering. Concept is a key POS supplier for the sign and display market and having the exclusive Australian distribution enabled AVS to stand behind the products and offer a complete solution for customers.<!--break-->
“Growing our brand portfolio with products that provide innovative solutions as well as building honest relationships with these loyal suppliers, for example, McSign, Plasticade, Texo Fabrics, R Tape, Titan Rigid and Spartan Media, is key to our success,” said Cameron.
The ability to form long-standing working relationships and partnerships with customers, manufacturers, Industry bodies and other Industry professionals has been the key to a large part of the growth of AVS. These relationships help guide the decision making process at AVS, they help to paint a strong picture as to where the market is headed and what it needs to get there.
“At AVS, we believe it is our responsibility to sell the products that suit the Australian market and bring globally known products into our range,” said Cameron.
Showing customers ways to maximise proficency “By developing such strong relationships with market leading brands, AVS has the knowledge and support to understand and predict the demands and upcoming trends of the Australian market with both consumables and hardware and can adjust the products the business sells accordingly.”
“With the rapid growth to digital printing in Australia, AVH – the hardware division of AVS has seen a continual increase in sales of Roland and the new Flora flatbed printers thus the need to support AVS growth with Titan Rigid substrates.”
When AVS looks at supplying a new product to the market, what factors does it considering before stocking it? AVS is at the forefront of new printing technologies and the resulting consumables that complement the hardware. For Cameron and the team at AVS, to understand where the market is heading means a lot of travel around the world.
“Keeping track of market growth and Industry trends in the US and Europe is always a key factor when choosing our next products to join the range,” said Cameron.
“The AVS business model is more focused on selling good quality American and European sourced products that empowers our customers to produce high- quality work that will give the end consumer a superior result.”
Travelling to see where the market is heading was how Cameron first met Michael Althoff from Yellotools at FESPA Munich in 2012.
The two struck up an instant rapport. Cameron was impressed with the company’s innovative products and ability to make the signwriter’s life easier, and very soon Yellotools was brought to Australia with immediate success.
The partnership between AVS and Yellotools has yielded incredible results, like many of the relationships that AVS has. Cameron has made it a priority to partner with like-minded companies with long-term goals in mind.
“Long standing relationships are a key to the success of the business including partnerships with 3M for over 20 years, Roland since 2006, General Formulations since 2000, Viponds paints for 25 years and McSign since 1998,” said Cameron.
The versatile Flora Printers “Commitment to our business partners is based on honesty, transparency and the need to have a good solid supply of quality products to the market. All our business partners understand the AVS culture and market position and thus we are all working together to supply the best quality products.
“AVS partners with global companies who offer competitive quality products that we can distribute nationally. We don’t want to stock a product that makes us good profit but is not suitable for national distribution and is of a lesser commercial quality. Selling a product and supporting our customers with quality products means we can run a profitable company and so can our customers.”
"AT AVS, WE BELIEVE IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SELL THE PRODUCTS THAT SUIT THE AUSTRALIAN MARKET AND BRING GLOBALLY KNOWN PRODUCTS INTO OUR RANGE."
The latest partnership that AVS has developed is with Flora Printers, and it’s a very promising one that is set to expand the AVS range into new markets. But it has been a long time in the making. Cameron first saw the printers in action 10 years ago and has been following them ever since, with the actual process to align the two companies taking the better part of the last 18 months. But the wait has been worth it. To specialize in hardware sales, Cameron set up a new division within AVS called Australian Visual Hardware to focus strictly on hardware sales and service offering Roland, Flora, Anajet, Inglet and Lamination Systems products.
“Flora Printers have been growing a global brand for many years and have an impressive reputation as an OEM supplier to the US,” said Cameron.
“AVS have a peer relationship with the Flora dealer in the US. The current Flora 2512 flatbed has been in the US for a few years so we knew it had the quality build we required for the Australian market. Flora produces over 2000 printers a year and has a modern manufacturing factory just outside Hong Kong. Apply the 3 year warranty to the equation and Flora is a winning strategy for our AVH business arm.”
The partnership has already produced results, and given a number of Australian businesses the opportunity to include a flatbed printer into their operations. One of the first was InHouse Print and Design in Logan City, Queensland. They run a very progressive and modern print facility that houses a lot of modern digital print.
The owner Bob Karlsson, long-standing Australian Visual Hardware customer, purchased a Flora 3220 UV flatbed in December 2014 to support InHouse Print’s rapid growth and expansion into wide format digital printing.
“Ultimately, we were looking for an affordable printer that produces images at the highest quality to ensure our return on investment – Flora was the obvious choice,” Bob said.
With the support of AVH’s technical team, Nevada, Production Manager at InHouse Print, analysed the market comparing the level of speed, resolution and features to other products to ensure the new printer was the right fit for their business.
“The large bed means I could lay up 10 sheets of 600mm x 900mm corflute, press print and walk away, with crash bars on the print carriage, unattended printing is easily achievable. The machine has different quality modes with the top speed at 67 square metres per hour – purchasing the Flora has already proved it will provide a profitable return on investment,” Nevada commented.
Other customers have made the same observations. Flora 2512 is simply the right choice for any business looking for a flatbed
printer. It has a 1220mm x 2440 Print Bed, optional 2.5m roll-to-roll feature, prints up to 100mm, 4 colour entry level with the option to configure up to 16 heads including white & varnish and a 3 year warranty starting from $95,000 – so it’s no surprise they are getting a lot of attention.
The Flora flatbed printers are one of a range of products that AVS is excited about for 2015. They are now selling Sensient ink for direct and dye sublimation. The direct to fabric market is expanding and AVS have a Roland Direct to fabric printer and soon Flora will launch a direct to fabric capable of running 200sqm an hour. Texo Fabric in the Netherland has appointed AVS their Aussie dealers and they have direct and Dye Sub fabric solutions. Beaver Paper is supplying AVS with a range of Dye Sub paper. Fabric is exciting and profitable and Australia will be the number 1 fabric market in the world within 3-5 years. So, there is plenty to keep AVS busy, and more importantly, more quality products available to answer the needs of their customers.
As for further expansion, Cameron and his team are always asking their clients what they need, looking at what is available and where the market is headed. But any decision is always made after considerable thought and deliberation. For now, they are happy to be working in the sign and digital space, one they are constantly supporting through education and training nights, the sponsorship of local and national competitions – like the Wrap Master Challenge, and helping our TAFE institutions and sign associations ... all of whom acknowledge the consistent support they get from Cameron and his team.
“We all acknowledge that TAFE courses need guidance and we also acknowledge the staff within those TAFE need all our support,” said Cameron.
“It is a tough job in a changing market. I support all my competitors and all my customers to join associations like ASGA to help grow the Industry.”
And what of the future? Where might we see AVS move to in the future?
“Whilst we enjoy growth and new products we are very conservative when it comes to entering new markets. We want to be the best and we want to be the educator,” said Cameron.
“Our staff and suppliers are the key to success. We have a very good customer service team, national sales force and tech specialists that continue to educate and access our data base for knowledge. Fabric, point of sale and LED will grow and we continue to educate ourselves to grow and learn. The growth of new markets is not something we need to chase as we are getting new market growth from Screen and Offset printers who require the use of wide-format and UV flatbed printers to support their growth.“
Wherever they do head, you know it will be the right direction because that’s where their clients – the digital print and signs businesses across Australia – are headed. And that’s why AVS makes all the right moves.