An excerpt from AP September 2020
Resilience is one of the virtues that Vivad truly encompasses, as the company celebrates its 20 anniversary in a pandemic-stricken year. Vivad Australia managing director Ewen Donaldson has pushed the business to achieve success in new areas from the first day of its inception, and is still doing the same to keep the company going.
Vivad was started when Donaldson, having worked for his parents’ business, Polyweld, making truck side curtains, saw a demand for printing on truck side curtains and set up a separate business entity.
“We started off with close to nothing – we only had one customer. Printing truck sides was the primary motivation but we found that there were other markets that we were interested in pursuing,” Donaldson said.
He invested in the company’s first printer, a VUTEk 5300, then. It wasn’t long before Vivad bought a second printer in 2000, a Roland eight colour HiFi jet 7600 Pro, to handle some of its smaller format work. It was about this time that Vivad put in its first laminator so that it could apply film laminate to its digitally printed products.
“Printing on the sides of trucks was a natural progression given that the technology had come of age. It soon became apparent that there were more opportunities in large format digital printing than just fleet graphics. We started printing banners for exhibitions and events, and point-of-sale material,” he said.
“We slowly started building relationships with companies. In the first week itself, having heard of our new printers, we were approached by the supply side – material vendors and those selling adhesive vinyls,” he said.
“This gave rise to learning more about different applications for large format digital printing.”
But to further build the business, Donaldson knew he had to invest in state-of-the-art printing equipment.
“In 2004, we bought our first flatbed printer, the VUTEk PV200SC, which allowed us to print up to two metres wide on rigid materials, as well as roll to roll. It was also then when UV cured inks started to take the place of solvent based inks. This allowed printing on a wider range of substrates including rigid materials like corflute, forex and acrylic,” Donaldson said.
In 2005, Vivad installed a 2.5 metre Seiko Colorpainter 100S and a VUTEk 3360EC and in 2008, complimented its production with the addition of a HP Designjet 500.
“From there, we ended up getting into fabrics in 2010 with the procurement of the VUTEk Fabrivu. Soft signage was a term coined for digital print sublimated onto polyester. It was around this time that stretch frame signage started to become popular. At this time, Vivad started to develop our own unique stretch frame extrusion designs. A whole range of new soft signage products came into being such as Feathers and Teardrops,” Donaldson said.
Since then, the company has also invested in a HP L25500, the Durst 500R, the Zund XL3200, a VUTEk GS3250LX, the ATP Colour, the Teleios Black, the HP 360, the Durst Rhotex 325, a Bullmer five metre cutter and the Durst 512R LED.
“We like to do creative projects like activations and bespoke projects. We’re always hungry to print on new materials and finding different applications within the large format digital space,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson said he decided to run the business with a focus on large format printing as being able to print five metres wide at 300 dpi was in high demand from 20 years ago, which opened Vivad up to a world of opportunities including large format printing for the Sydney Olympics.
In the past five years, the company has doubled in size and seen a YoY growth of 20 per cent. It has developed its vertical play to include exhibitions and events, media, retail, architecture, and other general signage.
In 2015, Vivad moved from its previous 1200 square metre factory to a beautiful 3500 square metre factory in Campbellfield, Victoria. With more room to move and more room to grow, the move heralded a new era for Vivad, which now employs 32 staff.
The business has also started a stronger focus on software, its internal MIS System as well as its web-to-print portal, Vivtrack, which it built from the ground up.
Surviving a pandemic
In response to the Victorian Government’s mandate that people are to wear face masks outside the home as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Vivad readjusted its go-to-market strategy with the inclusion of offering face masks.
It partnered with printer manufacturer Durst, to start manufacturing printed reusable ‘Community-Masks’, which has a (type N95) filter membrane with hydrophobic properties and a microporous structure but are not sold as medical grade.
The initiative was introduced in April when Durst announced that it will be producing three-layer face masks which include a high-filtration efficiency filter membrane at its production HQ in Italy.
As per the partnership, Durst provides the N95 filter material to Vivad while the latter prints on the shell and manufactures the combined face masks. The face masks are printed on the Durst Rhotex 325.
“The printer is extremely reliable and is of high production technology using water-based dye sublimation inks with no VOCs. We print onto paper and then transfer it onto the polyester fabric,” Donaldson said.
Customers are able to apply their own branding, or choose an existing design and the masks are available for purchase through Vivad’s web-to-print portal.
“Vivad’s click and print web-to-print portal is used for large format print jobs. We developed it over the last five years or so and it presents people with the opportunity to fill their order online and upload the artwork desired for customised masks or they can choose to purchase pre-printed masks,” Donaldson added.
“We’re doing what we can, when we can during the pandemic and for Vivad, we are doing anything that can assist people in terms of stopping the spread. By offering a higher-quality reusable mask, means there’s less littering of disposable masks and a cost saving from purchasing these disposable masks.
“It also gives us, as a business some form of revenue because we have been predominantly doing work for the events and exhibitions industry, which has been severely impacted as a result of the pandemic.”
Vivad also had plans to expand by putting in a 500 square metre mezzanine, but had to put it on hold due to COVID-19.
“Hopefully, we’ll take that off hold so that we can expand our print finishing area. We’re not planning on doing anything radical in the next 12 months,” he said.
Progression is key
Even with uncertain times ahead, Donaldson has a plan for Vivad as he keeps an eye on the latest trends in the industry.
“We don’t know how long the pandemic is going to last or what the economic environment is going to look like post-pandemic. We are looking forward to exhibitions and events coming, but we will continue to focus on market trends that we have noticed,” he said.
“Over 20 years, you learn about what works and what doesn’t and now we’ve got a diverse product range that targets different markets. There has been a massive pivot towards soft signage in the last 10 years and that’s where our focus has been.”
A focus on developing its online channel is also one that Donaldson intends to take Vivad down the path of.
“The ability to buy things online and have them delivered quickly and competitively means there is a lot of opportunity in this space. And given that we’ve also invested a lot in the development of our web-to-print portal, that will be an increasing focus for us,” he mentioned.
Vivad’s Web to print portal is unique in that it differentiates between resellers and retail. Vivad recognises that resellers benefit from adding a margin to the print. Once a user has demonstrated that they are a reseller, they are awarded trade pricing through the portal.
Ultimately, delivering on customer needs is what Vivad wants to enforce within the business as it navigates its way into the future.
“We want to refine our processes, develop our markets, and follow the trajectory that we have been on. We want to keep doing what we’re doing but do them better and keep evolving. A lot of that involves the ability to be agile and responding to high demand,” he added.
“We have a lot of loyal customers who keep coming back because of the level of engagement that we have. We produce a diverse range of quality products, competitively and on demand.”
The digital version of the magazine is available here.
Comment below to have your say on this story.
If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at [email protected]
Sign up to the Sprinter newsletter