Smooth change as DIC gears up

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There’s a change at the top of DIC Australia ... but the strategy is that performance of the company through the transition should replicate that of the inks it makes: Smooth and consistent.

Ian Johns succeeded David Rands as managing director in January, with Meredith Darke moving to a new role as web business manager. But the succession process has been a long and careful one, dating back to Darke’s appointment three years ago.

“David and I worked as a team for many years,” says Johns. “He put a lot of good practices – a culture which involved all levels of management – and I don’t see that as something I’d want to change.”

With a background which includes commercial and branch management roles including a five year period as NZ general manager, and the past four as director of the web division and – post-integration of the DIC entities – offset division, he does expect to be more hands-on: “More involved in the intricacies of the individual businesses on a daily basis,” he says.

It’s a time for making sure the business is bedded down – a common focus, “pulling together for the good of our customers and our owners”, he says.

“We’ve gone down that road and there’s not a lot I’d want to do differently, although we are looking at ways of doing some things more efficiently.”

Appointment of Darke (web), Roger Gee (sheetfed) and Jason Kent (graphics) sees the company with business unit managers able to focus on specific portfolios. But Johns says with web inks accounting for half the group’s business, he expects to keep closely in touch with that division. “We’ve been trying to be the invisible ink supplier, through supply chain improvements, whether it be a simple pumping system or tank installation, by making sure the products are so predictable and reliable that prepress and press presets can be set up to it,” he says.

“We’re working with our companies overseas on new technology developments for coldset all the time. We do a significant of research and development here, but also work with US Ink and Sun Chemical on latest developments, currently things such as low misting and high-strength inks.”

And UV, he says, is old technology, although Sun is working with inert UV – as in the pioneer site at Herold in Vienna, which Johns has visited – and “can introduce that here any time we like”.

With other programmes – including the WOCG seminars which may become a biennial event – and research from PrintCity’s VAPoN project, “everything we do is about adding value for our customers,” Darke says. “We don’t want to champion a particular way of producing the newspaper or a particular ink system. We have all the technology and want to present enough information so users can make decisions based on equipment and needs.”


A party at the Italian Village in Sydney’s historic Rocks in January marked DIC Australia’s anniversary – from its establishment as Coates Australia in 1949 – and the retirement of managing director David Rands. More than 130 people attended the event, including industry identities and Miyasaka-san from DIC’s South East Asian headquarters in Singapore.

Managing director Ian Johns says the company was fortunate to have maintained its alignment with market expectations and experienced reasonable stability: “We continue to strive to add value to our customers business, and by doing that provide longevity to our own.”

He thanked Dr Rands and praised his contribution to both DIC Australia and DIC New Zealand, and his ‘open door’ policy. “For many, David has been a mentor, and a strong contributor to the industry through activities with GAMAA,” he said.

Coates had been established as a supply business in 1877 by the two sons of Clapham, UK, printer and stationer Henry Coates. In 1937, the company started making offset inks in Calcutta for wartime map printing, and the following year set up Coates Brothers South Africa. The NZ business was registered in 1948.

Coates Brothers Australia followed in 1949, and original buildings in Moorabbin, Victoria, and Auburn, NSW, are still in use.
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