Peacock Bros, a provider of identification systems and supplies, will reach the grand old age of 120 this year.
Now one of Australia and New Zealand’s foremost data capture and labelling system companies, Peacock Bros. was founded 120 years ago by an Englishman who started with one manual hand-fed printing press.
Earnest Peacock set up the company in Melbourne in 1888 after arriving from England. He then left for New Zealand and began a career as a journalist.
On returning to Australia he settled in Melbourne and put the single hand press to work, opening a small printing company in Collins Street that supplied the local retailers and general printing industry.
In time he diversified into making general ledgers, binders, loose leaf sheets, diaries, index files and filing cabinets, and by 1915 the business had grown to around 50 staff, including his sons.
Earnest and one of his sons joined the war effort when the First World War broke out: he as a war correspondent and his son as a fighter pilot.
His success as a war and postwar journalist catapulted Earnest into a different life.
On his return to Australia in 1922 the Australian Prime Minister, William Hughes, honoured his work by making him the Honorary Consul General for Czechoslovakia.
He lectured at Oxford University on Business Systems and foresaw the growing ambitions of Japan (Emperor Hirohito later invited him to his wedding). He was also Chairman of the Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra and the YMCA for many years after his return.
The next step
During the war and post-war years, Earnest’s youngest son, Edgar ran the general printing business and continued to do so until 1953, when his son-in-law Stephen Yuritta took over.
The 1950s saw the foundations of modern technology being laid, with the introduction of television and the discovery of the structure of DNA, and Peacock Bros made sure it too moved with the times.
Comptometers, mechanical counters for calculators and the forerunners of modern calculators, and computers, were imported and sold by the company, which also trained people in how to use them.
During the 50s and 60s scientists and engineers worldwide were working at the frontiers of their knowledge, paving the way for the inventions of the 1970s that enabled the technology we take for granted today.
1960s to 70s
Comptometers were still used in the early 1970s but the advent of computers brought many changes for Peacock Bros.
Companies were looking for ways to reduce overheads, and labour costs were always at the forefront of cost saving procedures.
In the late 60’s the company decided to enter the box marking and coding field and imported a device from Weber Marking Systems that used a carbon stencil which, when written on using a pen, broke the surface of the stencil.
The stencil was then applied to an ink pad and cartons could then be marked with relevant information at a rate of 60 per minute.
At the time, all labelling or direct marking was generally handwritten and very time consuming. Weber Marking Systems went on to develop printing systems which focused Peacock Bros.’ business on label printing systems.
Peacock Bros was one of the first companies to bring computer run barcode label printers to Australia, back in 1982. The system sold for $15,000 which would equate to near $60,000 today.
When the PC was released and its acceptance in business increased, a range of low-cost labelling software packages was created for the market.
The software considerably reduced the time taken to label items and the company succeeded in creating a dramatic demand for its products.
This formed the core of Peacock Bros’ business and off the back of this, the company built a lucrative label printing industry.
During this time the company started producing labels to support the systems sold and by 1990 they had purchased five Flexo presses to keep up with the demand for self adhesive labels and tags.
In the late ‘80s Peacock Bros. introduced Zebra thermal printers into its range.
Thermal printers were able to print to a very high quality at speed, unlike dot matrix printers.
This led to Peacock Bros supplying a high quality barcode labelling system; every system sold required labels and ribbons and label manufacturing grew with every printer sold.
During the growth of computer technology, systems required servicing.
All technicians needed to be personally trained by Peacock Bros as there was a shortage of knowledgeable IT savvy technical people that had computer based skills in Australia.
1990s to date
Governing director Stephen Yuritta handed over the reigns in 1998.
At this point Peacock Bros. decided to begin acquiring companies.
Neil Crump the new managing director realised in 2002 the company needed to expand offshore and bought a label printing company in New Zealand.
Three years ago Peacock Bros bought a label printing company in Sydney to support its Sydney clients and add primary (retail) labels to the portfolio.
It also purchased two data capture companies during this time to expand its offering to existing and new clients.
Peacock Bros is now one of the strongest coding, marking, labeling companies in Australia and New Zealand offering quality supplies and support to its clients in a variety of industries.
From its roots in hand press printing, Peacock Bros heads towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century with a breakthrough in warehousing technology.
The Sky-Trax indoor positioning system (IPS) has been developed for use in warehouses, using Sky-Trax technology from the US, which has been enhanced by Peacock Bros’ in-house software developers.
Similar to an indoor GPS system, the Sky-Trax IPS works by an eye attached to a forklift reading Sky-markers in the warehouse roof.
Accurate to within 3cms2, the system is more sensitive than a GPS.
This enables warehouse managers to constantly monitor activities in the warehouse, as the system keeps track of each vehicle fitted with the Sky-Trax software in real time, and at the end of each day produces a report on each.
Thus, warehouse managers are able to see where each forklift has been, how far it has travelled, how much downtime was involved, and where products have been stored for inventory control.
A Sky-Trax system installation by Peacock Bros. that includes three sites and 42 cool stores will be completed by the end of February.
From its nineteenth century beginnings with a hand press to today’s high-tech monitoring systems, Peacock Bros has come a long way.
One of Australia’s earliest companies has benefitted from hard work, dedication, good management and, most of all, its ability to move with the times, identifying needs and trends and exploiting them to the benefit of itself and its customers.