It was 1982 and things were ticking over nicely, but I was unhappy with our consignment notes that we handed out to our customers. The above example was produced as continuous stationery, partly to make the production easier and partly to maximise the stowage of new consignment notes into neat piles once the box was opened. We would supply our larger customers with boxes of stationery so that they could share the blank consignments notes out to various departments.
It was in late 1982 that I was introduced to Alec who I met through a mutual friend. Alec was a computer programmer and had recently created a program for Melbourne transport system. He was ex RAF and trained in the field of electronics before migrating to Australia.
I bought a TRS 80 for my son & I to play with, I liked the very primitive strategy games, and my son liked the ping pong games.
The above is not the exact model but it gives an idea of how ‘primitive’ computers were in the early 1980’s.
E-mail, as we know it today, had not been invented and the internet was still in the future.
Within a short time, I came to realise what could be done with a ‘computer’ in Skypak.
On meeting Alec and speaking with him about the possibilities for computers I realised that I had met someone who understood completely some of my daft ideas.
I had been puzzling how to pre-print consignment notes with the customer’s details already completed in the shipper’s field of the consignment note.
To make life easier for our customer to use us would help retain that customer, even at a higher overall rate than our competitors.
I had considered an electric typewriter, but this would require a staff member to insert a new consignment note to preprint a client’s address on each note, which was too labour intensive and uneconomical.
I bounced a few ideas off Alec and explained about the continuous run stationery and the positioning of the consignment note every time we wished to print. Alec made notes and took sample consignment notes away with him.
At that time, we had a limited computer system in the office. It was used mainly for communicating with head office in Sydney via a dedicated telephone line.
It had a printer attached to print pre-alerts of inbound shipments so that our staff could meet the aircraft on arrival. The office was about a twenty-minute drive to the airport. The system was similar to an early fax machine.
Alec returned a few days later with a machine and a 5 1/4-inch floppy disc.
For those who do not know what a 5 1/4-inch disk looks like , the above is an example.
Alec attached his small machine to the inhouse computer screen and inserted his floppy disk into his attachment and up popped a layout of a consignment note – he then typed in the detail of our address and inserted several consignment note in to the attached printer that usually typed out pre-alerts.
This time it typed out consignment notes with the same address on each . . .
This might seem a small thing to have created, but for us in the early 1980’s it was a huge step forward.
We began to produce pre-printed consignment notes for our major customers.
Within days I was receiving faxes from our overseas offices who wanted to know how the pre-printed consignment notes were produced.
Because I did not own the simple program (simple compared to today’s world) and had not yet come to agreement with Alec, I told our overseas offices that I would pre-print consignment notes on behalf of their customers for one Australian cent per consignment note. . . .
Within days I had a steady revenue stream that went to the profit line of the Melbourne office.
It did not take long for head office to phone me and ask why I was using so many consignment notes from our stationery stock, yet our shipments had not increased . . . once again the accounts department had picked that something odd was going on in Melbourne!
The next system was to create a POD (proof of delivery) system that recorded the details of each shipment, and in particular the date & time of delivery and the person’s name who signed for the item. At that time, it was all completed manually, and we would file the delivery sheet in case it was required in the future.
Now I wanted Alec to create what we now call a data base so that it would be far faster to find the information that go through reams of paper files. I tried but could not find a way of making this system into a profit line.
While all this was going on we still had to sell our services, and for me it was an exciting and busy time.
In 1983 the sales manager obtained the forms to apply for the Governor of Victoria’s Export Award, which was an annual event. The award went to a company for outstanding international success in the professional business services including legal, accounting, administration, and support services.
We spent hours refining the ‘pitch’ of our application.
When the awards came out it was a great surprise to all of us that we had won the award and in addition we were the first service industry to win this award. Traditionally it was a manufacturing company that would win such an award. Perhaps it was because we were one hundred percent focused on the export market – we did not offer a domestic courier service, only international.
Being the State manager, I made the front cover of Business, but could not have done so if it had not been for the support of all the staff. The actual award was presented at Government House by His Excellency the Governor.
In March 1981 Maureen and I bought land in Sunbury on which we would build our house.
The day the first bricks arrived on site we drove to the site to make sure that the brisk were the bricks that we wanted. Our children in the above picture are now 47 (daughter) and 45 (son) how time flies.
The house as it was in 1985 – we still had the Holden Station wagon, which can just be seen – this was Maureen’s car. The building behind the car is a ‘granny flat’ a complete unit for Maureen’s parents – completely independent from our house, but its position allowed us to keep an eye on her parents. Life was good and we were happy living in Sunbury.
Sometimes success can be a trojan horse – creating short cuts in the operational area and forcing down our international transport costs caused the GM to ask me to move to Sydney and take over the Regional Operational job.
This meant that I would have the responsibility for the operation of the company from Perth in W. Australian to Tahiti in Polynesia.
I did not want the job because I was happy in Melbourne, as was Maureen and the children.
I offered to do the job working from Melbourne, but this was rejected because I would be too close to my replacement and this might cause problems.
Plus, the position was a head office position, which required all the head office staff to be in proximity of each other.
While I was in ‘limbo’ – the house was up for sale and the new manager had taken over my old position, and the Company opened a satellite office not far from the main Melbourne office to allow me to write an airfreight manual, because the Company was being offered larger and larger sized consignments that were too large for our onboard courier system and they required a standard system of operation.
Writing the manual was an interesting task because I did not have to worry about the day to day activities of the Melbourne office, I had other worries . .
Life revolved around research, coffee, cigarette’s and a keyboard
I did have a side trip to Hong Kong, because while I was still manager, we gained a large movement of annual reports from one of the major banks in Melbourne.
The banks were obliged by law to publish their annual report and to send a copy to every share holder however large or small – posting was expensive, because many of their shareholders lived overseas.
The reports would be printed in Hong Kong, so the Company sent me to oversee the procedure and arrange the global distribution for about 77,000 shareholders. The total weight was 6,600 kilos (6.5 tons).
It was an interesting exercise and I was there for about a week because the law required that the reports had to enter the postal system on the same day – we air freighted the reports to our offices in the UK, US, Singapore, Australia, N.Z, Japan, S. Africa to name just a few destinations, with instructions to post on a particular day so that we could prove the date of posting globally.
We invoiced the bank for a lot less than it would have cost to post the reports from a single origin place such as Australia or Hong Kong.
The service we offered was called Mailfast and I think it is still available, it used to be called Multi-mail, and thanks to the internet if you do a search on either name the result will show details of multi-e-mails, how time have changed.
I first visited Hong Kong in 1963, it had that feel of excitement, and that feeling was still there in the mid 80’s. I took the above photograph and the one below during the business trip.
Hong Kong – in happier times, mid 1980’s
A few weeks later I was in London for a global meeting of ops managers.
Maureen rang me – she had sold the house – I could no longer drag my feet –
Sydney here we come.