Pryda Turns 50 As Our Founder Just Keeps On Inventing

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Pryda is set to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year at the same time as its founder Ray Turner turns 90.

At that time of life most people have long since retired and probably spend most of their days taking it easy.
However, this is not the type of lifestyle that suits Ray Turner. Despite more than 100 innovations to his name, he is still busy inventing – his latest effort a series of hidden durable polycarbonate plastic connectors that can be used to fasten stair rails, or to replace visible galvanised steel joist hangers in beams or purlins.

The English boy, who joined the British merchant navy when he turned 18 then wanted to migrate to New Zealand so with his brother jumped ship once they reached Napier, is working harder than ever.

Two years ago he established the firm Decklock with inventions to make it easy to install decking at even spacing and has not stood still since.

It might be that Ray regards work as a joyous hobby – or the fact that he has been married twice and has seven children – but there is no doubt he has been enormously successful and has left a lasting legacy in both the Australian and New Zealand building industries.

After they arrived in Napier (his parents joined them two years later) Ray completed a building apprenticeship and in 1949 established his own building company A.R. Turner.

One of his early successes was a modern home he built in Meanee Road that became both a popular tourist stop and featured in several short films.

However, not /files/includes/images/news-articles-media-release-content.jpg with just building for others, Ray soon turned his attention to inventing useful products for the building industry. Like many large enterprises, his started from small beginnings – in 1964 still under the name A.R. Turner & Company making doorstops in the games room of his Napier home. Such was his success that Ray was soon forced to move the business to a block of shops he had built in Gloucester Street, Taradale to cater for the increased demand. At the same time, he went into partnership with toolmaker Bob Witham who turned many of his inventions into commercial reality.

A challenge by many of the local councils to prove his products could perform the function he confidently claimed resulted in the company establishing an effective testing laboratory. It was about this time Ray invented the angle brace, which has been a commercial success for more than 40 years.

On the advice of an advertising agency, he also changed the name of the business to PRYDE – only to discover people kept calling him Mr Pryde and he couldn’t register it as a business name because it was an existing surname. Hence, the title PRYDA – which in Norwegian means “adorn”.

The business continued to grow and, from Gloucester Street, Ray and his staff moved to 75 Niven Street, where the New Zealand operations are still located today. He bought six new presses and the company’s signatory Claw® Nail nailplate product was among the first to be manufactured at the new location. Finding it difficult to acquire galvanised steel for the manufacture of his products, Ray imported it from Australia and kept huge stocks in storage for ongoing use.

The factories were located on leased Harbour Board land near marshy swamps and, in order to reach their work, staff members were forced to skirt the area. To improve access, in 1980 Ray built a bridge that subsequently became known as Turner’s Lane.

As the business grew in the 1960s, he tried a couple of joint overseas ventures – one in South Africa, which soon stopped once the political situation there deteriorated, and another in Fiji where he was supplying Pryda products to various hardware outlets. Always generous with his money, during this time Ray donated $5000 for a school (named after him) at Waya Island in Fiji, 65 kilometres from Nadi.

In 1970, Ray Turner sent his eldest son Daryl to establish Pryda in Australia. At first, they were located in an old bluestone Collingwood pub and then in 1974 at Clayton South, before in January 1982 moving the whole operation to Healey Road, Dandenong – some four years after Pryda was registered as a company in Australia.

“Our first customers were wholesaler John Danks, Adelaide Steamship Company, Myer and McEwans,” Daryl Turner said.

Pryda’s first Australian truss plant was located in 1972 in Adelaide and needed industry approval for its nailplates (built according to a standardised design developed by Melbourne engineer Jack Taylor) before they could be sold.

“Once we moved to Dandenong, we were opening up truss plants as fast as we could,” Daryl said. “For timber yards, it only required low capital investment to expand the business into a truss plant with plenty of value added product returns.”

Becoming established in Australia was not easy and, as soon as Pryda nailplates were approved for structural use, Daryl spent 12 months on the road visiting every hardware store in every country town and city. This was followed by another 12-month stint at seminars twice a week throughout Australia convincing architects and engineers to specify Pryda nailplates in their building projects.

In this, Daryl enlisted the help of his attractive and smooth-talking wife Gail. She would demonstrate the strength of the nailplate by joining two pieces of timber together and then inviting a burly member of the audience to stand on them and try and bounce them apart.

In 1975, with the help of a young designer named Chris Rogers, Daryl moved into the business of truss design using 4k memory Wang 2200 computers to produce the designs in sections before spitting them out on a high-speed plotter.

The design software developed rapidly for a variety of standard truss shapes and web configurations before a major advance in 1989 enabled Computa-Roof to design trusses from first principles. This allowed Pryda fabricators to tackle different roof designs previously requiring special engineering. As a result, in 1992 Computa-Roof V3 won an Australian Design Award and within five years Pryda Roof was launched.

Truss plant technology quickly moved towards the use of graphics in plan data and several Pryda software modules (covering roof and floor trusses and wall framing) were then bundled into a suite called Pryda Solutions.

Today, Pryda Build, using 3D graphics and integrated designs, takes CAD functionality to another level – and production management software and fabrication equipment also have become a main feature of the Pryda offer.
While this design technology was being developed, Pryda went through several significant structural changes.

The first occurred in 1986 when Ray Turner sold the company to the joint venture of Ajax McPhersons and a publicly listed New Zealand company.

With Chris Rogers by now at the helm as managing director (following Daryl’s retirement), the sale signalled a series of mergers and takeovers that today sees Pryda as part of the international conglomerate Illinois Tool Works (ITW).

The first move was Ajax McPhersons purchasing the company in its own right before merging with Spurway Cooke to form Ajax Cooke.

This was followed in 1994 by National Consolidated buying the company and, four years later, Austrim – with former BTR Nylex CEO Alan Jackson in charge – taking it over.

The ITW move, when it bought eight of the companies (including Pryda) from Austrim Nylex’s building products division, is now 10 years old and has enabled the company to pursue the innovative approaches set by earlier pioneers and to turn the dream that Ray Turner started 50 years ago in his Napier home as a lasting legacy.

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