It will be double celebrations for Pryda next year with its 50th anniversary coinciding with founder Ray Turner’s 90th birthday.
While most people his age have long since retired and probably spend their days taking it easy, Ray Turner continues to innovate and invent with more than 100 innovations to his name. His latest effort is a series of hidden durable polycarbonate plastic connectors that can be used to fasten stair rails, or to replace visible galvanised steel joist hangars in beams or purlins.
Two years ago he established the firm Decklock with inventions to make it easy to install decking at even spacing. It might be that Ray regards work as a joyous hobby 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.
The English boy, who joined the British merchant navy when he turned 18 and wanted to migrate to New Zealand, jumped ship with his brother once they reached Napier. Ray completed a building apprenticeship and established his own building company A.R. Turner in 1949.
However, not content with just building for others, Ray soon turned his attention to inventing useful products for the building industry. He began small, 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. Pryde was then changed to Pryda, which means ‘adorn’ in Norwegian.
The flourishing business soon 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.
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 at Clayton South in 1974, before moving the whole operation to Healey Road, Dandenong in January 1982, some four years after Pryda was registered as a company in Australia.
According to Daryl Turner, their first customers were wholesaler John Danks, Adelaide Steamship Company, Myer and McEwans.
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.
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 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 heavily towards the use of graphics in plan data and several Pryda software modules (covering roof trusses, 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 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 ITW move 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.