Transposing an entire manufacturing operation from one State to another is an ambitious goal at the best of times, but when a global pandemic struck mid-way through our move from Sydney to Gippsland, Victoria, we learned some hard but valuable lessons about hedging against relocation risks, writes Alfred Chown.
When planning the move from Brookvale in Sydney’s northern suburbs we undertook an extensive checklist to ensure supply would not be disrupted. It is safe to say that despite our due diligence, we failed to prevent this happening. COVID-19 was an almost unforeseeable risk, but in hindsight one we could have prepared for.
By the time COVID struck we were too far committed to a relocation that required the movement of nearly 230 B-double truckloads of equipment that had to be dismantled, transported, and then re-installed and commissioned at our new site in Rosedale, Victoria.
We were constantly losing valuable staff and contractors to lockdown periods, and some of our highly skilled workers, who were initially willing to see our relocation through and help train new employees at Rosedale, wavered. Understandably, they could not afford to be away from their families in NSW for an unknown amount of time.
With such an undertaking and no alternative means of production our delivery performance suffered, but the Bambach production team is one of our strongest assets, and they did everything possible to minimise the damage. It was a difficult time, but thanks to our dedicated staff, that time is behind us.
Over 14 months since Rosedale production tentatively began, we have picked up the pace and expect to be close to full production by earl- 2022. The maximum capacity of our new facility is 10 times what we were able to achieve at Brookvale.
Although the move has been a difficult time for our company, we are now in a stronger position than ever and would like to share two key takeaways for any other organisation looking to undertake a major relocation.
Firstly, being flexible is key. We learnt very early on in the process that things do not always go to plan and how important it was to be as flexible as possible with our contractors, suppliers and transport partners. This also highlighted the importance of not putting all our eggs in the one basket when it came to a certain trader or supplier.
Secondly, and probably the most important lesson learned, was that moving two factories with an enormous, combined floor space is only achieved by a dedicated and extremely hard-working group.
All the planning and spreadsheets only go so far. Machines arrive in pieces at all times of day and night, and if you multiply that problem over 230 B-double loads disgorging items as quickly as they can the scale becomes apparent. It is a “how do you eat an elephant?” situation – one bite at a time.
Hire good people and hire early rather than rely on outside contractors or consultants. It is less expensive, and the knowledge learned stays with you.
We are proud to see the new plant up and running and delivery schedules back on track.
Both capacity and capability have been vastly expanded, enabling us to manufacture a much larger range of cable in terms of size and volume and including more than 90 per cent Australian content.
Alfred Chown is Chief Executive Officer, Bambach Wire and Cables.
Subscribe to our free @AuManufacturing newsletter here.