Comment by Peter Roberts
International paper products group Kimberly-Clark’s shock decision to close its Sydney baby nappy plant is a major loss to the local manufacturing scene.
This was one of a small number of consumer products manufactured in massive volume – a billion nappies a year – right here in Australia.
The Ingleburn plant was almost living proof that Australia can compete in mass manufacturing if the conditions are right.
As recently as a few years ago the plant was regularly showcased by the company as modern and efficient, utilising advanced people management techniques and manufacturing technology to compete with Asia.
Typical of this was the development of the world’s first three-dimensional melded fabric by supplier, Textor Technologies, which gave them an edge in the market and was exported to other Kimberly-Clark operations.
Now, in a six-sentence announcement of the closure, the company says: “Going forward, production will move to Kimberly-Clark’s facilities in Asia, enabling faster access to the latest research and engineering advancements in nappies and pants.”
The company also has an extremely sophisticated social media strategy which gives it feedback from consumers that has regularly led to product innovation.
Apparently a global review of operations found that Australia was not the source of advancements the company so often suggested.
More than 220 staff will lose their jobs at the Ingleburn mill, and the company can certainly be criticised for the abrupt way the workers were told of the global decision.
The company still manufactures Kleenex tissue products at its Millicent mill in South Australia
But in nappies, what will be left will be marketing and a promised “local product development team.”
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