Deepening essential operational skills


Essity Australasia is a personal care and hygiene company known for its market-leading household brands including Sorbent, Handee Ultra, Purex, Libra, Tena, Tork and Treasures. Their Springvale site in Victoria supports 100 operational staff and 150 administration staff in manufacturing feminine care and incontinence care products for over 40 years.

By locally manufacturing such essential products, Essity has been able to thrive as the stresses of supply shortages struck the industry, Essity site and operations manager for Springvale Matthew Arblaster explained.

“I think COVID-19 has shown us the importance of local manufacturing and as a local manufacturer of critical goods – being in one of the categories of products that got hit by surge buying in the pandemic – it shows that if you’re making those essential goods locally, it really does ensure that we can react quickly and ensure that our consumers have those essential products in ample supply,” he said.

“We have proven now that local manufacturing has an absolute strong place and stable supply chains can outweigh cost reductions and mitigate that risk of short supply.”

In creating an even stronger supply chain, recently Essity’s strategy has been to grow, promote and build skills in its dedicated manufacturing and supply team. This was achieved through a Skills Development Program that was introduced in 2020 to capture, assess and share the team’s amassed knowledge. The aim was to develop a platform to train new staff, cross skill operators, create a standardised process, and build skills in using more modern equipment and creating new products.

“With all of the change we’ve undergone, we needed to upskill and train our staff,” Arblaster said. “The depth of knowledge we’ve had to transfer to people has been challenging, but we’ve got really good systems in place. And equally, keeping people safe is a big focus of ours – and with that comes the work we’ve been doing.”

Since the program was implemented, Essity says it has witnessed a plethora of benefits at the Springvale site. Along with a 56 per cent reduction in consumer complaints, there were less staff injuries and better flexibility in staff’s work schedules. Additionally, there has been an increase in employee satisfaction in the team and more internal promotions, as well as new apprentices hired; the training program has enabled them to upskill quickly.

Ultimately, the Skills Development Program has improved operations and driven a great return on investment, as the cost per unit has been reduced by 16 per cent. It will continue to support a legacy that will serve the Essity manufacturing site in delivering sustainable, customer-centric products to the community.

Arblaster said it was great to be recognised in the Endeavour Awards in an industry where it can be hard to balance inputs and outputs, and people and processes.

“I think it’s great to be in the company of, and measured against, really established and professional companies and to know that you’re in their league in working on best practice,” he said. “That’s a huge accomplishment.”