Topics: Manufacturing Modernisation Fund recipients
Karen Andrews: Well, good morning. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here at the Australian Fashion label, Leina Broughton, with my good friend and colleague, the Member for Moncrieff, Angie Bell, and with Fleur Richardson the COO and co-owner of Leina Broughton. This is a fabulous opportunity for us to speak about manufacturing here on the Gold Coast, but more broadly the work that the Australian Government is doing to support manufacturing right across Australia.
So today we are announcing multiple projects right across Australia that have been determined as eligible under the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund, to receive support from the Australian Government to look at additional equipment to allow them to scale up, or to look at training their workforce, or a combination of both. So there are approximately 200 projects right across Australia. They will have a combined injection into our economy of about $215 million, and over the course of the projects they will bring in employment of about 2,600 people – and this is right across Australia.
Now, here on the Coast we have three projects – I am announcing the project right here at Leina Broughton. We are going to be providing support to them to scale up their operations and I will invite the CEO, Fleur Richardson, to talk specifically about the project and the upside of that for their business and for manufacturing right here on the Gold Coast.
Fleur Richardson: We are really proud and honoured to be receiving support from the government with the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund. The impact that it will bring to our business by assisting us to invest in an automatic cutter is huge. It will help us scale, and achieve efficiencies with outputs, whilst saving on waste. But also it helps us sustain our manufacturing base here in Australia. It’s part of our business foundation to be Australian designed and made. We really proudly support that and want this to be the basis of our business going forward.
Question: Have you had any trouble having that as the basis of your business before coronavirus, when there wasn’t as much manufacturing?
Fleur Richardson: No because we partner with local manufacturers. We’ve been able to react very quickly with what is currently happening. And because we’re supporting 10 businesses outside of us who in return help support our business as small manufacturers, it means that you are not having to rely on huge logistics to bring your product through the supply chain. Timelines are a lot more manageable and you can be more reactive with that. And so it’s allowed us to plan a little bit closer to when we release product to market as well.
Question: But that must affect the bottom line? The price you can put on your product.
Fleur Richardson: Definitely. It’s not a mass produced, quick buy, quick throwaway product at all. It has a high return on investment and it is an investment piece that we are creating.
Question: Because there is a lot of talk about that quick fast fashion, throwaway fashion that the coronavirus will see the end of this. Do you agree with that?
Fleur Richardson: Oh, I couldn’t say that entirely . I think there’ll always be a customer who wants that, they can’t quite comprehend what Australian -made really means from an investment and a price point, point of view. But we know that it means value, it means quality, and it means longevity of product lasting in the market so I think that will actually appeal to a lot of consumers out there.
Angie Bell: Thank you. It’s wonderful to be here today with my colleague, Karen Andrews, the Minister for Industry. Can I congratulate her on the great work that she’s been doing across the country for manufacturing and industry – particularly since the COVID crisis that we find ourselves in now.
It’s wonderful today to be able to announce two businesses in my electorate of Moncrieff, in Molendinar – Patterson Glass and Chemist House – who will be recipients of this grant money to update their business model, to reinvent what they’re doing – have a look at what they’re doing, reinvent it, and then relaunch what they’re doing to increase their capacity in manufacturing. And small business has been hit very hard on the Gold Coast during this crisis and it’s great to see the federal government stepping up to help manufacturing, which will ultimately increase capacity for these businesses and update what they’re doing in order to put on more staff, more jobs, so that we can go through this crisis and get to the other side and rebuild our wonderful city.
So great to be here today, and congratulations to those two businesses in Moncrieff who will receive this funding.
Question: Fleur – obviously it’s great news. Can you go into specifics how the grants will affect operations here once you get access to it?
Fleur Richardson: We’re very much a manual process at the moment, so what’s behind you there is our manual cutting table. And it’s also not a regenerating resource, so our current cutter is in his 70s. We will aim to retrain existing resources to upskill to use the new automated technology. So it will be a fast tracking cutting system allowing an increase to our volume outputs on a daily basis, to meet the demand without being mass produced.
Question: Well I suppose what that also means there’s a whole lot of businesses struggling to keep their employees. Does this help in that regard? And maybe also employing more people?
Fleur Richardson: Definitely. Obviously where there’s an increase in scale we’ll always need more people to come on board, it just will result in a different sort of process that they might be doing. It will naturally occur with traditional manufacturing processes but we’re an online business, so it will grow in many areas, it’ll also be in our digital departments and we may need more people to come on board to manage with the scale and the outputs there as well.
Question: Are there any- like, obviously the crisis has sort of been affecting businesses for a little while now. So are there any adaptions that you have made along the way already?
Fleur Richardson: Well, you’d notice it’s very quiet in here at the moment, so we are very much physical distancing with regards to our team being on site. And as I said, we’re an online business so the digital team have been working from home since the decision came out to isolate. And we stagger our production staff at the moment.
So we went into a little bit of a sort of stop work for a while just to sort of gauge what was happening out there, but now we’re back on track with developing and keeping work going. So we’ve maintained and supported all our contracts with our manufacturers, they’ve been working too, so we’ve seen all our products still coming through. We’ve been really lucky we’ve been able to do that.
Question: How has business really been affected by COVID-19?
Fleur Richardson: We’ve definitely seen a downturn in business, which I think you could say that a lot of people have. But we’ve got an extremely loyal customer base, she’s a professional woman, so she’s had to change her wardrobe requirements as well based on working from home and Zoom meetings and everything. But we’re an innovative bunch here, so we’ve worked out how to cater for that. And things are looking positive considering.
Question: You’re also catering for Ministers.
Fleur Richardson: Exactly.
Karen Andrews: Look, it’s so good and it’s so comfortable. I’m very happy with my purchase. I actually have two dresses from here, so I love it. I love the pattern on the one right there…
Fleur Richardson: Thank you.
Karen Andrews: And I bought it. I paid for it full price by the way. Which I was delighted to do and it’s very good value for money, I’m happy as.
Question: So how much does this brand go into this? Are you adding some relief that you’ll see this business be able to see things through to the other side of this crisis?
Fleur Richardson: Yeah. It just helps us sustain a great quality product. It takes away just the pressure of- like a slower process of creating things when there is the demand there. And I think just having that financial support there means that money can go towards other things as well that includes supporting team members and whatever we do within the business there once everyone’s back on board properly.
Question: So when we see things return to normal, how do you think your business will be faring given this latest investment?
Fleur Richardson: We’re very, very optimistic about coming out the other side of this very strongly – we have a strong team of talented people who are supporting us to achieve this as well. I think we’re all a bit lonely about having to operate from home, and looking forward to coming back on board and hitting the ground running again, and having a business where everyone feels part of the process and succeeding with a great result. So I think we will be in good stead for positive outcomes.
Question: You have made a commitment in your business to commit to Australian manufacturing. The Government now has- it’s very focused on returning manufacturing to this country. What are your feelings about that, not just in your sector, but as a business person in this country? How do you feel about the fact that there’s a focus on manufacturing returning?
Fleur Richardson: I think it’s fabulous. I’ve been in the industry for years and worked in factories. What we do here requires very skilled labour. And I think that it’s exciting to think that it’s coming, and with technology coming in as well, it means it’s no longer traditional manufacturing as we know it. So that’s exciting in itself. So, we’ve got people who have been cutting for years that can come on board, bring technologies together and evolve their skill set. I think that’s brilliant.
Question: We’ve got the baby boomers who are very trained up in manufacturing that have retired now. Is the Government looking at ways to maybe get those people back with that knowledge base and that skills to retrain this new generation of manufacturing focus that we’ve got?
Karen Andrews: It’s certainly an option that we will need to look at over time, about how we are going to make sure that we have the skilled workers that we need for the future. We do know that in manufacturing we do have an older workforce and they have tremendous skills – so we need to look at ways that we can harness them. And of course, the Germans have been particularly good at a mentoring system, so I’d be very interested in looking at that. And I know that the minister responsible for skills, Michaelia Cash, has done a tremendous amount of work with skills and how we’re going to meet those needs into the future. But these are the things that in the context of manufacturing and Australia’s manufacturing future we need to look at and I don’t intend to leave any stone unturned.