THE countdown has begun at the Electrolux plant in Orange for workers and management to prove over the next few months the plant has what it takes to produce the next generation of new fridges and freezers as an alternative to moving production offshore.
Electrolux plant manager Mark O’Kane is confident his staff can rise to the challenge to shore up the Orange plant’s future .
On Thursday the plant’s 600 workers were told they were under the spotlight in a new intensive study to see if the Orange plant could hold its own and be more cost-effective than plants in Thailand, China and other parts of the world.
“There is a lot at stake here but I have every confidence in our designers, engineers and workers,” Mr O’Kane said.
“We have highly skilled people here in Orange.
“We faced this same situation 10 years ago when our range was tired and needed new design and production, and we proved we could do it then because of the high levels of skills we have here on site.”
Mr O’Kane said Electrolux’s 35 per cent market share in fridges and freezers with the Kelvinator, Electrolux and Westinghouse brands, and the high quality of the products turned out at the Orange plant, would go a long way to help secure the new contract for fridges when the existing lines come off the production line for the last time in 2015.
Mr O’Kane said although one financial expert predicted in the media the plant selected would require an injection of $50 million to produce fridges and freezers after 2015, he had no firm figures.
“We certainly haven’t gone that far in determining what figure will be put on it - that is merely speculation,” he said.
He did concede, however, that Orange would be just one of several options considered by the Electrolux organisation when it crunches the numbers to find the most efficient plant to produce the new line of fridges for the future.
“But what we have on our side is the high quality of the fridges and freezers we produce here - that’s a big positive,” Mr O’Kane said.
“There is no way we can just pick up this factory and put it somewhere else in the world.”
Australian Metal Workers Union assistant secretary Steve Murphy said yesterday plans were being put in place for representatives to travel to Orange next week to meet with management.
“We want to work together with them on this, and we are just really keen to see what’s involved and what we can do to support the workers in Orange,” he said.
Outside the plant yesterday one worker who did not want to be named said he wasn’t surprised by the announcement.
“Some of this I have seen it coming for 10 years,” he said.
Electrolux corporate communications manager Craig McCarthy said on Thursday the worst-case scenario for the Orange plant was that the last refrigerator would roll off the production line in 2015.