COMMITMENT WALL: Knauf plant manager Justin Weier and production manager Kristin Gibbs.
COMMITMENT WALL: Knauf plant manager Justin Weier and production manager Kristin Gibbs.

Two years on: how Knauf prospers from growing own workforce

WITHIN the walls of the Bundaberg Knauf manufacturing facility is an efficient and effective local workforce which has been built from the ground up by Kristin Gibbs and Justin Weier.

The term menschlichkeit — putting the wellbeing of everyone in the community at the forefront of every decision made — is at the heart of Knauf’s values, so much so that rather than moving experienced workers from their factories in Melbourne and Sydney, they chose to go down a path of growing their own workforce.

Now as the company celebrates two years of operating in the region they are buoyed by latest results which show the site producing some of the best production figures for the company in Australia.

A key part of the success has been growing a culture of togetherness, which includes involving worker’s families and supporting community causes.

“We had two ways we could go, we could try and relocate key operators from those two plants (down south), or we could go local with people who know nothing about plasterboard and train them up ourselves — that’s the way we went,” said Justin, the site’s plant manager who oversees more than 40 workers.

The Knauf plasterboard factory at the Port of Bundaberg. Plant manager Justin Weier.
The Knauf plasterboard factory at the Port of Bundaberg. Plant manager Justin Weier.

“Apart from a few employees like Kristin, everyone else is local.

“We’ve got removalists, cabinet makers, butchers, who knew nothing about plaster board, so our training and development has been focused around core skills.”

He said the team had taken ownership and was delivering impressive performance results.

“Ultimately it’s those guys who are doing great things and we’re outperforming plants, numbers-wise, who’ve been doing it for 20 years, with the average person being there for 15 years.”

Specific highlights included delivering a reduction in scrap levels close to 1 per cent, while in the safety space the site has been more than 760 days injury free.

As the production manager Kristin said she was responsible for key operational parameters at the facility, scrap and utilisation, and the production teams within that space.

Under her wing are two teams of eight with supervisors.

The Knauf plasterboard factory at the Port of Bundaberg. Production manager Kristin Gibbs.
The Knauf plasterboard factory at the Port of Bundaberg. Production manager Kristin Gibbs.

“Being told it’s a brand new facility, $70 million, it’s not very often a young engineer gets an opportunity to be a part of a brand new manufacturing facility,” she said.

“Especially in the 21st century when manufacturing has been on the decline in Australia.

“It was honestly something I thought I really wanted to be a part of.

“It’s been a great experience and I’m really appreciative of the support from Justin and all the guys on the floor,” she said.

“We’ve really bound together and worked as a team to accomplish an amazing result.”

Justin hopes that Knauf can continue to build strong links with the local residential and construction industry.



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