Tasmania: McCain Upgrades Potato Processing Plant During Pandemic
Completing construction and commissioning an AUD37m plant upgrade, managing staff to continue operations in the middle of Tasmania’s COVID-19 hotspot, and navigating ever-changing shift profiles has been a challenging six months for McCain Foods’ Smithton plant.
As one of the region’s largest employers, McCain Foods has officially “come out on the other side” with the site’s production recently returning to a full seven-day roster. With upgrade construction at its final stages when the pandemic hit, the site was left with just 15% of its commissioning resources to reach completion and become fully operational. At the same time, international specialist engineering and construction staff were prevented from arriving to train staff and get the plant up and running.
Gordon Gillies, Smithton plant manager, said McCain focused on its commitment to the health and safety of the company’s 120 permanent employees in Smithton, implementing a reduced five-day operation pattern to cater for workers with primary career responsibilities, vulnerable family members or close contacts of COVID-19 cases.
“The pandemic presented challenges for all of us – but the way our people adapted enabled us to keep production levels high and continue to fulfil our responsibility to supply food to our fellow Australians. As a team, every person played a significant part in making the upgrade operational and getting production back on track,” Gillies said.
The capital investment, including an expansion on its retail production and installation of a new fryer and batter applicator, marks the Smithton site as the business’s primary retail production facility for Australia and New Zealand. Throughout construction, the project injected an additional AUD6.4m into the Circular Head region – with resources, accommodation and ancillary spending. Gillies said he was proud of the commitment and cooperation shown by all Smithton staff, and thanked them for their positivity and resilience during these challenging times.
“We are pleased to be upskilling our team with the new equipment and as well as expanding our permanent workforce – a demonstration of our going commitment to production in the region. We love our people, and Australians love our golden chips. We’re proud to be bringing the best of Tassie to the supermarket freezer aisle working with local growers, our logistics partners and all employees to continue to deliver delicious product.”