A further amount of up to $10 million was also spent moving equipment from the old facilities to Keysborough.
As well as being the largest single manufacturing site for the swimming pool and spa industry outside of the United States, it is the first 6-star energy-efficient factory of any type in Australia.
Managing director Peter Wallace says they outgrew the previous location and wouldn’t have been able to continue with their growth if they had remained there.
“Since 2000 we’ve averaged 22 per cent compound growth, year-on-year, even after the GFC and the recession. And the reality is, it’s only come from the good will of every stakeholder in this business, and they want us to succeed.
“This move enables us to be hungry again for growth,” he says.
He also praises parent company Fluidra for their vision in approving the construction of the Keysborough facility, showing faith not only in the Australian market but also in the country as a centre for research, development and manufacturing.
The facility will employ 110 permanent staff on the factory floor operating in three shifts, six days per week, a further 30 warehouse staff and approximately 15 office staff.
The highly efficient 21,000 square metre facility is vertically integrated, comprising a raw materials warehouse, manufacturing plant, production component “supermarket”, assembly lines and a central distribution warehouse.
It was built by Frasers Property and designed by AstralPool’s Brendan Butler to run in a straight line to minimise unnecessary movement of products: the raw materials come in at one end, and the finished products are stored at the opposite end, ready for rapid distribution to AstralPool’s network of trade centres and for export.
“The trade centre system is designed to hold only three days stock, and whatever they sell today is replenished the next day from our central distribution tomorrow. The concept is you reduce the footprint of the trade centres, but you’ve got the right stock at the right time.”
Additionally, R&D is carried out on site, with plans for a minimum of six new products to be designed and built on the premises each year.
At the moment AstralPool Australia has nearly 20 per cent of its business devoted to the export market – about 500 containers per year – and there are expectations of considerable export growth potential in the export market for products made in Melbourne.
“Once upon a time we would have dreamt of that figure,” says Wallace. “But now we can see there are a lot of opportunities to grow that export market. It’s very exciting for us.
“Our core business is still the Australian market. It’s the most important part of our business and it’s been very kind to us over the years.”
Confidence in local market
An intimate gathering of key stakeholders attended the opening and were treated to the first factory tours.
Carlos Franquesa, Fluidra sale and operations manager attended the opening with a number of other executives from the parent company, including marketing director Marc Perez.
Franquesa says Fluidra decided four years ago to build a big plant in Australia to produce the right products close to the market.
“We are very confident in the team that we have here,” he says. “Peter and his team are very strong and we are confident they will be very successful.”
He expects considerable growth over time, including a strong export component.
“This plant will enable us to be competitive and now we are exporting to the US, South America and Europe and I think they will be very productive and will sell more and more.”
Perez says two products of most interest are the salt chlorinators are the Viron pumps.
“The penetration of salt chlorination in Australia is very high, and the product we make here is very good and is perceived to be very reliable. We also expect a lot from the variable speed pump, because Australia has always been ahead of the other markets in innovation, and with the support from the local government it has become a mainstream product now. The Americans were the first to develop variable speed, but this has been the market with the greatest penetration rate.
“Viron is not just an Australian product any more, it’s a global one now.”
Perez says Australia is now Fluidra’s third largest market after Spain and France, and with the new plant and the high rate of pool ownership, it is well positioned to become number two.
Since this story published, Matt Adlam has succeeded Peter Wallace as Managing Director of AstralPool Australia.