McCain completes $37 million plant upgrade despite pandemic

Frozen Food company McCain Foods has completed a $37 million upgrade of its Smithton plant in Tasmania.

The upgrade includes an expansion on its retail production, a new fryer and batter applicator and the plant is now the company’s primary retail production facility for Australia and New Zealand.

One of the largest employers in the north-west costal region, the upgrade was completed while the company contended with COVID-19 protocols, including changing shift profiles and reduced operations.

The company has 120 permanent employees on staff and dropped to a five-day operation pattern during the peak of the pandemic in the state.

This hit at the same time as the final stages of construction for the upgrade, which added extra challenges by reducing the site to just 15 per cent of its commissioning resources to complete the works. Pandemic lockdown measures also initially prevented a team of international engineers and construction staff from training staff in the new systems.

Now back to operating to the standard seven day roster and with the upgrade completed, the plant is taking stock of completing the task under the challenging conditions, plant manager Gordon Gillies said.

“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,” Mr Gillies said.

“We are pleased to be up-skilling 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.”

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