PERSPECTIVES: 5 MINUTES WITH OUR NEW ASIA-PACIFIC MANUFACTURING DIRECTOR

5 minutes with our new asia-pacific manufacturing director

Perspectives: 5 minutes with our new Asia-Pacific Manufacturing Director

Andrew Pittle’s long and interesting career has seen him move from electrical engineering to manufacturing management across Australia. As he takes up the role of Manufacturing Director for USG Boral’s Asia-Pacific operations, he looks back on the changes he’s seen over the years.

Having grown up in Victoria and qualifying as an electrical engineer, Andrew began his career with the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) – going on to work with a Rio Tinto mining consultancy. In 1995 he was hired by Boral Plasterboard’s Port Melbourne plant as the company’s first permanent electrical engineer – fulfilling roles previously conducted by external contractors.

“In those days our manufacturing systems were hard-wired, and Boral was looking to automate its plants with Programmable Logic Control (PLC),” Andrew says. From there, he moved through the engineering and technical stream to take roles as Electrical Project Manager, Maintenance Engineer and Production Manager.

Realising that he enjoyed Operations Management but needed to expand his knowledge base more widely, in 2001 he began an MBA at Deakin University. After a 12-month logistics role, he moved across to Boral’s small Adelaide plant as the Plant Manager. “It was a boom time in the Australian construction industry and we needed to raise our production volumes. Adelaide was a very old, low-speed plant that had been ‘mothballed’ for a couple of years. We started it up again and ran it for another two years to bridge the shortfall in capacity at the top of the building cycle.”

Andrew says that it takes around five years from concept to commissioning of an operational plant. “At the time, restarting Adelaide was our only option to keep up with market demand.”

Andrew then moved to become Manufacturing Manager at Port Melbourne. In 2006 he was Manufacturing Manager at Northgate, and then went moved into the role of Manufacturing Manager of the Company’s first Greenfield development at Pinkenba.

In 2017 he assumed the role of Australian Manufacturing Director. Over this journey, he’s worked in every one of USG Boral’s Australian plants – most recently spending time developing management staff at the Camellia factory in NSW.

SUSTAINABLE WAYS OF DOING THINGS

Andrew says that the joint venture with USG has been really good for the former Boral’s manufacturing processes. “The JV injected new technologies into our operations – and more productive and sustainable ways of doing things.”/p>

An example is the introduction of USG’s lightweight, sag-resistant SHEETROCK® technology throughout USG Boral’s global operations. “In manufacturing terms it’s significantly reduced our carbon footprint and increased our productivity. We’re crushing less gypsum and using less water per square metre of board – so we also use less gas in the process of drying it. Once it’s manufactured, we’re also using less fossil fuel to distribute our product as we’re now able to move more board per delivery truck.”

A GLOBAL LEVEL OF ENGAGEMENT

From a personal point of view, the joint venture has enabled Andrew to meet with Plant Managers throughout Asia and from the US. “Having access to USG’s technical experts has allowed us to tap into a wealth of technological development.”

The joint venture has also increased the scale of USG Boral’s regional operations – one benefit being greater investment in manufacturing employees. “We now have dedicated regional resources for manufacturing process excellence and employee technical training.”

“Our employees typically see only a small part of the plasterboard manufacturing process. We’ve been running baseline technical training programs to give them insights into the whole process from gypsum to SHEETROCK®,” Andrew says. “No-one likes being just a ‘blind’ cog in a wheel. Getting them across the end-to-end process has given them a deeper understanding of the importance of their particular role. Our employees are now more engaged as a result of this investment – I’m seeing it for myself.”

Planned future training utilising the power of Lean Six Sigma to help identify and drive out process variation is considered a key tool for delivering, high quality product – which is in turn key to building and retaining our customer base. In his new role, Andrew will see it rolled out across USG Boral operations.

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