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Bolwell bounces back after factory fire

19 June 2014

After fire gutted one of Bolwell’s major plants in Mordialloc, Victoria, the prominent fibreglass and composites design and manufacturing company, is on track to return to full production by the end of July.

Bolwell's Seaford plant converted to truck laminating

Production starts to return to normal just weeks after fire gutted one of Bolwell's factories on 24 April 2014

Design Director Vaughan Bolwell said that while the fire was an emotional and costly setback, several factors mitigated the impact on operations and customers.

The fire, which started shortly after 6am on Thursday, 24 April quickly swept through the 2000 square metre factory, exploding resin drums and requiring 80 fire fighters some 90 minutes to bring under control.

Contrary to media reports, the fire had not started in the resin drums but the actual cause was still under investigations however it was believed to be electrical, Bolwell told Composites Australia.
Workers quickly followed the company’s well-rehearsed fire drill and no-one was injured, Bolwell said.

The factory housed the company’s laminating works for its major trucking customers, namely Kenworth and IVECO, destroying “quite a few” highly circulated moulds.

“What’s helped us mitigate the impact on the business has been the fact we operate over multiple sites, our patterns are stored off site and we have tooling facilities in different locations,” Bolwell said.

“Most companies move everything under the one roof to reduce overheads, however, in our case, the fact that we held separate, efficient work sites has helped us mitigate the fire risk and impact to our business.”

This meant the company could immediately transition the RV caravan site into a laminating site – a move which provided the opportunity to implement a more efficient production line, said Bolwell.

“We have been able to bring mouldings in from our Thailand factory while we create new tools from our patterns and while there will be a logistical issue in terms of transporting raw materials and finished product we expect to be back to full production for our truck customers within weeks.”

Meanwhile design and rebuild plans for the destroyed factory are already underway.

Bolwell paid credit to employees and the composite industry for their response to the incident. “The whole experience has been unifying for our team, with everyone coming together to create minimal impact on our customers, and other companies have come to our aid with offers of caravan storage, equipment loans and advice. We have really appreciated how everyone – our workers and the composite industry in particular have been so willing to help out.”