With international shipping times dropping from months to weeks, Emu Australia is aiming to double its production for local and international sales.

In order to accomplish this, Emu Australia’s factory manager Kristie Marsh is on the hunt for new artisans, as well as other factory roles. So far, the search has been fruitless.

According to Marsh, the artisan ugg boot maker is a dying trade, with a lot of her employees being part of the older generation.

This means that, as well as aiming to fill current vacancies, Marsh is also facing some of her older workforce to retire in the next few years, compounding the stress of filling roles.

“At the moment, I'm actually branching out and looking at recruitment agencies and just trying to find the right fit.

“I'm happy to put the time and the training and the money into the right candidates. Last week, I had two girls with no sewing experience start.

“It's just branching out and seeing who actually wants a job; who can be loyal to the company and who wants to learn how to sew?

“We hope to double what we're already doing, hence why we need more machinists and more factory workers.”

Part of the training process includes a three-month trial, where trainees can get a sense of the job and how they fit within it. Marsh is hoping to bring on more artisans and machinists to help bulk up production for next year.

“This is the time of year that we train up new people and that takes them three, four or five months. And that's fine with me.

“But obviously, both parties have to be happy with the progress and how it's all going.

“But I'm a little bit lenient in that sense because I understand that I can't get people with experience or the training. I have to work with what I've got.”

The drive towards increasing Emu’s workforce has been buoyed by successful trade over the last two years. According to Marsh, the pandemic was a blessing for the company.

“Everyone was working from home and wanting to wear slippers and ugg boots. So sales went up and up throughout those two years and they're kind of plateauing now.

“That's still good figures and it keeps the factory really busy.

“It's a 12-month business because six months of the year we're bulking for the northern hemisphere and then the other six months we’re producing for Australian and New Zealand.

“It's a lot to juggle, but it's great work. I feel really proud and privileged to be able to work for an Australian made company that is doing so well in these times and to be able to employ people.

“It's not just machinist that I'm after - it's also people to cut the product and to attach the soles to the constructed apparel.

“There's so many other roles within the factory as well.”

Supply chains and future

Due to strong production at the backend of 2021, Marsh said the company managed to accumulate plenty of stock for the northern hemisphere. But when Emu Australia began shipping containers this year, they were given alarming transport time estimates

“At that stage, we were told that a shipping container would take three or four months to get over to America.”

Expectedly, this news put stress on the company, with Marsh fearing she wouldn’t meet its deadlines.

“We were just preparing as best we could and sending as much stock as we could to fulfil those deadlines.”

However, Marsh reported that supply chain disruptions and delays are easing.

“The last lot of containers we sent over to Europe were standard; it's about 45 days on the water - and then America was about a month. So yeah, it's definitely getting better.

“I think it's just a domino effect around the world. If you don't have empty containers here, then you can't fulfil them, and shipping lines don't have bookings.

“It is hard, because you've got to allow for that. And with some raw materials and stuff, you've got to take into consideration transit time.

“Because if you don't have the right raw material delivered to you, then you can't make the product.

“It is a big juggling act in a sense.”

According to Marsh, Emu Australia managed to send a record number of containers over to North America and Europe this year. The product had gone into warehouses, where it was then dispersed to customers within those countries. The biggest market of the two, said Marsh, is Europe.

“Europe is more predominantly the continent that we send most of our stock to, because we also have online stores over in those countries as well.

“The USA aren’t far behind.”

In light of this production boom, Emu Australia will be doing another major marketing campaign to push demand for Australian made products.

“We've got a big conference coming up with all our sales reps and PR agencies in November,” Marsh revealed. “It's just doing more styles for the Australian made collections so consumers, retailers, and wholesalers have more options.

“We hope to double what we're already doing, hence why we need more machinists and more factory workers.

“It's a positive thing, because a lot of people do want to buy Australian made these days.

“And I'm not being biased, but our quality is amazing.”

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