September 18, 2018
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October 18, 2018
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The Road Less Travelled. Dare we take it?

It could be difficult. The map may be sketchy. There could be pot holes and limited refreshment breaks, not to mention problems with the wi-fi. Heck, it could even be lonely!

There will be fewer binding precedents! We may discover something new – about the path and about ourselves. Who knows? We may even blaze a whole new trail!

The decision to build a state-of-the-art paint factory at Merrifield required the Dulux team to draw on their reserves of courage and confidence – both professionally and personally. The successful outcome is the largest coatings factory in Australia and New Zealand and a new facility equal to the most technically sophisticated paint factory in the world.

It was fabulous to attend this Quick Bite Breakfast to hear two inspiring leaders share their experience in making the Dulux Merrifield vision a reality, and the personal courage and confidence they have drawn on and continue to build in their own careers, followed by a panel discussion.

Brad Hordern – EGM Supply Chain, DuluxGroup opened the event.

DuluxGroup is an S&P ASX100 listed company with a market capitalisation of $3billion. It has 22 factories and 19 distribution centres around the world. In Australia, DuluxGroup has manufacturing operations in SA, WA, NSW, QLD and VIC.

The Dulux Merrifield Site is a $165m investment about an hour from the Melbourne CBD. The site was commissioned this year, employs approximately 70 people on a two shift roster five days per week. Its processes are highly digital, enabling it to run small, high precision batches and be extremely agile in its response to customer/consumer demand.

Brad spoke to us about the journey he has led and navigated through a multi-year approval and building process that was not without its challenges. The DuluxGroup Board’s decision to invest in Merrifield was largely driven by the need to significantly mitigate the risk it saw in its reliance on the existing manufacturing infrastructure. All decision making was purely commercially based – a cheaper solution would not have supported the premium brand position DuluxGroup is known for and wanting to continue.

Taking the time to build a great team of people shone through as the number one reason they have delivered the project on schedule.

Brad defined courage as “considered risk taking” – knowing your team, knowing your limitations/capabilities and using ambition as your compass, continually calibrating yourself with respect to risk and return. Brad said his ambition was “to be the best we could be around our consumer/customer position”.

He also highlighted the importance of maintaining focus in order to meet targets and deadlines and avoid derailing a project. This strategy both proved his team’s ability to meet targets and enabled future capability to run additional projects.

Detailing how the rapid and ongoing advancement of technology and digitization means that suppliers continue to push the envelope with their technology and what they want it to deliver, Brad explained how collaboration with suppliers and disrupting the status quo also require ongoing courage, tenacity and strong relationships.

David King – Operations Manager, DuluxGroup Supply Chain then took us through his journey to design the people environment and culture that was going to take this high tech facility forward in the most successful way. The opportunity to start up a greenfield site in manufacturing in Australia is a rare opportunity and David shared the level of personal courage required to take on this responsibility.

Starting with a blank canvas and being asked to “imagine a better place” David and the foundation team first established a list of key behaviours and attributes:

  • Engaged
  • Inclusive
  • Accountable
  • Committed
  • Supported
  • Flexible

A highly strategic and comprehensive recruitment campaign followed, commencing in March 2017 with offers and moving to on-boarding in August 2017. They had a total of 1100 applications, including 141 female applicants (or 13% of applications), and they made 37 appointments, 27 male and 10 female (or 37% of appointments). The balance of staff was handpicked from other Dulux operations, including their Operations Leaders.

Interestingly there were no targets for % females on shortlists or number of women ultimately recruited. It would be interesting to understand if they would have chosen to do anything differently in their process had they had some targets around diversity. The gender balance on site is 27% and the overall diversity profile of the Merrifield team reflects that of the local community.

David echoed Brad’s pointers on having the courage to stand his ground and stay true to the plan in the face of challenges in order to achieve the desired outcomes.

It was very interesting to hear more detail around the elements of this process. Again, there was disruption of the status quo. Their recruitment advertising was different from anything they had done before. The focus in all communications was on the behaviour and attributes they wanted – rather than applicants’ previous work experience. The extended on-boarding process was a great contributor to team formation and culture, and uptake of technical knowledge prior to commissioning.

We then heard insights from three inspiring female operations leaders from the Dulux Team, who generously shared their personal journeys to harness their courage and confidence:

Pip Smith: B&D Roller Doors Operations Manager

Lisa Roberts: Merrifield Planning Manager

Eloise Matthews: Merrifield Production Leader

Sharing how she overcome fear of failure to move from a comfortable position to take on the role of B&D Roller Doors Operations Manager role for DuluxGroup, Pip’s key message was, “do not let yourself get in the way of your goals or great opportunities!”. She encouraged us to grasp opportunities and do lots of listening because it is your ability to lead the team that is the key.

Lisa provided us with insights into the courage required to tackle complex projects and stick with your plan even through the stressful times. Her advice, “come up with a plan, stick to it, ‘gut feel’ is so important, and ensure you bring others on the journey with you” certainly resonated with many of us.

Eloise’s story, also of moving from a comfortable role to the unknown, was an invaluable lesson in being bold enough to ask for help. Stating, “I thought I needed to know everything, and I didn’t” and “It’s ok to ask for help”, she outlined how the support of mentors and leadership coaching were essential in supporting her to step up and enjoy the challenges of the role.

We then donned our high viz for an awesome tour and saw firsthand a state-of-the-art, water based paints factory, equal to the most technically sophisticated paint factory in the world at this point in time. The new facility is the largest coatings factory in Australia and New Zealand.

It was lovely to leave Dulux with an English Sheep Dog Puppy in hand……J Thanks Dulux for hosting such an inspiring event.


Written By Louise Weine, National Director, NAWO

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