Tinashe Makichi Business Reporter
Unilever Zimbabwe has started investing towards the transformation of its factory capacity which will see the company manufacture part of its products locally.
The investment is aimed at increasing production levels in the company’s savoury and homecare categories. Another two-phased project aimed at reintroducing the manufacture of Sunlight Liquid is also underway.
The company, which has been in Zimbabwe since 1943 significantly scaled down its local production with the bulk of its products being outsourced from South Africa. The company manufactures household products such as Geisha, Royco Usavi Mix, Sunlight washing powder and Key soap.
Unilever corporate affairs director for Southern Africa Sibonile Dube told The Herald Business that a high speed filling line for the savoury plant will be commissioned during the course of the year.
“As part of our strategy to seek sustainable ways to adapt to the prevailing economic conditions, Unilever has invested towards the transformation of our factory capacity in Zimbabwe.
“This investment, which is structured in three phases, is aimed at increasing production levels in our savoury and homecare categories,” said Mrs Dube.
“A high speed filling line for our savoury plant will be commissioned during the course of the year. It will replace one of two lines which were installed in 2002,” she said.
Mrs Dube said this investment will not only boost the capacity of the factory but also allow more flexibility in widening the range of products from the savoury plant.
She said this project saw 75 percent of capital expenditure being spent on local contractors who carried out civil works and ventilation works in the project.
Phase one of the Sunlight liquid manufacturing unit is expected to be complete by May 2017.
Mrs Dube added that Unilever is also finalising the automation process of the packaging of Vim scouring powder which was previously manually performed.
“The new line has increased capacity and will also be used to supplement the Powders filling line. Its commissioning is in progress,” she said.
Unilever Zimbabwe recently announced its plans to restructure its operations as information in the market pointed to the fact that the exercise was a response to Government’s recent import restriction which adversely impacted its operations.
Despite the prevailing market challenges the company, however, remained bullish of the prospects for the future.
“While the economic landscape remains tough for us like others, the Unilever group continues to back its Zimbabwe operations by rescaling our operations where appropriate.
“Despite recently embarking on a restructuring exercise which led to the rationalization of our employee numbers, the company has ensured it maintains the working conditions, employment contracts and salaries of the employees that it has retained,” said Mrs Dube.
She said the organizational restructure has seen the retention of 60 percent of employees who will spearhead the factory transformation of the business.
Mrs Dube said Unilever remains committed to finding ways to continue its long-standing association with Zimbabwe and putting the business on a viable footing for the future.