Almost three centuries of Falkirk manufacturing history came to an end last week when Carron Phoenix’s parent company officially pulled the plug on its factory.
All production at the Stenhouse Road site in Carron ceased for good on Friday, October 26 as the handful of employees who still work there contemplated their long-term future with the company, handling goods which have been manufactured elsewhere.
Swiss-based firm Franke, which bought over Carron Phoenix in 2013, will still employ 26 members of staff at the Stenhouse Road premises, to work in a distribution depot for its synthetic sink products now being created at its state-of-the-art production facility in Slovakia which opened in July.
Just three years ago over 200 people worked at the Carron Phoenix factory, but that number dwindled dramatically as Franke pursued its plans to move production elsewhere.
Falkirk Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn called last week’s closure of the factory “the end of an era”.
She added: “It’s disappointing we have lost manufacturing for Falkirk, especially since the company has been at that particular site for several decades. We are working with Franke to market the factory site and we are also looking at possibilities for alternative uses for the site.”
The factory itself is now being advertised by GVA as “flexible large scale industrial accommodation” available on new lease or licence terms.
Carron Phoenix’s days as a manufacturing base were numbered back in April 2016 when Franke announced it would be shutting the facility down and moving manufacturing to Eastern Europe by the end of 2017.
At the time shattered workers said it was a “bolt from the blue” after they were told at a meeting with management on a Monday morning.
One employee who had worked at Carron Phoenix for over 20 years said: “We didn’t expect anything this drastic. There wasn’t even any rumours this could happen. There are generations of families who work here, some for over 30 years. It’s devastating.
“The thing is there are plenty of orders, we had to knock orders back a month to May because we couldn’t cope with the demand.
“Apparently they have installed a robot to do the work in Slovakia that should have been up and running in December but they’ve had nothing but problems with it.
“It will have a big impact, not just on us but businesses in this community.”
Franke stated it did not take the decision lightly.
A spokesperson said: “We examined in great detail the option of upgrading the Falkirk plant but the high level of investment that would have been required made the business case simply unsustainable.”
The GMB union took representatives of the Carron Phoenix workforce to the STUC Annual Congress in Dundee two years ago where they met with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to discuss intervention from the Scottish Government.
Following that meeting the First Minister said: “In the same way we did for the steel industry, we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to secure a future for the Carron site and protect the jobs that depend on it.”
In April this year Carron Phoenix appointed Kinect Energy to analyse its energy contracts, which led to a water saving of £1400 a year after Kinect discovered a way to reduce the rateable value of the Stenhouse Road site.
Kinect Energy also secured a refund of £7000 after it applied the same changes historically.
At the time Carron Phoenix’s company secretary Ian King – who no longer works for the company – said: “As a manufacturer, we are a large user of utilities, so this sector of the business represents a significant cost to us.”