Jobs secured through Thornbury firm's centre of excellence

Gazette Series: Deputy Mayor of Thornbury Cllr Guy Rawlinson with Mike Kirkley, Managing Director of Essilor Ltd cu the ribbon to open the new production facilities at Essillor in Thornbury (2800702) Deputy Mayor of Thornbury Cllr Guy Rawlinson with Mike Kirkley, Managing Director of Essilor Ltd cu the ribbon to open the new production facilities at Essillor in Thornbury (2800702)

HUNDREDS of jobs have been secured at lens manufacturer Essilor in Thornbury with the completion of a UK production centre of excellence.

The company, which is due to celebrate 40 years of manufacturing on its site in 2014, employs 330 staff at its Cooper Road factory - most of them local.

It makes more than 5,000 ophthalmic lenses every day at Thornbury, which is the headquarters of the company's UK operation.

Essilor has now invested close on £500,000 on the new centre over a period of two years in order to make use of the latest digital technology .

By concentrating on digitally surfaced lenses, the firm said it would be able to capitalise on the growing demand for such products.

Essilor deals mainly with the independent market and Mike Kirkley, managing director of Essilor Ltd, said the investment would allow the company to focus on higher value lenses.

He said: "The company has grown over the past couple of years very successfully and in November experienced double digit growth.

"It's been very challenging as we've re-engineered the factory but we have good products and good employees."

Mr Kirkley praised the staff for their efforts, which led to Essilor in the UK outperforming the company's other centres in the rest of Europe.

He said: "We are the shining star of Europe. It's the first time the UK has been at number one.

"Opening the centre of excellence is a big milestone but it is the start of further milestones and next year we will be celebrating 40 years of manufacturing on the Thornbury site."

The town's deputy mayor, Councillor Guy Rawlinson, was invited to the factory to cut a ribbon and formally open the new facilities.

He also helped release 40 balloons to mark the forthcoming anniversary , each containing a voucher for those who find one.

Addressing the workforce, Councillor Rawlinson said: "Essilor is one of the major employers in Thornbury and it's great news that manufacturing has been secured for the town. Congratulations to all of you."

As part of the changes introduced, 50 workers lost their jobs earlier this year, with most taking voluntary redundancy. Some others were on fixed contracts or hired through agencies.

More traditional lens surfacing was also moved to Thailand and Poland.

The company, which is French in origin and has its global HQ in Paris, said it was necessary to make the most of its investment in innovation and technology to meet the demand of its customers.

Mr Kirkley said: "We have here the right equipment to make the right lenses."

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