EPL 'back up above the parapet'

TAMLYN STEWART
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2012
Daniel Tobin

Tamlyn Stewart talks to Tom Thomson, the managing director of Christchurch's Elastomer Products, about what it took to lead his company through a year of quakes.

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Specialist plastics manufacturer Elastomer Products (now rebranded as EPL) is the biggest plastic and rubber extrusion company in Australasia and exports to manufacturers in Australia, southeast Asia and the United States.

EPL's Bromley factory was badly damaged in the February quake, its offices a writeoff, but staff and their families pitched in to clean up after the quake and keep the business running. The factory was braced, inspected and is safe to work in. EPL's production never missed a beat.

All the staff had homes damaged and some, including managing director Tom Thomson, had lost family members.

His staff took up a collection to send him and wife, Denise, away for a weekend in the early days after the quake.

Early this year Thomson was named as a finalist in the outstanding international business leader category of the 2012 New Zealand International Business Awards. EPL's new production centre near Fisher & Paykel in Thailand was ''starting to hit its straps''.

Now Thomson says the focus for the company is to get its head ''back up above the parapet'' after spending two years looking inwardly and continue to take care of its staff, many of whom were still battling through insurance and EQC processes.

The firm itself has settled its insurance claim after a long and difficult process.

A 20 metre by 9m Versatile garage has been set up behind the factory and converted into offices. The company is now building a new 6000 square metre factory at Portlink Industrial Park and expects to move in this time next year.

Business was ''very tight'' and the high New Zealand dollar was not helping, Thomson said.

 The sluggish pace of the redevelopment in Christchurch was frustrating. ''We are hanging out for it.'' In terms of revenue the manufacturer was behind where it had budgeted. It had seen a dramatic slowdown in the last few months but was just starting to see ''a bit of pickup'' in November.

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