1.5 million battens: Ari’s 25-year anniversary

Ari Zaharopoulos is celebrating a significant milestone of 25 years working with Street Furniture Australia.

Throughout his career he has processed an estimated 1.5 million battens.

“If you have sat on a Street Furniture Australia seat or bench – anywhere around the country and overseas – the battens were likely processed by Ari,” says Head of Operations Christopher Morgan.

Ari joined the company in 1995, when the factory was “much smaller,” he says, and located in Bourke Street, Alexandria. Production later moved to Buckland Street, Alexandria, before the upgrade to the Regents Park premises in Western Sydney.

“There’s a lot more room to move now,” Ari says, “and the way we do things has become more and more efficient.”

Batten drilling, for example, was originally done manually, with one hole made at a time. Ari now performs the job via a jig that allows for multiple holes at a time, and can be programmed to different product requirements.

Innovations like these have helped the factory go from producing around 15-20 seats a day in 1995 to a capacity of 70-100 seats in 2021 – though this would only occur for very large jobs, as each product is made-to-order just before dispatch.

This ‘just in time’ manufacturing is a component of the Toyota LEAN philosophy, which Street Furniture Australia has adopted to eliminate waste and maximise efficiency on the factory floor.

The factory is often used as an exemplar case study by Best Practice Network meetings for NSW and interstate manufacturers looking to improve their own production facilities and processes.

Ari in his 25 years with the company has worked in just about every area of production – starting in the welding area, moving to assembly and assisting in spray painting – however batten processing has always been his favourite.

“We have a really good team in the batten area, and on the floor right now in general,” he says. “One of our newer employees, Dom, wants to try for 2 million battens and take my title. He’s got a long way to catch up, but I think that’s a really good sign for the future of the company.”

Ari Zaharopoulos with the batten jig.

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