Jeremy Keight from JW Magazine was privileged to take an exclusive tour of Michael Hill Jeweller’s new manufacturing facility in Brisbane with the company’s CEO, Daniel Bracken. Here, Jeremy shares his visit to the impressive site and Michael Hill’s plans for the future.
I’ve visited more than my share of jewellery manufacturing facilities in my time – from Birmingham to Brussels to Bangkok, from Dubai to New Delhi to Hong Kong and Shenzhen. I was particularly excited to be visiting an Australian brand with an international presence, which is committed to fostering growth and nurturing talent in its adopted hometown.
Although the Michael Hill brand started life in New Zealand, its founders, Michael and Christine Hill, soon moved to Brisbane and made Australia their home base. Michael Hill CEO Daniel Bracken explains the brand’s aims and why it chose to take on the mammoth task of relocating its headquarters and expanding its operations to a new, purpose-designed site.
“We commissioned our new building at the start of 2021, and moved into the facility in August 2022,” Daniel said. “The new state-of-the-art building is home to the company’s global leadership team and functions, a high-tech distribution centre and reimagined artisanal jewellery workshop. We have increased capacity and invested in new equipment as well as re-purposing existing equipment within the workshop, to elevate quality, innovation and volume.”
Touring the headquarters with Daniel, the pride that he and other staff members have in the facility is apparent. There is a definite feel of family in the air and the building has been designed for comfort as well as function.
The attention to detail in the offices and on the production floor is astonishing. The well-known Michael Hill decor has been carried from store to factory and the architect-designed building has been well laid out so that all staff have a workspace with natural light and windows. There are networking and relaxation nooks, spacious meeting rooms, well-appointed kitchens and break-out facilities – the list goes on.
I was keen to know more of the company’s future plans and asked if they have plans to open similar manufacturing facilities across Australasia.
“We have made this significant investment into our Brisbane facility and do not anticipate opening further facilities – at this time,” Daniel said. “We employ around 25 qualified bench jewellers and, as we moved into our new building, we launched our first ever apprenticeship program, partnering with Queensland TAFE. Four young apprentices are now enjoying the benefits of this program, working closely with our qualified jewellers.”
The Brisbane workshop produces approximately 20 percent of the company’s global sales, with Daniel explaining that the styles created in-house focus predominantly on single settings and solitaires.
“We have made a long-term commitment to local manufacturing and believe that it represents a key strategic differentiator for the Michael Hill brands,” said Daniel.
There have been benefits to both the company and its customers by ramping up local manufacturing.
“Speed to market for stock as well as special orders have been a real bonus,” said Daniel, “along with customers being able to enjoy the choice of purchasing Australian-made jewellery. Our turnaround for special orders is approximately 10-14 days which has halved what it used to be. We can also be more innovative in the creation of new designs.”
The Brisbane facility also acts as a warehouse and distribution centre. Daniel led me through the picking facility which was, without a doubt, the most jaw-dropping I have seen in the industry. Daniel explained that the new technology installed in this area has cut picking and distribution time by around 75 percent.
The new facility incorporates a significant solar power system as well as harvesting rain water in order to be as environmentally sensitive as possible. The care the brand has taken to ensure a complete balance in its business from staff comfort to workplace harmony and environmental and ethical manufacturing is impressive.
I would personally like to extend my thanks to the staff, and especially Daniel, for taking the time to show me around the amazing building Michael Hill Jeweller now calls home.