The surge in global demand for digital music players has prompted electronics manufacturer Creative Labs to hire 60 new staff at its European assembly plant in Ballycoolin, Dublin, siliconrepublic.com has learned.
The Singapore-based company, which yesterday reported second quarter revenue of US$375m, sold two million MP3 players in the last quarter alone, giving even the Apple iPod a run for its money.
Nearly half of the new positions at Ballycoolin have already been filled. When the recruitment programme is completed within the next month, the headcount at the north Dublin site will have risen to 320.
The decision reverses one made by Creative Labs at the end of the Nineties to close final assembly operations in Dublin and relocate them to the lower-cost Chinese market. At the time, the MP3 market had yet to emerge and Creative was suffering the effects of the tech downturn.
According to Miriam Brennan, general manager of operations at Creative Labs Europe, the explosive growth of the MP3 market caused the rethink in the company.
“Over the past number of years we have been broadening our product range, introducing the likes of multimedia speakers, web cameras and so on. But the most significant shift in our business has really been the entry into the MP3 market. We’ve been seeing huge growth in the business. One of the features of selling MP3 players is that machines such as the Zen Micro come in the range of colours and languages. This puts a level of complexity into our forecasting.
“We now see benefit in terms in terms of cost and in terms of flexibility in doing quite a lot of that assembly locally. It allows us to be much more reactive to market demands and so on.”
The Ballycoolin facility was established as Creative’s assembly centre for Europe back in 1994. The facility would take in components from the Far East, conduct final assembly and packaging, and then ship them out to various other European markets. The role of the facility evolved during the past decade, such that it has become responsible for end-user technical support and operations management for the European market. Two years ago, moreover, Ballycoolin was officially designated the corporate headquarters for Creative’s European business.
Brennan conceded that the latest chapter in the site’s development – creating ‘screwdriver’ type roles again – could not have been envisaged two or three years ago. “When we saw those jobs go we didn’t anticipate them coming back. But one of the keys of being successful in any business is you keep looking at your business model and keep revising it so that you’re doing what’s right for the business.”
She added that the company had considered sub-contracting the assembly work to eastern Europe for cost reasons but when all the factors were taken into account, Ireland came out on top as the preferred location.
By Brian Skelly