When Bonnie Parsons joined her mother in the Hutchwilco lifejacket factory late in 1973 she had no idea that she would still be there — and running the whole factory — over 40 years later.
Now, as factory manager, Bonnie is in overall charge of virtually every aspect of the factory, from ordering the local materials and scheduling the production runs to hiring and managing the nearly 20-strong workforce and overseeing the company’s stringent quality assurance programme.
Bonnie jokes that in her 40 years with New Zealand’s oldest and most iconic marine company she has worked in three very different locations and for three very different owners. She has also, at various times, worked not only with her mother but with her two sisters as well.
She has also witnessed, and been an integral part of, the way lifejacket production has both changed and remained basically the same over the past four decades.
“The designs are definitely different now,” she says, “and we certainly don’t use kapok any more. However, the actual assembly process is still very similar to when I started here in the early 1970s.”
If Bonnie has enjoyed her time overseeing the production of the country’s favourite brand of lifejackets, Hutchwilco has certainly enjoyed having her as a key member of their management team.
“Since becoming our factory manager some 15 years ago, Bonnie has done a magnificent job of running our large factory floor on a day to day basis,” enthuses Hutchwilco managing director Gary Sutton. “She is basically responsible for everything that happens on the factory floor and she does — and always has done — a magnificent job for us.
“We are very lucky to have her.”
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Photo caption: Hutchwilco managing director Gary Sutton (left) and factory manager Bonnie Parsons compare a modern lifejacket with the old kapok style that Bonnie made when she joined the company back in 1973.