News that Bausch and Lomb is to migrate most of its global contact lens manufacturing to its Waterford and New York sites has been widely welcomed locally as evidence of the company’s confidence in its Irish base, at least in the short to medium-term.

But a manager at the local plant has warned that the relative costs of operating here must be monitored, to ensure they do not become an ‘insurmountable barrier to Bausch & Lomb remaining in Ireland in the long-term’.

Last week, the company announced the loss of 500 jobs at its Scotland production facility, with employment to be phased out during 2010 and early 2011. The move is expected to create 30 new jobs in Rochester, New York next year, but no employment increase in Waterford.

A spokesperson for the company said an extensive review was undertaken prior to the decision being made; factors considered included proximity to established research and development resources, total cost savings, global operational efficiencies and future investment potential as the contact lens business grows.

Apparently the company-owned sites in Waterford and Rochester, New York were deemed to hold a ‘strong advantage in most major assessment criteria’. “Considering our growth plans in the coming years, we believe it’s better to focus our resources and attention on just two primary contact lens plants, freeing cash for reinvestment into the business,” said Gerald M. Ostrov, chairman and chief executive officer.

As part of the proposed consolidation, SofLens® daily disposable lens manufacturing lines are to be moved from Livingston to Waterford and Rochester over the course of the next year. The Waterford plant already manufactures this product. In conjunction, production lines for PureVision® SVS lenses will be moved from Waterford to Rochester, joining already existing PureVision lines at that plant. The company says it has taken multiple measures to ensure uninterrupted supplies of all products to eye care professionals and consumers.

Colum Honan, general manager, Bausch & Lomb Ireland, said the proposal to move highly-automated production lines to manufacture daily disposable lenses in Waterford and Rochester was a positive development in the short to medium term.

“Bausch & Lomb Ireland is currently implementing a range of measures to improve our competitiveness and this must remain an absolute priority for us,” said Mr. Honan. “The company will continue to monitor its manufacturing requirements and relative costs of operating in various countries. We must ensure that the overall cost of manufacturing in Ireland is not an insurmountable barrier to Bausch & Lomb remaining in Ireland in the long-term.”

“On a human level, I deeply regret that the proposal to increase manufacturing capacity in Waterford has been at the expense of our colleagues in Livingston, Scotland, who are losing their jobs,” added Mr. Honan.