Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

Business Products

2 Sullivan Street, Moorabbin

Location :

2 Sullivan Street, Moorabbin (off South Road, north-eastern corner of Ebden Street)  Telephone : 1979 95 9911, from 1980, 555 9911

Memories :

The final manufacturing plant and Business Products sales and administration offices.

At the cancellation of the CRISP project in 1978, the White Pages directory showed “Factory” under Control Data as still at 147 Herald Street, 95-9911,but the following year at 2 Sullivan Street, 555-9911, effectively the same number after Telecom expanded the standard telephone number to seven digits.

The manufacture of Business Products commenced in 1979 and there is suggest at Herald Street, but my guess is that totally different equipment would have been needed, it would be logical to assume that was probably at the later facility.

The Business Products Division was launched in the Spring of 1975 under Ken Evans with a sales force of two in both Melbourne and Sydney.  Between Ourselves in making the announcement suggested “the division will also be looking at the potential for manufacturing some business products lines in Australia, and to this end, there will be moves to identify what assistance is available from Government sources”

I was connected with the facility for a couple of years on a consulting assignment for Ken Evans, then in charge of Business Products – the administration area was on the ground floor to the right of the entrance; the production manager's the upper floor to the left

The Australian production was viable because of 20 per cent (I think) tariff on imported goods of what might be termed of a "consumable" nature (I tried eating a diskette once. but it was a bit bland for my taste).

I seem to remember during the latter days of the time I was connected that there were storm clouds on the horizon with plans by the Hawke government to either eliminate or drastically reduce the tariff protection, but Dick Bament recalls the plant's eventual closure resulted from the financially-troubled CDC selling off some profitable global assets not connected with the core computer business around Christmas in 1985.

He was production manager at Sullivan Street when the final crunch came and he had the sad task of informing about 70 of the production line staff that they were effectively out of work.  

Business Products itself (excluding the manufacturing operation) was sold to Xidex Corporation based in Silicon Valley.

A note in the last Flash in David Leigh's files rather astonishingly reveals the local arm was sold late in 1985 despite sales of $1.08 million in November  and annual revenue of $7.7 million, some $1.8 million higher than the previous year ... "and yet in December, they are working for someone else".

In fact, I think all of the sales and administrative staff were absorbed into alternative roles which required relocation to 493 St. Kilda Road. I recall Vicki Graham, Ken's former secretary joined Xidex, but I don't think they took on any of the other Moorabbin staff.

Xidex had no presence in Australia prior to the sales and they established their office at 254 Dorcas Street, South Melbourne (telephone 699 9688), a 1930s red-brick building almost immediately behind the Town Hall (centre right).  The company appears to have disappeared around 1988 when it was noted as laying off 825 workers from its California plant after being taken over for US$400 million by Anacomp, noted as one of Xidex’s largest customers.

Perhaps one of the sad things in Control Data Australia's history is that much of the Brave New World of local manufacturing is scarcely remembered, nor are hundreds of production line workers; never part of the social scene, rarely if ever acknowledge in Between Ourselves or later in Flash, but who nevertheless were an integral part of the local subsidiary's history and proudly wore the Control Data badge.  

Tom Misa's interviews of November, 2013 managed to cover just about the entire spectrum of CDA'a activities, but Manufacturing, although mentioned in a few of the interviews from the "598 management" perspective was somewhat unfortunately not covered at the shop-floor level and we rarely if ever sight anyone actively involved at Cheltenham and Moorabbin at lunches or reunions.


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