Bausch & Lomb expands Waterford contact lens plant

Production lines for new lenses will create 100 jobs over the next four years

Contact lens manufacturer Bausch & Lomb has announced an expansion of its production facilities in Waterford

Contact lens manufacturer Bausch & Lomb has announced an expansion of its production facilities in Waterford

 

Contact lens manufacturer Bausch & Lomb has announced an expansion of its production facilities in Waterford in a move that is likely to lead to about 100 new jobs.

The decision comes just 15 months after the US group opened a new $85 million (€75 million) investment at the Irish plant. That added 125 jobs, bringing the Irish workforce to 1,350.

The latest investment will see Bausch invest both in Waterford and a sister plant in Rochester, New York. The company said it was adding “multiple production lines” at the two sites to accommodate the manufacture of its daily disposable silicone hydrogel (SiHy) contact lenses.

SiHy daily contact lenses are one of seven key products that the eyecare group expects will collectively generate more than $1 billion (€890 million) of sales annually in the next five years.

Recently launched in Japan, Bausch & Lomb said they are expected to be approved and launched in other areas of the world over the next few years.

“The increased manufacturing capabilities will enable us to meet our anticipated global customer demand for the Bausch & Lomb daily disposable silicone hydrogel contact lenses,” said Joe Papa, chief executive of Bausch Health and its parent, Valeant.

Ongoing transformation

He said the lens was a product “that is critical to both our ongoing transformation. Bausch Health believes these products will help drive the long-term, future growth of the company.”

The 200 jobs that will be created on the new production lines, divided equally between the two sites, will come on stream over the next four years. Bausch Health currently employs 1,000 people in Rochester.

Damain Finn, Bausch & Lomb vice-president for manufacturing and supply chain, said Waterford and Rochester were “synonymous with innovation in the development and manufacture of contact lenses and eye health products”.

“This investment will support the development of an important new line of contact lenses and represents a new chapter in the success story of collaboration and co-operation between the two sites.”

The investment is the latest good news for a plant that was facing possible closure just four years ago. Valeant, which had just taken over the business, tried to impose a 30 per cent cut in pay alongside 200 redundancies at the site which then employed 1,300.

Management warned at the time that payroll costs in Waterford were running at 30 per cent higher than in Rochester. It said these needed to be brought more in line in order to maintain the Waterford factory.

Agreement was eventually reached with the unions on slightly lower pay cuts. Job numbers have since been restored.