Neighbours – A Perfect Campus for Polymer Note Production

Neighbours is the iconic soap opera which came to an end this year after nearly 30 years of screening the lives and loves of the residents of the mythical suburban Ramsey Street in Erinsborough, Australia.

A better, real life and more long lasting version of neighbours in practice can be seen at Craigieburn, just north of Melbourne. It is where Note Printing Australia (NPA) and CCL Secure – firm and historical campus for the production of polymer banknotes – are based. It also houses the Reserve Bank of Australia’s National Banknote Site, the central facility for the storage and processing of currency.

This unique co-location serves not only to reinforce the integrity and cooperation amongst all players in the Australian cash cycle, but – as far as NPA and CCL Secure are concerned – supports a close corporation, the most recent example being their collaboration in supporting the 1,000 piso polymer trial in the Philippines.

Currency News™ spoke to Malcolm McDowell, CEO of NPA, and Neil Sanders, Managing Director of CCL Secure, about their story, how their cooperation works, and the environmental as well as commercial benefits of their physical proximity.



Q:           Malcolm, can you provide a brief overview of Note Printing Australia’s operations?

A:            NPA manufactures banknotes for our owner, the Reserve Bank of Australia as well as polymer banknotes for the export market. We have 260 staff and our capacity is 550 to 600 mpcs annually, so we are very much a niche security printer.  NPA also manufactures the Australian passport and Births, Deaths and Marriage certificates. We operate two eight-hour shifts five days per week for banknotes, and one eight-hour shift five days per week in our Passports division. NPA has also made an extensive investment in quality, employing about 25 people in that part of the business. A couple of years ago we also made a significant investment in upgrading our QC lab.

Q:           You are based at Craigieburn, 30 km north of Melbourne. What makes this site special?

A:            Nowhere else in the banknote world can you find one site that covers all aspects of the banknote life cycle, from cradle to grave. This is because polymer substrate is an Australian invention, so the film manufacture and substrate opacification processes (owned by Innovia Films and CCL Secure respectively) that were developed on this site which has now been at the heart of the polymer banknote industry for more than 30 years.

In addition to NPA covering the banknote printing, the RBA’s National Banknote Site in which banknotes are stored, issued and destroyed is also housed here. SICPA‘s Australian headquarters are located in the NPA building which is a tremendous resource to have on-site, and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) also has a facility that personalises the Australian passport. For a central banker it’s the banknote industry’s equivalent of Disneyland! 

Q:           Neil, as part of CCL Industries – a global multinational business – can you provide a brief overview of CCL Secure’s operations?

A:            CCL Secure is entirely focused on polymer banknotes but we are backed by our parent company CCL Industries, a multi-billion-dollar Canadian company listed on the Toronto stock exchange.

We have operations in Australia, England and Mexico.  The Australian and English operations are co-located with our sister company Innovia who supply Clarity C film.   CCL Industries also support with local presence globally as well as supporting capital investments. With our regional presence, we have unparalleled access to manufacturing, technical and sales staff with highly specialised skills and local knowledge: in Australia, UK and Mexico.

Our expertise spans across entire banknote process, from developing design concepts, to film, substrate, cash cycle management and recycling at end of life. CCL Secure supports customers at every stage.

Q:           Given your very different ownership, Malcolm – how would you characterise the relationship between NPA and CCL Secure today?

A:            We recognise that we have a lot of shared history and common interest in manufacturing polymer banknotes of the highest quality, despite the reality that we are culturally very different organisations. As a state-owned printworks (SPW) our number one focus is the RBA and growing our internal capability to serve their needs as and when required.  We do that by driving a culture of continuous improvement through our business.

As Neil has just mentioned, CCL Secure is part of a global multinational business that is an intense and very successful commercial operation and working environment. So the drivers of our organisations are very different, but because of our shared history I think our organisations see eye-to-eye which is very helpful when it comes to working with customers and problem-solving. We are both customer-centred organisations and are focused on delivering high quality product and a tremendous customer experience.

Q:           Neil, is Craigieburn the headquarters for CCL Secure and how do you work with the sites in the UK and Mexico?

A:            Yes, CCL Secure headquarters are in Australia.  At our Melbourne site as well as operations, we have design, R&D, and marketing. So these key central functions are provided to all our sites which help ensure consistency in outputs from wherever the product is supplied.

That said, both sites in Mexico and England have a great deal of autonomy so they can make decisions locally in order to better support their customers in region.  We feel strongly that it is important to support our customers from within the region with people who understand local customs and needs. Our teams are highly specialised and backed with local knowledge as the Australia team will support Asia Pacific; the UK, to support markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and Mexico, to provide regional solutions in Central and South America.

Q:           Malcolm, NPA’s recent agreement with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has attracted much interest. Can you provide a brief summary of how NPA is working with BSP?

A:            About two years ago, BSP had been looking at the benefits of polymer and decided to run a trial on their 1,000 piso banknotes. They are also in the process of building a new printworks in Clark City,  which is north of Manila. In thinking about the future capability of BSP, the then-Governor, Benjamin E Diokno, discussed with (RBA) Governor Phillip Lowe about how to best establish an approach in which BSP could make a seamless transition to printing polymer banknotes and mitigating all the risks that exist in that transition. As a result, NPA is now engaged in a polymer banknote technology transfer process with BSP.

Incidentally, this is something NPA has also conducted in the late 1990s and early 2000s with SPWs in Mexico, Romania and Vietnam, and today all are outstanding printers of polymer banknotes.

Q:           Neil, what are the benefits of being located next door to NPA in supplying a central bank of such as BSP?

A:            As Malcom mentioned, this is a unique banknote precinct situated within the same high secure campus as NPA and Innovia. This close proximity has many benefits when working on joint projects together.  Our teams can work closely right from the start of a project all the way through to delivery of the final banknote.  Being close together also has its benefits from an environmental perspective.  The supply chain can be measured in metres rather than kilometres, significantly reducing shipping of raw material and Guardian™ substrate.

This helps achieve our corporate sustainability goals by helping to reduce scope 3 emissions. These are by far the hardest to manage. But situated on the same site definitely helps to reduce in categories like fuel and energy related activities, transportation and distribution, and waste generated in operations.

Q:           Malcolm, is the polymer banknote technology transfer you describe something of a strategic shift for NPA?

A:            I wouldn’t describe it as a strategic shift but more as another option for NPA to engage with the market. After the delivery of Australia’s second polymer banknotes series, the vast majority of our work in banknotes must come from the export market. So the key for NPA has been to engage with the market in a number of different ways.

The polymer technology transfer process is one of those options, as is NPA continuing to compete in tenders, as well as being engaged in long-term supply agreements with certain countries in which we deliver value way beyond the provision of banknotes.

Q:           How are both your organisations approaching the sustainability challenge? In this regard, are there any environmental benefits to being located on the same site?

A:            (Neil). CCL Secure’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond simply encouraging our central bank customers to recycle. CCL Secure has invested in specialist recycling facilities that make it easier for customers to include recycling as part of their normal processes for the management of cash.

As well as introducing programmes and building facilities that make recycling polymer banknotes more sustainable, CCL Secure has invested in reducing the environmental impact of our processes. Most recently, CCL Secure Wigton was shortlisted by the Energy Institute UK, for the coveted Energy Management Prize for the sustainability project, which has already achieved a reduction of 26% in CO2 emissions.

Located in the same site as NPA adds another layer to the advantages when looking at reducing the scope 3 emissions. 

A:            (Malcolm). As Neil says, being located next door to each other and running all the manufacturing processes within the one secure site makes our transportation emissions negligible. NPA is building a solid track record in implementing sustainable work practices within our business, and we are measuring and tracking our initiatives. We have adopted science-based targets for emissions reduction and have identified a pathway to achieve these reductions, and we’ve made good progress in terms of recycling water and diverting waste from landfill.

Both NPA and CCL Secure staff share the same facilities and grounds, so our most recent sustainability initiative is that we will be establishing beehives on-site (apparently we will have small jars of ‘Money Honey’ available for staff!) and a community garden is also being built in in which the produce will be used in the staff cafeteria.

These are what we call ‘one percenters’ in our Sustainability Strategy – it’s a way our staff can experience and enjoy sustainability at work.


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