Summary

Details a varied career in planning, stock control and customer service at Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd, 1965-2002.

Shane Allan did not have a particular career in mind when he joined Kodak Australasia as a casual shift-worker processing films during the 1965 Christmas rush at Kodak's Abbotsford plant. His sister, who was secretary to the manager of the photo finishing department, told him about the job. When the job finished Shane accepted a permanent position as a production planner at Kodak's new Coburg plant, and remained with the company for 37 years.

The job involved a monthly warehouse stocktake for graphic arts and X-ray film products, and estimating the materials and labour requirements for the following month's production schedules. In 1966 Shane was called up for National Service. He was posted to Malaya where, because of his warehouse experience, he worked in the quartermaster-store. After he was de-mobbed, Shane returned to his former job at Kodak, where he planned Kodak's Camera Reels and Sundries products as well as Paper Products.

The company suggested manufacturing as the next step for Shane, but he wanted to move to Brisbane, where he had spent some of his childhood. His transfer to Kodak's Brisbane branch was approved in 1975.

Like other branches of Kodak Australasia, the Brisbane branch ran photo finishing operations and distributed Kodak's imported and Melbourne-made products. It was run fairly autonomously by a regional manager. Shane was in junior management, but he found that the hierarchy was strictly observed when he addressed the regional manager by his first name on the first morning of the new job: "The manager came through the warehouse and I said 'Oh, good morning Gordon'. 'Good morning Shane'. And we had a chat. Then about 15 minutes later the phone rang and the supervisor was called upstairs. And he said, 'At work, you've got to call him Mr ...'."

Shane helped to implement procedures for use of computer screens as opposed to writing coding sheets for data entry. Writing manuals and training staff for using the computer terminals. He also visited the Rockhampton and Townsville stores to oversee their warehouse stocktaking.

In 1977 Shane was asked to move back to Melbourne to take charge of Kodak's stocktaking operations nationally. This offered him career prospects that he did not have in Queensland, where the next move would be into sales: "I didn't really want to get a car and drive around doing sales work".

Back in Melbourne, in 1980 Shane managed the amalgamation of Kodak's warehouses in Fawkner and Thomastown, Fitzroy, Richmond and Building 6 at Coburg into the new high-rise Distribution Centre in Newlands Road, (Building 21). The high-rise facility posed new problems for stock control, so Shane engaged consultants to help work up a cyclical stocktake method, even taking out a crane licence so that he could accesses all locations to do physical comparisons with computer records.

Shane and his team in the equipment store (Building 6) also streamlined the order, delivery, installation and billing process for large products such as radiography and X-Ray processing equipment, photo-finishing printers, audio-visual products, micro-filmers and micro-film readers. This improved service for customers in the expensive equipment range. In 1986 Shane moved to the Business Imaging Systems Division as Customer Service Manager, looking after planning, products and customer contact for microfilm, microfilm readers, scanners and other equipment used for storing records of large organisations. The division's office was in Fitzroy Street St Kilda, close to business customers.

Returning to Building 8 in Coburg in 1990, Shane became the customer service manager for three divisions: Printer Products, Copier Division and Business Imaging Systems. "That was a fun time from '86 to'91. We had a few years of twenty per cent growth, had some nice sales conferences as a result. I wasn't actually out selling things but I did have contact with customers. When we had trade shows in Melbourne or Sydney, I'd go with the team and help them. They were fun. Bit of hard work too, on your feet all day."

Shane moved to government price co-ordinating in 1992, taking on responsibility for tendering for government contracts in information technology systems. Kodak first had to qualify for the Government Information Technology Contract (GITC), which gave the company the right to tender. Kodak's government customers included federal and state departments and municipal councils Australia-wide. The role became redundant when Kodak made each department responsible for their own government tenders.

Shane then became the company ombudsman in 1997, handling unresolved complaints for customers. He was able to resolve the vast majority of cases: "I think all of my experience up till then in dealing with customers and the training I'd had over the years, enabled me to do that job. You'd get a call, or you'd have a complaint, someone crying in your ear - all sorts of different things from lost films, to one of our stores being rude to someone, or a camera that didn't work and no one would listen to them about it. It was a very challenging job, you went in each day to work not knowing, when you picked the phone up, what was going to be on the other end of it. But that only lasted two and a half, three years. Then they disbanded that job and put it back to all the divisions, so they all had to handle all of their own problems."

In 2000 a job was found for Shane in Accounts Receivable, 'which was a breeze after the ombudsman's job'. He looked after a group of customers, including photofinishers and chemists, following up outstanding accounts and working out payment plans where necessary. Kodak's business was shrinking, mainly due to the advent of digital technology, and jobs were being shed. Shane accepted a package in January 2002. He worked part-time in an accounts receivable job with the Eastman Software Division, which had been sold off from Kodak, and later took on another part-time job with a former boss, Ron Gordon. He retired in 2010.

Beale, Nigel, 'The History of Kodak in Australia', 1983

Whinney, Daryl, R. (ed) 'A Brief Process Based Site History: Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd, Coburg Plant', 2007 (Museum of Victoria Library)

Oral History Louis Shane Allan, interviewed by Lesley Alves 6 November 2013.

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