Friday 26 May 1989

Warminster Young Farmers Visit Rubber Factory


Warminster Young Farmers travelled to Melksham recently for a visit to the Avon Rubber Company. The excursion was organised by Pauline Rowley, and members divided into two groups, to be shown around the extensive factory area by guides George Hibberd and Les Farmer.

Avon Rubber Co. Ltd., began at Limpley Stoke about 105 years ago but moved to Melksham soon afterwards.

In the early days ‘Martin’ tyres were produced, which had no beads and no tubes, so tubeless tyres are nothing new. At one time the innards of every tyre were wrapped in Warwick paper and each tyre was sold with a one-year guarantee card.
It has to be remembered though, that new roads and advances in transport means that the average motorist now travels as many miles in a month as his or her predecessors did in a year in times before. The speed of vehicles has also increased and lorries are now hauling heavier loads.

The current output of tyres at Melksham is 34,000 per year. It used to be 40,000, which included 6,000 bicycle tyres but these are now made in North Africa, closer to the Indian market where just about everyone gets around on bicycles.

The factory is not solely devoted to tyre production. Other items originating from the works include inflatable rubber dinghies and milking-machine liners.

The Melksham workforce numbers 3,400. It used to be higher but the introduction of machinery has meant less people being involved. Despite the use of many modern machines, much of the work is of a manual nature, and most of the employees are on piece-work. Shifts are operated, resulting in 24 hours per day production. The staff includes 20 to 30 women working in the tyre production section, while others are employed in the offices on administration.

Throughout the trip around the works, the guides explained all the various processes and the machinery involved. The mechanisation included equipment with strange-sounding names - the Z-Calendar, the bias-cutter, and bag-o-matics, to mention but a few.

Tyre production is a multi-faceted operation and is not cheap - for example, the electricity bill for the Melksham works averages £67,000 per month.

Every day, ten examples of each sort of tyre produced, known as ‘the daily tens’, and these are safety tested by X-rays. All the tyres are graded by size and weight for the purpose they are required for. They also have to be stamped with their specifications, not only for the home market but also for sales abroad where different regulations often apply.

A vote of thanks, for an interesting tour of the factory, was given by Andrew Gorman. Next time Club members need a puncture mended or have to purchase a new cross-ply from the retailer, they shall certainly know more of what goes in to making the ‘humble’ tyre.

Report written by Danny Howell.