RTZ Award for Long-Term Commitment
Avon Technical Services
Avon, of Melksham, makes tyres for Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin and other specialists. It is therefore well placed, through Avon Technical Services, to help rubber manufacturers in developing countries. ATS's staff of 15 provide know-how for setting up factories and they train people both overseas and at Melksham to design and make tyres of international standard.
This creates large numbers of jobs in developing countries. Factories helped by ATS have on average 700 people on the shop floor. ATS's current clients include Delta Tyres (Pakistan), Kelani Tyres (Sri Lanka), Vikrant Tyres (India), Silverstone (Malaysia) and Dalian International Nordic (China). It is helping Kelani use locally grown rubber and make Sri Lanka less dependent on imported tyres.
Its first customers were in the United States, Uruguay and Mexico. In l980 ATS began as still continuing link with Vikrant Tyres in India. Initially, Vikrant wanted to make crossply tyres. Later it sought help to build a new factory and produce India's first successful radials: Avon was a pioneer of radials for trucks and buses.
Mike Barnard of ATS points out that you can't make the same tyre in every factory. Tyres are designed to meet the demands of local conditions. In India, road surfaces can be poor, temperatures high and lorries are frequently overloaded.
Radials must therefore be made stronger. They are more expensive to manufacture than crossply and so they must last long enough to justify the expense. This also means they must be properly cared for and inflated to the correct pressures. Staff from ATS and Vikrant go out to train people responsible for tyre maintenance.
ATS says that Vikrant now produces only a tenth as many defective tyres as formerly. It exports truck radials to Australia, Britain and North America. ATS adds: "We have developed the only truck radial to survive in their home market, bringing with it reduced tyre costs due to the high mileage obtained, reduced fuel consumption and better ride, cutting repair costs and roadside breakdowns."
The Silverstone tyre factory in Malaysia, which uses local rubber, also exports to Europe and the United States though it opened only in 1990. Silverstone staff trained at Melksham.
The tyre industry in Europe and North America has surplus machinery both because of a fall in demand and because of the switch from crossply to radial. Avon Technical Services is training staff of Dalian International Nordic in China to operate machinery obtained from the Nordic plant in Sweden. It has helped factories in Kenya and Pakistan in a similar way.