Since the first tyre rolled off the production line on 3 December 1969, Michelin Tyre PLC has remained a bedrock of Northern Ireland’s business landscape. Today, the company celebrates the production of the 30 millionth tyre at its Ballymena factory, which is the only truck tyre manufacturing site in Ireland.
The significant milestone also marks the start of production for a new dimension in the Michelin X MultiWay 3D tyre range for the truck market. The range, launched last year, was designed to generate grip in difficult climatic conditions and meets the requirements for a high-traction, all-weather design that has been proven to increase total mileage performance and lower rolling resistance.
Spread across 112 acres and employing more than 950 people from across Northern Ireland, the site has a yearly capacity of 1.4 million truck and bus tyres; 95% of which is exported globally. The Ballymena plant is also the rubber processing plant for Michelin’s Dundee and Stoke sites and supports additional demand from its other European sites if required.
Since the factory was founded much has changed. In the 1990s the plant rapidly expanded, doubling in size and production capacity as the market grew. From 1998 until 2011, the plant was controlled by Michelin’s North America Truck Tyre Operation when around 80% of the output was exported to North America. However in January 2012, the site was transferred back to European control.
The company’s dedication to lowering its environmental impact has meant that a number of positive changes have occurred at the site during the last four decades. As part of Michelin Group’s global drive to increase its energy efficiency, reduce water use and solvent consumption, lower CO2 emissions, cut waste generation and waste to landfill, the Ballymena factory has become one of the most energy and water efficient sites within the group. This has been through a combination of significant investment and effective resource management, which has achieved approximately 98% recycling level of all waste streams.
Michelin is also in the process of erecting two wind turbines, which will enable the site to push forward its sustainability strategy as it becomes the first commercial organisation in the borough to have an on-site renewable energy source. With the capability of reducing the factory’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 4,000 tonnes, the alternative energy source will help the company cut its energy costs, which are among the highest in the group due to the province’s high energy costs.
Wilton Crawford, factory manager at Ballymena comments: “This milestone marks a key stage in the company’s heritage in the area. The skills, hard-working attitude, and constant commitment of our employees have been the backbone of the factory as we’ve adapted our manufacturing processes and flexibility to meet fluctuation in demand from different zones and markets. We have also ensured that we remain at the forefront of product design such as with the new X MultiWay 3D tyre. I am deeply grateful for our current site team members and our predecessors in Ballymena … all of these individuals have been the key in this significant achievement.”
Eric Le Corre, managing director of Michelin Tyre PLC, adds: “It’s a real tribute to the workforce at the Ballymena site; their dedication and commitment has secured investment from Michelin and from local government and has brought us here today to celebrate this production milestone. Despite the challenge we face with spiralling energy prices in the region, we are making substantial progress to overcome the issue. Another positive has been the strong growth we have seen from Africa, India and the Middle East in terms of demand for some specific tyres produced by Ballymena. Michelin Ballymena will continue to be a large exporter of truck and bus tyres to many zones across the globe and the factory is highly capable to match the market seasonality with great flexibility and reactivity.”