Retreading experts Bandvulc marks its 50th anniversary this year, and while the successes of the past are celebrated, the organisation has its eyes firmly on the future.
The Devon-based operation began re-using rubber to make retread tyres back in 1971, retreading just 30 tyres a week for local use. Acquired by Continental Tyres in 2016, Bandvulc now produces a premium quality retread tyre every three minutes to serve commercial vehicle customers across the country.
Its 50th anniversary is marked by the introduction of the next generation of quality retread products, with major investment planned for their facility at Lee Mill, just outside Plymouth.
“We believe in the old saying that ‘standing still is going backwards’,” says Bandvulc Operations Director Tony Mailling. “So we keep innovating, we keep developing and creating new products, and we look at changes in manufacturing and technology that will make us more effective and more energy efficient, into the next 50 years.”
Bandvulc pioneered retread technology, which prolongs the lifespan of tyres and contributes to lower carbon emissions in tyre production. Its Ivybridge plant unites tyre recycling and retreading under one roof, setting new benchmarks in sustainability.
The 2016 Continental acquisition saw mutual benefits for both brands, who had existing 25 year working relationship, including a five-year investment plan, with projects designed to increase efficiency at the Bandvulc plant aligned with predicted increase in demand for retreads.
Tony Mailing says, “Sustainable manufacturing developments and legislative changes are being driven at an accelerated pace,” he says. “We are well ahead of the game and remain at the forefront of sustainable tyre manufacturing – the reuse and recycle approach is in our DNA.
“This year we’ve made a £1 million investment in automation in one of our build cells which is due to be on stream later this winter. It’s a huge investment, the biggest for many a year, and we plan more investment next year with a further robotics project.”
And for Mailling, such investment is only half the story, crediting the development of its 300 strong manufacturing workforce as another key to the brand’s success. He says, “We mark our 50th anniversary with many employees able to count their association with the company in decades rather than years.
“We invest to ensure the tyres we produce deliver exceptional levels of quality and performance, we are quick to respond to customer needs, and we invest in training to ensure our people have the right skills for each area of production.”
Bandvulc offer more than 100 different retread patterns and sizes, all developed and manufactured in its UK plant, with its own diverse product range producing quality retreads for commercial vehicles of all types, while also producing many of the Continental branded ContiRe retread tyres for the UK and Irish markets.
The latest Bandvulc product, the Wastemaster 5, launched in June 2021, with further products expected in 2022, including an addition to its Fleetmaster range and a new trailer offering, are testament to the growth in popularity of quality retreads in the UK, as a route to greater sustainability in road transport.
Even with such a broad offering, Bandvulc sustainability remains at the heart of all operations. Tony Mailling says, “The essence of what we are doing is stopping tyres going to landfill. We even ensure that we have a 0% to landfill policy on waste from the plant. As the need for greater fleet efficiency and reduced emissions grows, Bandvulc are well-prepared to help answer the call.
“Every Bandvulc or ContiRe retread tyre we produce saves 80% of the materials required to manufacture a new tyre, therefore significantly reducing the impact on the environment. This means we are able to save 30kg of rubber compound, up to 20kg of steel and 60kg of CO2 on every retread tyre produced compared to a new tyre.”
Bandvulc and Continental are currently managing over one million wheels a year, via the Conti360° network, renewing contracts in excess of £10m in the last 12 months from a mix of logistics, retail, rental and contract hire and waste and recycling customers.
The business has added significant new volume as customer expectations for sustainable product and environmental efficiency is met by the Ivybridge production facility.
David Smith, Managing Director for Continental Tyre Group, says, “Sustainability is an integral part of Continental’s Vision 2030 strategy across our Global Tires business. Bandvulc’s retreading operations are a perfect example of intelligent circular economy solutions. When truck tyres are renewed, rubber removed from the tread is reclaimed and used for new rubber compounds.”
For Smith, the ambition for Bandvulc and Continental is to maintain profitable growth, through sustainable solutions. He adds, “Both Continental and Bandvulc firmly believe demand for retreads as part of tyre contracts for commercial fleets, is set to remain buoyant, with operators keen to reap the benefits of this more economical and sustainable option.
“Continental continually invest in research and development to drive innovative technologies, alternative and sustainable materials, and environmentally friendly production processes and our ongoing investment in the Bandvulc plant is a big part of this.”