Building work has begun in earnest on a £20million extension to Marley Eternit’s main clay roof tile factory that will enable a 75% increase in production.
Installation of the Lingl equipment that comprises more than half the investment is expected to begin as soon as the building is weatherproof later this summer. Civil engineering work began a year ago with the construction of 12,600m2 of new stockyards, complete with access roads and landscaping including a pond, at the rear of the site in the village of Madeley Heath near Keele in Staffordshire. After existing stock was moved over, work began on the new 10,000m2 steel framed factory and 750m2 warehouse that is being roofed in Eternit’s fibre cement profiled sheeting and clad in a mixture of Eternit’s plastic-coated metal and translucent GRP profile sheeting panels.
The new factory, which will add more than 50% of production footprint to the site, required excavating to a depth of 10 metres so that it matches the height of the Keele 2+ factory that was built to boost production of handcrafted tiles by 100% at a cost of £3.5million three years ago. The equipment that will sit inside it includes a 120-metre-long tunnel kiln and kiln cars that are costing £2million alone, two continuous rapid driers for tiles and one smaller drier for specials, tile cassettes, setting and unloading machines, a 600-tonne prepared clay silo storage unit and extrusion equipment, conveyors and robots. The new factory will also feature technology borrowed from the wall tile industry, with a £100,000 camera system that will check the natural clay roof tiles for quality, and enable them to be rejected and recycled if they do not come up to the required quality standards.
Designed to minimise heavy manual labour, the new factory also includes improved welfare facilities for the four teams of staff who will manage the 24-hour operation. Designed by Hulme Upright Manning architects in conjunction with Alan Brough Associates civil and structural engineers, the whole project should be commissioned by spring 2006.
Ian Aspley, manufacturing director for Marley Eternit, said: “Increasing production of our handcrafted tiles three years ago more than justified the £3 million investment and although this latest project is seven times greater in terms of finance, we are confident we will again see the return.”