With the sad news recently emerging that Michelin had produced its last ever tyre in Dundee, the Tele decided to delve into its archives to look back on the factory’s five decades in the city.
On November 6 1972 the first ever tyre was produced at the brand new facility.
It was Scotland’s only manufacturing plant of its kind and had been opened after a small team from Michelin’s home country, France, toured potential sites for a new factory and settled on farmland near Baldovie.
The following year Michelin opened another plant further north in Aberdeen, however, the company’s life in the Granite City didn’t stand the test of time like its Dundee counterpart and it closed its doors just 13 years later in 1986.
When Michelin Dundee was established 400 workers were taken on to their books which rose as the facility expanded and, within four years from the first tyre being made, the staff had produced five million more.
In 1978 the premises received its first major expansion and innovation came to the forefront with the revolutionary run-flat tyre being produced there in 1983.
By 2001 more closures were announced in the Michelin UK group. Factories in Burnley and Stoke shut making Dundee the only one of company’s British outposts to still be producing tyres.
In 2006 the plant erected two wind turbines which went on to generate millions of electricity units, enough to fuel thousands of homes, becoming the first Michelin factory to install the generators.
At the time of the factory’s opening, the city’s industries were still booming with Michelin becoming one of the major employers alongside NCR and Timex. The factory offered a strong and stable future for its workers, until 2009 when global revenue fell.
The company cut hours and reduced production rather than lay off any of their now 800 strong workforce.
The factory, however, came close to being mothballed towards the turn of the century but in the end it was granted a reprieve from the executive board in Clermont-Ferrand in France.
Buoyed by this stay of execution, the plant re-focused and an operational overhaul allowed the factory to become one of the global tyre giant’s most efficient facilities as it installing a new production line for the company’s environmentally-friendly low-rolling-resistance tyres.
Over the following years the facility celebrated its 40th anniversary and, in 2016, the Queen opened a huge expansion which included new machinery and a 215,278 sq ft warehouse which boosted its production capacity by 30% .
At the time bosses said it would secure employment in the city “for decades to come”. Despite their hopes, job security would not last for decades, in fact it would last only a few years.
In June 2017 further expansions were on the cards with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announcing a £16.5m investment in the plant, with £4.5m of it to be from the Scottish Government.
Making the announcement on a tour of the site, the first minister labelled Michelin “a global leader” and said the manufacturing industry in Scotland was “thriving”.
Just 18 months later, though, the “thriving” factory was to be no more and in November 2018 it was announced that production would cease by mid 2020.
It was a massive blow to almost 900 employees who worked at the site, with many having been employed there for decades.
The company claimed the closure was due to the plant being out of date, with conversion not financially viable – with there no longer the same demand for the smaller tyres the factory produced.
Michelin agreed to work alongside Dundee City Council and Scottish Enterprise to create the Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc, with the Baldovie site being developed into a new training and skills centre with the hopes of creating 850 jobs.
In March the last tyre came off the production line in Dundee with the company announcing that due to the Covid-19 pandemic the plant would close ahead of schedule with all staff being paid in full up until its planned closure in June.
If you would like to share your memories of working at Michelin in Dundee, email Tele feature writer Amy Hall at email@example.com.
In these troubled times, when many people are struggling to get out for their paper, we are pledging to help readers by providing a FREE digital edition of the Evening Telegraph for three months. Click below to register ⬇️