Some of our Design Team were lucky enough to be invited to a factory tour hosted by Tobermore paving recently. The company produces concrete-based paving, bricks, and retaining walls, and having met with a Tobermore representative earlier this year, we were invited to really get a feel for the company and their products first hand. Believing that the best way to see how a company works is from the inside, we gladly accepted; keen to learn more about why they believe themselves to be the very best in Britain.
We arrived to a warm welcome at the company’s Northern Irish HQ. Every element of the factory was built using Tobermore’s own products, all paving, walls, and landscaping being labelled for ease of identification in this giant showroom. Tobermore derived its name from the original village that is the home of the company and its quarry – yes, they have their own quarry on site. From humble beginnings as a sand and gravel business, it didn’t take long for the company to naturally progress into the manufacturing of paving, kerbing and bricks, utilising quality aggregates that are quarried on site in the same quarry as when they first started business back in 1942.
Over 75 years later Tobermore remains at heart a family business, and at the heart of their rural community, employing almost 200 local people. Due to this they are able to make the types of decisions that set them apart from their competitors. “They only make paving, what’s the difference” I hear you say, well some of our team may have felt the same way before we had the chance to really get inside the company. It turns out all paving is not created equal. Tobermore take innovation and manufacturing technologies very seriously and strive for excellent standards in all of their products. This is made clear when you see the investments they are continually making into top of the range machinery and the techniques that they have developed from cutting-edge German engineering. The company also use 100% renewable energy and rainwater during manufacturing, thanks to 1250 solar panels, their own 250kW wind turbine, and a rainwater harvesting system. They also pride themselves on 100% plastic waste and wood recycling, and have a commitment to send no concrete waste to landfill.
Our tour was a fascinating insight into how the company implements and embraces European techniques and machinery to deliver superior products to the UK market, whilst remaining competitive in the market place. One example is when Tobermore take a standard paving slab and rather than create a full finished product which would be very expensive, they use advanced manufacturing techniques to make a slab that consists of two different finishes, one being cheap regular aggregate, with large grains and no colour, but then with a top coat of the finishing material. The finish can then be very concentrated and finished to the highest quality, yet be competitively priced because there is no waste; you aren’t paying for a marble finish on parts of paving that you will never see beneath the ground.
Tobermore take a simple concept and create an excellent product, it is that simple. It says something about confidence in a product when the very factory they operate from is built from their own products. The values of the company, sustainability, quality and reliability are inherent in the loyal work force, and it was a pleasure to see these top priorities of efficiency and quality control in operation at first hand.