If you ever read the tagline at the bottom of my Wacky World of Rubber posts, you'll know that I claim to find rubber-related stories everywhere I go. Well, on a recent trip to Ireland I will admit it was challenging. The closest I could come was at the most unlikely of venues: The House of Waterford Crystal.
My wife, Megan, and I took the trip to Ireland as an early celebration for our 25th anniversary. We took a guided tour because I really didn't want to figure out driving on the wrong side of the road and planning out every last stop and where to stay. It proved the correct choice for us because there were many places we never would have thought of going to, and the tour director really was informative and entertaining.
But speaking for the husbands on the journey, I will say I was a bit apprehensive about the tour of the Waterford Crystal workshop and showroom. It was during the last few days of the adventure, and I was nervous that Megan might find a few too many items she wanted to buy.
What I wasn't counting on was how interesting the tour was. While this blog obviously doesn't touch on rubber manufacturing per se, it does give a contrast into different aspects of manufacturing.
For example, it's safe to say that where appropriate in rubber product making, the use of technology such as automation and Industry 4.0 is implemented wherever possible. But there still are some niche areas of our industry where workmanship plays a key role.
And that is what I found at the Waterford workshop. The operation employed 65, and the guide said most had been on the job for years. According to some of the information on the visit, Waterford Crystal at one time found itself so successful that in the 1970s it commissioned no new patterns or advertising. Finding that resting on its laurels wasn't a good business plan, even for such an iconic brand, that changed in the 1980s. New patterns became the norm, and the firm even worked with famous outside designers.
But the operation in the workshop itself likely hasn't changed much over the years. The mold department had both wooden molds made of beech and pear woods—designed for items where only a few would be produced, such as golf trophies—along with cast iron molds that could be used for years to produce more popular lines.