Pirelli operates two plants in Russia, one in Voronezh and one in Kirov. Both were existing tyre factories and both have undergone technological upgrades in recent years, but bringing these plants up to Pirelli’s cutting edge standards was, if anything, a return to past, not too distant, glory.
The Voronezh plant was built in 1946 and in the first 20 years of its existence, it engineers and workers produced 49 different types of tyres. They supplied the Soviet Union with tyres for bicycles and racing cars, motor scooters and passenger sedans, tractors and buses - in short, every type of tyre for every type of vehicle a society rebuilding itself after war would need. In 1960, it became the first site in the USSR to produce heavy-duty tyres, enabling a whole new scale of industrial activity. Six years later, in recognition of its many technological advances, the plant received the Order of Lenin, the Soviet Union’s then highest recognition at the time and the heavy duty technology was given the Gold Medal of the National Economy.
If Voronezh was driven by post war ambition, Kirov was born, in a hurried scramble, out of wartime expediency. The equipment that formed the basis of the plant was transferred from a factory in Yaroslavi because that city was at risk of bombardment. It was such a rush - production had to begin as quickly as possible - that the first buildings and even the foundations were made of wood. In November 1943, the first tyre was made and production continued without interruption, even as a stone structure was gradually built in place of the wooden one. Like Voronezh, Kirov was innovative and in 1965 it was awarded the Order of Red Banner for the development and industrialization of first radial tyre in the Soviet Union.
Old school friends at work together
While the Kirov plant, like all Pirelli operations, employs people from a variety of countries, but alongside Italians, Germans, Turks, Romanians and Muscovites, the staff is unique it that it includes a large core group of Kirovites who in many cases studied and grew up together. There are about 198 graduates of Vyatka State University working at Kirov and they are almost 50% of the white collar staff.
aws in the newcomers too. A typical career path would include study at one of the local highwschools, followed by specialization at the University of Kirov or Kirov Technical Academy and hiring by Pirelli. Not surprisingly, the company and these educational institutions have longstanding relationships, including joint research initiatives, so they are intertwined at the industrial level as well as socially. Chemistry graduates work in R&D and Quality, but there are many in production, industrial engineering, IT and maintenance well. Since Pirelli’s arrival the career paths of younger team members are much faster than before and often involve exchanges with Pirelli factories all over the world.
The Pirelli Upgrades
Beginning in December 2011, almost as soon as Pirelli had taken operational control of Kirov and together with its partner Rostec, a large-scale modernization of the plant was set in motion. A few months later the process began at the Voronezh plant. Old buildings have been re-built, production workshops refurbished, new mixing facilities installed and Pirelli technology and processes introduced. At the same time, factory specialists were sent for training in Pirelli factories in Italy, Germany, Romania, and Turkey. Today, Pirelli’s Voronezh plant is one of the largest tyre plants in Russia and one of the most technologically advanced. This has all led to increased capacity and, most importantly, increased Premium capacity. From 2012 to 2015, total investment in the plants has been more than 200 million euro. Kirov has 2,200 employees and Voronezh 1,023.
Voronezh develops and produces premium segment passenger car tyres with diameters from 16” to 21”. The tyres are made not only for the Russian market, where it supplies a number of car factories, but also for export to Europe, Scandinavia and CIS countries. KTP produces Pirelli and Amtel tyres in the 13” to 16” range, also supplying several car factories in Russia.
About the two cities
Located about 500 km of Moscow, Voronezh was founded in 1586 as a military fortress on the right bank of the river Voronezh. The city is considered the birthplace of the regular Russian Navy and is one of the biggest in Central Russia with about one million people. Kirov has about that number of people and is situated 900 km. North East of Moscow on the Trans-Siberian railway. It was originally named Vyatka which is also the name of the river, on which the city stands. It is an old provincial centre known for the many churches along the river’s banks.