Pirelli starts bicycle tyre production in own Italian factory

MILAN, Italy – Pirelli has started producing its cycling tyres in the Bollate factory based nearby Milan. The facility has undergone a period of modernisation and an overhaul process to accommodate the production of Pirelli Cycling’s top-of-the-range lines.
Pirelli has maximised robotisation in all production phases. – Photos Pirelli

The historic facility is just a few kilometres from Milan and was opened by Pirelli in 1962. The decision to re-start production here makes Pirelli the only factory to produce ‘Made in Italy’ bike tyres on an industrial scale. In an exclusive interview, Matteo Barbieri, General Manager of the Pirelli Cycling Unit explains what to expect from the new tyre factory.

Why is it so important for Pirelli to manufacture in Italy?

We’ve had the extraordinary opportunity to have access to a production site which is not only based in Italy, but it is located just a few kilometres from our headquarters in Milano Bicocca and our central R&D departments. The trend in the cycling industry is to shorten the supply chain wherever possible: we can now enhance our local production and our Made in Italy tyres, which is even more fundamental for an Italian company like Pirelli, in the cycling sector.

Matteo Barbieri, General Manager of the Pirelli Cycling Unit.

Will this new production location change, and if so to what extent, something in your distribution and or product availability?

Nothing changes with regards to distribution, i.e. the general distribution organisation and the relationships with our sales network and distributors all over the world. The new facility has been added to our production set-up and will certainly help us to increase our volumes so to have more tyres available for the market. Our closer proximity to our central logistics hub, which is based less than 80 km away in Novara, will certainly work out positively for many aspects, for example for our service level.

To what degree is the production robotised, or is there still manual labour involved as like in regular bicycle tyre production?

Robotisation has two main drivers: to take workers out of dangerous working phases and to ensure efficiency, repeatability in production and quality levels. We have maximised robotisation in all phases with the above in mind, while highly skilled people remain fundamental in the ‘non-automatable’ phases. The prototypes provided to our top teams for their technical feedback, will be almost fully hand-made in Bollate. This is an important step in our product validation process and it is typical way of working for Pirelli. The prototypes will go through the industrialisation phase and in the end the final tyres which are supplied to both our consumers and our World Tour partner teams for their races are the same.

What did you do to comply with the very strict European environmental regulations? What kind of special production techniques makes this possible?

Pirelli is committed to sustainability initiatives economically, environmentally and socially, through the reduction of environmental impacts, the creation of eco-safety performance products and attention to human capital. The new factory not only complies with all European environmental requirements, but even more so since it is located very close to an urban area. Therefore and as an example, it was important to implement a complete segregation of the emissions with a full abatement treatment before releasing them into the external environment. In simple words: all the waste, such as water or vapors are segregated and then completely purified before being released into the environment.

Will this new factory become a presentation location just as the Formula-1 tyre centre?

Yes, it will become the real Pirelli Cycling World center. It’s the most advanced production plant today available in the world of bicycle tyre manufacturing and it will fit very well into its surroundings. Currently, the entire production area has already been completely renovated, and we are now extensively renovating all other areas, to make the facility not only beautiful aesthetically but also a nice place to work in, for the Pirelli personnel. As an example: the meeting rooms have windows looking directly onto the production departments and the furnishings and flooring are the same everywhere, from the offices to the working areas. By 2023, the entire Cycling Unit will move to Bollate, where we will have our offices. There will be a large showroom, with products, bikes and memorabilia of our cycling background: we are celebrating 150 years in 2022 and the cycling tyres were the first tyres Pirelli manufactured 150 years ago.

Will you continue production at your other production partner based in Europe?

Yes, fortunately the exponential growth of Pirelli Cycling means that the factory is already completely maximised, in terms of production volumes, which means that we will continue production with our other production partner in Europe, at least in the medium term.

Pirelli reports that the plant will be dedicated to the production of high-tech tyres, including all the models of the P Zero Race family, in its updated version and are already available on this market this month.