Monday, August 12, 2013

pneumatic tube factory tour part two: the workshop

I arrive at the Hörtig pneumatic tube factory on a hot day in June. The factory is in the outskirts of the German city of Bayreuth, which I reach by meandering past the city's opera houses and gardens. After waiting for several trucks to pass in the factory driveway, laden with tubing, I enter the building. I then meet Martin, the owner of the company, and my warm host for the morning, Karin.

Karin works in quality assurance, a job she tells me about over a hot chocolate, in the staff kitchen and dining area. After I finish my drink, Karin takes me on a tour of the factory. We enter the factory floor first of all. There is a quiet, subdued sense of industrious work in the workshop, with the faint sound of a saw or drill coming from a nearby room. A smell of grease or oil gets stronger as we step further into the workshop.

At one bench, a man sits painting parts of tubing with grey paint, using a small paintbrush. He works by himself, and has about ten parts in front of him. Behind him there is a large wall of little drawers of hardware; screws and other pieces needed to assemble the tubes, all neatly labelled and ordered.

Karin and I head further into the workshop, passing apprentices at various workstations, working with electrical parts, learning their craft. In a glassed-off room a large machine methodically cuts out pieces of grey plastic - perhaps this is the sound I heard earlier. The room is very neat, all the tools arranged carefully.

It is a privilege to be allowed access into the heart of this pneumatic tube factory, to be allowed into the workshop, and see the German craftsmen at work. There is a lot to take in, the sounds, smells and sights of the tubes being built, by machines and by men. There is a craft tradition here I am only vaguely aware of, and techniques and tools that I do not understand. Yet already this tour is telling more more about pneumatic tubes than I could have imagined. The next blogpost will take you further into the factory, this time to the testing room floor.

All images my own.

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