When I joined Allied Steel & Wire, my main area of activity was to assist with technical support for the Tremorfa Bar Mill as well as the Bar & Section Mill. As part of that brief I was handed a dossier on colliery arches, which had in the past been a bit of niche earner for AS&W and its predecessor, GKN.
A colliery arch was essentially an I-beam bent into a U-shape, which supported the mine tunnels at regular intervals. Its main advantage was that if there was a roof collapse, the colliery arch would not immediately give way, but give plenty of warning so there was sufficient time for the coal miners to retreat to a safe part of the mine.
Although I had received this portfolio as if it were a live project, nothing happened to it, and I was not required to carry out any further trials in support of it. Which is not really all that surprising, since there were hardly any deep mines left in the UK by the mid 1990s, and I had the definite impression that although there may have been a call for this type of product ten years earlier, by the time I inherited the project it can only have been maintained as someone’s pet project, without any financial justification for its continuation.
After all, over the years colliery arches must have become ever more niche, until you probably satisfy the demand from existing stocks or small production runs. Also, any fool could see that the downward curve was only set to continue until the demand hit zero, so there was not really any point in developing a product that was about to go moribund quite soon.
Looking back at this episode, it highlights in my mind the disconnect that existed at Allied Steel & Wire between the business needs and the technical support activities. Far too often the latter happened more in hope than expectation that there would be a business benefit at the end of it.