Rubber Manufacturing and Raw Materials Supply Reviewed in Latest

Nov 4, 2010 - DOI: 10.1021/cen-v023n015.p1328. Publication Date: August 10, 1945. Copyright © 1945 AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY. ACS Chem...
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Rubber Manufacturing and Raw Materials Supply Reviewed in Latest Rubber Report A t the time of the appointment of John L. Collyer as Special Director of Rubber Programs, it was stated by J . A . Krug, Chairman of W P B , that "tremendously expanded military needs for tires and other rubber products have made the rubber programs more critical than at any time since Pearl Harbor".

Critical shortages existed, particularly shortages

of carbon black, rayon cord, cotton cord and fabrics, heavy-duty tire facilities, and manpower, throwing rubber programs as a whole out of balance,

fn the latest report, summarized here, Collyer reviews the

work d o n e in regaining balance in the rubber programs, the current supply and production picture, and outlines the problems ahead. T H E attack on the problem of regaining • and assuring the retention of balance in the rubber programs required action on the following assignments, all of which have been carried out in cooperation with t h e appropriate government agencies: 1. Relieving the component shortages. 2. Determining the essential levels of tire requirements of military and civilian agencies. 3. Establishing the most practical production program: (a) With the manufacturing facilities existing and authorized. (b) With the obtainable supplies of synthetic rubbers, natural rubber, rayon cord, cotton cord, carbon black, and about 2,000 other component materials necessary for the manufacture of tires and other essential rubber products. 4. An organization to assist industry t o carry out the programs which were t o be established: (a) For production of tires and other rubber products and for the 2,000 necessary components. (b) For expediting the construction of new or enlarged facilities for the manufacture of large tires, rubber products, components, and materials. Immediately after joining the organization two working objectives were established for the rubber programs: 1. T o return the industry to J a n u a r y levels of synthetic and natural rubber consumption and to J a n u a r y product specifications in terms of carbon black. 2. T o attain product capacities and actual levels of output necessary to meet military and essential civilian needs in 1945 and 1946. 1328

Company, t h e R u b b e r Dovelopment Corporation, t h e Ofnc:'; of Defense Transportation, the Office of Price Adm-inistrat-ion, the Petroleum Administration for W a r , the Inter-Agency Committee on Carbon Black, the War Manpower Commission, and the several interested b u r e a u s and divisions of t h e War Production JBoard liave actively engaged in *,he development and execution oi programs and deserve special mention.

T h e first of these objectives has been substantially met with the attainment, in M a y , of a level of rubber consumption of about 73,000 tons, against about 76,000 tons in January, and t h e return, on J u n e 15, to January high quality product specifications. The second is a continuing objective for 1945 and 1946, for the attainment of which plans have been p r e pared and programs established. T h e frequent and drastic changes in military and essential civilian rubber products requirements, which the rubber industry has experienced throughout t h e war period, make the approach to our complex rubber problems like the attack on a moving target. In charting a course to hit that target it has been a n d will continue to be necessary to balance changing production facilities, manpower availability, and component production with changing military and essential civilian requirements. As a guide toward achieving this b a l ance, studies have been made during the past three months: 1. Of military and civilian requirements for tires and other rubber products. 2. Of requirements for components used in manufacturing those products. 3. Of production capacities, present and future, for the manufacture of components and of finished rubber products. 4. Of manpower requirements a n d availability for the production of b o t h components and finished products. As a result of these studies, certain steps have been taken and certain steps are recommended t o balance the rubber programs of the United States for greater speed in attaining final victory. T h e military services, the Rubber Reserve CHEMICAL

Rubber Consumption

United States consumption of synthetic and natural rubber w a s 221,806 tons in the first quarter, a n d , with J u n e estimated, should be= approximately 212,000 tons in the seco>nd q u a r t e r . This is at the rate of 870,000 tons a 3 r ear, against a 1944 consumption o f 711,000 tons, a n d a U.S. peak peacetime consumption of 650,000 tons in 1940. Consumption during the fizrst quarter was materially increased b y all-out sevenday operations and low abs&ntee rates. Second quarter consumption will be slightly under the record first quarter level as a result of an officially agreed upon withdrawal of the seven-day operations pledge, plus increased absenteeism and work stoppages, shortages of m a n power in t i r e manufacturing plants, the tightness in supplies of c e r t a i n components, and t h e arbitrary reduction of production of A-6 truck tires b y -fche Rubber Bureau due to excess supply- Even in the face of such difficulties, t h e rubber industry, in May, processed 73,100 tons of synthetic and natural r u b b e r s , almost up to the year's hugh consumption of 76,349 tons in J a n u a r y . Truck and Bus Tires

Earlier estimates o f industry truck and bus tire production have b e e n too optimistic with respect to completion dates of expansion projects, and thie rates at which capacity o u t p u t from suich projects will be achieved. En studying possible cutbacks of unneedecL expansions, revisions of these estimates weae made. Passenger Car Tires

In the fourth quarter of 1 9 4 4 passenger car tire production reached t h e highest level since Pearl Harbor vrithi 6,368,000 units being produced, bringing the 1944 total to 18,900,000. All-out truck tire production following the G e r m a n breakA N D



t h r o u g h in December, and shortages in carbon black caused passenger tire output t o decline in the first quarter of 1945 t o 5,056,000. By early May, improvement of component materials supplies allowed -reinstatement of higher production schedules on passenger car tires. Synthetic Rubber Our latest estimates based on revisions of the military a n d civilian needs indicate a domestic need for synthetic and natural rubbers of 1,045,489 tons in 1946. Of t h i s total, approximately 907,295 tons will be synthetic rubber. With the exception of Russia, whose production is believed to be inadequate for her own needs, the United States is t he only large-scale producer of synthetic rubber. Our obligations to our Allies and o t h e r nations require that we supply their m o r e essential needs for rubber, pending recapture a n d rehabilitation of t h e F a r Kastern plantations, from our own synt he tic production. So that we may do t h i s without penalty to United States requirements, it h a s been deemed wise to eliminate certain bottlenecks in our existi n g synthetic rubber plants which will have x he effect of increasing our national annual c a p a c i t y from 1,000,000 tons to 1,200,000 t o n s . This added capacity will be in operation in time t o meet 1946 needs of the United S t a t e s a n d other United NationsNatural Rubber Conversion of the United States rubb e r products manufacturing industry from n a t u r a l rubber to the use of synthetics has been so successful that, for t h e first six m o n t h s of 1945, synthetics will account for 86 per cent of total cons u m p t i o n a n d n a t u r a l rubber for only 14 p e r cent. N a t u r a l rubber usage, however, is still in excess of imports from the few producing territories in Allied hands, resulting in further critical drains on o u r limited stockpile. I t is estimated t h a t only 66,000 tons will remain in the stockpile a t the end of 1945, a level substantially below the 100,000-ton minim u m recommended in the Baruch Comm i t t e e Report. Thus, natural rubber constitutes the most serious single obstacle to the attainmerit of 1946 -production objectives. This problem is being attacked from two sides— increasing supplies of natural rubber and decreasing usage. To increase supplies, Rubber Reserve company is now acting on a request of t h e War Production Board to harvest, by April 1947 the entire gua3'ule acreage of the United States. Contracts have been d r a w n for the construction of four «:uayule processing plants; necessary for obtaining t h e rubber, and preparation for use b y rubber products manufacturers. C o m p e t e n t technical people have estim a t e d a yield from this program of 12,000 cons of guayule rubber by the end of M a r c h 1947. V O L U M E

2 3,



T o assure continuance of South and Central American wild rubber production, the Rubber Development Corporation has extended its contracts with t h e governments of those rubber producing countries beyond the original termination dates, which ranged from M a r c h through December, 1946. T h o u g h this will not increase supplies, it will protect against decreases Hiat might otherwise have occurred. H o p e for essential natural rubber supplies some m o n t h s hence lies in t h e p r o m p t liberation of certain F a r Eastern rubber producing territories. Operating supplies and incentive goods, winch are vital to t h e resumption of rubber production, are ready for movement into liberated areas a s soon as military progress warrants. Mechanical equipment is being programed for washing and drying natural rubber in this country, when i t begins to come in from the F a r East. I t is feared t h a t prewar equipment of r u b ber producing areas will have been destroyed or stolen b y the enemy. I n spite of these steps toward the maintenance and increase of natural rubber supplies, all possible conservation is required. Industry technical advisory committees have been active for some weeks past seeking means of further substitution of synthetics for natural r u b ber. It is expected t h a t worthwhile reductions in natural rubber usage can b e achieved by this means. Carbon Black T h e carbon black shortage, which was so critical in February and M a r c h as t o interfere with tire production both quantitatively a n d qualitatively, is much improved. Production since t h a t time h a s increased substantially from 69,200,000 lb. in February to approximately 99,300,000 lb. estimated for the end of June, a n increase of 4 3 % . I t has been possible t o restore, effective J u n e 15, the high quality product specifications which were in use - last J a n u a r y prior to the carbon black crisis. New p l a n t construction of carbon black units ii being aggressively expedited. W h e n t h e new plants have reached full operating levels it is estimated monthly carbon black production (rubber types) will be 122,000,000 lb., enough to care for all estimated U.S. needs a n d provide a b o u t 17,000,000 lb. a month for export. Once the nature a n d extent of the problem became clear, the work of t h e Chemical Bureau of W P B , of the Inter-Agency Committee on Carbon Black, and of the carbon black industry, m a d e possible the progress to o u r present position. Carbon black capacity as existing a n d under construction appears to be sufficient for requirements now stated. Synthetic rubber, however, requires considerably m o r e carbon black t h a n natural rubber, a n d there is the possibility that, with t h e resumption of large-scale rubber products




manufacture abroad, using synthetic rubber, foreign requirements of carbon black will rise materially over levels now stated. Presently authorized U.S. carbon black facilities c a n n o t care for this extra d e m a n d until considerably higher proportions of n a t u r a l rubber are available. T h e Combined R a w Materials Board has this problem under active consideration. Textiles The over-all textile position of the rubber industry is still tight, though improvement has been effected in some areas. T h e supply of chafer fabric for tires, which was in a critical position in April, is now improved t h r o u g h additional allocations from the Textile Bureau. Cotton tire cord is s h o r t entirely as a result of manpower deficiencies. C o t t o n textiles for footwear, t a p e , hose, belting, and other classes of p r o d u c t s , are substantially short of needs. The supply position of rayon tire cord is and will remain tight, but if new facilities come in on schedule, a n d if production of existing plants is b r o u g h t to capacity, we should b e able to squeeze by. Rayon is essential not only t o produce large tires of adequate qualit3 r , b u t also because less natural rubber is required t h a n with cotton. M a n p o w e r is needed, both for new plant construction a n d for the full operation of existing facilities. Special attention is being given t o the expediting of new facilities, for which the Rubber Bureau in April resumed responsibility. Ail expansions of existing plants t h a t could be completed for 1946 production are under way, the largest of which was approved for construction after the establishment of the Office of Special Director of Rubber Programs. Future Estimates Though most attention has naturally been centered o n the major components discussed a b o v e , studies completed over the last t w o months have revealed t h a t approximately 2,000 component materials are used b y t h e rubber industry, any of which m a y , a t one time or another, present problems of supply and substitution. • An industry study of component materials requirements for 1945-46 has been conducted through t h e R u b b e r M a n u facturers Association. I t combines estimates of m a n y individual companies of all their component materials needs and makes possible t h e development of usage factors by means of which the R u b b e r Bureau, with reasonable accuracy, can determine the industry's component materials requirements for any given level of rubber consumption. Independently, the Rubber Bureau has studied major component materials t o determine: (a) E s t i m a t e d consumption for existing r u b b e r products manufacturing capacities; 1329

(b) Estimated consumption after the high flotation expansion attains full operating levels; (c) Estimated consumption after completion of the December tire plant bottleneck elimination program; (d) Estimated consumption after completion of all expansions programed in December and January. (e) Anticipated available supplies of component materials in terms of maximum possible rubber consumption levels: (1) with desired product specification.-, and (2) with degraded product specifications. To dramatize the nature of the component materials problems, and to keep attention constantly focused upon it, two visual "scoreboards" have been erected in the Rubber Bureau. One covers the position as of the beginning of the second quarter of 1945 and the other, the third quarter of 1945, showing a sample of each of approximately 200 main components, the degree of criticalness, the responsible government supply agency or bureau, and the steps being taken t o solve existing and prospective shortages. Tire Requirements

In March and April 1945-46 tire requirements figures were on a two-war basis. When it became clear that the European war would soon end, measurement of tire needs for a one-ocean war became most important. Original postV-E-Day requirements figures were submitted to the Rubber Bureau May 17 before the military services had been able to complete final redeployment plans. These figures showed needs, which in certain important tire size groups were still far in excess of existing tire production and capacity levels. Military authorities have been consulted over the past two months to determine whether the Rubber Bureau might be of service in developing usage factors for the estimation of Army tire needs, and to aid in determination of the maximum utilization of tire recapping and repairing service in the Pacific areas. The latest third quarter 1945 requirements figures submitted are, in total, 2 3 % under the requirements for a single war supplied a month earlier and are less than half the two-enemy war requirements stated in February. Although units are down 24% below the November level, total tire tonnage required is practically the same as in November, because requirements are so much higher in certain tire groups. Considering the possibility of further unforeseeable changes in requirements, of mechanical difficulties in overworked existing tire facilities, and of further serious work stoppages, the difficulty of determining whether expansions now under way should be cut back and the extent of such cutbacks, will be plain. I t should also be recognized that, so long as 1330

the war continues, military necessity may cause further large and sudden shifts in the military tire size demand pattern, as well as in the over-all unit totals required. As indicated previously, such size shifts in the past have been largely in the direction of bigger and bigger tires. In spite of difficulties, these shifts should be anticipated as far as possible to avoid recurring production crises. As a protection, a margin of extra capacity above current screened requirements will be brought to completion. Studies of minimum essential civilian needs for passengercar tires and farm tires indicate that during and after the war existing and programed mechanical capacity are sufficient. For the war period, aggressive tire conservation measures should be continued. Manpower

The current and future bottleneck is manpower in numbers and skills. In addition to shortage of workers in tire production and in the production of rubber components, manpower needs exist in essential nontire rubber production, for the replacement of turnover in all categories of facilities, and for staffing new expansions, as completed, in the tire and component materials fields. For truck tire production, it is important not only to obtain the necessary number of men, but to get men who are large enough and strong enough to do the heavy work required. Very important contributions to production have resulted from two programs of the military services, whereby (1) experienced men were returned to the enlisted reserve for work in truck tire plants and (2) men in uniform wrere furloughed to the tire plants for heavy-duty tire production. Effective action has been taken by the Rubber Bureau in arranging for high percentages of draft deferments and in securing manpower urgency rating positions for certain classes of components. The draft position is again becoming serious, however, and Selective Service is beingasked to give greater consideration to tire manpower needs. Regular surveys of manpower needs in fields related to tire production are being conducted and tire and component materials manufacturers have been urged to take all possible steps at the local level which might aid in the solution of manpower problems. Workers were recruited in a number of specified areas where labor surpluses existed. A manpower priority pattern has been established in the rayon field, similar to that used in tire production, which places hightenacity rayon yarn output in a preferred position for manpower utilization.


To attain the high levels of outpu.t scheduled for future quarters requires immediate and continuing solution of tlie bottleneck problem. I t is essential tltat the military and manpower authorities continue to have a clear understanding of« this condition, and every effort h a s been made to bring about such an understanding. Summary of Problems Ahead

Problems of current and future innportance which require constant stucfy and attention, if balance is to be continued between the many complicated parts that comprise the rubber programs, i n clude the following: 1. Assisting industry in filling immediate and prospective manpower needs, for rubber products and component materials plants to realize the heavy production schedules planned. I t is of vital importance that all production equipment be kept in operation six full days a week and, when necessary, seven. 2. Overcoming, as quickly as possible, the critical current shortage of large truck tires of the A-3a and A-3b size groups, for both military and essential civilian use. 3. Offsetting in every wa;> possible tine prospective natural rubber problem of 1946 by: (a) Centering the attention of the a p propriate military authorities on the n e cessity of gaining new rubber sources i n the very near future. (b) Working with proper U.S. Government authorities to assist liberated territorial governments with supplies for gathering and preparing rubber for shipment. (c) Following up the installation o f washing and drying equipment to ensure having enough rubber, in usable condition, on time. 4. Insuring against fall-downs in rayon production schedules or delays in con.struction of rayon expansion projects. 5. Continuing to study component materials requirements and supplies, s o that possible bottlenecks may be foreseen and acted upon before they becoime serious. 6. Continuing to work cooperatively with claimant agencies in the estimation of rubber products requirements, so t h a t balance can be maintained. 7. Expediting construction of large tire," carbon black, synthetic rubber, rayon, guayule, and rubber washing plants now under way. 8. Maintaining the improved, b u t minimum essential civilian tire position established for. the third quarter of 194o. 9. Above all, maintaining a strorjtg government rubber organization, equipped with the experience, standing, and authority necessary to cope successfully with the complicated rubber problems. A N D