Dial -a-factory link makes Group phoning easier
One of the most sophisticated telecommunications systems in private industry in this country, a £5,200,000 microwave link-up between factories, is coming into operation within the Austin Morris and Manufacturing Group. As new as the Group itself, the system connects 19 factories within the Group's two Divisions-power and Transmission and Body and Assembly. It means that employees at all those factories can dial numbers on their internal telephones and contact people in all the other factories as easily as making a call within their own plant. An important advantage is that computer data can be transmitted between factories. A TV link is also available.
At Longbridge, Cowley, Swindon, Castle Bromwich and London engineers with steeplejacks have been busy erecting towers and scaling chimneys to put in place dish aerials made from spun aluminium which vary in diameter from six to ten feet and weigh in the region of 10 cwt. each.
The system is likely to be the biggest network of its kind in Great Britain for many years to come and is vital to the new Group and British Leyland as a whole.Existing methods of telecommunications could not cope, particularly with the transmission of data vital for production and material control, and other essential production services. Previously there were eight 'tie lines'-private, rented, telephone land lines -linking the two major plants, Longbridge and Cowley Assembly. For most of the day these lines were heavily overloaded and much waiting resulted. It could lead to an hour's wait on some days. If the call was vital the operator by-passed these lines and dialled the call direct. This, of course, cost money, particularly as most of the calls were outside cheap periods.
So a microwave system, with its tremendous advantages and built in benefits was the answer, because the Post Office could not spare any extra land lines and, anyway, there was an ever increasing amount of telephone traffic to be catered for.
In 1974 a contract was placed with Pye Telecommunications Ltd. and arrangements made with the GPO. for a microwave system to be routed through existing transmission towers that provide links for television, inter-studio traffic. Microwave links cannot be made directly from plant to plant because high ground gets in the way.
For the Cowley-Longbridge link the system is routed through Whichford Hill relay station near Long Compton, and the Southern leg of the link uses a relay station at Christmas Common, near High Wvcombe, the highest point between Cowley and London.
On the main high frequency radio beam (7,500 mega hertz) 6o conversations can be carried simultaneously, with data transmission between computers and a TV link also available for future use. Special equipment will be introduced at each end of the link to put computer data information into taped form, thus making full use of all the Group's computer resources.
From the main centre of the system – Berkeley Square, Cowley, Longbridge, Swindon, and Castle Bromwich-land tie-lines bring adjacent plants into the network. At the moment the most northerly point of the system is the Castle Bromwich Bodv plant, and Berkeley- Square House, British Leyland's headquarters in London the most southerly, soon to be receiving messages via equipment in the Millbank Tower.
As the system can transmit television pictures it may be that one day there can be 'visual conferences'- meetings face to face on television between executives in Cowley and Longbridge.
Mr. Geoffrey Eyre, Austin Morris Chief Works Engineer, said: 'After the first two weeks of the commissioning of the Longbridge-Cowwley' link-up it has proved extremely useful and acceptable.
'With this system I feel requirements are safeguarded is still in the commissioning for the next 20 years for, of course, built-in "expansion factor".
'At the moment we have 60 channels to Cowley as and when we need it, we can add extra “banks” to the system giving 12 extra channel at a time – to a maximum of 240 channels on the main link – quite a potential. And we do have a standby channel which should it be ever needed, will give a further 240 channels.
We have a system now operating which will be of tremendous value to our new organisation. we have had some snags. The system is still in the commissioning phase, but our Divisional heads have been advised that the link is now nearly complete and they have been given the inter-factory dialling codes.
Just how well the system works is up to those who will use it –and Mr. Eyre stresses that it is not proposed to introduce an Austin Morris and Manufacturing Group telephone directory – it would be an expensive and prodigious task.
As you use the link, just note the number and the code of those you call frequently. It will save a lot of time and trouble, and that is what the new system is all about.
The first edition of the directory came out in January 1978. with over 15,000 phone numbers.
All the following Sites could be contacted via the new microwave system.
Abingdon......Acocks Green......Alford & Alder......Allesley Service.....Beans....Bordesley Green
Browns Lane......Canley......Capmartin Road......Cardiff......Castle Bromwich.... Common Lane....
Coventry Engines......Cowley Assemble......Cowley Body......Cowley Service & Parts
Cowley K.D.......Dunstable Tool & Die....Kingfield Road....Leyland Coventry House.....
Leyland House London......Liverpool No 1 & 2......Llanelli Pressings ......Drews Lane
Llanelli Radiators......Longbridge......Nuffield Press......Oxford Radiators .......Percy Road
Perry Barr......Radford.......Rearby Components......Solihull.....S.U. Fuel....S.U Butec
Swindon......Tile Hill....Tyburn Road......Tyseley......Vanden Plas......Wellingborough