This manual describes how fired clay roofing tiles are produced in Sri Lanka. Shown are the
simplest tools required for medium to large scale tile production. While more sophisticated
machines exist, the quality and profit possible using the production methods outlined in this
guide are adequate, if not superior. These techniques have been proven for over 60 years in
Sri Lanka alone.
Tile factories are built up in production units. Each unit has one pugmill, two or more tile
presses, adequate clay and tile storage, and a kiln. Some large factories will include as many
as six of these units on the same site, operating for the most part independently. These units
use capital, land and labour to their utmost, and are easily managed by two site supervisors.
The smooth running of production starts with the proper selection of tools and careful site
layout. This manual covers the essential elements from the clay supply to the correct chimney
height for the kiln. Of course many additional local factors must be considered when planning
to start a factory: at no point will the contents of this manual replace careful consideration
and sound judgement. Proper management is most often the critical element for success.
The range of clay products which can be made on a flywheel press is very great. Dozens of
roof tile designs, plus pots, floor and wall tiles, relief decoration, and other ceramic wares can
be produced within the factory described here. Beyond this, some Sri Lankan factories employ
potters to throw flower pots and produce other hand made items as a side line, having the clay
processing and firing facilities already in operation. Decisions on tile design and product
range must be made in consideration of the local needs. Minimally, a standard roof tile and a
ridge tile are required for basic gable roofs. As with any other manufacturing undertaking, it is
advisable to undertake a careful market survey and economic feasibility study before putting
spade to earth.
Before buying land or equipment, one must assess and acquire the capital which will be
needed through the first two years of operation. Working step by step through this manual,
noting the tools and facilities, should give a realistic local production figure for labour, fuel
and materials. This manual does not attempt to address such general business issues,
keeping to those subjects which are unique to ceramic tile production.