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10 July 2013 | Andrew Allen
The components that make up a typical Wimbledon tennis ball travel 50,570 miles before ending up in Andy Murray’s hand on Centre Court, a supply chain expert has found.
Mark Johnson, associate professor of operations management at Warwick Business School, looked into the supply chain of the Slazenger tennis ball used at Wimbledon.
Johnson said: “It is one of the longest journeys I have seen for a product. On the face of it, travelling more than 50,000 miles to make a tennis ball does seem fairly ludicrous. But it just shows the global nature of production these days, and in the end, this will be the most cost-effective way of making tennis balls.”
The official Wimbledon ball is sourced from 11 countries and four continents before being manufactured in Bataan in the Philippines and travelling 6,660 miles to London. “Slazenger are locating production near the primary source of their materials, which if you look at most current supply chains today, is not the case,” said Johnson.
“Before the financial crash when logistics costs were really high a lot of firms did this, but now it is not so common. But the tennis ball provides Slazenger with the perfect synchronisation of materials produced at a very low cost near to the manufacturing labour in the Philippines, which is also at very low cost.”
As part of the supply chain, clay is sourced from South Carolina in the USA, silica from Greece, magnesium carbonate from Japan, zinc oxide from Thailand, sulphur from South Korea and rubber from Malaysia. Wool from New Zealand is shipped to Stroud in Gloucestershire, where it is turned into felt before being shipped back to Bataan in the Philippines where the rubber is vulcanised. Tins from Indonesia, glue from the Philippines and other materials from China are used in the final manufacturing process.
Johnson said: “Shipping wool from New Zealand to Stroud and then sending the felt back to the Philippines adds a lot of miles, but they obviously want to use the best wool for the Wimbledon balls. “Apart from that part, they have managed to keep the supply chain relatively short, and centred round the Philippines.”