Bridgestone Americas opened its first giant off-road radial tire plant in November 2014, a 1.5 million-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility that will produce various off road radial tires for mining equipment, including ultra-class haul trucks. The new plant – based in Aiken County, S.C. – strengthens Bridgestone’s ability to meet global demand for mining tires now and in the future.
About 400 people, including several mining executives, gathered to commemorate the grand opening. The Aiken County Plant Manager Ron Brooks emceed the ceremony, which included speeches from Kazuhisa Nishigai, COO, Bridgestone Corp., and Gary Garfield, president and CEO of Bridgestone Americas, along with other Bridgestone executives and regional dignitaries.
“Bridgestone has made significant investments in technology and training to ensure we are producing the world’s leading off road radial tires for the mining business in North America,” said Nishigai. “We remain highly committed to our mining customers around the globe and will continue to make the right investments for this important segment of our business.”
This is a first; previously all of Bridgestone’s large mining class tires manufactured in Japan. In 2011, the company announced a planned $970 million investment to build the company’s first U.S.-based off road radial tire plant, as well as expand production capacity at Bridgestone’s steel cord manufacturing facilities in Clarksville, Tenn., and Saga, Japan. The opening of the Aiken County Off Road Radial Tire Plant completes the largest portion of this planned investment.
“Engineering large and ultra-large mining tires is a highly technical process, and Bridgestone has a long tradition of being a leader in bringing these tires to market. The opening of a new off road radial tire plant in South Carolina is a strategic business decision that will give us the capacity to build these tires domestically and improve our supply systems globally,” Garfield said. “Long term, the mining segment will grow, and we are now better-positioned to respond more quickly, efficiently and reliably to the needs of our customers.”
Bridgestone’s Off-Road Radial Tire Plant is the second tire manufacturing plant Bridgestone has built in Aiken County. The company also operates a passenger tire facility located nearby. “Aiken County is a special place for Bridgestone and we’re delighted to see the company’s newest chapter unfolding here,” Brooks said. As he was introducing Nishigai, Brooks explained that it takes great leadership with strategic vision to make the right investments at the right time.
Nishigai explained that being the leader in this industry, also means being a leader as far as safety, sustainability, and protecting and preserving the environment. “This new facility features our biggest commitment to the tire manufacturing process in a sustainable, environmentally conscience manner,” Nishigai said. “As example, the plant uses solar panels to improve lighting and reduce costs. Water conservation was a primary consideration in the plant’s overall design. We plan to recycle nearly all of the plant’s waste.”
Expressing his gratitude for the support Bridgestone has received in the U.S., Nishigai said, “Now is the time to meet the new challenge for the mining business and let’s do this together.”
This is the biggest single investment that Bridgestone has ever made in manufacturing in the U.S., Garfield explained. “Within the walls of the 1.5 million- sq.-ft. facility, we will produce many of the world’s largest tires – massive off-road radial tires to keep the mining industry on the move,” Garfield said. “This plant will help keep Bridgestone front and center in this important market segment throughout the Americas. This was a strategic business decision for our company. It keeps us well-positioned to take advantage of the market now and in the future. By installing Bridgestone’s state-of-the-art off road radial production technologies here in Aiken, we will be able to respond more quickly and dependably to customer needs throughout the Americas. It will strengthen our relationship with our customer base and strategically improve our supply systems globally.”