JOLIETTE, Quebec—Bridgestone/Firestone is investing $42.2 million through January 2007 to expand capacity for high-performance and larger diameter tires at its passenger and light truck tire plant in Joliette.
The Quebec government will contribute another $3 million, bringing the total investment to $45.2 million.
The project will result in a change to the manufacturing flow at the 40-year-old Joliette factory to a more flexible multisize, small-lot production process for an expanded range of products, according to Bridgestone/Firestone Canada Inc., which disclosed the project along with the Quebec government.
To meet the new production requirements, BFS will invest mainly in new equipment and reorganizing production areas. The project will emphasize capacity for 17- and 18-inch diameter tires, the firm said.
The company focused on product diversity and complexity, rather than volume, so it can compete internationally, which requires major investments in equipment and training, said Isaku Motohashi, general manager of Bridgestone/Firestone Canada.
The firm said the change in manufacturing flow doesn´t mean the plant is adopting the Bridgestone Innovative and Rational Development, or BIRD, manufacturing technology.
The investment will help secure the jobs of the 1,250 workers at the plant. Capacity of 15,800 units per day is not likely to change much, the firm said, although the mix will be different.
In June workers at Joliette ratified a six-year labor agreement, which Bridgestone/Firestone Canada at the time described as providing terms that would ensure greater flexibility in operations. Hourly workers at Joliette are represented by Syndicat des Travailleurs de Bridgestone/Firestone de Joliette, a part of Quebec´s Confederation des Syndicats Nationaux.
BFS last made a major investment in Joliette in 2002-03, putting $22.5 million into the facility to cover expansion of original equipment-specific sizes and types. As much as 90 percent of Joliette´s output in the past has been for OE customers, including General Motors Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp. The company said it doesn´t see this mix changing.