TEXARKANA, Ark. (Sept. 25 — Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.´s plan to reconfigure its Texarkana tire plant into a more flexible production site could lead to the loss of 400 to 500 jobs at the 1,945-employee factory, the company said.
The plan to make the unionized Texarkana passenger and light truck tire plant a "flex" factory is part of a "soft restructuring" Cooper disclosed on Sept. 7. That plan calls for Cooper´s three other U.S. plants — in Findlay, Ohio, Albany, Ga., and Tupelo, Miss. — to operate continuously.
Cooper´s plan for Texarkana calls for output to be cut 30 percent next year and an additional 15 percent in 2008 from its current level of 36,000 units a day. The plant will return to a five-day per week/three crews per day schedule starting in the second quarter of next year, Cooper said.
The company said it chose Texarkana to be the flex plant because it is centrally located, has the variety of equipment to deal with complexity, and has the size to "flex production up and down" depending on demand. By its nature, a flex plant would concentrate on shorter runs, Cooper said, making only what customers need and when they need it.
Cooper said it would reduce employment at the 42-year-old Texarkana plant by attrition and layoffs. It said it would provide 60 days prior notice before any layoffs.
Cooper claims its program is designed to reduce the cost per tire for all four plants combined, which should help boost its manufacturing profitability.