WILSON, N.C.—Bridgestone Americas will invest $164 million during the next five years to expand capacity at its passenger tire manufacturing plant in Wilson by nearly 10 percent, to 35,000 units per day by 2018.
The firm said the expansion will help meet market demands and invest in newer technology. Bridgestone plans to break ground on the project early this year.
The project will increase production by 3,000 units per day with some of that capacity being dedicated toward the firm's DriveGuard line of all-season run-flat replacement tires
Steve Shelton—senior vice president, technology, manufacturing and procurement for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations—said the project will not add to the work force. The facility currently employs 1,740.
“The expansion secures a stronger, long-term future for the Wilson plant and maintains its competitive position with leading edge technology to more efficiently meet market demand,” Shelton wrote via email.
The first two phases of the project will add 167,000 square feet to the plant with an investment of nearly $100 million. The space and the additional capital investment then will be utilized to add new tire assembly machines, material handling systems, curing presses and other related equipment. Bridgestone said the new equipment will allow the plant to respond to rising global demand for higher rim size tires, as well as improve quality and productivity while reducing costs.
Shelton said the Wilson facility produces 20 percent of BATO's tire inventory and was the first Bridgestone tire manufacturing facility to produce run-flat tires. It will begin producing DriveGuard tires in 2016, which are designed to go up to 50 miles after a puncture.
Bridgestone last expanded the Wilson facility in 1999, adding 85,000 square feet to the operation, Shelton said.
“Considering the growth of the North Amer-ican market demand, investment in addi-tio-nal capacity and expanded capability within the Americas is needed in order to meet our customers' needs,” Shelton said. “Bridgestone's global operations mean it has many options; the long-term success of this facility can be attributed in part to the strong partnership between Bridgestone and the Wilson community and its leadership.”
The investment is driven by the growth of the North American market and is part of Bridgestone's global commitment to develop innovative new products that meet growing and evolving market demand, Shelton said. The investment will improve the Wilson plant's global competitive position by adding capacity and more technologically advanced equipment, he added.
The firm will replace existing assembling machines with newer, more efficient technology, allowing the firm to respond to overall market trends and satisfy growing market demand for high-diameter 19- and 20-inch light truck and sport-utility vehicle tires, Shelton said. It also will improve cost competitiveness by improving productivity of the existing work force.
“Our production and manufacturing capabilities must evolve with our products to meet the changing needs of today's consumers,” Plant Manager Michael Darr said in a statement. “Our investment in updated equipment and improved manufacturing processes and facilities reflects our focus on maintaining our global competitiveness, as well as our commitment to the Wilson community.”
Bridgestone's facilities in Wilson and Aiken, S.C., are the only two passenger tire plants it operates in the U.S. The firm operates two passenger tire facilities in Mexico and one in Canada.