FAIRLAWN, Ohio—As Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. positions itself for an expanded presence in North America following the recent opening of its first U.S. plant, the tire maker's Kumho American Technical Center in Fairlawn will continue to play a big role in its growth.
Kumho's $450 million plant in Macon, Ga., gives the firm an annual capacity of 4 million passenger and light truck tires and will serve as a foundation to enhance its original equipment market share in North America. With that in mind, KATC is looking to expand its staff of about 20 and add to its testing capabilities to accommodate new projects.
“As we add different OE customers, they may require a certain test, so we may add equipment here and there,” said David Klekamp, general manager at KATC. “For example, we don't currently have an electrical resistance machine, so we're talking about maybe adding one of those because of certain OEM requirements for electro resistance.
“We're looking for new engineers, of course, and new technicians, but we're not doing an expansion of the building. We're just doing an expansion of the work force, because we're trying to grow the North American business, especially with the new plant here.”
Kumho transitioned to its current U.S. technical center—a 20,400-sq.-ft. facility in Fairlawn, west of Akron—in 2001, from its previous location, a 2,500-sq.-ft. center it opened less than a mile away in 1991. The tire maker spent approximately $2 million to build the Fairlawn facility.
According to Kle-kamp, the center's mission is to work toward accelerating the tech-nology and customer acceptance of the Kumho brand in North America.
“We want to become an elite tire manufacturer and global supplier of tires for all our customers,” he said. “We don't produce all types of tires, but the tires that we do produce we want to be considered in the top of the field. If we're not there now, that's where we want to be.”