DAYTON, Tenn.—Nokian Tyres Inc. plans to restart production at its Dayton factory on May 4, ending a COVID-19 induced shutdown that lasted more than a month.
Nokian, which continues to monitor local and federal guidelines, said its decision falls in line with steps that Tennessee has taken to reopen state economy.
Some employees will return to the plant starting April 27 to help prepare for a phased reopening process, Nokian said.
Production at the year-old factory was idled on March 27. Nokian said at the time the shutdown would last "at least two weeks."
The company, a subsidiary of Finland's Nokian Tyres P.L.C., extended the temporary closure through at least April 26, saying at the time its decision was in "accordance with guidelines from public authorities."
Driving Nokian's decision to reopen the plant is its belief in the importance of tire makers as suppliers to the nation's vital transportation industry, "which has been deemed essential by the state and federal governments." The company also pointed to its "desire to provide stability for our employees" as a reason for the move. The tire maker stressed that it would not reopen the factory unless it was confident it could provide a safe working environment for its employees.
Safety measures Nokian is taking to protect employees include:
- making every entrant onto factory property subject to temperature screening;
- implementing social-distancing policies, including a six-foot distance requirement,
- rotating lunches,
- creating dedicated entrances for each department,
- eliminating factorywide meetings;
- allowing only "business-critical" visitors onto the factory site; and
- increasing the frequency of cleaning throughout the facility.
Nokian christened the factory, its fourth worldwide and first in North America, last October, just 24 months after breaking ground on the $360 million project.
At full capacity, the factory will be capable of turning out 4 million passenger and light truck tires annually, the company said. During the start-up phase, the factory is producing the company's enTYRE touring and WRG4 all-weather tires.