CHOBIENICE, Poland—The European market is projected to lead the charge in the air springs industry through at least 2025, maintaining the largest global share and highest adoption rate for air springs for all types of vehicles, according to Orion Market Research.
And Firestone Industrial Products Co. L.L.C. hopes its new distribution center in Chobienice, Poland, which opened in December 2019, can improve supply chain efficiency for FSIP customers—whether OEMs or aftermarket consumers.
"We have a very strong base in Eastern Europe and this gives us a logistical advantage into the market there," said FSIP President Emily Poladian, a long-time executive with FSIP parent company Bridgestone Corp. who has been leading FSIP for about a year. "The distribution center will offer shorter shipping times and lower costs for us and our customers."
Key to this change in supply chain strategy for FSIP is the nearby location of an FSIP manufacturing plant in Wolsztyn, Poland, only about 10 miles from the new distribution center in Chobienice. As air spring products are made in Wolsztyn, they don't have to travel far to the warehouse.
"The (distribution center) location gives us the capability to handle inventory for our OE customers, with additional space for safety stocks, and we can offer service out of there as well," Poladian said.
The Wolsztyn manufacturing plant, which itself recently underwent a 20,000-sq.-ft. expansion to allow for production of a component for automotive suspensions, produces air springs and air spring components for commercial vehicles, including trucks and trailers.
FSIP's previous distribution center was in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
"Poland is a great central location to access a good part of Europe," Poladian said. "There is port access from there. And although we don't send a lot of product from Poland to China, we have easy access to rail capabilities when we do. A good amount of our customer base is within 1,000 miles of this location."
The Chobienice distribution center is 100,000 square feet and employs 16 people, according to FSIP.
The warehouse, built from the ground up by a third party then taken over by FSIP last year, has four loading docks and warehouses products mainly from Wolsztyn. However, Poladian said it also could house air spring and vibration-dampening products for niche markets (such as industrial applications) that come from the U.S.
"I would say about 90 percent of the product to be housed there will be from Wolsztyn," she said.
The warehouse is integrated with FSIP's inventory tracking and shipping software, making for "an exceptional setup for the flow of materials," according to Poladian.