NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Bridgestone Americas' Aiken County, S.C., tire plant does exactly what every one of the Nashville-based tire maker's manufacturing facilities does. It brings the company's most innovative and sustainable products to life.
Bridgestone expands MasterCore mining tire line
Aiken just happens to do it on a grander scale—with giant mining tires that stand 13-feet tall and weigh in at around 10,000 pounds each.
So Aiken does manufacturing bigger, yes, but pretty darn sustainably, too. Both with its operations and the products it rolls out.
And starting this month, that Aiken County tire plant is taking both of those aims a little bit further as it makes room to grow its giant tire product lines with the addition of two MasterCore mining tires: the MasterCore VREV in sizes 53/80R63 and 59/80R63.
For the tire maker, the newer, bigger tire sizes represent more than a product expansion.
They're a promise.
A promise that the North American market matters to Bridgestone and that it's mining tire sector is just as important.
"MasterCore was our next generation of giant tires for the mining industry where we were fundamentally enhancing the technologies in our casings, our tread patterns and our compounds to deliver a differentiated and enhanced value proposition around increased durability, speed and increased tire payload," Rob Seibert, Bridgestone's president of North America OTR, told Rubber News.
"Being able to invest in new capacity that is closer to the customer and being able to optimize supply chain sustainability to bring the latest technology and sustainability into this plant for the customers was a great opportunity for us," Seibert said.
But there's also something to be said about seizing that opportunity with the MasterCore line.
Because MasterCore, Seibert said, was intended to take mining operations further. With durability. With reliability. With all-around premium product design and performance.
And all of that adds up to sustainability, too.
"When it comes to the premium product, we have to do everything we can to maximize the productivity, life and durability of the tire," Seibert said. "If we can extend the life of the tire, if we can move more tons on the tire, that—in the end—is less waste, fewer tires we have to produce, less CO2 from shipping—all the way down the line.
"Being able to do more with less is what really matters to us in the short term," Seibert said. "(It's about) how do we bring that value proposition to the customer."
MasterCore brings that value because it represents the best of Bridgestone's R&D, Seibert said. It's innovation that enhances performance measurably.
According to Bridgestone's measurements, the MasterCore tire line increases the company's mining tire durability by 5 percent, allows for 10-percent faster speeds and 15-percent greater payloads.
"When we start talking about how we want to deliver that premium product, it starts with that casing," Seibert said. "The MasterCore proprietary casing allows us to actually carry more weight if our customer can take advantage of it.
"So this tire would fit on a truck and it would be limited to 320 tons of total material in the truck. With that stronger, heavy-duty casing we are able to increase that up 15 percent to almost 370 tons. So that gives the customer the flexibility to be able to improve the productivity of each truck that they have. And they are able to do more with less trips.
"We increased the TKPH—basically the work rating of a tire. Again, if a customer wants to get more speed—more payload—this tire has a 10-percent increase in the TKPH rating, which allows it to go faster," he said. "And we expect no trade-off in tire performance as a result of that."
All of that innovation, Seibert said, is built around a simple idea, an idea with sustainability at its core: Do more with less.
That principle plays out for the tire maker as it builds products with extended service lives—products that ultimately mean fewer tires required and fewer resources used as a result.
But in doing that, Seibert said, it allows mining customers to do more with less, too. And that's especially important as they look to manage bottom lines and do so amid a labor crunch.
"As pits get older, they get longer hauls, etc. that places more demand on tires, because profiles change, the mines change over time," Seibert said. "But then you now push in a different player with a challenging labor market post-pandemic. Being able to make sure that you are using every asset you have to its fullest—and if you don't need to utilize every asset that you can produce the same amount of tons at a lower cost with less equipment. That is where the (MasterCore tires') increased payloads and speeds come in."
Doing more with less is about measuring the performance of the tires you manufacture. But it's also about making sure your customers can measure that performance, too.
That is why Bridgestone mining has made digital solutions an essential part of its service offerings.
Simply, digital solutions—products and services that allow customer to better monitor their tires—help customers ensure they are getting the most from their tires. Not just in terms of performance, but also longevity.
For Bridgestone mining, that takes shape with two solutions IntelliTire—for 49-inch tires and below—and iTrack—for 51-inch tires and above.
"Our customers are marrying that with our technology so they can monitor that tire in real time so that they know they have the optimal air pressures to take advantage of the payload … and also monitor the temperature of (the tires) to make sure that we get the most out of that TKPH."
The Aiken facility, not quite a decade old, is a critical one for Bridgestone. It is one the time maker certainly is proud of.
Because with the establishment of the facility in 2014, Bridgestone signaled that the North American market—and its mining market in particular—was essential. And the plant's growth is a further indicator of just how much Bridgestone values the region, Seibert said.
"Until Aiken started producing in 2014, (Bridgestone) tires of this size were 100-percent sourced from Japan," Seibert said. "This allowed us to bring production closer to our customers, which has a general supply chain benefit to our customers—being able to have product that is produced here in North America for them. And then, also, over time it is continuing to allow us to improve sustainability for these customers as well."
When it comes to sustainability, Aiken was built for that.
The plant, a LEED- and ISCC-certified facility, represents a step toward circularity as it reuses 92 percent of its own construction debris and 100 percent of discarded manufacturing materials. Additionally, the plant harvests rainwater using geomembrane pond liners and pavers, making it more responsible with its resources as well.
Sometimes, Seibert said, the plant's sustainability impact comes in unexpected ways.
Take, for instance, the simple fact that you aren't shipping the tires via ocean freight. Doing so cuts costs for customers, but it also trims plenty of CO2 from the supply chain.
Couple that with Bridgestone's alternative shipping approaches, and the supply chain has a chance to green even further.
"Over time, as we continue to look at other opportunities with that, we are working closely with Kal Tire in Canada, and working with them has allowed us to be able to actually begin shipments of these tires via rail instead of conventionally via flatbed truck," Seibert said. "That is something that has been unique, something that we have been able to add in the last two years, and we have been able to continue to add to that process and expand it from a sustainability standpoint. In 2022 alone that was an improvement of 600 tons of CO2 in transportation."
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