Kumho Tire Co. Inc. celebrated its new American hometown, and its long-awaited leap into U.S. tire manufacturing, with the grand opening of its passenger tire plant on May 2, 2016.
“Over the years since its inception, Kumho Tire has built a global production network by expanding its annual capacity to a total of 65 million tires,” said Park Sam-gu, chairman of Kumho Asiana Group.
“As Kumho Tire’s ninth plant worldwide, and its first such plant in the United States, the new Georgia plant is equipped with a cutting-edge proprietary automated system and boasts a production capacity of four million tires a year.”
And those four million passenger tires may be only the beginning. Kumho says the site in Macon, Ga., south of Atlanta, is large enough to more than double that capacity over time — to 10 million tires.
Production will focus heavily on original equipment orders, with 80% of capacity dedicated to OE fitments. Ultra-high performance tires are a key product from the production line.
The significance of those OE orders was evident by the presence at the grand opening ceremony of Hyun-Jong Shin, CEO and president of Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia Inc. Like Kumho, Kia built its first North American manufacturing plant in Georgia — in 2009. It’s the home of the Kia Sorento and Kia Optima, and only 110 miles from Kumho’s new plant. According to Modern Tire Dealer statistics, Kumho holds nearly one-third of the market share of OE fitments for the Hyundai Motor Group, which includes the Kia and Hyundai brands.“The fact that Kumho Tire would come to the state of Georgia is further evidence that Georgia has a thriving automotive sector, and I certainly am pleased to see Kia is represented in the audience,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. “Kia is the one who started the automotive industry here in Georgia, and still is the leader in that regard.”
Kumho wants to follow Kia’s lead, and is working to build its market share in the U.S.
“Kumho Tire forged ahead with its plan to build the Georgia plant because North America is home to one of the world’s largest auto and tire markets,” said Chairman Sam-gu. He called production in this “crucial continent” a must “if we are to significantly expand our presence in the market in our bid to become a top tire manufacturer.”
Initial tire production began in March, almost eight years after the May 2008 groundbreaking. Construction of the plant was suspended during the recession, only to resume in late 2013.
The plant is built on 130 acres and the production floor covers nearly 20 acres. The plant is highly automated, and employees providing tours of the facility referred to it as a “smart factory.” Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology provides for an automated tracking system of every tire in every stage of production.
Kumho outfitted the Macon plant with the latest generation of its Automated Production Units. These units combine two processes, building and extrusion, into one. Each of the six units is capable of producing 1,900 tires a day.
Tires move overhead on an electronic monorail system, or in unmanned laser-guided vehicles on the ground that travel along pre-determined routes for automated movement. About 15,000 tires, or a day-and-a-half worth of production, can be held in the plant’s green tire storage before advancing to one of the 60 curing presses. Each press can cure two tires every 15 seconds.
After curing and inspection — a process that requires the work of one of the plant’s 365 employees — robots sort and store the tires based on specifications. There’s space to store about 145,000 finished tires, not quite two weeks of production.