OTR plant is Bridgestone's big U.S. investment
Mining companies in the Americas will have better access to the tires they need to outfit their heavy haul trucks now that Bridgestone Corp. has expanded the manufacturing of giant radial OTR tires to the United States.
Tuesday’s grand opening of the $970 million Bridgestone Aiken County Giant Off Road Radial Tire Plant in Aiken County, S.C., “is the biggest single investment Bridgestone has ever made in the U.S.,” said Gary Garfield, CEO and president of Bridgestone Americas Inc. The 1.5 million-square-foot facility produces tires in sizes 49 to 63 inches. The tires are between 8 and 13 feet tall and weigh between 2,800 and 13,000 pounds.
This plant marks the first time Bridgestone Corp. will build giant radial OTR tires outside of Japan, thus eliminating the month-long shipping wait for tires made there to arrive in the U.S.
Tomohiro Fukuda, vice president and officer of specialty tire business and CQO for Bridgestone Corp., was among the executives to travel to Aiken County from Japan for the opening. Fukuda noted the opening “is a milestone in our company history” and that providing quality products to these mining and aggregates customers is “an important piece of our business.”
Operations began in August, though additional equipment will be added to ramp up production. Adam Barfoot, operations manager, said the plant will be fully built next year and is expected to operate at full capacity by 2019. Production currently is running seven days a week, though not on a full 24-hour schedule.
Production was particularly light Tuesday following the morning grand opening ceremony and ribbon cutting. State and local officials toured the plant, and employees set up stations to explain the production process along the way. Kurt Danielson, president of the U.S. and Canada Commercial Group, a division of Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC, said the company will invite its mining and aggregates customers and dealers to tour the plant as well.
“I think our customers are really excited about it,” Danielson said. “I think they see this as a very good thing.”