Kumho Tire Co. Inc. has started production at a tire plant in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, using an automated production system that reduces labor, raises productivity and increases flexibility.
The 426,100-sq.-ft. plant, built at a cost of $84 million over a two-year period, has an initial capacity of 6,000 tires a day or about 2 million a year, Kumho said.
The plant is Kumho's first to use its automated production unit (APU) concept that combines up to nine tire making steps-including calendering, extrusion, tire building and others-into an integrated manufacturing system that reduces the length of the tire production line by a third, to about 2,600 feet, the company said.
The basic principle of the system is to reduce upstream component production and storage to a bare minimum and move heavily to more of a just-in-time or on-demand supply of tire components at the building station, said a company spokesman, who described it as more ``state of the art'' rather than revolutionary. The system in place at Pyeongtaek, for example, uses market-available steel-cord preparation units and calenders and mates them with the in-house-designed tire building equipment.
The new plant houses four production lines feeding 32 curing presses, the spokesman said. Rubber compound is supplied from an outside source. One of the goals of developing the APU system was to allow the company to set up strategically located independent mini factories, the firm said in its 2002 annual report. The company did not quantify the productivity gains.
The new plant-located in the Poseung Industrial Complex-is Kumho's third in Korea.
The other factories, in Gwangju and Gokseong, have combined annual production capacity of more than 36 million units. Kumho also operates a plant in Nanjing, China, with annual capacity for 5 million units.