Even as Marangoni Tread North America Inc. was celebrating the official opening of its $10 million tread rubber plant in Madison recently, company officials already were preparing for the unit's second phase expansion, which will double output by 2006.
Gianni Marangoni, president of parent company Marangoni S.p.A., cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony June 17 at the 50,000-sq.-ft. plant, which has been manufacturing Marangoni's patented Ringtread spliceless precured tread rubber since April 27.
Speaking to those attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony-including representatives from Marangoni's 16 North American tire dealership customers-Giuseppe Marangoni, operations manager at Marangoni Tread North America and son of Gianni Marangoni, said the new plant ``means we're showing our total commitment to the North American market. Having this technology set up here means that we're here to stay.''
The secret to Ringtread, according to the company, is its proprietary Alpharing process in which the rubber is molded in one continuous circle, fitting the contour of the tire and eliminating the splice. Custom compounding and new radial tire compression molding add to the product's excellence, Marangoni states in its brochure.
The new Marangoni plant is located directly across from the former Pirelli Armstrong Tire Co. plant in an industrial park in Madison, about nine miles north of Nashville, Tenn. The company moved into the Pirelli Armstrong building two years ago when it moved from Walnut Creek, Calif., but it abandoned that space entirely after moving to the new plant, according to Bill Sweatman, president and CEO of Marangoni Tread North America Inc.
Attendees at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were treated to up-close demonstrations of the Alpharing manufacturing process in action.
Goodyear has developed its own spliceless tread rubber technology, called Unicircle, Mr. Sweatman noted. But Marangoni offers not only a technology superior to Goodyear's, he claimed, but also a far greater variety of tread designs.
Currently, the plant devotes 18,000 square feet of its space to the Alpharing process, employing four of Marangoni Tread's 25 employees and having a capacity of 720 tread rings per day.
The company's plans to double capacity by 2006 can be done without expanding the plant's size, said Giuseppe Marangoni. The key to Marangoni's success is its proprietary technology and state-of-the-art quality management system, according to Dean Smith, technical manager at Marangoni Tread.
Mr. Smith gave demonstrations before the ceremony of the Marangoni Ringtreader 1000 and the ITT Sfera 3000 shearographic inspector, which he said were the first of their kind in North America.
Mr. Smith showed attendees a section of a flawed retread tire detected by the ITT Sfera 3000's laser light. The casing had a badly repaired nailhole that in turn caused the tread to bond poorly to the casing.
``Without shearography, that tire would have gone out on the road and the tread would have flown off,'' he said.
Samples of Marangoni's products made in the U.S. go to the company laboratory in Italy, Mr. Smith added, ``to make sure that what we're making over here is the same as what we make over there.''
Marangoni previously supplied the North American market from its plant in Brazil, but a prolonged strike by government workers made Brazil uncertain as a source for export, Mr. Sweatman said. ``Inspectors and customs officials were on strike, affecting not only our products but everybody's,'' he added.
In any case, the Madison Ringtread plant represents the current sum total of Marangoni's manufacturing plans in North America, according to Mr. Sweatman. The firm has no plans to manufacture tires here, as it does in Italy, or to export its Italian-made tires here. Nor does it plan any joint ventures with North American tire manufacturers, as it just established with Bridgestone Europe N.V./S.A. ``That joint venture is very much attuned to the European market,'' he said.
Marangoni dealers attending the ceremony pronounced themselves very well pleased with the quality of the company's products and its assurance of a steady supply.
``We took it on ourselves to position ourselves for future growth-to differentiate ourselves from our competitors,'' said Joe Shrader, president of Shrader Tire & Oil in Toledo, Ohio. ``Because of that, we've taken the initiative with new products, and we couldn't be happier with Marangoni's product. We can honestly tell our customers that this is a more trouble-free product than anything else on the market.''
Marangoni is still negotiating to bring two more North American dealers on board but isn't ready to reveal any details, Mr. Sweatman said.