Bridgestone/Firestone (BFS) is investing $42.2 million through January 2007 to expand capacity for high-performance and larger diameter tires at its car and light truck tire plant in Joliette.
The Quebec government will contribute another $3 million, bringing the total investment to $45.2 million.
The project will result in a change to the manufacturing flow at the 40-year-old Joliette plant to a more flexible multi-size, small-lot production process for an expanded range of products, according to Bridgestone Firestone Canada Inc. (BFCA), which disclosed the project along with the Quebec government.
To meet the new production requirements, BFS will invest mainly in new equipment and reorganizing production areas. The project will emphasize capacity for 17- and 18-inch diameter tires, the firm said.
``In order to ensure that the company can compete at the top ranks at an international level, we have focused our efforts on product diversity and complexity rather than on volume,'' said Isaku Motohashi, general manager of BFCA, in a prepared statement.
``Accordingly, we are responding to client demand for products that are increasingly more diverse and that offer significant added value for the company,'' he said. ``This strategy, which is based on innovation, production flexibility and labor quality, requires major investments in terms of equipment and training.''
The firm said the change in manufacturing flow does not indicate the plant is adopting the Bridgestone Innovative and Rational Development, or BIRD, manufacturing technology.
The investment will help secure the jobs of the 1,250 workers at the plant. Capacity of 15,800 units a day is not likely to change much, the firm said, although the mix will be different.
In June workers at Joliette ratified a new six-year labor agreement, which BFCA at the time described as providing terms that would ``ensure greater flexibility'' in operations.
BFS last made a major investment in Joliette in 2002-2003, putting $22.5 million into the plant to cover expansion of OE-specific sizes and types. As much as 90 percent of Joliette's output in the past has been for OE customers, including General Motors Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp. The company said it does not see this mix changing.