LONDON — Adolfo Llorens, vice present of manufacturing at Bridgestone Europe/Middle East/Africa, shared some thoughts recently about new technology trends in the tire manufacturing industry with Shahrzad Pourriahi of European Rubber Journal.
Q: What is driving the adoption of integrated automation across the tire industry?
A; The big picture is that tire demand overall is growing steadily. We're having to produce more tires, in multiple sizes, with intricate technical specifications, and faster…all while ensuring the great quality and high safety standards that drivers expect and deserve.
Also, transparency in the supply chain is becoming really important and automation helps with that. Car makers are looking across the full production process to guarantee that the vehicle is being produced in the most efficient way. Bringing automation into tire manufacturing means we can produce all the data we need to demonstrate efficiency and to improve our performance based on what we've learned.
Q: How is this playing out at Bridge-stone's operations in Europe?
A: We've got 11 tire plants across EMEA region, so we're always looking at how we can optimize our local operations. We launched the Bridgestone Innovative and Rational Development technology a few years ago. It was the first automated tire-manufacturing technology within our business, able to perform all the actions of tire manufacturing automatically, right from component manufacturing through to tread and vulcanizing the finished tire. This technology allows us to produce 128 different tire sizes at the same time.
More recently, we invested $310 million in three of our European sites — in Burgos, Spain; and Poznan and Stargard, Poland — to install the most advanced production technology available in autonomous vehicle systems and high-capacity machinery.
Q: What are the main challenges around the introduction of increased integration/automation within tire plants?