DAYTON, Tenn. — Nokian Tyres Inc. plans to restart production at its Dayton factory on May 4, ending a five-week-long COVID-19-induced shutdown.
Nokian said it reached its decision to reopen after monitoring local and federal guidelines and recent actions taken by the State of Tennessee to begin reopening the state's economy.
Some employees will return to the plant starting April 27 to help prepare for a phased reopening process, Nokian said.
The company idled production at the year-old factory on March 27, saying at that time it expected the shutdown to last "at least two weeks."
The company, a subsidiary of Finland's Nokian Tyres P.L.C., then extended the temporary closure of the plant on April 8 through at least April 26, saying at the time its decision was in "accordance with guidelines from public authorities."
Nokian stated it felt it is important to reopen the plant now, considering the importance of tire makers as suppliers to the nation's vital transportation industry, "which has been deemed essential by the state and federal governments," and "out of a desire to provide stability for our employees."
The company stressed that it would not reopen the factory unless it was confident it could provide a safe working environment for its employees.
To do so, Nokian said it would:
- make every entrant onto factory property subject to temperature screening;
- implement social-distancing policies, including a six-foot distance requirement, rotating lunches, dedicated entrances for each department, and eliminate factorywide meetings;
- allow only "business-critical" visitors onto the factory site; and
- increase the frequency of cleaning throughout the facility.
Nokian christened the factory, its fourth worldwide and first in North America, last October, just 24 months after breaking ground on the $360 million project.
At full capacity, the factory will be capable of turning out 4 million passenger and light truck tires annually, the company said. During the start-up phase, the factory is producing the company's enTYRE touring and WRG4 all-weather tires.