Bridgestone to invest US$41m in European smart factory project

Bridgestone is to invest US$41 million on the digitisation of eight European tyre manufacturing plants, to create factories of the future. The investment is to be spread out over the next four years and will enable Bridgestone to meet customer demands faster and more flexibly through the use of energy-saving, smart technology.

The project— involving the manufacture of semi-finished products, energy supply, maintenance, production monitoring and production planning — will transform the production process at plants across Poland, Hungary, Spain, Italy and France.

The launch of the “Smart Energy” system will optimise the plants’ energy consumption and costs, with an approximate 10% in energy savings – the system creates a link between the production plans and energy use,and so, modeling these will enhance the energy requirements of tyre production.

The process overhaul will firstly enable storage, analysis and use of tyre production data by the firm’s engineers at tech centers in Rome and Tokyo to help improve tyre design, which will then be returned to the plant in a digital format. The digitized designs are expected to halve the production time of the first series of the new tyres.

Digitalisation will also help Bridgestone improve manufacturing efficiency by “smart maintenance” of the plants’ facilities – artificial intelligence (AI) and sensors will be used to analyse data and forecast potential faults in machinery so as to avoid costly malfunctions and further optimise the planning of maintenance cycles.

In addition, the smart factory investment reduces their European/Middle East/Africa (EMEA) divisions’ waste through a purpose-built algorithm, which sifts through connections between real-time production parameters and the features of the manufactured tyres, forwarding the collected data to on-site teams who can immediately devise ways to reduce the number of production rejects.

Bridgestone anticipates its logistics processes will be simplified considerably after digital tracking and management within the plant, thus simplifying production planning and administrative processes, from mixing materials to warehousing.

The new investment follows the success of Examation, Bridgestone’s AI-based, high-productivity manufacturing technology that measures and checks quality parameters at 480 points — collecting 700 MB of data per tyre.

To maximise potential, Bridgestone’s EMEA employees are to undergo training to operate the advanced machinery, hence improving resource efficiency, waste reduction and job satisfaction.

“This smart factory project will go a long way in making Bridgestone EMEA future ready. Not only will our processes become more efficient and sustainable, but they will also lead to better products,” Adolfo Llorens, VP Manufacturing, Bridgestone EMEA, said, noting that the new digital processes should help improve production quality by 15%.