Bridgestone to invest EUR 36 mn in transforming European plants into smart factories

Bridgestone EMEA is injecting 36 million euros into its eight European plants, transforming them into smart factories, the EMEA business of the world’s largest tyre and rubber company has announced. The project will include the Tatabány-based plant, as well, where tyre production is already digitalised, but the entire manufacturing process is to be transformed in the coming period. Bridgestone expects the new technologies to allow energy savings of about 10% with the same headcount and to boost annual tyre production to 7.2 million units by 2021.
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More than 60% of Bridgestone’s tyre production capacity in Tatabánya are already digitalised. This EUR 36 million investment comes following the success of Bridgestone’s earlier initiatives to digitise the tyre production process, such as the use of EXAMATION. EXAMATION is Bridgestone’s AI-based, high-productivity manufacturing technology, which measures and checks the quality parameters of tyres at 480 points - collecting 700 MB of data per tyre (4 TB per day). The digital machines we’ll be using apply algorithms that check the quality parameters of the tyres produced to improve the evenness of quality by 15%. They can produce twice as many tyres, 6,000 a day, than their traditional counterparts.

The digitalisation of the plants will enable the data from tyre production to be stored, analysed and used by Bridgestone engineers in both Rome and Tokyo, to help design new and improved tyre models. Those new tyre model designs will be returned to the plant in a digital format, which will cut the production time of the first series of the new tyres in half.

Digitalisation will also play a major role in improving Bridgestone’s production efficiency by enabling the smart maintenance of the plants’ facilities. Artificial intelligence will be used to analyse data and forecast potential faults in machinery. The system will measure and analyse key parameters of the machinery with the help of sensors, and automatically suggest maintenance to avoid costly malfunctions. This new process will also help to optimise the planning of maintenance cycles.

The smart factory investment will also help to reduce the waste produced by Bridgestone EMEA across Europe. A stream of data on the production performance will be sent to a cloud-based database, where a purpose-built algorithm will look for connections between the production parameters and the features of the manufactured tyres. The results will be automatically forwarded to the on-site teams, who can then immediately take action and significantly reduce the number of production rejects.

Finally, the logistics processes of the Bridgestone plants will also be considerably simplified. The introduction of smart materials technology will mean that the plants’ specialists can digitally track and manage the path of prepared materials and semi-finished products within the plant. This will drastically simplify production planning and administrative processes, from mixing materials to warehousing.

The investments will go hand-in-hand with training of the plant operators to master the correct handling of the latest digital technologies and maximise the potential of the investments. The dashboards and insights delivered by the smart factory will allow them to better steer and optimize the production process and ultimately contribute to greater autonomy and job satisfaction.

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