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BOUNCING BACK


Bridgestone Tyres SA

Back in October we took a closer look at the South African branch of the world’s largest tyre and rubber manufacturer. It’s been an eventful few months since then, so we decided to it was time to check in with Bridgestone South Africa. It’s been a while since we checked in on Bridgestone South Africa. Back in October the tyre manufacturers were enjoying the benefits a dramatic jump in demand for extralarge off-the-road tyres thanks to a boost to the mining industry. To respond to the increase in demand the company had opened its first new factory in over 35 years at their Japan HQ in Kitakyushi. What’s more, after some tough years for everyone it looked like the global financial crisis was finally starting to cool down. Of course a lot’s happened since then. Most notably, the economies of half of Europe seem to be going down the

plughole and taking the rest of planet’s economy with it. Jordan San, Bridgestone/Firestone’s National Operations Manager for South Africa tells us, “The biggest change is we’ve hit the tail end of the recession. What’s happening in Europe has already been affecting Africa. It’s hit us hard in the construction area, but we’ve been making a lot of progress, particularly in the mining sector.” Rising Demand Indeed, the growing demand for mining equipment that San was telling us about last time we talked to him has continued to build. In October it was getting to the point where San said there was actually a risk of a shortage of tyres for the mining industry. Since then, the shortage has continued. “That situation hasn’t improved as much as we’d have liked,” San admits. “We’re maintaining the stock that we have and we’re getting a bit extra from the new factory, so for most part we manage to meet the demand from the mining companies. But I think the shortage will continue. Speaking to people across the industry, the way growth is going, this shortage will be in place for the next two or three years.” San still cites the company’s race to meet client’s demands as the biggest challenge they’ve faced since we last spoke to them. The orders Bridgestone have been getting are acting as an excellent barometer of the status of the mining industry. “We’re getting orders from a lot of mines who aren’t getting rid of their existing equipment,” San explains. “They’re not replacing their existing equipment, they’re just growing their equipment list.” The brand new factory that had only recently been opened

H&R South Africa is a sales and marketing company dedicated to the supply of speciality products originating from Lubricant Refineries. Our expertise is focused on blending of these speciality raw materials to fulfil the needs of the various Industries which we service globally. The brand is synonymous with quality and consistency and a drive to build lasting customers partnerships. The H&R Group is proud to have an association with Bridgestone and has fostered similar relationships with other major players in the international Tire and Rubber Industry through the development, engineering and consistent supply of the full range of label-free process oils.


Bridgestone Tyres SA

in October is already being forced to grow to keep up. San says, “Our manufacturing arm in Japan is looking at increasing factory capacity. Looking further into the future than that, we’ve started building a factory in the United States in Aiken, South Carolina. They will start producing by the start of 2014. That should free up some production for Japan which means its produce can be shared among more local areas.” During our last interview San told us that Bridgestone was aiming to build their OTR output to 30% more than it was two years ago. It seemed like an ambitious target, and we’re curious to see how that went. “We’re on target,” San says proudly. “There are global requirements we’re required to meet that have limited our growth a bit, which makes it harder to put out any kind of surplus. But we’re in line with the goals that we want to reach.”

manages to hook them you can be sure they’re going to cling onto them for all their worth. This makes it increasingly important that smaller companies such as Bridgestone South Africa are able to appeal to the talent on the market. However, San’s approach to recruitment is surprisingly straight forward. “We make sure we build a really strong reputation by word of mouth, promoting the company well within the market,” San says. “We’ve got a lot of positive people in the company and they aren’t shy about telling people why they like working for the company.” The approach creates a sort of virtuous circle, where the good people already in the company inspire more to join. Once the company has hired the talent, it begins investing in it. “We have a full training department who goes through our planning, inductions, all things involved that concern our people for job improvement,” San says.

A Staff That Speaks for the Company Tyres haven’t been the only thing to face a shortage in recent times. Talk to anyone in the mining, manufacturing or engineering industries and you’ll find there’s also a severe shortage of skilled labour. Like many other companies, Bridgestone has felt the bite of this shortage. Those who have the right qualifications and experience are constantly hopping from one position to another, taking advantage of the fact that their skills are so in demand. Companies can get extremely competitive over hiring the best talent that’s available, and if a big company

Bridgestone’s Sustainable Future Bridgestone South Africa isn’t just investing in its staff and facilities. It’s also investing in the future of the planet. The Bridgestone Group as a whole has established an Environmental Mission Statement that sets long term objectives for the company’s branches across the world. In accordance with these goals the group recently highlighted several projects to mark Word Environment Day on June 5, including two great projects by Bridgestone South Africa. First there was Bridgestone South Africa’s Roadkill Research and Mitigation Project. The company has been


working alongside the Endangered Wildlife Trust to find out how roads and vehicle traffic are impacting upon native wildlife. Bridgestone South Africa took part in accident prevention activities to assess potential threats to local animals and report back to researchers at Rhodes University. Similarly, in support of World Biodiversity Day the company supported an Environmental Preservation Program in collaboration with The Cape Leopard Trust. The Trust focuses on protecting a rare species of native mountain

leopard, as well as helping to educate children about wildlife and conservation. With plenty of projects like these in the works, Bridgestone has established itself not just as a trusted manufacturer of tyres for the mining and construction industries, but also as an integral part of the community it serves. And what of Bridgestone South Africa’s future? San is optimistic: “We’re growing with the market and keeping up with the times.”

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Bridgestone Tyres SA www.bridgestone.co.za +27 119 237 572 Written by Chris Farnell

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