Bridgestone launches €36m smart factory project

Brussels – Bridgestone is investing €36 million in digitalisation and smart factories across eight European production sites to ‘future-proof’ its operations.

The four-year project will enhance the full production process, including manufacturing semi-finished products, energy supply, maintenance, and production planning, Bridgestone said in a 27 June statement.

The plants, in Poland, Hungary, Spain, Italy and France, will benefit from energy saving, increased efficiency, reduced waste and simplified processes.

The programme will enable Bridgestone to respond “faster and more flexibly to evolving customer demands,” while reducing energy consumption and waste..

The project involves using digital machinery to apply algorithms that can improve the consistency of quality by 15%, said Adolfo Llorens, VP manufacturing Bridgestone EMEA.

“This smart factory project will go a long way in making Bridgestone EMEA future ready,” he added.

As part of the initiative, a ‘smart energy’ project will optimise the plants’ energy consumption and costs, enabling savings of approximately 10%.

The system creates a link between the production plans and energy consumption, optimising energy requirements of tire production through the modelling process.

Through digitalisation, company engineers in Rome and Tokyo will also gain access to data from tire production, which will allow them design new and improved tire models.

The new designs will be returned to the plant in a digital format, halving the production time of the first series of the new tires.

Bridgestone also expects to improve production efficiency by enabling smart maintenance.

Here, 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.

The smart factory investment will also help to reduce the waste produced by the company across Europe.

This involves sending data on the production performance to a cloud-based database, where a purpose-built algorithm will look for connections between the production parameters and the features of the manufactured tires.

The results will be automatically forwarded to the on-site teams, who can immediately take action and reduce the number of production rejects.

Bridgestone also expects its logistics processes to be “considerably simplified” through digitalisation.

“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,” the tire maker said.

This will “drastically simplify” production planning and administrative processes, from mixing materials to warehousing.

The €36-million investment follows the success of Bridgestone’s earlier initiatives to digitise the tire 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 tires at 480 points – collecting 700 MB of data per tire.