Bridgestone EMEA is investing EUR36m (US$41m) to digitise its manufacturing operations.

The investment will also see Bridgestone employees in the EMEA region up-skilled to operate digital technologies.

The EUR36m factory project will see the full production process – covering manufacturing semi-finished products, energy supply, maintenance, production monitoring and production planning – transformed across eight European plants in Poland, Hungary, Spain, Italy and France.

The first of these projects, Smart Energy, optimises the plants’ energy consumption and costs, which will allow energy savings of around 10%.

Digitalisation of the plants will enable 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.

The 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 parameters of machinery with the help of sensors and automatically suggest maintenance to avoid malfunctions. This new process will also help to optimise the planning of maintenance cycles.

The smart factory investment will 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 an algorithm will look for connections between the production parameters and features of the manufactured tyres.

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

Logistics processes of the Bridgestone plants will also be simplified. Introduction of smart materials technology will mean plants specialists can digitally track and manage the path of prepared materials and semi-finished products within the plant. This will simplify production planning and administrative processes, from mixing materials to warehousing maintains the supplier.

The EUR36m investment follows Bridgestone’s earlier initiatives to digitise the tyre production process, such as the use of Examation. This is Bridgestone’s AI-based, manufacturing technology, which measures and checks the quality parameters of tyres at 480 points, collecting 700 MB of data per tyre.

The investments will go hand-in-hand with training of plant operators to master the correct handling of the latest digital technologies.

“This smart factory project will go a long way in making Bridgestone EMEA future ready,” said Bridgestone EMEA manufacturing VP, Adolfo Llorens.

“Not only will our processes become more efficient and more sustainable, but they will also lead to better products. For example, 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%.”