The state-of-the-art R970-million truck and bus radial (TBR) tyre factory in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, will produce 24 sizes for the Dunlop, Sumitomo and Falken tyre brands, says Japanese diversified industrial group Sumitomo.
The investment to manufacture truck and bus tyres locally is part of the second phase of investments and increases the total investment in its Sumitomo Rubber South Africa Ladysmith facility to R2-billion, says Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI) president and CEO Ikuji Ikeda.
“Sumitomo Rubber South Africa has been a part of the Sumitomo Rubber Industries group since December 2013 and we have worked together to advance areas of the business, including safety, passenger car radial tyre production, quality, products, the sales channel and people.”
This marks the first time that Sumitomo Rubber Industries has established a TBR tyre factory outside Asia, he adds.
The drivers for the investment – despite the challenges of developing a TBR tyre factory from scratch – include the African market’s potential and, particularly, the Free Trade Agreement, which would support Sumitomo Ribber’s business initiatives, he highlights.
Ikeda adds that local TBR tyre production will result in growing businesses for truck and bus vehicle manufacturers and present opportunities for government-related businesses.
Sumitomo Rubber South Africa CEO Riaz Haffejee highlights the positive impact that the investment and development of the factory has had on the community.
“Following Sumitomo Rubber South Africa’s first-phase factory investment in 2014, which resulted in our increasing the output of high-quality passenger and sports utility vehicle tyres at this plant, the new TBR tyre factory has created capacity for growth and a brighter future for the local community.
“Sumitomo Rubber South Africa’s total investment in employment, utilities and procurement has doubled since 2014, which has had a direct impact on the town and has served as a catalyst for community development and entrepreneurship.”
Ikeda also notes that 19 TBR employees received training at the company’s Miyazaki factory, in Japan, where they were able to develop their technical methodology and gain an understanding of SRI’s processes to transfer this knowledge to shop-floor staff in South Africa.
The factory has been certified to European standards and planned production capacity by 2020 is 750 tyres a day.
The factory employs 1 060 people, with more than 80% of the workforce hailing from Ladysmith and surrounding areas.
Employment has been created for 193 additional employees since the start-up, including 118 in-service trainees, learnerships, graduates and apprenticeships.
The factory aims to eventually manufacture enough tyres a day to meet TBR client demand for Dunlop- and Sumitomo-branded tyres for the replacement and original-equipment manufacturer market across the whole of Africa.