Phase two of production at Sumitomo Rubber South Africa’s (SRSA) plant in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, is now online, meaning the facility now has the capability to manufacture truck and bus radial tires. Production commenced as planned in July 2018.
The work to upgrade and modernize the factory saw an injection of R970m (US$67.7m), bringing the total investment in Ladysmith since 2014 to more than R2bn (US$136m).
Nineteen TBR employees from the SRSA plant were recently sent for training to the company’s Miyazaki factory in Japan, where they were able to develop their technical methodology and gain an understanding of Sumitomo Rubber Industries’ (SRI) processes in order to transfer this knowledge to shop floor staff in South Africa.
To celebrate the milestone, VIP guests, stakeholders and dignitaries were given an opportunity to tour the TBR factory. This included government and industry representatives, and the president and CEO of Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ikuji Ikeda, who delivered a speech and unveiled a plaque to mark the opening of the facility.
Ikeda said, “Sumitomo Rubber South Africa has been a part of Sumitomo Rubber Industries group company since December 2013 and from then we have worked together to step ahead in various areas of the business, such as safety, passenger car radial tire production, quality, products, sales and people. This marks the first time Sumitomo Rubber Industries has established a truck and bus radial factory outside of Asia.”
Ikeda said the reasons for proceeding with the investment – despite the challenges of developing a TBR factory from scratch – included the potential of the African market, particularly the Free Trade Agreement, which supports SRI’s business initiatives. He added that local TBR tire production will hopefully result in the expansion of business for truck and bus vehicle manufacturers and present opportunities for government-related businesses.
SRSA CEO Riaz Haffejee commented, “We will be industrializing a total of 24 sizes between our Dunlop and Sumitomo brands, from this year until September 2019.
“Following SRSA’s first phase of investment in 2014, which saw us increase the output of high-quality passenger and SUV tires at this plant, the new TBR factory has created growth and a brighter future for the local community. SRSA’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.”
Renai Moothilal, executive director of the NAACAM (National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers), who is also overseeing operations at the SATMC, remarked, “SRSA must be recognized, not only for its significant investment in plant and processes, but for its commitment to a region outside South Africa’s industrial heartlands, and its contribution towards employment.
“The company has demonstrated how automotive component manufacturers can drive true economic development across the country and the importance of ensuring that a greater level of manufacturing of automotive components happens.”
SRSA manufactures SRI, Dunlop and Falken branded tires.