On Tuesday this week, FOCUS attended the launch of Sumitomo Rubber South Africa’s (SRSA) Truck and Bus Radial (TBR) factory in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal.
This is the second phase of a more than R2-billion investment in the Ladysmith facility, which began in 2014. The first phase concentrated on developing the capacity to produce Dunlop, Sumitomo and the increasingly popular Falken brand of tyres for passenger vehicles, SUVs and light trucks.
The TBR plant opened in July this year and currently produces approximately 200 tyres per day. Much emphasis has been placed on perfecting the process and ensuring the quality of tyres coming from the plant is on par with those being produced by Sumitomo internationally.
The FOCUS team got to tour the factory and gain an insight into the lengthy manufacturing process and the impressive amount of work that goes into producing each tyre at the plant.
The goal is to grow employment and produce 780 tyres per day before the end of the year. For now, there will be 24 sizes available with a variety of tread patterns to suit different applications.
An investment in Africa
The investment in the TBR factory went ahead despite a barrage of challenging market conditions. These included the importation of cheap Chinese-made tyres that have flooded the local market in recent years.
Riaz Haffejee, CEO of SRSA, says: “The South African market is not a knock-and-drop service market. Fleet managers manage tyres very scientifically and performance in terms of cost per kilometre remains an important consideration.
“Real-world tests on the tyres coming out of the facility are being conducted on different fleets servicing a variety of industries. Final results are pending, but current indicators are positive,” says Haffejee.
Through its automotive component-manufacturing incentives, the government has been instrumental in attracting this investment. The Ladysmith municipality also donated a piece of land where a section of the TBR factory is now located.
Ikuji Ikeda, president and CEO of Sumitomo Rubber Industries, said: “We note the potential of the African market and await the passing of the Free Trade Agreement, which will support SRI’s penetration into the rest of Africa.”