Bridgestone recently announced that it is expanding its passenger tire manufacturing facility in Wilson, North Carolina, as part of a five-year, $164-million investment.

The multi-phase expansion of the 42-year-old facility, which is expected to break ground in early 2016, will improve the plant's global competitive position by installing leading-edge technology, expanding production capacity and lowering costs.

Phases one and two will focus on the addition of 167,000 square feet of manufacturing space to accommodate new tire assembly machines, material handling systems, curing presses and associated equipment to increase plant capacity by 3,000 tires per day. The new equipment also will allow the plant to respond to the increase in global demand for higher rim size tires as well as improve quality and productivity while reducing costs.

"Our production and manufacturing capabilities must evolve with our products to meet the changing needs of today's consumers," said Michael Darr, plant manager. "Our investment in updated equipment and improved manufacturing processes and facilities reflects our focus on maintaining our global competitiveness as well as our commitment to the Wilson community."

The plant currently manufactures 32,000 passenger tires a day. It was the first Bridgestone tire manufacturing facility to produce run-flat tires, and in 2016 will begin producing the company's DriveGuard tires, the first full line of all-season replacement tires engineered to go up to 50 miles after a puncture.

The Wilson plant last underwent an expansion in 1999 when it added 85,000 square feet to the facility. The plant's team has earned numerous safety awards, including marking the safest year in its 42 years of operations in 2012 and achieving certification earlier this year as a Rising Star facility from the North Carolina Department of Labor.

The plant also has received recognition for its environmental efforts, including three Green Factory Environmental Achievement Recognitions at Honda's 22nd annual Environmental, Safety and Ergonomics Symposium in 2014.

In addition, it was the first tire plant to earn ISO 50001 certification, reach Superior Energy Performance (SEP) Mature Pathway certification and achieve Underwriters Laboratories' (UL) landfill waste diversion claim validation for zero waste to landfill.

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