Giti Tire USA, manufacturers of Giti- and GT Radial-brand tires, will start manufacturing more sizes of its popular GT Radial replacement tires for the North American market at its Richburg, South Carolina plant. Giti will focus on expanding its offerings in the Maxtour LX and Adventuro HT and ATX lines in the 18-20 in. rim diameter range, the company announced during a tour of its plant and ride-and-drive for dealers and the trade media in late May.
“We have to continuously realign our products to remain relevant to the market,” said Mr. Wai-Yeen Phang, CEO of Giti Tire USA Manufacturing. “The changes over the last decade have been distinct. If you look at tire sizes and rim sizes, newer vehicles are driving the change in 18-, 19- and 20-in. rim diameters.
David Poling, director of tire development and product marketing, said as a key component of its global manufacturing strategy, Giti is relocating high-volume sizes from Indonesia to its Richburg facility, catering specifically to the North American market. Those sizes include 235/45R18 and its 19- and 20-in. counterparts. In addition, 10 new sizes for the Maxtour LX, focusing on 18- to 20-in rim diameters, will be added to the plant this year.
“We’re creating a strong message from this plant designed in America, made in America,” Poling said, referring to the R&D center attached to the factory.
He said certain sizes of the Adventuro HT and ATX will also be manufactured in Richburg later this year, also focusing on high-rim diameter and high-volume sizes. In all, Giti’s product mix in North America will include domestic production and imports from Indonesia. There, production has been shifted to less popular sizes like 15-in. fitments.
“Being in the market, we need to utilize this facility to develop and manufacture the tire sizes that are needed in this market,” Phang said. “Going forward, we plan to do more of this because we don’t want to encounter supply chain issues in the future.”
North American Factory Expansion
After opening its Richburg facility in 2017, Giti has not only added workers but also new tire-building machines to increase capacity and take on new tire types. Phang said despite the pandemic, which temporarily lowered the factory’s capacity, it is looking to enter phase two of the facility’s expansion, as employees at the factory have become experts in the equipment.
“The first phase was to build up a relevant workforce,” Phang said. “That means teaching employees skill sets and equipping them with the knowledge that is needed to support the factory. We call them the pioneer set of operators. These people are now being brought up to the level to become trainers for the future.”
Phang said the plant will be opening on-site training labs for more experienced employees to teach both new employees and their colleagues to get to the next level. Since the factory is an Industry 4.0 plant built with automation and material tracking built into the manufacturing process, training up new employees includes teaching them to understand data produced from the equipment to make production decisions accordingly.
“They are empowered to make decisions based on the data,” Phang said. “This factory isn’t just any factory. This is really the future—the future of made in America.”
With 700 employees and counting, the 1.7 million-square-foot plant operates using a straight-line manufacturing system – raw materials are mixed into the tire’s sub-components on the south end of the plant, and on the north end, the finished product is stored in a 400,000 square-foot warehouse. In addition, the factory uses a mix of automation and craftsmanship to produce around 8,000 tires per day.
During the tour of the plant, Giti and its partners were working to install more tire-building machines and curing presses to increase the plant’s capacity. That new equipment will need to be integrated into the factory’s workflow and linked to other machines before Phase 2 starts.
“Phase two would involve increasing capacity,” Phang said, adding that the Richburg facility is slated to produce 30,000 tires per day when fully equipped.
As it adds capacity, Phang said its workforce will need continuous training as software updates are installed so that they can adapt to the sophistication of the plant’s technology.
“It’s all about making sure that the people with the necessary skill sets are in place,” he added. “We would only do further automation when we have built up more engineering support.”
Phang added that as the factory heads into Phase 2 of development, it will continue to work with its dealer and distributor partners to realign with the needs of the market and evaluate what tire sizes the factory will need to produce.