Giti Tire (USA) Ltd. opened the doors of its new greenfield manufacturing facility located in the heart of rural Chester County, S.C., for a preview event and soft opening Oct. 4. For the global tiremaker headquartered in Singapore, the $560 million investment in its first U.S production facility is intended to advance the company’s commitment to the North American marketplace.
This being a preview event, Giti Tire officials said the grand opening event for the facility will take place in 2018. Tire dealers and OEM customers, as well as local community leaders, will be invited to the official plant dedication at that time.
“Our investment in this facility and its workforce demonstrates our firm commitment to North American customers,” said Dr. Enki Tan, CEO of Giti Tire. He went on to say that the area’s “extensive infrastructure network, proximity to a major metropolitan area and commitment to a highly skilled workforce” made it an attractive location for the company.
The facility, located off I-77 near Rock Hill, currently employs 200 people and is on track to grow their team to 400 by the end of this year, with plans to be staffed at 1,000 employees by the end of 2018. The company anticipates growing to 1,700 employees in the next 10 years. Existing Giti Tire research and development, now located in the Akron, Ohio, area is in the process of moving to the new South Carolina location to be closer to production and to take advantage of new physical testing facilities built on the grounds of the plant.
The 1.7 million square-foot facility boasts the latest manufacturing technology and state-of-the-art design with plans to be fully automated by June 2018. Even during its current initial ramp-up phase, the new Giti plant is on track to produce several hundred thousand tires in 2017 with the ability to produce roughly 5 million passenger tires by the end of 2018. The facility is designed with future growth in mind, and the potential to double that capacity number based on market demands.
Initial production at the new facility through the end of this year and into 2018 will supply Walmart stores throughout the United States with U.S.-made Dextero DHT2 and Dextero Touring DTR1 all-season radials, supporting the retailer’s American Jobs Initiative.
The plant will also help the company meet OE demand after earning the fitment for the new 2019 Volkswagen Passat for the North American market, with additional OE agreements soon to be announced, said John Aben, senior vice president of OE and consumer sales for the company.
Production of tires available for Giti dealers and the replacement market will begin later this year. Additional products and SKUs will also be brought online in 2018, including Giti Tire’s GT Radial and the namesake Giti brand product line, a brand currently available in other parts of the world, which will be made available to North America in mid 2018.
“Stay tuned,” said Armand Allaire, executive vice president of commercial sales for North America.
Preparing for Growth
Hank Eisenga, vice president of manufacturing for Giti Tire Manufacturing (USA), said the product quality at the new plant and speed to market to serve their North American customers will give the company an advantage, especially as they bring more products online.
“Our ramp up is going to be pretty aggressive,” said Eisenga. “Right now we’re in a position where we’re beginning to ramp up but we’re not anywhere near the production levels where we’ll be a year from now.”
He went on to say, “Our job is to fill this plant as fast as we can – the annual volume that’s been quoted is 10 million tires a year. Our intent is to fill that as quickly as we can. [To hit our targets] it won’t require additional expansion, but it will require additional equipment that’s on its way now.”
Eisenga explained that additional equipment will be installed and brought online to coincide with the pace of production growth at the plant.
“The design of the facility, especially being heavily automated and straight-line manufacturing, is to time the installation along with the hiring and training of the employees so that it all [flows] together. We started at zero…. We’re adding different SKUs and products as we go.”
Based on conversation with several Giti executives, the new plant’s opening is a defining moment for the global organization.
Aben said the goal is speed to market to serve their North American customers, adding, “This company is ready to grow up. The Giti brand is a big part of the global organization but we haven’t launched it in the U.S. yet. We’re getting ready for that in 2018, probably in the second half.”
Allaire added, “I think this [investment in a new facility] shows the commitment of Giti to the market. We see this as a long-term business, a long-term partnership. It’s not something that happened overnight. We’ve been in U.S. for over 25 years. We’re here to stay. We’re here to support our customers and independent dealers.”
According to Giti Tire leadership, plans are underway to better serve its dealer base and consumers, including new dealer support programs and awareness marketing to drive more business including a new digital strategy.
Julianto Djajadi, executive vice president of business operations for North America, provided this perspective: “I think Giti today is at the beginning of [a new era], a new Giti. This shows our commitment to the market, to let our customers know we’re here.”
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and Walmart President and CEO Greg Foran were on hand for the event and presentation. In their remarks, both reflected on the success of the plant and its ability to create new jobs in the community and the region.
Giti (pronounced “Gee-Tee”) confirmed plans to continue and expand their STEM-focused Math & Science Award program in the local school district. They’ve also been working closely with York Technical College in Rock Hill to source and train skilled workers for the facility.