Aerial view of the Sumitomo Rubber South Africa Ladysmith factory

Dunlop Tyres multibillion-rand plant upgrade

WITH one-in-five vehicles on South African roads fitted with locally produced Dunlop tyres, the tyre manufacturer is forging ahead with a multi-billion rand investment project backed by its Japan-based parent company, Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI). This is set to boost local tyre production capacity as more OEMs look to domestic tyre producers to meet their vehicle specifications.

The R1.7 billion investment drive was announced during the 50th anniversary of Dunlop’s Ladysmith manufacturing plant. The production facility first opened its doors in October 1973 and has since been at the forefront of tyre production in South Africa. Sumitomo Rubber South Africa (SRSA), the South African operation of SRI, manufactures Dunlop tyres and also distributes the Sumitomo and Falken tyre brands.

SRSA CEO, Lubin Ozoux, said the milestone anniversary for Dunlop comes at a critical time. “With the backing of our parent company, we are investing significantly into our passenger car radial production facility to make a larger impact in the automotive industry. The plant will be able to run a wider set of products, producing more tyres that meet and exceed OE specifications, and that are safety-tested for all South Africans. At the same time, it gives us the opportunity to continue our investment in our local community and municipality, creating a vibrant environment for us all to thrive.”

Dunlop holds approximately 20% of the local OE market and has agreements in place with Toyota, Nissan, Isuzu, Hino, Tata, Scania and UD Trucks, effectively resulting in one-in-five vehicles on South Africa roads being factory fitted with tyres produced from the Dunlop Ladysmith plant.

The investment includes new plant equipment and machinery, such as a new mixer, new tread line, and new sidewall line, which will increase passenger car tyre production capabilities, efficiencies and product offering to further support the OE market.   This comes off the back of SRSA’s multi-billion rand investment in 2018 in a state-of-the-art 180,000m² Truck and Bus Radial (TBR) factory at the plant, facilitating local manufacture of truck and bus tyres.

With a demand for global environmental impact reduction from the automotive industry, Dunlop’s new high-spec, technology-driven equipment and optimised production processes will reduce the plant’s environmental impact, aligned to Sumitomo Rubber Industries’ global sustainability goal of zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“The new equipment will improve current process capability and decrease our overall plant waste by over 60% once the investment is complete. Power consumption will be significantly reduced, and the equipment will also have the capability to produce very low rolling resistance tyres that will meet help meet future emissions requirements for OE manufacturers who choose to use our products. Our new mixer, with improved technology, will result in an energy saving of approximately 300KWH,” said Ozoux.

SRSA holds strong market share in Africa with a branded presence in 23 African countries, supplying car, van and SUV tyre markets to Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Kenya and neighbouring countries Zambia and Zimbabwe.