Bridgestone’s flagship factory on the African continent a well-oiled, world-class machine under new leadership
Plant Manager at the Brits manufacturing plant for premium tyre maker Bridgestone Southern Africa (BSAF), Dries Lottering is determined to boost profitability, while delivering long-term value to customers through operational efficiencies and collaboration.
Since taking up the reigns at Brits in 2020, Lottering has been hard at work bringing the facility up to its full potential, from a technology, process, and people perspective. At the top of the agenda is continuously trimming costs, boosting productivity and refining waste management.
“We are making tremendous progress towards making Brits more sustainable over the long-term,” he says. “Our focus is on ensuring conversion cost, factory cost, and direct input cost reductions, as well as improvements in our waste management processes.
“To achieve this, we have invested substantially in new equipment over the past three to four years, as well as refining our processes. Over the medium-term, we want to develop a manufacturing culture founded on customer experience and a strong sales mindset,” he says.
Bridgestone South Africa recently finalised the acquisition of contracts to supply leading logistic fleets, which ramp up factory output over the course of the year.
As the company charts its way towards a future of technology-driven tyre manufacturing, it will rely on a younger, workforce that expects more engagement across different functions.
Lottering explains that these new professionals aren’t fulfilled in merely working on isolated assignments. They want a bigger voice in the broader organisation and are naturally more curious about other divisions in the company, not just their own limited scope of work. This is so they can gain greater insight into the industry, fuelling more rounded career development.
“In order to compliment the investment in new equipment and facilitate process evolution, we have focused heavily on key talent acquisition, performance management and succession planning,” he says. “We want to nurture cross-functional teams in our broader environment, in order to break down silos, promote transparency, eliminate duplication and most importantly, ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.”
Thanks to this shift over the past year, productivity has seen a marked improvement, with overall equipment effectiveness growing substantially, along with a decline in the loss ratio. The factory has also experienced an improvement in its overall output yield, which is critical in supplying original equipment manufacturers (OEM).
A sharp reduction in lost day cases indicates much safer conditions for workers, the result of collective behaviour change. Altogether, these adjustments have resulted in a noticeable jump in volumes compared to 2019 levels.
“The most important shift we have seen is the reduction in our conversion cost for the year to date,” Lottering says. “The new technology we have employed is empowering us to meet world-class quality requirements at a lower unit cost.
“However, most of our improvements have been the outcome of behaviour change, at a team and individual level. As we seek better ways of working, we see a vastly better overall work environment and staff morale, which will be invaluable as we move forward,” he adds.
Although he has been in the role since 2020, he is no stranger to the company or the facility itself, having started at Bridgestone SA in 1987 in Human Resources.
He has served as director of manufacturing at the same plant from 2002 to 2011, following which he assumed various functions, including Executive roles at the Port Elizabeth plant, BSAF’s Commercial unit and most recently as Executive of Manufacturing Renewal from 2017 to 2019. In his spare, time Dries hunts, hikes, plays golf, watches sport and spends time with his family.