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All-round service

Stefano Parisi, Vice President of Bridgestone EMEA South Region, talks about Bridgestone's news and strategy, aimed at offering a complete package of mobility services, built around the tire.

Guido Gambassi

At Autopromotec 2019, Bridgestone showcased a wide range of innovative products, but above all, services and mobility solutions designed to cater for the consumer and the retailer with a renewed global approach. The Bologna event proved the perfect setting to talk about it with Stefano Parisi, Vice President of Bridgestone EMEA South Region.

Not just tires in Bridgestone’s stand this year: a number of new services and tools were also on hand for customers and dealers to see.

"Yes, this is certainly an key moment for Bridgestone, a turning point for the Group's strategies; going from being market leaders in the production and marketing of tires to becoming leaders in a wide range of mobility solutions, remaining anchored to our core business. This year, after years of work and development, we capitalized on the opportunities offered by Autopromotec and laid several new products and services on the table. We completely renewed and upgraded both our product portfolios, Bridgestone and Firestone, looking at both consumers and dealers. Talking about our services and solutions, at our Research and Development centre in Rome (where all Bridgestone EMEA R&D is based) we have embarked on a new path opening a specific division, called Digital Garage. This is an innovation platform that Bridgestone uses to work on big data, algorithms and predictive diagnosis, developing the kind of digital solutions that will allow us to cater for mobility services in the broadest sense without neglecting our tires. This path culminated with Bridgestone's announcement, earlier this year, of the acquisition of TomTomTelematics, which represent a definite acceleration in the direction we have taken seeing that we are talking about a European leader in fleet solutions that will surely contribute significantly in becoming an all-round leader in mobility solutions".

What are the services you are currently launching on the market?

"At Autopromotec we previewed a number of new services that we are currently working on, and which have been launched or will be launched shortly, such as Mobox: an innovative way of offering tires to the end user through a subscription rather than traditional purchasing. This digitally-based service, allows one to manage this type of offer which we believe represents an interesting opportunity for our network of partner dealers. We are also presenting FleetPulse, a solution for small and medium sized fleets, designed to improve the interaction between drivers and fleet managers to ensure timely checks and safety, with TPMS, and therefore tire pressure as the focus of attention. This is an expansion of a classic fleet management system, which is based on an App, a portal and the TPMS system. The combination of these three allows fleet managers to communicate with the drivers on the need to bring the vehicle in for maintenance. In addition, we took the veil off the Bekube platform, and its My First Stop App, designed for the First Stop Network. In this case we are looking at an innovative portal that offers an effective digital point-of-sale management system. A digital assistant that will collect all these solutions into a single interface making them easily available to the dealer who can thus effectively manage these services. From here, then, a world of possibilities opens up, because the objective is also to understand how TomTom-based services will enrich future Bridgestone fleet solutions".

Will all these services be exclusively found in First Stop dealers?

"They will be primarily addressed to the First Stop network. We also have a network made up of Bridgestone Partners, i.e. Bridgestone certified dealers, and finally we also collaborate with another network that we serve indirectly through distributors. Therefore, with varying degrees of intensity and support our services will be accessible to all those who want to be part of the network”.

Going back to products, does this phase of renewal address also the need to simplify and rationalise product lines?

"Yes, this is a key element for us. The portfolio of tire manufacturers is partly linked to original equipment, which represents our major investment in recent years and is now yielding important results in the aftermarket. But things become a bit complicated with specific variants, therefore, it is increasingly important to communicate effectively the product portfolio, both in relation to the end users and dealers. That is why we decided to concentrate our offer on fewer product lines, reducing the number of models and tread variants, so today we find ourselves with a rather simplified range compared to the past, which leverages on the acronym 005: we have the T005 as a summer tire, for both cars and SUVs. Then we have our A005 all season, able to a wide range of wheel diameters and finally the winter LM005 designed for several vehicle classes. We believe this will benefit our dealers who, on the one hand, will have a better understanding of the Bridgestone range and, on the other, will find it easier to manage stocks, orders and supplies. This will make things easier for the customer as well as the retailer managing and selling our brand. Firestone’s range too underwent a hefty renovation and expansion in all segments, summer, winter and all-season. This represents a fundamental asset as it allows us to be in the market with two brands that enjoy notoriety and perceived quality”.

What are the future strategies for the industrial segment?

"Our Total Tire Care package, confirms our commitment to fleets and commercial vehicles which will be significantly affected by synergies with TomTom solutions. Then in September 2018, we launched our Ecopia, a new long-distance tire, while June saw the launch of our new Duravis R002, dedicated to the regional transport sector, rather popular in Italy. These two new products along with new services dedicated to commercial fleets, mean we are experiencing a rather busy and promising period".



Looking to the future: 36 million for Smart Factories

Innovation and renovation do not only concern "downstream" products, but also the entire "upstream" process: at the end of June Bridgestone EMEA announced investments in the region of €36 million to digitise its production activities and create “smart factories”. The €36 million "Smart Factory" project will cover the entire production process - ranging from semi-finished products to energy supply, monitoring and production planning - in eight European plants located in Poland, Hungary, Spain, Italy and France. The investment will also involve Bridgestone employees, whose skills will be improved enabling them to work with the latest technology, making a contribution in improving resource efficiency and job satisfaction. The first project to be launched, Smart Energy, looks at optimizing energy consumption and the costs associated with it, with forecasted savings in the region of 10%. The Smart Energy system creates a link between production plans and energy consumption, optimising the energy required for tire production. Following this transformation, storage and tire production data analysis will help Bridgestone’s engineers in Rome and Tokyo in designing new and improved models. These will then return to the factory in digital format, reducing the production time of the new products by half. Digitisation will also play an important role in improving Bridgestone's production efficiency through a smart maintenance system of the production plants. Furthermore, the smart factory project will also help reduce the amount of waste produced by Bridgestone EMEA across Europe. Finally, logistics processes will also be significantly simplified and streamlined.

This €36 million investment follows the success of previous similar Bridgestone initiatives, such as the use of EXAMATION: Bridgestone's Artificial Intelligence-based production technology, which measures and controls tire quality parameters over 480 points - collecting 700 MB of data from each tire.

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