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Bridgestone Continues to Leave its Mark on Road to Success

Automotive

Melinda Topolcsik

Melinda Topolcsik, Bridgestone’s top representative in Hungary, talks to the Budapest Business Journal about how continuous development at the firm’s tire factory in Tatabánya has seen it grow into one of the biggest employers in its region. The unit recently capped that success when it won the Supplier of the Year 2021 award.

Bridgestone Tatabánya started operations in 2006 and has become one of the largest tire producers in Hungary. Since its establishment, the company has more than doubled its workforce: in 2008, when production commenced, there were 361 people; today, there are approximately 1,200 employees.

“This exceptional success is a testimony to the perseverance, dedication, and proficiency of many departments and numerous colleagues,” says Melinda Topolcsik, managing director at Bridgestone Tatabánya Manufacturing Ltd. and president and general manager at Bridgestone EMIA.

“In our factory, we have a very close-knit community where we not only work together but also for each other. I believe that our continuous technological and organizational activities enable us to achieve such exceptional results.”

BBJ: How did the factory earn this latest award?

Melinda Topolcsik: This title is an exceptional professional recognition for the company. Based on opinions and recommendations of car manufacturers and car factories, a jury of renowned professional journalists found the performance of Bridgestone Tatabánya to be outstanding. Numerous steps have led to this professional recognition, from introducing BIRD X contactless technology through the first major automotive delivery to our digital manufacturing technology. This success also reflects the satisfaction of our partners: as a result of the hard work and continuous technological developments, our plant is now a supplier for BMW, Audi, Volkswagen Group, and Mercedes.

BBJ: How have the business and the factory developed in recent years?

MT: The factory has become one of the largest employers in Komárom-Esztergom county. Through continuous developments, the Hungarian unit is now one of Hungary’s most significant tire manufacturers, as well as being one of the most state-of-the-art plants within the group. We continuously strive to establish business relationships with local companies: the supplier network of Bridgestone Tatabánya currently consists of about 750 predominantly Hungarian small- and medium-sized enterprises. In recent years, Industry 4.0 has brought automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence to the forefront. At Bridgestone, we believe that creating and offering a neat, technocentric work environment with appropriate financial rewards and opportunities for individual career development to our current and future employees will continue to ensure our success.

BBJ: Has Bridgestone Tatabánya benefited from the shortening supply chain trends that emerged during the pandemic, or could it do so in the future?

MT: No doubt we are affected by the difficulties of the situation that has developed over the past year. For companies as large as Bridgestone, it is difficult to change the length of the supply chain: the production of rubber is tied to specific locations due to the climate, and the impact on the production of parts is relatively small. In order to secure its supply chain more and strive for a higher degree of predictability, Bridgestone Group creates its strategy at the regional level.

BBJ: Do you have any concerns about Hungary’s ability to continue to supply the kind of workforce you need?

MT: We have made considerable efforts to increase the company’s attractiveness for job seekers in the region. Our colleagues receive monetary and professional recognition, which has helped to strengthen the company’s reputation. I am confident that this guarantees that the labor shortage will not be an issue for us in the future either.

BBJ: As a female managing director, do you see yourself as a role model within the company and perhaps for Hungary in general? How many other women occupy senior positions at Bridgestone Tatabánya?

MT: More than 1,200 employees are working at Bridgestone Tatabánya, including approximately 140 women. These colleagues hold positions in administration and in many other areas that were previously perceived to be male-dominated. Among the senior management, our HR manager and the brand marketing manager, who oversees the factory’s marketing activities, and the finance manager are all women. We all can be role models if we work hard for our common goals.

BBJ: Can you tell us about any other developments in Hungary?

MT: We are always looking for every opportunity to develop. The Hungarian factory was the first European location where state-of-the-art AI machine “examination” was put into operation, which further improved our productivity. Continuous improvements will not stop in 2021 either: within the framework of the Hungarian Government’s Subsidy Scheme to Improve Competitiveness, yet another tire production line will be put into operation at the factory.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of  May 21, 2021.

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