As a world-renowned partner for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), it’s no surprise Bridgestone is leading the way in creating unique and high-performance tyres for many types of cars. But what exactly goes on behind the scenes to create Original Equipment (OE) tyres? We met with Dominique Plom, Manager OE Engineering at Bridgestone EMEA to learn more about his role, the partnerships and projects he manages and the perks of creating OE tyres for today’s leading car brands.
So, I’ve now been with Bridgestone for 14 years. I initially started as a field engineer working on motorcycle tyres. After spending almost nine years in the motorcycle department, I moved to the car business in 2012.
Cars are my passion—I’m a complete petrolhead. It’s an amazing privilege to be able to work within an industry I’ve been a fan of since a boy, (my family home is right next to Spa racetrack in Belgium). In fact, the house used to be within the old circuit.
Much of my role involves liaising between Bridgestone and the car manufacturers I work with across Europe. My day could be spent here at the Bridgestone office, at the testing track, or meeting customers. I spend a lot of time with Opel in Germany and Aston Martin in the UK. Otherwise, I’ll be at our R&D Centre in Italy. In the winter time, I’ll be testing in Spain and Sweden—there’s a lot of travelling.
Opel, like all car manufacturers, is attempting to reduce the CO2 emissions of its vehicles. Cutting emissions is about spending less energy, and tyres are one of the biggest energy consumers in a vehicle. So Opel came to us in need of a tyre with low rolling resistance (EU label grade A in RRC) for their new Insignia model. However, to meet the Insignia’s launch timing, Opel needed a speedy turnaround on the project.
We developed a tyre in our R&D centre, tested it with Opel and it worked perfectly. Bearing in mind that it could take anything between two to three years to build a tyre from scratch, we went into mass production in less than a year.
The project marked the first time anyone working for Bridgestone Europe was involved in the development of Aston Martin tyres, as it was previously all handled in Japan. Because we were new to the project, there was a big learning curve for everyone in our European R&D centre, as well as the factory.We developed summer and winter tyres for the DB11, which was a challenge in itself because of the many phases involved, but it was a great experience to work on such a powerful vehicle.
I love being behind the scenes. To work on a project for a long time and then see it come to fruition as a commercial project in the dealership is a very proud moment that I never tire of.
I also enjoy how diverse my client portfolio is. Opel is a high-volume customer, which in itself is challenging. Whereas Aston Martin is low volume, but high performance, which creates very different challenges. My point is that every partner is unique concerning what they need, which makes my job challenging—but in a good way, of course.
I would say the importance of communication. As an engineer, this wasn’t initially my area of expertise, but it’s so important to succeed in the industry. Maintaining an open, two-way dialogue with customers means we can quickly react to their wants and needs, both for today and any plans they have for the future.
Being able to see things that most people won’t for a while. We work about three years ahead of consumer release, so projects I’m working on today won’t be out until 2021. I won’t say much, but it’s really cool seeing what will be available in the next few years.
If I had to pick one, it would be our Run Flat technology allowing drivers to keep going even in case of a puncture. It provides such huge safety benefits if anything goes wrong, especially at high speeds. Want to know more about Bridgestone partnerships and how we build OE tyres? See our OEM tyre results from 2018.
As Manager Original Equipment (OE) Engineering at Bridgestone EMEA, Dominque Plom is in charge of managing all the technical aspects of OE tyre development from the RFQ to the start of mass production. His portfolio is diverse and overseeing tyre development for summer, all season and winter tyres.
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