You don't get to number one by luck.
Being number one in whatever you pursue is a lot of work. It takes a huge commitment to get to that level, and it takes even more to stay in that position when the competition is fierce.
So what is Bridgestone's secret?
For 11 years, Bridgestone has been the world's largest tire company by sales. That's a long time to be at the head of the order, especially when so many competitors are working tirelessly (no pun intended) to beat them.
What is this Japanese tire manufacturer doing to achieve and sustain their leadership in a global tire market? What are they doing differently to become the prime choice for major car manufacturers as well as exotic auto companies to choose Bridgestone as their tire supplier?
Well we think there are five key reasons, and maybe we can all learn something from what they're doing to apply in our everyday lives.
1. You need to be innovative
This goes without saying, but you need to push the envelope in terms of innovation the way Bridgestone, especially if you're involved in a technologically-driven field like tires.
Even before the company, their founder, Shojiro Ishibashi, was already working on innovating in their original business. The precursor to Bridgestone (the name being a Romanized translation of ishi meaning stone and bashi or hashi meaning bridge) had already been innovating to make conditions in factories easier by developing rubber-soled socks for workers.
That spirit to innovate was carried over to the new company, as Bridgestone worked to develop tires that were at the cutting edge of technology at the time. From rubber, they innovated to produce radial tires, followed by rayon corded tires, nylon corded tires, and modern steel-belted radials.
Today Bridgestone continues their trend to innovate, using new technologies to make their tires better. They developed NanoPro-Tech to be able to actually control the molecular structure of their tires.
Bridgestone innovated in their manufacturing processes and materials to meet global demand and make their products better and more affordable to the market. They have technology that allows them to visualize the contact patch of their tires, and is even working on tech that can allow tires to sense the conditions of the road.
2. You need to listen to your market
One very key factor to Bridgestone's global success is the attention they pay to their audience: motorists.
Bridgestone takes the inputs to develop products and practices that meet their customer's demands.
Customers want tires that can improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles, and so the Ecopia line was born with a lower rolling resistance without sacrificing grip. Customers want an affordable tire, so Bridgestone -through their subsidiary Firestone- made the FS100 series for them. Customers want a quieter tire for driving long distances, and so they came up with Turanza to meet that requirement. SUVs and crossovers are becoming very popular, and so Dueler was there to meet the challenge. Customers want performance tires for their sportscars and tuned saloon cars, and that's why we have Potenza. Commercial customers want more affordable solutions when it comes to tires, and so Bridgestone initiated their own retreading business with Banday.
Each of Bridgestone's products and services meet a specific need or desire. They didn't just come up with one product and that's it; they tailored their products to suit their customers, diverse as they may be.
3. You need to be flexible
Adapt and survive is one thing but adapt to thrive is another thing entirely, and Bridgestone knows that.
Apart from listening to their customer's needs to develop a diverse line of tires to meet their specific requirements, Bridgestone established a global network of factories, development centers, proving grounds and more. This was to ensure that they had a complete coverage of the world's many weather conditions, temperatures and climates, road conditions, and more.
Bridgestone has technical centers in Italy, Thailand, China, USA, and two in Japan. They have a total of 10 proving grounds with Italy, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Brazil, Mexico, two in the USA and another two in Japan. They also have manufacturing in even more countries worldwide.
Bridgestone did this so they have the flexibility of having inputs from their customers and markets all over the world to be able to proactively develop products that are adapted specifically to their customers' locations as well as the varying road and weather conditions.
4. You need to anticipate trends
Meeting the needs of today is great, but meeting the needs of tomorrow is on another level. And on that front, Bridgestone excels.
Bridgestone anticipated the need for customers to have tires that can run even after being fully depleted of air pressure, and thus they developed their extensive line of Run Flat Tires. It became the prime tire of choice for one of Germany's biggest automotive companies.
Bridgestone is anticipating the need for tires that are even more fuel-efficient, and so they're now working on Ecopia with ologic technology. These tires of tomorrow will be wider in diameter but narrower in the tread; this will provide a 30% reduction in rolling resistance and a 10% improvement in braking performance in the wet.
Bridgestone is also anticipating a future need for tires that don't require air, and so they're working on the Air Free Concept tires. Instead of using air pressure to stay on form, these tires use a unique design that has spokes in order to maintain its shape. That means no need to inflate and no threat of running flat.
Bridgestone is also working on more ecological means to acquire rubber, the raw material they need to make tires. Sustainability, after all, is of paramount importance at Bridgestone.
Rubber primarily comes from Para rubber trees that grow on equatorial plantations, but Bridgestone is already exploring more sources for natural rubber like Guayule shrubs which grow in arid areas (i.e. deserts), as well as the Russian dandelion that has rubber in its roots. This research into alternative sources is to be able to use other methods -more sustainable methods- to get rubber.
These are just some of the things that the world's number one tire company is working on, and judging by the innovation they have shown in the past, they won't have a problem staying ahead of the competition.
5. You need to be competitive
In any industry, competition is going to be what defines it. Bridgestone's approach appears to be different because they're not really looking elsewhere to be competitive because they're competing with themselves.
Every day Bridgestone's engineers are working to improve their own products further, to build upon their work to make them even better. Every day Bridgestone's test drivers are on the track to see if the tires are more efficient, quieter, and handle even better. Their factories are finding ways to be more efficient in production and reduce their energy consumption.
That's the thing with the tire industry: it just keeps rolling. And the best competition comes from within, and Bridgestone does it so consistently.
It really shouldn't be a surprise why Bridgestone is the number one in terms of global tire sales as well as the supplier of many automobile manufacturers as well as the prime choice of discerning motorists worldwide as their partner of the road.
So maybe these lessons from Bridgestone's illustrious history can be useful in our daily lives, showing how this Japanese tire manufacturer has become the biggest in the world... unless you seriously consider a Danish company that specializes in children's building blocks as the number one tire manufacturer but try driving with their tires if you can.
In the Philippines, the Bridgestone and Firestone tire brands are distributed by Philippine Allied Enterprises Corporation (PAEC). The company has an expansive dealership network throughout the country comprised of flagship Bridgestone Tire Centers and independent dealers. These outlets represent the very best of the Bridgestone brand. As with their tires, they pursue consistent performance, a customer-first approach, and focus on sustainability for the future.