In just two years at the helm, Bridgestone Southern Africa (BSAF) CEO Jacques Fourie has transformed the company’s production and sales capabilities – a journey that continues to evolve – and is now turning his attention to ensuring that the business is supported by a strong culture of diversity, inclusion and belonging. This, according to Bridgestone South Africa.
Upon joining the company in June 2019, Fourie was met with a host of challenges facing the premium tyre industry, including an influx of cheap imports and a South African economy in recession.
Internally, the company has embarked on a restructuring process to modernise its operations, increase efficiency and maximise profitability.
“We had to evolve beyond just being a supplier of a product to offering total solutions to customers across all our segments,”
“We had to become mobility pioneers, which meant we had to do things differently in every area of the business.
“This meant a complete repositioning of operations from a customer service perspective, to adopting more information technologies in our processes, as well as in the telematics-driven offering to customers to allow them to manage their fleets better and prolong the use of their tyres,” he says.
Streamlining the Business
Over the past year, coming out of a difficult 2020, the business has already seen an increase of well over 40% in volumes at its Brits manufacturing plant due to new technology investments and various other changes to ways of working.
In the midst of a global pandemic, Fourie led Bridgestone through an arduous process of streamlining the business structure, implementing multi-disciplinary teams that proved to be more efficient, transparent and high-performing. The result has been a reduction in wastage, while quality and profitability are continuing to improve.
Fourie is hesitant to take credit for his contributions and owes the success to a transformed and diverse workforce, with many new appointments at senior level made in recent years.
“Promoting diversity in the working environment and the upliftment of people is more than just about gender and racial makeup.”
“It is about a diversity of backgrounds, views and experiences. I think we have succeeded in establishing a world-class leadership team here at Bridgestone over the past year.
“I hire every person in the senior managed team personally and our teams are now delivering phenomenal results in terms of turning the company around from a financial and a culture perspective,” he says.
Under his leadership, the business went from a Level 7 broad-based black economic empowerment score to level 4, and in 2021 it announced a Level 3 certification – an industry first.
“As we sought out the talent to help the business reach its goals we realised we had to expand the pool of people we opened up to.”
We decided that the people we were looking for, even at the executive management level, didn’t necessarily have to come from the traditional places and traditional experience.
“Rather than have a strict requirement for someone with tyre experience, we placed even greater emphasis on skills and attributes, especially transferable skills, such as sales and managerial skills with a strong focus on values,” said Fourie
Despite this, there are many opportunities for change and one of the areas of greatest potential for long-term transformation is the Youth Employment Service (YES) Programme.
Bridgestone initiated its participation with NPO YES in November 2019, placing 38 youth with degrees and diplomas in a variety of functions, such as sales, information technology, finance, procurement, and engineering.
This year, the second wave of 70 graduates was inducted and the programme was enhanced with a higher quality of candidates, better training and real work for them to do, in the head office as well as the manufacturing space.
“I met recently with the candidates in an informal coffee session, and I have had a chance to get to know them,”
“I can already see that these talented young people have great potential to add value to the organisation and in a business of 2,300 people, if you can train 70 people, you can move the needle very quickly,” Jacques says.