The year was 1973. Richard Nixon was president, the World Trade Center officially opened its doors, and the first handheld mobile phone was created – a device that would probably be unrecognizable today. Polyester was the material of choice and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” was No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s top songs of the year.
But for Darrell Crossland and Jim Cummings, 1973 holds a memory not so well-known. It was the year they both began their careers at Bridgestone – a relationship that’s 43 years strong.
“I was twenty years old,” Crossland recalled. “I started April 6, 1973 and was hired in the warehouse. I worked in the warehouse for twenty-four years, then moved to two different departments before I transferred to where I am now.”
Less than a year prior, the La Vergne facility began as a Firestone plant. When Bridgestone bought the plant, it became the very first tire plant in the nation for Bridgestone. Today, the Bridgestone Americas family of enterprises includes more than 50 production facilities and 55,000 employees throughout the Americas.
Crossland and Cummings work in separate areas of the plant, but have grown to know each other over the years. Cummings works in the division that makes the bead and filler that goes into the tire itself. He is also in charge of monitoring the quality of the products made. Crossland is responsible for storing and locating inventory. To do this, he services four machines total and is required to FIFO (First In, First Out) his material. Crossland also makes sure to keep each of his machines supplied to support the continuous production.
“It’s not often you’ll find a company with a team that has been with it for twenty years, or even thirty years. But we have several with forty years and that’s something we’re really proud of,” said Sean Kelley, Bridgestone La Vergne plant manager. Kelley has been with Bridgestone for 27 years. “We have a strong, dedicated workforce that helps us produce a safe, high-quality product each and every day. And what’s better is that when you’ve worked with people for that long, you become connected and close-knit, like family.”
The team at the La Vergne facility produces 5,800 tires per day. In addition to manufacturing tires, the plant also produces a mixing compound that is used at the La Vergne facility as well as several others throughout the U.S.