AKRON, OHIO — Bridgestone Golf Inc.'s recent decision to produce all of its premium golf balls at its Covington, Ga., facility makes for not just a good manufacturing story, but also an excellent marketing one as well, according to a company executive.
As the Bridgestone-brand golf ball has grown from No. 5 to No. 2 in the U.S. after being sold in the domestic market for less than 10 years, the company has put more of its production in Covington, said Dan Murphy, Bridgestone Golf executive vice president of sales and marketing.
Bridgestone now manufactures roughly 36 million golf balls at the Covington site. Most of those are premium urethane-covered balls that retail for $25 or more a dozen, he said. The company has added roughly 20 jobs at the factory in the last 18 months, boosting employment to 130.
“We were successful in the U.S. from a demand creation perspective,” Murphy said during a recent trip to Akron. “I think that Japan made the logistical decision that it would be smart to manufacture it closer to where we are selling it. It created some efficiencies related to logistics and shipping and shorter reaction time to market.”
With all the premium balls — the E and B series — now made in Covington, the firm continues to produce some of the cheaper balls in Asia, where labor costs make more of a difference in the price-sensitive product categories, he said.
But the more advanced production processes and high-quality work force made it feasible to make the higher-end balls in the U.S. He said the staff there also has done a good job in making the production process more efficient.
“Our guys in Covington have been very conscious of constant improvement and finding ways to take costs out of the process, mostly through automation,” Murphy said. “As the products have become more sophisticated, the manufacturing process is fairly complex, and the work force here in the U.S. lends itself to being capable of handling that complex manufacturing.”
Some portions of the facility are so automated, he said, it's a “lights-out” process with no people in the department.