In Cuneo, Italy, behind the scenes of a Michelin factory

This is one of the best kept secrets of French industry: the Michelin factory. The Clermont-Ferrand group sometimes visits its research laboratory, its test tracks, its learning center and, of course, its museum, but never the tire production plants. However, everything changes.

Manufacturers must open their doors to show off their technological treasures and dust off their image among young people, the majority of whom think that it is not a sector of the future. They also intend to demonstrate that they are not indifferent to climate issues and the planet’s limited resources. Especially when the company produces tires for high-end cars, these heavy SUVs that environmentalists are fighting…

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Michelin therefore opened the doors of its factory in Cuneo, in Piedmont (north-west of Italy), to the press on Wednesday 5 October. In this city of 55,000 inhabitants, very close to the Alpes-Maritimes, the equipment manufacturer employs 2,200 people. It is its second largest production site in Europe, after that of Olsztyn, in Poland (more than 4,000 employees). It manufactures 13 million passenger car tires a year. The gigantic factory is spread over 1 square kilometer.

From the outside, it does not seem to have changed much since its creation in 1963. But once the entrance barrier is crossed, surprise: a truck, or more precisely a Michelin blue trailer, moves noiselessly and, above all, without cabin or driver. “An AGV”specifies the head of innovation for Italy, Marco Mangialardo: aautomated guided vehicle or “automated guided vehicle”. They replace the old fleet of trucks that transported the tires within the site and save 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

A cultural revolution

Figures on the proliferation of robots and emission reductions will punctuate the visit. In 2012, the group set targets for reducing its carbon footprint. It is now in working order to reach “net zero emissions by 2050”. The goal ? A 50% decline compared to 2010, from 2030. Factory lighting switched to LED, building insulation, installation of heat pumps, new machines: compared to 2010, the group has already reduced its energy consumption by 18 % and targets a reduction of 37% in 2030 and 60% in 2050.

“Green” energy must increase from 22% in 2022 (purchases of energy certificates included) to 100%. The power station, with its impressive chimneys at the entrance to the Cuneo site – a partnership with Engie – will therefore soon be shut down. It is at the end of its course and will be replaced in 2023 by another so-called “trigeneration”, which can run on fuel oil or gas, but above all on biomass.

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In Cuneo, Italy, behind the scenes of a Michelin factory


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