Michelin launches Ladoux Technology Center upgrade
Michelin has launched a major upgrade of its global research and development centre in Ladoux, near Clermont-Ferrand. The French tyre giant said the top-to-bottom upgrade is designed to “strengthen its innovation capabilities and shorten new tyre time-to-market.” 3,300 people are employed at the centre, which will be built by 2017. It will consolidate all Michelin R&D teams and laboratories on the same site, a move Michelin says will enable the introduction of new, faster and more efficient work processes. The entire project represents an investment of more than €100 million, Michelin says.
The Ladoux Center was established with a workforce of 150 in 1965, when the first tyre wear tests were conducted there. In 1971 1,500 tyre research and development team members based at the Carmes plant in Clermont-Ferrand were gradually transferred to Ladoux, leading to Michelin materials research teams also transferring there in 1973 and making the Ladoux workforce 1,800-strong. From 1974 to 1997 25 new buildings were added to the site, including analytical laboratories and a tyre mould manufacturing plant. At present, more than 3,300 people work at the Center, whose site covers 450 hectares and includes a network of 19 tracks, totalling 41km, for testing tyre grip, noise levels, comfort and handling. In 2011, Michelin says it will allocate “more than €500 million” to its research programs.
Called Urbalad, the new Ladoux redevelopment project involves several steps, including the renovation of existing buildings, the demolition of a number of obsolete facilities and the construction within the site of a 67,000sqm building – the largest in France’s Auvergne region – that will house 1,600 workstations. Called RDI Campus (RDI being the French acronym for research, development and process engineering), the building will allow Technology Center teams to utilise new multidisciplinary, cross-functional work methods, thanks to a system of platforms for up to 20 people that can be adapted to specific project needs. It will also bring together Michelin’s main research units, which currently operate on different sites. This consolidation, continues the Michelin statement, will speed processes and promote cross-fertilisation among different businesses.
Michelin also says the new development will provide a better working and living environment for staff. In addition to the research and development work areas, RDI Campus will include training facilities, a library, a company restaurant and a sports complex, as well as a dry cleaning outlet, bakery, cash distributor and other personal services. A 300m corridor – named Rue de la Recherche – will “encourage informal discussions and stimulate the emergence of new ideas,” the statement adds. The building is designed to comply with France’s HQE environmental standards.
Architectural studies for the main building were launched in early 2011 and will last approximately six months. Once the worksite preparation has been completed, construction of the building will begin in spring 2012, taking around five years. At the same time, a number of old buildings will be demolished and the process of renovating sustainable buildings, undertaken in 2007, will be continued. According to estimates, the first section of the main building – for around 600 people – will be delivered in 2014. The second will be completed in late 2016, when 1,000 additional people will be installed in the Center. In 2017, Michelin’s new complex will, the company says, “comprise a fully aligned, high-performance unit”.