LOUISVILLE, Ky.-The tire industry is on the brink of a major change that will affect the way retreaders do business, according to John Lampe, president of Bridgestone/Firestone Tire Sales Co. BFS intends to bring its recently announced active tire chip technology to market within a year, Mr. Lampe told attendees of the American Retreaders' Association World Tire Conference in Louisville dur-ing his keynote address.
The Nashville-based tire maker is developing a computer chip that can be embedded in a tire to record, store and transmit temperature and pressure data.
Mr. Lampe, who also is president of BFS' Dayton Tire Co. subsidiary, warned those attending the general session April 6 that they had better take advantage of the technology or risk being left behind.
``If your company is one of the first to successfully adapt this technology, you will be way ahead of the game,'' Mr. Lampe said. ``If your competitors beat you to the punch, you may lose out on some significant business opportunities.''
BFS said it began developing the chip technology slightly more than one year ago.
Once it is made available, the tire chip has the potential to revolutionize the industry, Mr. Lampe said.
For trucking fleets, the ability to quickly and easily monitor tire temperature and pressure means maintenance programs will become more efficient.
And retreaders who take advantage of the technology by purchasing the necessary scanners and software and training their employees will likewise be able to improve their operations, Mr. Lampe said. He added that the tire maker will continue to strive to produce ``the best quality (truck tire) casings'' for retreading.
Although the potential of an active tire monitoring system still is being explored, the chip most likely will report a tire's temperature, pressure and operating/repair history.
That information will allow retreaders to more easily and accurately determine whether a tire should be retreaded. The chip also will be able to carry information about a tire's manufacturer, type and tread pattern. Shop software will then be able to automatically select the correct buff radius and tread application, Mr. Lampe said.
Having the ability to ``read'' a trucking fleet's tires will become a ``strong marketing tool,'' he said.
``What we are talking about here is converting a mostly subjective process to basically an objective, quantitative, statistical decision, using a set of formulas that can be programmed into a software package,'' Mr. Lampe said.
Advanced technology-in particular, the active tire chip-is not a dream of the future, Mr. Lampe told attendees of the convention's general session.
``This is not some pie-in-the-sky concept that may or may not happen in the future,'' he said. ``As I am speaking to you this morning, we are in the process of placing active computer tags into tires on vehicles and are conducting real-world testing. . . . We are no longer talking about some vague, futuristic concept. We are talking about a product that will be in the market within a year, and many of you will be affected by it-either in a positive or negative manner.''
But in a broader sense, the tire chip technology is an example of the change tire manufacturers, dealers and retreaders can expect in the near future.
Computer technology is becoming increasingly important in the tire industry, he said. And the rapidly changing business environment is creating corporate partnerships many would not have envisioned just a few years ago.
BFS is developing its active chip technology in cooperation with two computer companies, Amtech Systems Corp. and Computer Methods Corp., and testing it on Ryder System Inc. trucks.
``In the future, alliances like these will be essential to the survival of all of us in this rapidly changing marketplace and environment,'' Mr. Lampe said.