MUSCATINE, Iowa-Bandag Inc., the world's leading retread tire products maker, unveiled a new way of doing business Aug. 15. At a press conference conducted in Muscatine and televised live via satellite to Bandag facilities in North America, company officials outlined a new customer-focused, process-oriented development philosophy, introduced a tire information system called SystemBandag and unveiled two precure treads.
Bandag has ``reinvented its approach to delivery systems and processes our dealers and fleet customers need to remain competitive in a rapidly changing global marketplace,'' Chairman Martin Carver told employees in a videotaped presentation. ``The capability we now have in place will allow Bandag to generate more new products in rapid-fire succession than we ever could before.''
Since 1957, Bandag has been a product-oriented, inwardly focused manufacturer, Mr. Carver said. From now on, ``every new (tread) we introduce will be developed with a collaboration of Bandag dealers and end-users alike to ensure that we meet the needs of our customers from around the world,'' he said.
A key element of this new customer-driven focus is the implementation of the Product Develop-ment Process or PDP. ``Starting with a clean slate, Bandag will research, design and develop completely new products that meet fleet specifications for particular applications,'' said Floyd Myers, vice president of research and development.
Previously, Bandag, like other retread product makers, copied the tread patterns of successful new tires, a practice condoned by new-tire manufacturers.
Now, the first step in PDP is to identify customer needs. ``That, in itself, is a major change for Bandag,'' Mr. Myers said. ``Historically, we have been very successful at selling just about everything we produce....That's not to say our treads and compounds weren't top quality. They were. But we could be very content and very successful by merely following the lead of new-tire tread designers and performance specifications.'' That is changing.
At the press conference, Bandag unveiled two product lines-the FCR Series and TorqueMaster Drive-developed under the PDP system. Both treads meet fleet needs in specific segments, said John Treece, marketing tread product manager.
The FCR (Formulated for Cost Reduction) Series is aimed at fleets needing a tandem-axle tire with maximum tread life and fuel mileage in over-the-road, on-highway applications.
Tested for more than 30 million road miles in dedicated and OTR fleets, the FCR Drive Rib achieved 40 percent more treadwear, the FCR Drive Lug 10 percent more wear and the FCR Trailer 20 percent more wear vs. best-in-class new tires, the company said.
This additional wear came without impacting fuel economy, which compares with leading new tires.
Mr. Treece attributed the FCR series' tread life and fuel economy to a unique tread pattern and proprietary tread compound that minimize heat and tread squirm and eliminate irregular wear.
The TorqueMaster Drive tread is designed for high-torque applications such as tractors hauling double and triple trailers, which tend to chew up tires and wear them out rapidly, Bandag said.
The company tested the TorqueMaster Drive in long-term fleet trials involving more than 80 million road miles. The tread outlasted best-in-class replacement tires by 30 percent when tested on 400 horsepower tractors hauling triples, according to Mr. Treece.
The FCR Series and TorqueMaster treads will be available to Bandag dealers starting Oct. 28.
Over the next three to five years, Bandag anticipates replacing nearly all of its current treads with new high-performance, application-specific products.
This process will result in a smaller product line for dealers. By focusing on having the right products to meet customers' needs, Mr. Treece said Bandag will eliminate about 25 tread lines over the next three years while adding about 15 new products.
Bandag also revealed for the first time its new tire management software system for fleets and dealers, developed in conjunction with Microsoft Consulting Services.
When fully implemented, SystemBandag will provide dealers with the information and capability to manage every aspect of a fleet's tire costs, from acquisition through recycling, Bandag said. It also will allow dealers to manage the retread process from casing pickup through finished product delivery.
``SystemBandag is the foundation which allows us to move into a complete outsourcing program for end-users,'' said Sam Ferrise, vice president of marketing.
The company will implement SystemBandag in three phases.
The first phase, which will take 18 to 24 months, involves equipping dealers with the hardware and software necessary to tap into the system. In phases two and three, Bandag will extend the network capability to a broader range of fleets and refine and enhance system capabilities.
SystemBandag also will be able to accommodate ``chip in tire'' technology when it becomes available, said John Hosterman, product manager for SystemBandag.
Bandag is targeting the system at the 350 franchised dealers that service the top 20 fleet customers. The company has about 500 dealers in the U.S. and 58 in Canada.
``No dealer will be required to have SystemBandag,'' Mr. Hosterman said. ``But they would probably want to take a hard business look at it.''
Mr. Hosterman would not estimate the cost of installing the system, since the software will be customized to individual businesses. ``But every dealer, regardless of size, will be able to recover their investment within two years' time,'' he said.