MAGNA, Utah (Aug. 8, 2003)—After some tugging, pulling, coaxing and adjusting, the massive casing's tread was removed and returned again to show what Goodyear hopes will be a revolution in the mining industry.
On July 30-31, Goodyear officially launched its long-awaited two-piece tire assembly to original equipment mining manufacturers, news media and off-the-road tire dealers.
The Akron-based tire maker unveiled the system—which consists of a casing and treadbelt, each grooved to fit together—with a demonstration of the tire system at the Kennecott Utah Copper mine in Magna's Bingham Canyon, outside Salt Lake City.
The 100-year-old mine has been using the system on its 52 heavy load haulers for about six months. The trucks haul about 420,000 tons of materials a day, and the mine produces about 300,000 tons of copper per year. The operating fleet also travels about 9,000 to 10,000 miles a day, mine officials said.
While Goodyear highlighted its claims of cost savings and increased productivity for mine operators plus sales and service opportunities for dealers, it didn't shortchange its own goals for the assembly.
“We realize today we're not the market share leader in OTR tires,” Jon Rich, president of North American Tire, told Tire Business. The two-piece assembly, he said, may change that course.
Just this year, officials told Tire Business, Goodyear expects to produce and sell 600 to 800 assemblies with more capacity next year.
“We're expecting for the next couple years to really be selling everything we produce,” said Tom Walker, general manager of OTR tires.
Ken Huntingford, vice president of Fountain Tire's mining division, said the tire assembly gives dealers a strong product that offers more benefits than the usual incremental improvements in new tires.
“This is the first dramatic leap in potential performance and vehicle uptime,” he said. “That's the big attribute.”
The tire assembly—now offered in size 45R57 with 51-inch and 63-inch sizes planned for 2004 and 2005, respectively—is meant to deliver higher payload capabilities, improved traction, handling, stability and ride on haul trucks, increased productivity and cost-per-ton savings. Goodyear officials would not disclose the cost of the tire assembly, instead emphasizing their sales strategy of downplaying the higher initial cost and highlighting the later cost savings.
Goodyear said a major cost and time savings will be in the ability to replace either the tread or casing without having to scrap the entire tire. For example, a sidewall injury can doom the casing but leave the tread for the next tire.
“Normally if the casing is damaged, you've lost the entire tire,” Mr. Walker said. “Here you have the ability to change out the casing to keep that same tread running and vice versa.”
The treadbelt and casing are held together by the air pressure in the casing. The tread can be replaced “multiple” times, Mr. Walker said, depending on the use of the tire.
The two-piece arrangement also leads to other advantages, he said. Cuts in the tread don't grow into the casing, and some air can flow between the two, cutting down the effects of heat in the tires.
But with that set-up, a main customer concern has been the risk of slippage between the tread and the casing. Craig Mamales, training coordinator who also handles tire management at the Kennecott mine, said this concern has not materialized. Some casings were replaced early on because they had some bubbling on the sidewall, but he said that problem can be typical of new tires, and the problem has since been corrected.
Mr. Walker said only one treadbelt came off the casing during Goodyear's three years of testing, and that was an issue with tread compound that also has since been fixed.
Goodyear suggests a minimum air pressure in the tires of 90 psi, though Mr. Walker said one tire had been down to 40 psi and the tread still stayed on the casing, which supported the vehicle.
Still, air pressure plays an important part in the two-piece assembly, and it is one facet that may provide more profit avenues for dealers, Mr. Walker said. Dealers can be involved in sales, service or repair and monitoring services, he said.
Paul DiMartini, president of D&D Tire Inc. in Fernley, Nev., said he expects the benefit from support service to be on par with that from conventional tires. But he said servicing the tires is easier without re-torquing or other strenuous parts of mounting a regular tire.
Immediately after the launch, the tire maker began training for several OTR dealers, including Purcell Tire & Rubber Co., Raben Tire Co. Inc., Appalachian Tire Products Inc. and others. Goodyear aims to create a “qualified network” of about 10 independent dealers to sell and service the two-piece assembly. The tire maker also will sell the tires itself.
“Even where we're sort of demanded by the customer to go direct, the dealer still has a role, in our mind, in the everyday service and product support of the tire, measuring performance (and) looking at instances where there are indications of rock damage,” Mr. Walker said. “The dealer to me still has an active role in this.”
After the initial dealership involvement, Mr. Walker said other dealers also can participate, but they must have the appropriate service trucks and equipment as well as trained service and sales personnel.
“I think the market is limiting itself,” he said, indicating some dealers may not want to take on those investments.
Goodyear also has its fingers crossed that the two-piece tire assembly will open the door for other opportunities. The tire is now marketed for large haulage trucks, but tires for other machinery may be in the offing, officials said. Other potential products include wheel designs, installation units and repair kits.
Goodyear teamed up with Fleet Equipment Corp. to build special arm extensions on service cranes to install the tires and with Rimex Supply Ltd. for a bead seal that keeps the casing on the rim as the tire is deflated. Goodyear so far has filed for about 35 patents.
Mr. Walker said opportunities in the original equipment field also may be on the horizon.
“For this product, the focus really is the replacement market, but we want to make sure the OEMs have a proper introduction to the technology, to the concept, more for future projects,” he told Tire Business. “As they are looking at a new vehicle on their design boards, would this concept provide them a more economical vehicle to the customer and thus greater sales?”
But Kim Cheung, business development manager for Hitachi Construction Machinery Co., which builds equipment for the mining industry, said he's not sure of that possibility since many mining companies like to buy equipment “barefoot.” Also, with a higher initial cost, the OE assumption would be that the customer wants the less expensive alternative.
“So it has to (be) a pre-sale job to the customer,” he said. “…They would tell us if they want the two-piece assembly or they want the others.”
Charlie Bernard, manager of global purchasing, North America for Caterpillar Inc., said customer perception will be the first major roadblock for Goodyear to break.
“It's got to give value to the customer, and once it does that I think it will speak for itself,” he said.
He said Caterpillar still is evaluating if it is interested in projects with the tire assembly, but he said it is an interesting concept.
“If it has the advantages they're talking about—which is still to be proven—I think it's going to provide value to the customer,” he said.
Nick Sticklen, general manager of Appalachian Tire, said he at first was skeptical of Goodyear's claims. He especially was concerned about traction. But after a test through a muddy West Virginia coal mine earlier this year, he is more optimistic.
“It was absolutely some of the most deplorable conditions...(but) it was amazing the handling characteristics of it, the ability of it and the traction,” he said.
Mr. Huntingford of Fountain Tire said he has customers already lined up, and others may not be daunted by the higher initial cost.
“Mining's open to proven results,” he said. “They measure everything in mining, so the cost-effectiveness will be proved fairly quickly.”
Mr. Walker told Tire Business the two-piece assembly's effects on the mining industry's perception of tires won't be immediate.
“Quite honestly, certainly in the short to medium term, I see this as an addition to the tire line,” he said. “The conventional tire is not going to go away short term.”