Michelin Retread Technologies Inc. (MRTI) is expanding capacity for precure tread rubber to stay ahead of growing demand for tires retreaded by its franchisees.
MRTI has brought on stream a second precured line at its Covington tread rubber plant-effectively doubling annual capacity to 2 million treads-and plans to add a third line next year, most likely at a new plant, according to Luc Minguet, chief operating officer of Michelin Americas Truck Tires.
The expansion, for which no investment was disclosed, is being undertaken to support growth by MRTI's network of franchised retreaders in North America, which could grow to 60 plants or more this year, Mr. Minguet said. MRTI anticipates the network should grow by about 10 plants a year for the next three years, at which time the firm will have reached its target of 90 plants.
At that time, Mr. Minguet said, Michelin expects its share of the commercial tire retread market to match its share of the new truck tire market-estimated by Tire Business to be in the 20-percent range.
The expansion project at Covington includes new technology for extruding the tread rubber with two different compounds: a wear- and traction-enhanced synthetic rubber tread layer and a natural rubber undertread optimized for cool running, Michelin said, claiming to be the only supplier in the industry offering co-extruded treads.
The expansion also includes capacity for wider treads to fit Michelin's X-One wide base single, which Michelin is producing in five versions, including one designed specifically for sanitation/waste industry vehicles.
This is the first major expansion at the 93,000-sq.-ft. Covington plant, which opened in 1999 to support the then-new MRTI program.
Mr. Minguet said Michelin expects to need to expand tread rubber capacity again by mid-2006, but at that time it likely will set up production at a second location in satisfy logistics needs geographically.
Part of the firm's investment in retreading has been the creation of research and development teams at Greenville for retreading, one for products and one for processes, Mr. Minguet said, both with growing global responsibilities for Michelin's retreading programs, especially for the precure process.
The MRTI network grew by 10 plants last year to 55, operated by 33 retreaders in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Of the 55 plants, Michelin operates 14 itself via its Tire Centers L.L.C. subsidiary.