It's interesting what can happen when you have too much time on your hands. As the line in a song from my favorite rock band, Styx, says, it can be a calamity when you've got nothing to do and all day to do it.
The fact that our Special Projects Editor, Bruce Davis, found himself with an abundance of time more than three decades ago, as he and others tried to build the Tire Business brand, directly led to the special section you find in your hand: The Global Tire Report.
Bruce, who'd moved to Germany in 1985 to work as reporter for our publication as well as for our company's sister publications, Rubber& Plastics News, European Rubber Journal and Urethanes Technology, began to work on getting his name, as well as the name of our brands under Crain Communications Inc., out to relevant firms in the industry.
Back then, before email became the tool it is today, it was necessary to call and send letters to companies, requesting they add our publication to their mailing and invitation lists.
"I had a fair amount of spare time on my hands and used it to take stock of the data we had accumulated in my first five years with Crain," Bruce said. "I determined it was sufficient to support the publication of a Global Tire Report — anchored by a global Top 50 tire makers (since expanded to 75) list and the listings of tire plants by country."
That's why Bruce remains the father of our Global Tire Report, as well as its well-respected caretaker. The report you see today was gleaned in large part because of the blood, sweat and tears he has given to the project since the first one was published in 1986.
That first one served as the foundation of the special issues that TB, RPN and ERJ produced in 1988, celebrating the centennial anniversary of the pneumatic tire.
For the first decade or so, the only way to reach companies from Germany, especially those in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Far East, was by telex, an important method of sending written messages electronically between businesses post-World War II.
"This involved typing in the entire survey individually for each company on a typewriter that generated the telex tape, which was then fed into a telex machine and sent to each company," Bruce said.
Talk about tedious.
Bruce and Chuck Slaybaugh — one of the greats of the tire trade press and TB's executive editor at the time — developed a survey that was mailed to all of the companies they had identified as tire manufacturers.
In addition, Bruce said they used publicly available/published material they were able to confirm or otherwise deem reliable. The database that Chuck helped develop back then still is in use today.
In fact, many of the basic functions that Bruce, Chuck and others developed are in play today. We send our surveys to all the manufacturers in our database, asking them to confirm our figures or update them with any changes to the data. Of course, we have shifted steadily from sending paper surveys to sending them electronically.
Today's expansive report wouldn't be possible without the help and hard work of our Akron-based Tire Business team.
Lori DiFrancesco, our sales and trade show coordinator, works with Bruce to start sending out surveys in June/July. As responses come in, Bruce reviews them for obvious changes or omissions that might need following up.
Then, Kathy McCarron, our reporter, enters any new data and compares responses with existing data to determine what might have changed. Once that is completed, a report is generated with all the tire plant information that is proofed by Bruce and others.
Then our art director, Michael McCrady, does his magic, processing the material into print-ready copy.
That's a simplified explanation, of course, for all the data you find in the pages in print and in our data store online.
Today, with the issue having been published, Bruce describes his feeling: "Exhausted."
There's little time for that, though. He and the rest of the Tire Business team already have begun working on the 2020 list.