The tire shop of the future will look a lot like it does now. What will change is the amount of information that shops will be able to collect and utilize easily.
The shop of the future will be more efficient, and that's largely because of customer demand. Customers want the work done faster, and they want to better understand their options.
"They are counting more on their electronic devices to manage their own day-to-day (activities)," Tire Discounters Inc. President Jamie Ward told Tire Business reporter Kathy McCarron last summer. "So we're looking at ways for improving our operations and streamlining our operations through digital means.
"I think that's a trend everyone is looking at right now. Everyone is trying to figure out how to adapt to the new connected vehicles, the electrification of vehicles and the autonomous vehicles."
The Cincinnati, Ohio-based company has more than 120 retail stores, and last year officials there started using a new point-of-sale system that Mr. Ward said has streamlined operations and improved customer experience.
With new technologies — like advanced tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) and radio frequency identification (RIFD) — tire technicians will have more information available to them when they first approach the job.
In the commercial tire industry, one expert sees the new technology as saving a lot of time.
"Tires will be equipped with RFIDs and sensors that will be able to tell technicians miles away what their inflation pressures are as well as their tread depths," Peggy Fisher, president of Fleet Tire Consulting and a regular contributor to Tire Business, said. "... An incredible amount of time will be saved looking for problem tires.
"Instead the vehicle will report tire problems, and low tread depths and technicians will address just those tires first. All other tires will still have to be inspected for cuts and road hazards that may result in tire damage but are not causing the tire to lose air, but labor will be drastically reduced."
Ms. Fisher also believes shop tools will continue to evolve.
"Impact wrenches and nut runners will continue to evolve to ensure the correct amount of clamp load is applied accurately to wheel nuts," Ms. Fisher said. "They will become lighter, quieter and more accurate and provide proof of the clamp load applied.
"Alignment equipment will also continue to evolve by using technology to be easier to use, less labor intensive and more accurate as well."
Late last year, TBC Corp. opened a new-look NTB Tire & Service Center in Greer, S.C., it called a "shop of the future" layout that it intends to use for additional new stores in the pipeline.
The 9,000-sq.-ft. store features eight service bays and an open view into the service bays that allows customers to watch the digitized inspection process, TBC said.
"Our shop-of-the-future concept was designed with our customers in mind," TBC President and CEO Erik Olsen said.
The location includes a designated bay equipped with the latest digital equipment, including drive-over laser readers that test tires' tread depth and provide an alignment status report.
"The response from customers to our shop of the future has been amazing," TBC Division Vice President Bill Shull said. "We're eager to continue unveiling more shop-of-the-future designs for customers and team members to enjoy."
At last report, TBC was operating more than 540 NTB stores in 21 states throughout the eastern half of the U.S. along with 190-plus Tire Kingdom stores in Florida.