(l to r): Alex Burns (CEO of Test World parent company Millbrook), Ho-Youl Pae, Hyoung Nam Kim (Hankook’s head of global R&D and purchasing) and Klaus Krause cut the ribbon at the new Technotrac
With a decisive snip, more than a year’s work was officially complete. Four representatives from Hankook Tire’s global and European operations, suitably rugged up for the occasion, were on hand to open a facility that extends the tyre maker’s aim of self-contained development and manufacture of tyres for European markets. The inauguration of the ‘Technotrac’ facility gives Hankook Tire a permanent home alongside one of the world’s best-known winter test grounds, something that Ho-Youl Pae is very proud of.
“Europe is one of Hankook’s largest and most important markets globally, which is why we have spent a long time working towards regional product development,” shared the head of Hankook Tire Europe at Saturday’s ribbon cutting ceremony. “We are proud that not only our summer tyres, but also those with winter treads, both of which are produced in Europe, can now be tested here under ideal conditions to ensure that they are perfectly suited to the prevailing road and climatic conditions, as well as responding to market demands. Having our very own winter test facility, means that we can consolidate our position as one of Europe’s leading tyre makers.”
Technotrac is located in Ivalo, Finland, some 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle and next to Test World’s Mellatracks site. Hankook Tire commissioned Test World Oy to build the facility in late 2015, and work got under way as soon as the ground thawed in the warmer months. In addition to workshop facilities that can handle tyres for rim diameters up to 24 inches, a large cold-storage tyre warehouse, offices and meeting rooms, the Technotrac site contains three flat tracks for braking, traction and lateral stability testing on snow and ice, as well as two snow handling tracks for subjective tyre evaluation. Hankook has specifically designed these tracks to cater to the requirements of the German vehicle manufacturers it works with and supplies original equipment tyres to. Plans are already in place to further extend the braking tracks.
According to Klaus Krause, head of Hankook Tire’s ETC (Europe Technical Center) and now coordinator of test activities at Technotrac Ivalo, the tyre maker looked at sites in Finland, Sweden and Norway before ultimately selecting Ivalo. The stable and prolonged winter conditions there – Ivalo receives an average of 138 days of snow a year – best suited its requirements. The tracks will be used from mid-November through to the end of March or start of April. Three mechanics from Test World are currently assigned to work with Hankook at the site, and at least two objective and at least two subjective test drivers will be based at the Technotrac and conduct evaluations there. “We need to be precise, as our developers base their work upon this data,” notes Krause.
Krause didn’t disclose the level of investment made in the Technotrac facility, however Dietmar Olbrich, Hankook Tire’s vice-president of sales and marketing within the German speaking markets, commented that five per cent of the company’s annual turnover is directed towards research and development: “We need to do this in order to compete in the upper segment.”
In addition to investing in research and development, around five per cent of Hankook Tire’s workforce around the world are engaged in this capacity. “That is more than 1,000 employees in total,” shares Dr Hyung Nam Kim, head of global development at Hankook. Last October, the tyre maker opened its new global research and development centre, the ‘Hankook Technodome’ in Daejeon, South Korea. Hankook Tire states that it intends to utilise the site for developing innovative technologies to position itself as one of the world’s top brands. The Technodome is the central hub of Hankook’s global research and development infrastructure, and connects not only its regional technical centres – the ATC (American Technical Center), CTC (China Technical Center), JTC (Japan Technical Center) and the ETC in Germany – but now also the new winter test facility in Finland. “Test facilities like the new Technotrac Ivalo are an important and logical first step towards ensuring that we are able to fully test the forward-looking innovative tyre technologies that are being developed in the ‘Hankook Technodome’”, adds Kim.
Since the ETC opened in 1997, Hankook Tire has expanded the scope of its research projects in Europe and today is one of the main suppliers for many premium automotive manufacturers, including brands, such as Audi, BMW, MAN, Mercedes Benz cars and trucks, MINI, Porsche, Scania and VW. “The continuous growth of our original equipment business activities demands the parallel expansion of testing capacities, for instance the new Technotrac Ivalo,” states Klaus Krause. “Now that the necessary requirements have been met, we assume that we will be able to significantly improve the effectiveness of our research and development plans.”
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