Putting the UK Market in the Picture
This year Trelleborg is 100 years young. The company’s name is fairly well recognised in the UK market but there is still room for improvement. Ask where the company comes from, what it’s up to on the UK market, or how Trelleborg Wheel Systems (TWS) fits into the picture and the response is often vague. However the manufacturer is addressing these brand awareness issues and is beginning to focus more and more on its agricultural division as well as marketing itself as a specialist in agricultural tyres. Tyres & Accessories spoke to Ian Gillespie, managing director of Trelleborg Wheel Systems UK, to discern its UK market approach.
With 100 years behind it Trelleborg has a lot of history, and a centenary provides the perfect opportunity to refresh where the business came from and to highlight where it’s going. Originally founded in 1905 by Henry Dunker the company produced a number of rubber products including bicycle tyres, tennis balls and shoe rubber. It eventually progressed to motorcycle, car and truck tyres and a steady growth was sustained. By 1972 Trelleborg was already moving in the direction of farm tyres and retreading materials. However, it was the creation of the Twin tyre, wide, low ground pressure tractor and agricultural machinery tyres that established the company’s reputation as a developer of special tyres.
Today the Swedish company is a global industrial group with annual sales of approximately £1.72 billion, and about 22,000 employees spread across five business areas in 40 countries.
How does TWS fit into the picture, and what does it do?
TWS develop, manufacture and market complete wheel system solutions – that means tyres, tubes and wheels. The Italian based division has existed for some time now, but has only really established itself in the UK over the last few years. TWS comprises two separate business units, agricultural and forest, and industrial tyres. TM is the company’s agricultural radial tyre range, specialising in radial high performance, however its portfolio also includes the Trelleborg range with a selection of sizes suitable for all kinds of specialist tractors and farming implements covering farming, forestry and ground-care. Its industrial tyres include the brands Bergougnan, Monarch, Rota, Mastersolid, Orca and Trelleborg, and it provides tyres, wheels and complete fitted units for material-handling and transport vehicles used at facilities from warehouses to ports and airports.
With 2,100 employees, a head office near Rome, production units in six plants in three continents, three R&D facilities and the corporate centre in Sweden, TWS is a key player in agricultural and forestry tyres. Sri Lanka, Sweden and Italy are the locations of its research and development facilities. Trelleborg’s radial agricultural tyres are made in Italy, its industrial tyres in Sri Lanka and North America, and its wheels in Sweden and Denmark. This structure provides for the end users as well as the original equipment manufacturers.
Where does Pirelli Agricultural Tyres come into the equation?
Mention the name Trelleborg in agricultural circles in the past, and it used to bring the name Pirelli to mind. The Swedish brand has for many years been recognised in relation to the more widely known Italian manufacturer. But this is no longer the case. Now it is fully accepted in the UK as a brand in its own right and TWS naturally intends to invest more and more in the Trelleborg brand, and its future.
The relationship began when Trelleborg entered a joint venture with Pirelli in 1999 for the acquisition of its agricultural tyres business in Europe. In 2001, the deal was completed and the Swedish group acquired 100 per cent of the activity, including the tyre factory near Rome. It was a strategic agreement that allowed Trelleborg to gain a new business sector and to take on the license of the Pirelli Agricultural Tyre trademark for developing, manufacturing and distributing the entire agricultural range, that includes products such as the TM700, TM800, TM600 and TM900 High Power.
“We want people to recognise the Trelleborg brand whether it be TWS, Automotive, Sealing Solutions, Building Systems, or Engineered Systems,” explained Mr Gillespie. In the future any new product ranges to come from the company will be manufactured under the Trelleborg brand.
What products have been successful for Trelleborg in the UK?
“Across the whole range, from standard 85 series to the largest 300+ HP tractors, our products are delivering the goods,” says Ian Gillespie. The UK manager believes that over the past three to four years TWS has “quietly grown” market share in all the key premium segments.
The TM900HP, its latest agricultural radial, provides its top of the range offering. A product designed and aimed at high power, and high traction TWS has looked to cover both high speed (50 km/h) and load capacity. The company is looking to reinforce itself as an agricultural tyre specialist through such top of the range products and Mr Gillespie says this is the main staple of its success: “Our success and growth is coming from being focused on the specialist application and the bread and butter commodities. Our strong ties and commitments with the leading machinery manufacturers has been fundamental to having continually improved and developed our products, and TM700 is a classic example.”
The TM700 was launched on the replacement market in 1984 as the first 70 series radial agricultural tyre, last year it was completely redesigned and re-launched as the market segment leader. It is placed between the TM600 (standard 85 series) and TM800 (65 series “extra large”).
What about the Industrial tyre business?
The Swedish company claims to have gained a significant share of the highly competitive industrial tyre market. An achievement it says is due to its strong focus on cost-effective, high performance products. “Quite simply we are a major player, with the most complete selection of brands that cover the market’s requirements,” expands Mr Gillespie. The recently re-launched Orca in the UK has been a “great success”, and lends its commercial support to both the Rota and MasterSolid ranges he explains. Tailor made solutions are another reason for its success says Ian Gillespie, through which the company deals with material handling equipment, industrial applications and construction machines. “It’s not by chance that we are suppliers to the major fork lift tyre manufacturers: for example we are the sole worldwide supplier to the Nacco MH group for solid tyres.”
And the future?
“It might seem that we’re too pleased with ourselves, however this couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is that we’ve got the product for the job, and the knowledge and expertise to solve the more challenging technical problems, so we’re giving true value in a fiercely competitive arena. Unfortunately in our business there is always someone who can sell a similar product cheaper, however the good news, at least for TWS, is that there are still specialist dealers and professional users that recognise and are willing to pay for quality, value and understand life cost,” comments Mr Gillespie.
As far as TWS is concerned it claims to have recognised the areas that it needs to address and is developing new solutions in response to customer demand. Eight new sizes will be launched this year across the existing range of agricultural radial and forestry ranges, and Mr Gillespie says it will “further reinforce its position as the only wholly specialised manufacturer of agricultural and forestry tyres.”
“There’s a lot going on [at TWS], and celebrating the 100th anniversary is always fun and gives the company important visibility occasions as a Group, showing our global dimension and business coverage,” concluded Mr Gillespie.