Getting to Specifics
During this past year operating costs have, more than ever, become a prevalent theme within the materials handling industry. Awareness of the need to rein in these expenses wherever possible is strong, and efforts to this effect are being paired with attempts to maximise productivity. Such heightened sensitivity to costs has led to ever more operators carefully monitoring tyre costs over the entire life of the tyre in order to select the most cost effective tyre for each specific application.
According to Paul Collier, who is market segment manager for Michelin’s industrial products division, levels of activity have decreased in specific segments of the industrial tyre market – some operators, he notes, have indicated activity reducing by as much as 30 per cent. This obviously translates into lower industrial tyre sales, and with manufacturers now competing for their slice of a pie that has become much smaller in the last year, it is those tyre makers who pay attention to what customers need that will fare better. And when speaking to Mr. Collier, it quickly becomes apparent that Michelin is one such company that fully understands this.
“Continual innovation is necessary as Industrial machines offer increased load capacity, speed and handling capabilities,” Collier comments. “Industrial tyres will become more ‘application specific’ as technical demands continue to increase.” To facilitate this trend towards a product more tailored for a particular role, Michelin has in the past, and continues to, work closely together with its OEM partners as they introduce new machinery and material handling equipment. This year the results of such collaborative efforts will be seen as the company rolls out further sizes in its XZM radial forklift tyre range.
The XZM radial pneumatic range, Collier comments, continues to be the “benchmark” for operators seeking maximum tyre life along with optimum safety, and thus holds an important place within Michelin’s industry tyre portfolio. Such is the manufacturer’s belief in the XZM that in June 2008 it made a hard to ignore offer – if its forklift tyre did not deliver at least twice the life of its solid or cross-ply alternatives, users of the product would receive their money back. “As we have such confidence in the performance of the XZM range of radial Forklift truck tyres, we wanted to encourage operators to trial XZM ‘risk-free’,” Paul Collier explains. “Operators would be able to experience the numerous benefits such as the exceptional tyre life, improved handling and driver comfort. We also wanted to overcome the perception that all pneumatic tyres punctured easily. Due to the Michelin XZM having a reinforced steel casing, both the tread and sidewall are protected providing an unwarranted level of resistance to punctures and impact damage.” He also adds that the tyre’s tread pattern and rubber compounds are designed to optimise wear in demanding industrial applications.
The replacement market deal, now on offer for a year, has been well received. The market segment manager reports “we have received a high level of support from tyre dealers across the UK, using the ‘Twice the Life’ guarantee to help their customers manage tyre costs more effectively.” This offer is supplemented by a 90-day satisfaction warranty.
In addition to the XZM range, Collier indicates that the Michelin X-Terminal-T line-up represents yet another significant industrial segment product. He notes that this tyre, designed specifically for terminal tractors operating in demanding applications such as ports, intermodal terminals and distribution centres, is proving to be a key product within Michelin’s Industrial tyre portfolio. Michelin claims that the X Terminal-T offers a much longer working life and lower rolling resistance than conventional truck tyres when used in port and freight terminal environments. The company also points to ease of retreading as another key feature of this specialist tyre.
A heightened awareness of economic considerations can also be seen in the company’s approach to developing new technology that addresses environmental issues. According to Collier, Michelin’s industrial tyre segment is drawing upon company research and development in order to respond to similar concerns to the passenger and truck tyre segments. He notes that fuel economy has always been a key issue for the company’s industrial tyre customers, and regardless of whether they operate forklift trucks or are specialist container handlers, maximising fuel usage is a priority. Many operators, he adds, are monitoring fuel economy through comparative trials using different types of Industrial tyres. Michelin has thus made rolling resistance one of its priorities and has been working to reduce this while maintaining a high level of grip and tread life. Collier adds that Michelin is looking after its strong position in the area of industrial tyre development by the company’s investment of around four per cent of its global annual turnover into research and development – an amount it says is more than any other tyre manufacturer.
Another stated environmental concern for Michelin is the disposal of end of life tyres – the company’s answer to this problem can be found during the manufacturing of its products, however. Michelin comments that the superior quality of its casings ensure than in the majority of cases a tyre can be repaired and refitted, thereby maximising tyre life and minimising disposal costs.
As for the near future, Michelin believes that as activity again increases within the industrial market segment operators will demand maximum performance from their material handling equipment – and tyres will play an integral role in the quest for productivity, reliability and safety. The company says it views the industrial tyre segment as a growth area, and affirms its strong commitment to building a lasting relationship with its customers. “We will continue to invest in our dedicated team of Technical and Sales managers, who can provide solutions to the most complex issues,” says Collier. These Michelin staff members will be available to assist customers in selecting the correct tyre for their application, checking tyre condition, analysing cost per hour and identifying fuel-saving measures. “We will continue to work closely with our Industrial tyre dealers, understanding their requirements and providing customised training according to specific needs,” Collier concludes.