Goodyear Dunlop makes further inroads into construction, port sectors
Motivated by the positive response it received in 2010, on June 22 and 23 Goodyear Dunlop Tyres UK was back at Vertikal Days, the country’s only dedicated event for the lifting industry. On the company’s stand at the Merseyside-based show was the Dunlop SP ER50 crane tyre – a product Goodyear Dunlop says has taken off since last year’s show.
“The Dunlop mobile crane tyre, which is available in size 445/95/R25, marks our entry into the mobile crane sector,” comments Paul Bould, earthmover tyre specialist for Goodyear Dunlop UK and Ireland. “We brought the ER50 to market last year and since the 2010 Vertikal Days show sales have increased 173 per cent.” The ER50, designed by Dunlop in Japan, has been developed to meet the needs of the all-terrain crane market and to cope with high speed motorway driving as well as heavy loads. Goodyear Dunlop markets the tyre as an ideal fitment on crane machinery thanks to its non-directional design, strength of construction and wide contact patch.
Another market to benefit from new products in the past year is Goodyear Dunlop’s most important for this segment, the port market. The port business’s significance to the tyre maker has been witnessed in the last couple of months, Bould notes, with the extending of two contracts: “Recently Southampton Containers, part of the Dubai Ports Group, with whom we had a three-year contract, renewed its contract for a further year, and CDMW, who operate four locations in England, also renewed their existing two-year reach stacker tyre supply contract for a further 12 months.”
The newest addition for this market is the EV-4R, a 16.00 R25 fitment designed for straddle carriers, a product Bould says is currently being evaluated by a number of end-users. In developing the EV-4R, Goodyear claims its engineers set the needs of vehicle operators as their guiding principle and paid particular attention to load capacity and operating life. To achieve results in these two areas they developed a new casing construction said to enable a greater load and increased stability, particularly at high speeds. The EV-4R has a load index of 200 –Goodyear points out this means a load carrying capacity of 17.5 tonnes at 25km/h. The rubber compound used in the new straddle carrier tyre is designed with the changeable weather conditions encountered in harbour areas in mind, the tyre maker adds. The tread pattern incorporates grooves said to impart the EV-4R with “exceptional levels of comfort and precise steering”, features Goodyear points to as important aspects in confined and hectic loading areas.
Both these tyre ranges are produced by Goodyear Dunlop in Luxembourg, where all European market OTR/EM segment size tyres up to 35-inch rim diameter are manufactured. Above this size they are produced in the company’s factories in Topeka (US), Brazil and Japan. Cross-ply tyres are manufactured in Brazil, and some are also produced in Japan, while Topeka manufactures large mining radials.
Product availability, an issue for so many manufacturers in the EM/OTR segment, also to an extent affects the Goodyear Dunlop range. “It seems to be getting worse again,” Bould shares. “It is not a problem for certain sizes but for others, such as the 16.00 R25 straddle carrier, demand can be high. We strive to forecast the right amount needed so that end-users can keep their machines running. The availability issue is not as bad as it was three years ago, however. We are already producing at up to capacity for customers in Europe, yet overall the situation with product availability is under control.”
Planning ahead for assured supply
What then can a manufacturer such as Goodyear Dunlop do to aid its customers? While it cannot influence the price of natural rubber and other commodities, the tyre maker is able to help end-users maximise the working life of the tyres they already have and ensure new product is there when they reach the end of their working life. “For our key customers, for example at Southampton port, we run bi-monthly service checks,” Bould elaborated. “Thus, every two months we check tyre treads and other factors and enter the information into a database; with this we can project how many tyres the customer will need over the coming six months. Of course this can’t predict tyres that need replacing due to damage, but we can predict upcoming demand quite accurately. This also helps us forecast how many tyres our Luxembourg plant needs to produce to cover customer requirements. As a rule we plan to manufacture more than the amount we forecast.”
Even more an issue than product availability, and again something affecting all manufacturers, is raw material costs. The earthmover tyre specialist comments that the subject is on everyone’s lips at the moment and some customers struggle to understand why price increases are occurring so regularly. With raw material costs driving prices ever upwards, some end-users have toyed with budget tyres as an affordable alternative. Paul Bould shares that he has spoken with a number of quarry plant machinery hire companies who have pursued this option as a means of countering rising prices. The results, he relates, have been mixed: “A couple of years ago it wasn’t good; the talk was of tyres failing pretty much the moment they were fitted to a vehicle. Since then they appear to have improved somewhat and seem to do the job. Granted, they don’t last as long as a premium tyre but lower initial cost has influenced some companies feeling the financial squeeze to give them a try. But nightmare stories about blowouts and other issues are still out there, and some companies that tried Chinese manufactured tyres have returned to the premium brands.”
It isn’t just quality issues prompting an end-user return to premium brands; Bould makes a logical observation about Chinese tyres and raw material prices. “It’s also worth pointing out that the observed qualitative improvement in Chinese tyres has been matched by an increase in their price. Chinese tyres are catching up, price-wise. These days they’re not so much cheaper than us. They have to use the same rubber, after all.”
Improvements in 2011 – for tyre makers
Bould relates that Goodyear Dunlop is experiencing stronger OTR/EM sector performance this year than in 2010, yet this upswing is not being overall shared by the tyre maker’s customers. “The facts and figures we hear on the news keep telling us that we seem to be coming out of the recession,” he comments. “Going from the end-users we speak with, we can’t see that. The work is not out there. For us, 2011 is shaping up to be a better year than 2010, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of confidence for infrastructure at the moment. A number of companies have even resorted to seeking work abroad, such as supplying equipment to work recently reopened mines in Africa.”