Retread, recycle, repair – Kal Tire discusses the ‘three Rs’
It’s now more than two years since the Kal Tire Mining Tire Group acquired a majority shareholding in Derbyshire-based OTR Tyres, and the company says retreading at its Alfreton facility shows that despite increasing raw material costs and a major shortage of good, retreadable casings, demand for a quality product still exists. In the past 12 months Kal Tire’s UK retreading plant utilised in excess of 1.3 million pounds (590,000 kilogrammes) of rubber compound in the retreading of more than 3,000 off-road tyres.
The company opines that this level of performance would not have been attainable without the infrastructure that has been put in place over the past three years, the initiatives introduced and adhered to and the performance of the Alfreton manufacturing team. The facility is fitted with equipment valued at more than £4million, including a recently purchased fully automated builder, a refurbished semi automatic tyre builder plus new mould matrices, purchased to meet customer demand for different tyre size tread patterns. “We have a continual improvement programme in the factories,” commented UK and Ghana manufacturing manager Wayne Cornell. “And we will continue to look and find ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the whole process.”
Kal Tire says that in the three years since the LEAN initiative was first introduced into the Alfreton factory following research and development by UK managing director Darren Flint, it has contributed significantly to performance. The core components of the initiative centre around the ‘5 S’s philosophy’ – sort, set in order, shine, standardise and sustain. “We are delighted with the way the manufacturing team have taken the initiative on to improve many aspects of the factory,” said Flint. “The bottom line is simple – reduce all forms of ‘waste’, be that material waste, effort, energy, time etc. – it is a case of recognising where there is waste, and doing something about it.” Highlighting an example of a waste reduction measure, Kal Tire comments that the recent introduction of energy efficient lighting has not only improved safety with a lighter, brighter working environment, but also cut energy costs and reduced the whole site’s carbon footprint.
According to the company, the introduction of LEAN into the Alfreton plant was so successful that the initiative has now been rolled out across the UK to all Kal Tire service depots. This programme is being implemented with the involvement of continuous improvement manager Alan Todd, and Kal Tire reports that “similar marked performance improvements are also being seen.”
Whilst accepting that the manufacturing process used in the retreading of earthmover and mining tyres will always generate ‘waste’, what Kal Tire says it has indentified and reacted upon is that this discarded material, primarily rubber compound ‘crumb’ buffed from the tyres prior to retreading or repair, may have a secondary use. To this end, the company has introduced hysteresis testing for a trial period to determine if the reclaimed materials can be reused, together with other raw materials and compounds, in the manufacturing process. “This initiative again highlights Kal Tire’s continual commitment towards recycling and environmental efficiency – after all, ‘retreading is recycling’,” commented Cornell.
Retreading and recycling are two ways of reducing costs; repairing is a third. Large tyres are a significant investment and damage to these valuable products, particularly damage that exposes or impacts upon the tyre’s infrastructure, is always a cost concern for operators as well as a health and safety issue. Therefore, tyre repair component specialists from the Canadian company’s homeland have commenced a ‘major injuries’ training programme for Kal Tire’s UK repair technicians and trials will soon begin on a number of repaired tyres. “If these larger repairs prove successful then again, we will be giving our customer the chance to extend their tyre life, at a fraction of the replacement cost,” stated Cornell.