Rema Tip Top extends MTR partner network
Within an industry that in past years has increasingly and openly distanced itself from manual handwork and developed into a commercial business with single-use consumer products, skills such as tyre repair have played an ever smaller role. Yet this trend, as many within the industry are discovering – particularly those who consider themselves specialist tyre dealers – is simply wrong. A company that has vigorously fought against this trend and attempted to (re)establish tyre repair as an accepted and, most importantly, high-end craft is Rema Tip Top. The globally active German workshop outfitter and parts supplier views itself as a world leader in the field of tyre repair and in its home market alone is supported by a network of more than 100 ‘MTR partners’. These are audited and certified dealers who place great value on performing professional tyre repairs according to set provisions, and by doing so pursue quite interesting business aims – just as Rema Tip Top does.
Many Europeans contend that they ‘repair’ tyres, states Andreas Sagolla. However, the tyre repair technical consultant at Rema Tip Top, who is responsible for the German MTR network, notes that often these repairs are so poorly carried out that it would have been better simply to trade the defective tyre for a new one straight away. Even in ‘normal’ workshops or garages the standard of tyre repair is frequently not at the level required to obtain the specialist’s approval, but Sagolla warns against making generalisations.
After being repaired a tyre should “once again fully maintain its air and be able to utilise its full load capacity.” This is not the same as simply retaining air in everyday use, Sagolla observes. A key problem when it comes to repairs is that inexperienced staff members are given responsibility for tyre repair in many businesses. Some may opine that tyre repair is not all that complicated, just a matter of pulling a string. Or maybe it isn’t. At any rate, this is only an introduction to the quite complication subject of tyre repair using the hot vulcanisation process, which through the use of an extensive range of equipment (such as hot vulcanisation units such as the “thermopress”) is open to a high rate of errors.
In Germany, the region Sagolla is responsible for, the country’s trade and crafts code stipulates the authority to practice; he explains that without this, a company is not actually permitted to carry out tyre repairs. Within German tyre specialty tyre retailers, this right is typically held by a master vulcaniser who is responsible for overseeing workshop staff. Master mechanics and those in related professions must undertake a fortnight’s training – such as the one Sagolla is involved with at the Stahlgruber training centre – in order to acquire their proficiency certification; repairs cannot be performed without this. This is, at least, the legal theory. Through his own professional experience, the Rema Tip Top technical consultant has encountered countless cases where even basic skills were lacking and deeper technical know-how and certification completely absent. Materials and the essential accessories needed for repairs are readily available to the trade throughout Europe. However these channels of distribution rarely attempt to influence the quality of tyre repairs and the competencies of the firms and employees that make them. Changing this, Sagolla explains to Tyres & Accessories, is the MTR partner network’s objective.
MTR stands for “Master Tyre Repairers”, and Rema Tip Top has been involved in establishing this network in various European countries for some time now. In the German home market, 101 dealers and retreaders have joined the workshop outfitter and parts supplier’s network to-date. The process of officially joining this circle of tyre repair experts is made up of only a few stages. But the hurdles that must be overcome at each stage are high, Andreas Sagolla explains, are so to emphasise the high quality expectations the company places on tyre repair.
Sometimes the tyre repair technical consultant contacts existing customers and attempts to convince them to become MTR partners. This approach is of particular interest in regions where the company wants to increase its presence. More typically, tyre dealers who are also existing materials customers contact Rema Tip Top and apply to carry out the measures required for their certification. While the overall certification process is very extensive and complex, the follow-up audits that usually take place one or two years later are not as comprehensive; the focus is more on ensuring the flow of information reaches new employees and that all MTR partner staff are kept up to speed with the latest technical developments.
In addition to the abovementioned professionals (master vulcanisers and master mechanics with additional proficiency), Rema Tip Top’s website sets out the criteria it looks for in potential MTR partners: These should be businesses that already engage in high-end tyre repair, have good knowledge of and be engaged in cold and hot vulcanisation, have a separate, well-equipped repair workshop, be in an easily accessible location for PCR/TBR/OTR tyre service and optimally offer a 24 hour emergency service and a good logistics network. Further “basic requirements” must also be fulfilled: “Tools and consumables must be in a good condition so that every tyre repair can be performed to the highest quality; repaired tyre damage must be exactly measured and patches precisely selected; multiple tyre repairs should be able to be conducted within a short timeframe; consumables from a single manufacturer should be used in order to guarantee a perfect match between materials used; the MTR partner must employ a system of identification and documentation for its repairs; and the workplace must be well-lit in order for hidden damage to be uncovered during inspection.”
According to Andreas Sagolla, monitoring of these basic requirements is very rigorous and doesn’t allow for any exceptions. Tyre dealers that meet the requirements ‘on paper’ are then visited by the tyre repair technical consultant. During an inspection, Sagolla gains a view of how the workshop is set up for tyre repair and what training the associated workers have. Where appropriate, Sagolla suggests potential improvements once he is satisfied that the combination will meet the high requirements. Following the one-day audit, which incidentally is totally free of charge for the potential MTR partner, the certificate is handed over – and a terminable on demand partnership contract is implemented.
A central issue – along with the qualitative requirements for tyre repair – is that the MTR partner is tethered to Rema Tip Top in relation to purchasing. This means the new partner must purchase equipment and tyre repair consumables from Rema Tip Top. This is, it can be said, Rema Tip Top’s quid pro quo for the expense it lays out for auditing and certification. In this way, the market leader not only creates a channel through which repair consumables and equipment will be sold. Through it the company also secures its market position and makes a connection between it and the customers – a reciprocal business. Sagolla estimates that the quantitative market share generated through the MTR partnerships’ contractual obligations also makes up a large proportion of the company’s overall repair material and equipment business.
This is, Sagolla says, one side of the coin. At the same time Rema Tip Top also ensures that the standard of tyre repair in the market – particularly amongst the regional ‘top dogs’ with a good reputation amongst commercial vehicle customers – increases and remains at a high level. “Rema Tip Top simply wants to see tyre repair performed professionally. If not, we’ll see negative headlines that nobody actually needs,” Sagolla adds, referring to an article recently published by Germany’s tyre dealer association (BRV), which centred on an end consumer’s highly negative experience with tyre repair. No company can simply accept an absence of trust from its customers or customers’ customers when it comes to the products and services it supplies, particularly when ignorance and professional inadequacies are responsible for this.
Sagolla doesn’t believe that the MTR network has reached saturation point in its homeland with 101 partners. On the contrary. “I definitely see scope for further growth.” Currently, half a dozen companies that would like to join the network are on the waiting list. As a group, MTR partners are by no means a homogenous group. The network includes small and large operations, chain outlets, retreaders, including those who specialise in passenger car tyres and numerous truck, agricultural and OTR tyre specialists. All operate in the premium market. Industry-linked or owned outfits are less likely to belong to the MTR network. The network also contains the so-called “MTR Check Points”, which only accept tyres for repair. The repair itself is performed elsewhere (usually in an operation belonging to the same chain).
The interest shown by tyre dealers and retreaders doesn’t solely spring from the wish to be able to offer a professional, regulated tyre repair. If they do this well, it opens up many new, economically interesting business areas with growth potential. With this service, the repairer can build up its market position. After all, tyres can be purchased anywhere but tyre repair, in contrast, is an art not everyone can offer. “A good repairer can set itself apart from the competition.”
As Sagolla has learned from numerous conversations, “what the company can earn through repairs is obviously also an important factor.” The initial investment for repairs using the cold process is relatively low while the gross yield is correspondingly high. Sagolla appraises this as being up to 80 per cent; reaching this level through the sale of new tyres would be a struggle. The initial cost of investing in hot vulcanisation is of course higher.
This is also seen in the tyre trade. Speaking with Tyres & Accessories, Alexander Haas, junior manager at MTR partner Reifen Haas, shares that he gained his master qualification at Stahlgruber and joined the MTR network in 2008. Yes, there is money to be made through tyre repair. However, this financial aspect was not central to the company’s decision to join the MTR network.
Prior to 2008, the company, which Alexander’s father Kurt Haas founded in 1973, exclusively repaired passenger car tyres. In those days very few people were interested in whether or not a master vulcaniser performed the repairs. Yet for Haas, tyre repair was an important instrument for acquiring and retaining customers. The newly-qualified master Alexander Haas particularly wanted to focus more on agricultural and OTR tyres. The logic appears to have tallied. Over the years the company’s business with qualified, professional and regulated tyre repair has continued to grow in scale. “We continue to receive new customers,” shares Alexander Haas. This is good for utilisation, particularly outside the peak season, as tyre repair is performed and must be performed throughout the entire year. Farmers whose machinery or tractors are disabled through tyre damage during the harvest period usually needn’t wait long before a repairer is available; they require immediate assistance.
Alexander Haas decided upon Rema Tip Top’s MTR partner network for two reasons. First of all, he felt connected to the company where he gained his master qualification. More importantly for the junior manager is that with Rema Tip Top – which he calls the “market leader” – he is served by a full portfolio. “I value the comprehensive package.” He doesn’t feel particularly constrained by the requirement to purchase Rema Tip Top materials as he would have purchased them, along with equipment, from Rema Tip Top at any rate. A further, equally important aspect for Haas is the exchange of experience with other MTR partners at regular meetings, as is the integration into the network’s official flow of information and the company’s listing as a certified MTR partner at Rema Tip Top’s website.
When, for example, a new patch is needed for a modern IF (improved flexion) agricultural tyre or if a manufacturer starts using more silicone in its products’ inner liners, this information is promptly targeted to the relevant partners through the network. In this regard, Sagolla adds, the flow of information from dealers to Rema Tip Top is just as essential. Sagolla is able to filter this information and feed it back into the system so that all participants can profit from it: The customer, the repairer and Rema Tip Top.