Karl-Friedrich Schmidt Moves to Goodyear Group Headquarters
Karl-Friedrich Schmidt (59), previously Fulda manager with Europe-wide responsibility for Manufacturing Efficiency and Information Systems, took over as Director Global Manufacturing Efficiency of the Goodyear parent company with effect from 1st October. In this new function he reports directly to Goodyear’s world headquarters in Akron/Ohio, where he will also be based. My principal aim is to raise the efficiency and profitability of all Goodyear production facilities worldwide, said Schmidt. K.-F. Schmidt began his career with the group in 1983 when he joined Gummiwerke Fulda as Manager Industrial Engineering. In 1986 he moved to the personnel and welfare department with the rank of Deputy Managing Director. Four years later he became Manager Organization Effectiveness Europe for group divisions not directly product-related. He held his most recent position since 1993, during which time he was responsible for the integration of company acquisitions, among others Debica (Poland), Sava (Slovenia) and the repurchase of Goodyear South Africa.
Scrap Tyre Recyclers Meet in Schwerin to Find Feasible Solutions
Under the headline Recycling von Altreifen in Deutschland – Aktuelle Lage und Möglichkeiten für die Zukunft (Scrap Tyre Recycling in Germany – The Current Situation and Future Possibilities) a two-day conference was held in the banqueting hall of Schwerin Castle in mid-October. Joint hosts of the first meeting of this kind on German soil were the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Ministry of the Environment and the European Tyre Recycling Association ETRA. The conference in Schwerin is part of a series of European meetings organised as Regional Information Briefings by ETRA for the airing and discussion of current questions and problems in the tyre recycling industry with the object of eventually finding common solutions. The programme was opened with a presentation covering the current situation of the scrap tyre recycling industry in Germany. This was followed by reports/discussions on the current state of the recycling technology as well as the opportunities for opening new markets for recycled scrap tyre products, in which almost 100 experts from the areas of tyre trade and disposal, retreading, material extraction, construction industry/road building, technology, equipment industry, waste disposal took part together with representatives of the civil authorities. In the course of the conference it became clear, however, that there was still a widespread lack of technological know-how and a considerable ignorance about how to market the recycled products. One reason is a limited demand for such products, another a lack of innovative and worthwhile product ideas and of adequate marketing concepts.
Pirelli has released first details of a new manufacturing system, called MIRS (Modular Integrated Robotised System). The company is investing 250 million Euros over the next five years. A MIRS plant that can produce one million tyres a year would employ 104 people in five shifts, would occupy 3,500 sq. m. and the investment cost (excluding the building itself) would be around 45 million Euros. According to Pirelli, MIRS reduces the steps of the tyre building process from the previous 14 to only three. Instead of passing the tyres from hand to hand in the production process, the MIRS work is done by robots. Tyre type and size are fed into the computer at the beginning of production, the rest is done by the computer alone, without human interference. MIRS is therefore a kind of mini-factory with an extremely high degree of flexibility. The factory can be built anywhere where there is a market. The technology, which Pirelli does not disclose and is not prepared to share with a competitor, not even under licence, was developed by Pirelli’s research and development department in co-operation with Italian universities and the Ministry of Research and Science. A pilot plant will start work in the Bicocca factory near Milan at the end of June 2000. The Italiens claim a manufacturing cost reduction of 25 p.c. for the MIRS method compared with the traditional way, and Pirelli boss Tronchetti Provera plans to manufacture three million tyres by the new method by the year 2003, or 15 p.c. of its high and ultra-high performance tyres. If all goes to plan, it will be possible to produce five million MIRS tyres within five years.
At a press conference in Milan, Mr. Marco Tronchetti Provera and Mr. Giovanni Ferrario reacted to speculation that Pirelli might diversify into other automotive components, as has Continental. Tyres will continue to be an absolute core global business for Pirelli they said, and emphasised that Pirelli would maintain its independence, while seeking alliances wherever appropriate.
Krupp Elastomertechnik was created in 1996 by the merger of the company Werner & Pfleiderer Gummitechnik in Freudenberg and the rubber technology division of Krupp Kunststofftechnik. Thus two companies were united which, by their own admission, had cooperated in technology for a long time. This offers the rubber processing industry the opportunity of a one-stop shop, as it claims to a large extent to cover all essential preparation and process stages. According to Krupp, all machines, facilities and systems are the product of computer-aided development and construction on modern machine tools and manufacturing facilities and are installed and thoroughly checked before being handed over. In the recent past various new and advanced developments at Krupp Elastomer GmbH were particularly aimed at consolidating and improving the market position of the company. Largest market shares overall are held in Europe, but that does not mean that other regions of the world are less important to the company. For example Asia, which has so far produced 40 p.c. of the total turnover. At present this market is not too prosperous although there are a few positive signs, but that deficiency was almost made up by comparatively good sales in Europe, since the boom in the motor manufacturing industry and therefore in tyre production also benefits machine manufacturers. For the current year further growth in tyre sales figures is generally expected, at least in Germany. That should herald a bright future for machine manufacturers in the tyre industry, shouldn’t it?
The contact area between tyre and road surface is generally compared to the size of a postcard. An area, whose smallness bears no relation to its importance as the central spot where the interaction between motorcar and supporting ground takes place. Generations of experts have thought long and hard how to optimise this A6-sized contact area in the interest of road safety. The 21st and 22nd October saw the beginning of a new round in the eternal quest for more knowledge. On these dates the seventh conference in twelve years of the Association of German Engineers (VDI) took place under the headline Reifen – Fahrwerk – Fahrbahn (Tyres – Chassis – Road Surface) at the Hanover Congress Centre. As at several earlier meetings, the wheel was not studied in isolation but as the link between chassis and road surface. The central theme of the meeting was therefore the interaction between those three components. Each lecture or discussion session consisted of three half-hour presentations grouped together under subject matters such as Reciprocal influences between tyres and road surface, Tyre noise, Measuring and devising models, Warning and run-flat systems, Vibration and comfort as well as Chassis concepts. Almost 225 VDI members from the sectors of research and manufacturing had accepted the invitation. Apart from many car manufacturers the tyre industry was also well represented in Hanover and thanks to the disciplined lecturing techniques and to well-informed and motivated questions from the public the conference was able to live up as a genuine discussion forum to a large extent.
From 9th to 13th November 1999 all eyes of Europe’s agricultural industry were again on Hanover, where the eighth (since 1985) international DLG trade fair for agricultural technology, Agritechnica ‘99 was held on the site of the future Expo, the third time in succession at this venue. The German Agricultural Society (DLG) as organisers reported an impressive number of bookings: 1,500 companies in total (531 of them from abroad) presented a complete agricultural programme at the Hanover exhibition centre, an increase in exhibitor numbers of nearly 14 p.c. over 1997, the date of the last such fair. The total exhibition area was also extended by almost 20 p.c. since 1997, to 190,000 square metres. Agritechnica also reported the strong presence of the tyre industry, led of course by the Big Three in the tractor field, Michelin, Kléber and Pirelli (the latter now under its new name Trelleborg Wheel Systems), which in the last few years almost carved up the lucrative original equipment business in tractor drive-wheel tyres between them. Now other suppliers, Continental, Goodyear, Firestone and Taurus try to muscle in on the OE business. With the sole exception of Firestone they were all present at Agritechnica, as were Vredestein, Alliance, Danubiana (Tofan Grup) and Titan.
Talking to the German newspaper Handelsblatt, Hankook President Choong-Hwan said that the Korean tyre manufacturer wants to strengthen its market position in Europe. Having already expanded with two factories in China, Hankook plans to produce tyres in the EU as well. This will be achieved either by building a new factory or acquiring existing facilities.
Dunlop’s SP Sport 200 E has been given the Blue Angel quality seal of approval for nine sizes. The Blue Angel adheres to very strict guidelines and is especially for environment-friendly products and processes whose user qualities and safety aspects are in no way inferior to conventional products. Recipients are chosen by independent institutions. This new car tyre (speed indices H and V) is awarded the eco seal for qualities such as low noise level, the light weight of the product, fuel saving and reduced emissions thanks to its optimised rolling resistance. Dunlop’s winter tyre SP Winter Sport M 2 is currently being tested for exceptional environment-friendliness.
Not many years ago the large tyre manufacturers still thought they had better make haste and claim a stake in the apparently huge markets of China and India, since life does not favour latecomers. Their enthusiasm was kindled by the example of some car manufacturers, which quickly calculated and estimated a gigantic (sales) potential in these two countries alone with their joint populations of two billion. Some car manufacturers learnt quickly that opportunities are not limitless. Tyre manufacturers fared similarly. Pirelli supplied China with some know-how, which was gratefully received but did not provide Pirelli with a strong base. Nor did the Italians make money out of the technology transfer. Conti’s big plans for India are hardly mentioned any more. The Big Three – Goodyear, Bridgestone and Michelin – are present in both countries, but business is quiet. In India, 29 manufacturers run 41 factories with a maximum capacity of about 43 million tyres, but only 34 million pieces were manufactured in 1997/98, most of them (73 p.c.) for trucks and buses. And 60 p.c. of passenger car tyres are still cross-ply tyres, 1998 has only seen 3,3 million radials in this segment. Our British sister magazine TYRES &ACCESSORIES reported on the Indian tyre market at length; we publish an excerpt in this issue in our December issue, including a brief presentation of some individual companies active in this market.
Finland has followed its neighbour Sweden by passing a law which means that, from 1st December to 29th February, all cars in Finland must be fitted with M+S tyres, having a minimum tread depth of at least three millimetres. The law applies not only to Finnish motorists, but to foreign drivers too.
With a fuel consumption of less than three litres per hundred kilometres (approximately 95mpg) the new Volkswagen Lupo TDI sets new standards. The reduced consumption has been achieved by a combination of various measures; the use of light-weight forged wheels by Fuchs is for instance a contributory factor to the reduced weight of the vehicle. On the tyre side, Bridgestone/Firestone has scored in original equipment with the B 381 Ecopia, size 155/65 R14 75T. The name, made up from ecology and utopia is also the statement of a programme, which will exploit experience gained in the construction of this tyre for future Bridgestone/Firestone products. The tyre manufacturer achieved weight reduction by using aramid instead of steel in the belt and light-weight polyester in the casing. Thanks to its clever rubber compound formula the tyre’s rolling resistance has also been optimised and at the same time has fulfilled the tyre manufacturer’s ecologically motivated desire for noise reduction. As an equivalent for the winter season Bridgestone recommends the WT 12 tread pattern.
Assuming the approval of the Competition Commission, the Danish tyre dealer and retreading company Viborg Gruppen together with the British Legal & General Ventures Limited (LGV) will take over all the tyre distribution activities (150 service centres) of Gummi-Mayer retrospectively from 30th September 1999. The integration of Gummi-Mayer into the existing companies of Viborg Gruppen will create the largest independent distribution and service company in the European tyre business. At the beginning of the year Viborg/LGV took over the tyre distribution activities of Stinnes AG in Germany, Holland, France, Austria and Switzerland and now has a close-knit Europe-wide service net. The sale includes all domestic tyre distribution and service activities trading in Germany under the names Gummi-Mayer and Autechna. All employees will be retained by Viborg, which has the right to the use of the Gummi-Mayer name initially for a period of ten years. Pending the approval of the Competition Commission, Gummi-Mayer will continue to be run by Hans and Franz Mayer. After the incorporation of Gummi-Mayer Viborg Gruppen will have a turnover of nearly 1.4 billion marks with more than 3,000 employees.
Three years of litigation about breach of styling rights and unauthorised copying in accordance with paragraph 1 UWG (law on unfair competition) have ended with a verdict in favour of BBS by the Federal Court of Justice, so announces the wheel manufacturer. BBS had sued an Italian manufacturer for producing and distributing an imitation of the BBS RX wheel and for damages. Following the defendant’s reply, an expert opinion on the design and a hearing at the provincial law court in Frankfurt the BBS case was to a large extent conceded: The wheel made by the Italian producer was declared to be an imitation of the new BBS RX wheel, which is new, original and therefore protected. There followed an appeal, several postponements and the exchange of a number of documents at the higher provincial court in Frankfurt, and then this verdict: The appeal of the Italian manufacturer was rejected; there was no serious doubt that it was a copy, and appeal to the Federal Court was not allowed. The costs have to be borne by the appellant. Therefore the verdict of the higher provincial court in Frankfurt of 19th November 1998 has the force of law.