Light at the end of the tunnel
Worldwide there is a shortage of off-the-road (OTR) tyres. It affects a variety of sectors that use earthmoving vehicles, but none more so than the giant mining industry. This shortage has filtered into Africa – a continent showing remarkable growth and development. It affects world economies, and can potentially cripple energy resources – literally leaving countries in the dark. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
The shortage was first reported about four years ago, when mining companies started to expand their fleets to keep up with the increased demand for raw materials from rapidly developing economies such as China and India. In some cases Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) now supply machines to mines without tyres. Tyre manufacturers are strongly committed to supporting their clients wherever possible, and say they will continue to provide tyres to replace vehicles first, and only then supply new tyres to OEMs.
Foreign speculation is that there will be an improvement from this year, although this seems unlikely. Bridgestone, one of the largest manufactures of OTR tyres, says they have several plans in place to deal with the ongoing shortage. According to Jordan San, General Manager of OTR Division at Bridgestone South Africa, Bridgestone Corporation in Japan has invested a vast amount of capital into their production facilities to increase production output in the current factories, they are also in the process of commissioning a new factory for giant tyres which will come into affect at the end of 2012.
Marius Coleske from IMEX Tyres and Accessories, a well renown tyre distributor throughout the SADC region, says that while some ultra large radial OTR tyres being shipped in from Chinese manufacturers are currently not quite of the standard of those produced by veterans in the business, such as Bridgestone and Michelin, these manufacturers are constantly investing in the technology and expertise to fine tune their products to optimal standards.
Big mining organisations continuously invest in new ventures. San says they are committed to current mines and it is difficult to supply any new mines with tyres, as tyres in the process have been allocated. Should a mining group commission a new mine, they would have to allocate tyres from a current mine’s allocation. This would only apply if they receive consensus from other mines in the group to reallocate some of their stock to the new mine.
To better cope with the situation, mines often invest in used and second hand tyres – tyres that have been scrapped by construction companies, or other mining companies. This is often risky, as some defects may not be obvious. Once these tyres arrive at the mine they are usually repaired without a guarantee. “When considering buying scrapped tyres, it is important to know the age and history of the tyre,” says San. “Ask for a record card or any information before making a final decision.”
Augustine Simbanegavi from ZimPlats explains that during this crisis time they monitor tyre performance closely, repair tyres which normally would be thrown away, and revise site stock levels for increased backup cover. They have also recently made a decision to use tyre fill materials on certain applicable equipment to increase tyre life, and to remain open to trials on new products, with a view to using products that can enhance tyre life.
Dave Stephenson, Vice-President of Mining at Mincom Africa, says the OTR industry is in constant contact with the OEMs. However, the after-market profile changed dramatically when mines began not to retire their vehicles according to plan, and this fact escaped detection until too late. Replacement fleets where in fact additional fleets, and they are now getting to the point where mines’ vehicles are standing idle because tyres cannot be supplied to keep them on the road.
Tom Klinge, Chairman and Founder of the Klinge Tyre Management group of companies, which has pioneered the whole concept of tyre management, says it’s not all gloom, because most of the OTR tyres used on mines do not get within 40 percent of being worn out, and can thus be used for at least the same time again, wearing out more of the remaining tread.
Tyre management is not a core business for miners, says Klinge, but it can drastically impair a mine’s profitability. In light of the tyre shortage, the viability of a given mine could be jeopardised if trucks are left idle, and so they need to address this issue now.
San says to lengthen the life of tyres, maintenance is key. Companies should ensure that their loading and dumping areas in particular are clean. Manufacturers and distributors also monitor the tyres as part of their customer service package, to ensure their clients get the most out of their products. Site Severity Studies are carried out by technical personnel, who can then advise the client to any changes that need to be made.
It is going to take time and money, but plans are in place and progress is being made.
For more information, please contact:
Jordan San, Bridgestone, on Tel: +27 11 923 7572, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Marius Coleske, IMEX, on Tel: +27 11 805 6727 or e-mail: email@example.com
Klinge Tyre Management website: http://www.klinge.com.au
Appeared in African Connexion Magazine – Year 23, First Edition