ERJ interviews Enzo Sorrentino of Rockwell Automation about current trends in the global tire manufacturing industry. The global strategic account manager will present a paper on connected services and analytic solutions for data-driven tires at the Future Tire Conference 2018, taking place 30-31 May, during the new Tire Cologne international trade fair in Cologne, Germany. Click here for more information about the conference.
ERJ Please identify one significant development in the tire industry in the last 2-3 years, and explain its importance
ES: I would say that the way tire manufactures have become more open to the innovations coming from the market (and their OEMs) was maybe one of the most significant developments. As result of this, we could take material-handling and mixing performance improvement: both aspects influence how production is organised and flexible. Having a well performing green-tire handling system will ensure the right flow between tire-building area and vulcanisation, avoiding stacks and loss of production. On the other hand, the tire manufacturer might be able to ensure the same flexibility when it goes to rubber mixing. Quick recipe-changes based on tire performance requirements and new compounds with a continuous production cycle became necessary.
ERJ: What do you see as main obstacles to the development of the tire manufacturing industry in the coming years?
ES: The digital transformation is more and more showing that all tire producers and, as consequence their machine and technology suppliers, have to face the risks and obstacles coming from the obsolescence of their production assets (brownfields most affected). The need to maintain and improve production targets, moving in the same time forward with the digital transformation, will put the ecosystem under a strong pressure. To accomplish all the targets, it will be fundamental to go for a “scalable approach” including a people educational phase.
ERJ: Which technologies will play the biggest role in shaping the ‘tire factory of the future’, and why?
A) I believe that all technologies related to network access, maintenance and safety have a key role in factories of the future. Because of the deep digitalisation, the enhancement of the machines (in any sense from Information transfer capabilities to self-learning processes and predictive maintenance) and the higher level of control of the manufacturing intelligence, manufacturers need to build a modern, secure and reliable information infrastructure to connect assets with people and information flow, improving operational performance in the same moment. This is fundamental because the tire industry is looking for productivity and enhancement of quality and customer experience. All the information generated in the tire factory of the future might be used to take better and quicker decisions to minimise scrap, downtime and to improve efficiency.
I would also mention full traceability and tag RFID. All tire manufacturers are investing in these aspects due to the strong market requirement.
ERJ: Looking into the crystal ball, what major changes do you expect to see in tire manufacture and supply over the next few years?
ES: Higher flexibility, in terms of quality, supply chain and access to the market (i.e. tire leasing). I’m also sure that we will see an increased connection between the tire ecosystem participants. None of them have the magic answer alone. I expect tire manufacturers to rely more and more on their suppliers as well as the suppliers to become also a consultant, which is obviously a challenge because it requires a change of mentality.
ERJ: Any other points?
ES: Many of the topics I mentioned (material handling, performing mixing processes, asset optimisation…) are also linked to a willingness to reduce production costs. in this direction, additional key focus points are energy-management and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO). In some cases, energy impacts even more than 30% of the overall production cost. Old assets, storerooms, repairs are today allocating and immobilising billions of dollars. The technology vendors and the OEMs are called to give answers on these topics, supporting manufacturers with long-term asset management programmes.
Future Tire Conference 2018, taking place 30-31 May, during the new Tire Cologne international trade fair in Cologne, Germany will focus on the impact of digitalisation on all aspects of tire design, manufacture and supply. Click here for more information about the conference.