“Sales in China are in a very bad situation,“ continued Vanko. “It is not a secret that, generally, the tire market in China is [experiencing] decreases, very deep decreases, because of [the loss of sales in] the US, and because of [declines in] Russian and European markets.”
The Chinese proportion of business has dropped significantly for all equipment suppliers, including overseas players with customers in China, he also pointed out.
In response, Mesnac is now focusing more on developing new projects in overseas countries including the US, Brazil and Mexico. Another target is Iran, now that sanctions have been lifted.
“We have customers all over the world and this number is increasing,” said Vanko. “What is different is that we have more important strategic customers, from the top 10, let’s say.
“This is not time to get bigger and bigger: it is time for providing some very precise machines and fulfiling the requirements of the top customers.”
The Mesnac boss went on to identify some helpful trends in the market, including a shift by tire makers from making their own tire-building equipment to purchasing it from outside manufacturers.
“This is a very interesting chance for machinery makers,” said Vanko. “We can provide the R&D, the production and the service. This is the way we would like to go.”
Another positive, he said, is the tire industry’s current drive to use more silica in its rubber compounds: “This new trend in the construction of the tire helps us to be more active in the mixing area. Companies are starting to invest more in the mixing area and looking at modernisation.”
Vanko went on to emphasise that the smart factory project remained Mesnac’s number 1 priority. The company, he said, is continuing to develop integrated automation technology for every stage of tire manufacture, from mixing and testing through to handling and storage.
The concept, he said, is now starting to interest ”even the most conservative customers in the tire sector, who never talked about it before”. This is, in part, because the company now has projects that show the savings that can be made in terms of people, operating costs and footprint on the factory floor.
Efficiencies include optimising processes such as pre-processing polymers and transfer to the mixer, combining polymers according to viscosity and filling the mixer automatically without an operator, the Mesnac VP said.
Another Chinese machinery maker Tianjin Saixiang Technology Co. Ltd (TST), meanwhile, pegged its 2015 annual sales at 362 million yuan (€50 million), down by 51 percent from 2014. The company saw a €13 million net loss last year compared to €7 million net profit in 2014, according to its statement in February.
The statement attributed the slide to a languid market in both China and overseas. TST’s total assets also dropped by 3 percent to €238 million.
Zhang Jiliang, vice general manager of TST said that the industry in China faced some major challenges, and that Chinese tire manufacturers must develop new strategies for the future.
This could include setting up tire plants abroad, for example, in south east Asia, suggested Zhang, citing the examples of Qingdao Sentury Tire Co Ltd and Shandong Linglong Tire Co Ltd, which have new facilities in Thailand.