In this Q&A, Lorenzo Alleva, head of digital garage R&D at Bridgestone EMEA, who will be speaking at the Future Tire Conference, comments on new technologies within the tire industry:
ERJ: Please identify one significant development in the tire industry in the last 2-3 years, and explain its importance.
LA: For the automotive industry, the fundamental need is for people to live their lives in a mobile way, getting from A to B when they need. Mega trends such as sustainability, population growth and urbanisation are forcing the tyre industry to change and fast to make sure drivers can get where they want when they need to.
These mega trends are creating obstacles for the everyday driver (and passenger) - this is where CASE comes in with vehicles becoming more and more connected, autonomous, shared and electric. Whilst we’re already seeing some of this in action, we’re not talking about all of these coming into play immediately, it will be a gradual evolution.
While the car and the tyre industries have largely remained the same for the past 100 years, with the speed of evolution today, they could look very different to the one we’ve come to know.
ERJ: What do you see as main obstacles to the development of the tire manufacturing industry in the coming years?
LA: Our industry is facing many challenges, driven by the mega trends I mentioned above, but with challenges also come opportunities. Our ambitious focus on moving with the evolving world enables us to support not only our customers but our people, the communities we’re part of, and the planet we must help protect.
We pride ourselves on being active members in the fight to protect our environment. We work in harmony with nature to reduce CO2 emissions and will always value the natural resources we use, to ensure there is still a world here for future generations. That’ why we recently announced our new sustainable procurement policy which presents both minimum requirements suppliers must meet to do business with Bridgestone, as well as preferred practices that are intended to enhance the company’s various supply chains.
To help people keep going no matter what, continuous improvement is needed, whether that be through the development of RFT (run-flat technology) or light-weighting for electric vehicles to save on battery life. We need to listen to the changes and respond quick enough – this is the biggest challenge and one that customers expect us to deliver on.
However, no one business can drive change in a vacuum, we need collaboration to truly make a difference. This is the biggest obstacle we face, without collaboration we will simply not keep up with the pace of change needed. This is something we pride ourselves on – we’re working together with our partners to share knowledge and expertise to deliver the best solutions for drivers, environment and as well as the future of the industry.
ERJ: Which technologies will play the biggest role in shaping the ‘tire factory of the future’, and why?
LA: Automation is becoming more integrated into factories due to the increased productivity and efficacy it offers. This means that not only the factory of the future will look different, but so will the workforce of the future as roles change and evolve to meet the technological needs. It’s an exciting opportunity as we look to upskill for industry 4.0, but you have to have the right people and the right skills to do those things. At Bridgestone, we’re problem solvers so we’re constantly providing the latest training and making sure our employees have the most current knowledge – and that’s across the entire business, not just manufacturing.
We’ve recently invested €9.5 million in our Tatabanya plant in Hungry. This investment also includes a new training centre to ensure we are always moving forward. Overall – automation will help us keep our customers going, no matter what.
ERJ: What major changes do you expect to see in tire manufacture and supply over the next few years?
LA: The world is becoming more connected and this includes tyres. The introduction of connected tyres will lead to more data than ever before, analysis of this ever-expanding base of data means a better understanding of drivers’ behaviour and how it can, and will, shape the tyre of the future.
The tyre is no longer just a peripheral on the vehicle. It is shaping the way drivers behave and the way manufacturers innovate. The industry is moving to a new model, one where we not only sell products but services too.
Our Toolbox is a perfect example, it allows fleet managers to monitor the health of tyres in a way that they simply couldn’t before manually. This application of technology is enabling us to provide effective solutions for real problems that customers are facing and this is only set to keep growing.
ERJ: Any other points?
LA: Although we’re talking about tyres, we’re more than a tyre manufacturer. We’re at the heart of the automotive industry developments. Whatever happens with the evolution of cars, tyres will always have a part to play.
We’re continuing to push forward and challenge the boundaries of the industry. We’re no longer only looking at the future of the car but, more fundamentally, we’re collaborating with our partners to shape the future of mobility. We’re privileged to have great relationships with leading OEMs, as well as universities and other pioneering stakeholder. This collaborative working ethos means the future is certainly exciting.