The Journey to Automation (J2A) Awards set out to shine a light on the great work going on around the digital transformation of tire-technology, manufacture, logistics and sustainability in the global tire industry.
And thanks to the input of the many participants, expert judges, sponsors and supporters, J2A delivered on this goal: recognising the achievements of a select group of companies showing the way ahead for the tire industry of the future.
As the Overall Winner, Continental best encapsulated the spirit of the inaugural J2A Awards with its Conti C.A.R.E. (Connected, Autonomous, Reliable, Electrification) programme.
Representing an umbrella strategy covering a range of IT/sensor and materials-based technologies, the panel regarded C.A.R.E. as offering an effective strategy in supporting the automotive industry’s transition to electric, autonomous and other new-mobility platforms.
The Hanover, Germany-based company’s project is not only focused on software-based solutions but also on physio-mechanical systems that leverage the large amount of data set to be generated by the tire in future.
It is only fair to point out that Michelin’s RFID project (see below) was a very close contender for the top award, the judges recognising the project’s likely importance at all stages of the tire life-cycle – from factory-to-freeway and beyond.
But the French group’s project titled Connecting tires to their ecosystem through RFID did come out on top in the J2A Awards category Manufacture - Tire Makers. Here, the expert panel was particularly impressed by the tire maker’s achievement in embedding the RFID tags in tires in a way the made the manufacturing process affordable.
As one lead judge commented: “This is a well-conceived effort to apply RFID, based on a global standard, to tire manufacture and then right along the entire lifecycle of a tire - something that can have much positive impact on the tire industry.”
Highly commended in this category – indeed a very close contender for the top award – was Hankook’s Virtual compound design project. This is “an exciting and potentially highly significant evolution in mixing and formulations design and compounding,” the panel stated.
Probably the most challenging category for the J2A judges was Manufacture - Equipment Suppliers. Even before the shortlisting stage, there was some highly impressive technologies to choose from – not least from tire building machinery suppliers, HF, MESNAC-MERTC and Sinoarp as well as calendering machinery specialist Rodolfo Comerio.
At the end of the day, the panel decided that the most significant advance was Cimcorp project-entry, titled Improving Data Analytics Of Dream Factory as it was the “automation route that can most significantly improve the efficiency and output of tire plants.
“Cimcorp has developed the tire production dashboard and is leveraging data from different sources to improve the complete flow of tire manufacturing: from the material handling to the finished goods. Already in use and backed internationally.”
The ‘highly commended’ certificate in this category could have gone to any of the aforementioned suppliers but the judges gave the nod to VMI’s Max PCR Tire Building Platform – again due to the strategic aspects presented.
With an approach encompassing the Industry 4.0 and digitalisation, this project-entry highlights “the ROI potential and the scope for further advances to the automated system, including the ability to manufacture an increasing range of tires.”
When it came to shortlisting and deciding the winner of the Tire Technology category, the J2A panel was able to call on some deep expertise within the panel.
Continental’s Conti C.A.R.E. project was selected as the category winner, in part because of the way it combined innovation in both advanced automation and physical/materials technology.
“Although they have only built the first “proof-of-concept” prototypes, we should recognise the potential significance of this ambitious tire-technology platform,” said one panel expert.
Conti’s project “embraces a proactive approach to meeting OEM requirements with technology-leverages that should have significant impacts on the wider automotive industry,” added another judge.
But it was not an easy decision, with Goodyear‘s highly commended Smart Tires project also in the running for top slot as being at “the forefront of development work to bring smart tire technology to the market.”
Supply Chain winner Rubberway’s entry Engaging your supply chain towards sustainability could equally have been a strong contender for the next category. However, the panel opted to recognise the logistics aspects of this large-scale project to improve the sustainability of the natural rubber supply chain.
“A lot of thought has gone into creating tools that are appropriate to the operating environment to provide both ease of use and a clear analysis,” the lead judge for this category said of Rubberway’s entry.
Highly commended Michelin’s Connecting tires to their ecosystem through RFID was praised for “using RFID throughout the tire lifecycle to deliver tangible benefit across the supply chain. The potential for improving efficiency in logistics is clearly huge.”
In the Sustainability category, winner Trelleborg Wheel System’s CTIS+ technology stood out as a “real advance in preserving the condition of the tire and adapting its performance to varied road surface and agricultural field conditions.
TRM’s highly commended Hot cure building cell caught the panel’s attention as a significant application of advanced automation technology to the retreading process, which is still the number one tire-recycling system.
The category award for Small/Medium-Sized Engineering Companies went to Black Donuts for eKanban, described by the judges as “a very ingenious system, which is already successfully employed in a tire manufacturing plant.”
Highly commended D&A’s Dynamic section entry impressed as: “A great project to put resources behind, particularly as it represents a first attempt to adapt tread behaviour from inside the tire in response to changing road conditions.”