Epe, Netherlands – When VMI Holland BV began in 1945 as Veluwse Machine Industries, in the same spot next to the Zuuk water mill where the headquarters for the global manufacturer of tire-making machinery sits today, the company comprised a small group of workers with noble intent.
"What started as a small group of people helping the Dutch railways get back on track after World War II has now grown into a true global company and market leader in most of its industries," said Ashok Bisoen, general manager of VMI Americas Inc. "Thanks to the drive and ambition of our people across the globe, VMI is able to offer the best solutions available."
As VMI Group celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, its purpose remains just as important but far larger in scope, with 1,600 employees worldwide and state-of-the-art manufacturing and service facilities in the Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, Poland and China; and service facilities in the US, Malaysia, Thailand and Russia.
VMI supplies its tire- and rubber-making equipment, and can washing and coating systems to more than 1,500 companies worldwide, Bisoen said.
"Our mission is 'Making our customers more successful through innovative technology,' " said Mike Norman, chief commercial officer for VMI Group.
That mantra, where "technology meets success," has not changed, as the company continues to produce game-changing machinery for its three divisions: VMI Tire, VMI Rubber and VMI Can.
In 1975, VMI introduced the first semi-automatic, single stage VRP 148 tire building machine for radial passenger tires, which "revolutionised the tire-building industry," Bisoen said.
And in 2009, VMI improved upon that technology with its award-winning Maxx tire building machine, also "a revolution in tire building," according to VMI.
"The Maxx not only changed the concept of tire building with its hands-off, eyes-off principle, it also introduced the platform approach. With this platform approach, VMI introduced a manufacturing system which can be continuously improved and updated, so that it remains at best practice level throughout its lifespan," Bisoen said.
Taking it to the Maxx
The Maxx tire building machine was so well received by the industry that VMI Group won the 2020 Tire Manufacturing Innovation of the Year Award at the Tire Technology Expo in late February. The award was received by Harm Voortman, president and CEO of VMI Group.
"We are honoured to receive this important award," Voortman said. "The Maxx not only changed the concept of tire building, with its hands-off, eyes-off principle, it also introduced the platform approach."
With this platform approach, VMI introduced a manufacturing system which can be updated by means of upgrades, extensions or retrofits. Now, with the addition of the "Synchro Crown Drum" that enables production of light truck tires, customers can build all types of tires on one platform that "deliver a high return at a high profit," Voortman said.
While the Maxx has been used with radial passenger, all steel radial truck and bus tires since it came on the market 11 years ago, the platform only recently added this capability with light truck tires — an addition noticed by the judges of the Tire Manufacturing Innovation of the Year Award.
"VMI revolutionised the tire building industry with the introduction of the first single-stage tire building machine, bringing unprecedented levels of quality in the early 1970s," said Gert Heinrich, senior professor at the Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research in Dresden, Germany.
"VMI has been at the forefront of the developments in the industry ever since. The VMI Maxx radial passenger tire building machine maximises output, quality, ergonomics and flexibility. I honour the latest addition to the VMI Maxx platform, which enables light truck tire production on the platform for the first time."
As it is designed to do, the Maxx platform has increased in scope, capabilities and levels of automation throughout the years. In 2011, the Advanced Splice Engine was introduced, which automatically identifies body-ply splices, reducing scrap by up to 40% and improving consistency, Norman said.
In 2012, the Maxx received some remote assistance with the introduction of the Cortexx, making machine management simpler and more intuitive. The tire-making platform received upgrades again in 2014, 2015 and 2016, with updated safety standards that give operators the ability to assess problems without shutting down the entire machine; automated application of run-flat insert strips; and an imaging system that reduces the number of human touch points.
The Synchro Crown Drum was added in 2019.
"VMI keeps bringing innovation to their tire building machines, offering more flexibility to their customers," said Patrick De Keyzer, managing partner at Belgium-based DeKep, who also served as a panel judge for the industry award.
The remainder of VMI Tire is rounded out with machines for rubber mill rooms, component production such as cutters and splicers (for the production of bead apexes) and machines that can test tire compounds.
VMI's mill room machinery offers automatic sample taking and stacked slab logistics.
"We design a batch-off line solution to suit your specific needs, as no process is the same," VMI said.
The company's mill room systems also include cutter-feeders for dosing and feeding master batches to the mixer and for mill feeding.
VMI's tire compound testing equipment uses an indoor process, which the company said allows for greater optimisation of a compound at a lower cost.
"By accurately simulating road conditions you can save time and money by evaluating tire properties before production starts," VMI said.
VMI Rubber develops and produces mill room, extrusion and retreading equipment, according to VMI, as well as cooling, stacking, cutting and feeding equipment.
Extruder gear pump systems, which are used in applications where precision is a major requirement, also are offered. VMI offers various applications such as wire coating, silicone tubing and profile extrusion, including vacuum, within this division.
"In the years to come, we will continue to bring our industries to the next level by providing state-of-the-art innovative technology to make (customers) more successful," Bisoen said.
VMI Can produces can washers, washer-ovens, wash coaters and hot water boilers for the two-piece beer, beverage and food can industry. Throughout the years, VMI Can has introduced new economic and energy efficient washing and drying technologies, the company said.
"We have a rich heritage in the global can making industry, with the first washers and ovens being installed in Europe in the early '70s," VMI said.
Since 1985, VMI has been a subsidiary of TKH Group N.V., the parent company of an international group of companies specialising in telecom, building and industrial solutions.
As the company looks to the next 75 years, its leadership understands the company must face adjustment now due to the pandemic. But VMI and its employees have no reason to believe that the company won't continue to innovate and overcome.
"Just like many other companies, VMI had to adjust the operations to provide all our employees a safe work environment," Norman said. "We are following the local guidelines at all our facilities. Thanks to the flexibility of our employees, we were able to continue our operations without any major issues."