Off-Highway Tyres
Projected jump in fresh off-take of tyre mounted mobile units by big project developers together with gradual growth in the rental sector is expected to be one of the major drivers of volume based demand for off highway tyres in the near future. P.P. Basistha takes a look.

Buoyed by the increased focus of the government towards infrastructure development, off-highway tyre manufacturers expect demand to rise. However, future demand will be characterised by requirements of valued product and services from construction equipment owners, so as to have higher equipment uptime and minimal cost of operations.

Tyre makers see increment in volumes on account of positive projected growth in infrastructure projects across construction equipment value chain, requiring deployment of tyre mounted mobile equipment in larger proportions. Volumes based demand is also expected, as OEM manufacture and position products across class and variants to fit the fast emerging heterogenous demand of the Indian construction sector, resultantly creating market share. There has been a notable development during the past few years with manufacturers widening their product portfolio in backhoe loaders, tractor trailers, wheel loaders, transit mixers and tipper trucks.

According to Mr. Farid Ahmed, Group Manager Marketing, Off-highway, Apollo Tyre, "India's CE industry is evolving with higher mechanization of applications and is moving towards more sophisticated and application specific machines. We at Apollo Tyres are ready to cater to the new requirements of the OEMs. Our focus on international markets has helped us to be ahead of the requirements in India and we already have a complete range of products for tipper trucks, multi-axle trailers, backhoe loaders, skid steer loaders, wheeled excavators, motor graders, tele-handlers etc. Our products are tested in the various international markets and provide us a strong platform to offer them off the shelf to the OEMs." He adds, "We also foresee launch of many new models and products in India triggering requirements of new sizes and specific application products."

Apollo has been supplying its off-highway tyres to BEML, JCB, Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, Caterpillar, and Leyland Deere. The company is in the process of expanding its business share in the off-highway tyre segments.

To meet the growing volumes, Apollo will be banking on its two off highway tyre manufacturing facilities at Kochi and one at Vadodara. Mr. Ahmed mentions, "We have sufficient capacity available and also have expansion plans in place to cater to future industry growth. One of our plants in Cochin is going to be completely dedicated to produce off-highway Tyres."

Based on the growing requirements of lower tyre unit replacements and commensurate higher equipment uptime, the Ahmed says, "We continuously strive towards providing application based solutions to the customers. Our R&D team and the advance research wing keep working towards new designs and compounds for specific value added propositions in the market. We have a strong capability of in-house simulations and testing for off highway products. We are closely working with the OEMs on their new projects, where the tyres are put through their in-house testing and field testing to create the right solution for the customers before introducing in the market."

Ensuring brand recall via timely delivery of its tyres at sites, he informs, "We have a strong network of 150 Apollo offices and over 2000 business partners across the country to ensure availability of our products in the markets. In addition, we also have specialized off highway distributors in each state to reach out to customer. Further, Apollo is only company in tyre industry to have OHT specialists in all major states to provide complete service solution to large fleet owners and construction companies."

Arvind Sharma
Ceat Tyres is carrying out expansion of its production facilities for off highway tyres at Nashik and Mumbai. According to Mr. Arvind Sharma, GM-Specialist Ceat Tyres, "The expansion shall augment the existing capacities in a big way to help take care of the growth as planned for near future."

CEAT Grader XL
Timely product availability and support is key for Ceat to avoid brand substitution by the customers. Mr. Sharma mentions, "Our existing set up of stock keeping locations covers the length and breadth of the country which is amply supported by our service back up as well. These points are fed by a strategically placed feeder stock keeping unit which not only carries buffer stock but also addresses the transit period. This network addresses the adherence to the delivery schedules thereby avoiding downtime. Pilots to improve upon the said system are underway at a couple of locations and are at the decisive stage. Once reviewed, the same would be implemented with the required changes. The service aspect is of paramount importance. The existing network of service personnel with an active involvement of the R&D has helped to cater to the customers' demand, much to his satisfaction. Models to further augment the same are at an advanced trial level." Ceat claims to supply its off-highway tyres to major original equipment manufacturers in India.

To address the emerging requirements of the construction equipments owners characterizing lower replacements and higher uptime, Ceat claims carrying out commensurate research and development to suit the requirements. Mr. Sharma informs, "To meet lower replacements across equipment class, we are undertaking consistent R&D by compounding new recipes specific to application.

He explains, "Backed by necessary R&D support, notably through numerous controlled and comparative tests, we are positioning our off highway tyres to diverse application, load, designs, and overall equipment build."

While there are indications of growing demand of off highway tyre units, the key challenge for tyre makers will be to introduce dynamism in their R&D for catering to various applications and sizes. This would require to be backed by timely distribution of products and support, so as to leverage the brand presence in the highly price sensitive market of off-highway construction equipment owners.

NBMCW December 2014