Responses from Bruce Besancon, Vice President, Marketing, Alliance Tire Americas
What economies are your primary international targets for new investments and continued growth?
We are growing worldwide—the Alliance Tire Group’s brands are sold in more than 100 countries. While we are very strong in Europe, Australia and Brazil, the U.S. and Canada are among our most exciting markets and show great growth. North American farmers are ready for the high-speed, over-the-road farm tires that have already been embraced by European farmers who have long had to cover a lot of miles between fields. Similarly, we’re seeing great growth in the construction, skid steer and industrial segments where our purpose-built lines of tires are helping machinery owners tackle the challenges they find at various kinds of job sites.
What government regulations, standards or bills were passed in the past year that most affected the way you do business and go to market?
Finalizing duties on Chinese-made tires has impacted a few of our Galaxy and Primex tires that are still made on contract in China, as well as Aeolus truck tires, an excellent line we market in the U.S. and Canada. However, the two state-of-the-art factories we built from the ground up in India, plus a third that will be coming on-line in the future, and our plant in Israel have absorbed the production of nearly everything we were still contracting for in China. The bottom line is that we are growing steadily, without significant interference by government policies.
Are there any presidential platforms that you are aware of with the upcoming 2016 election that you are keeping your eye closely on that could affect your business?
Infrastructure improvements—highways, bridges, locks and dams—always have a huge impact on the construction and industrial tire markets. Farm policies affect profitability and cash flow in agriculture, which push the sale of tires to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) or toward the replacement market. And environmental regulations can have significant effects on timber harvesting. But at this point, We would like to see all the candidates speak more directly to these issues..
Has your company recently diversified into any new markets with its existing product portfolio?
We have developed tires and proven some of our existing products in oil and gas exploration, as well as in liquid hauling for well management and fracking fluids. We recently launched solid tires to meet the special needs of the waste management industry and harsh-duty construction/industrial applications. We’ve engineered and manufactured new tires for cut-to-length harvesters in the forestry industry. And we are constantly introducing new innovations for greater loads and higher speeds in agriculture.
Any new products on the horizon for new markets to broaden your market reach?
The Alliance Tire Group introduces more than 200 new tires every year, helping us maintain one of the largest selections of purpose-built off-the-road tires in the world. We’ve got plenty of new tires with applications wherever machinery goes off-road (or where off-the-road machinery goes onto the highway).
What particular markets are NOT looking like opportunities anymore, and why?
We are committed to the success of our customers and the working people they supply. We want to provide tires that help keep equipment owners productive and profitable. With the diversity of our line, we can supply markets that many other companies would consider too niche, and we’re proud of that.
TECHNOLOGY OF THE FUTURE
Are you seeing a shift toward overall part reduction and system simplification? If yes, how are you participating in this movement?
Simplification is definitely a goal in the supply chain, which is a challenge for a company like ours, whose specialty is diversity and a broad line of tires purpose-built to meet specific challenges. Fortunately, many tire dealers that service specialty markets are specialized themselves, so they can focus on the kinds of tires their customers need for, say, forestry or farming. That allows them to keep their inventory to a manageable size while carrying tires that a more general location probably wouldn’t want to stock. For the balance, our network of warehouses is strategically located and stocked to back up our dealers and distributors with tires they can source quickly and easily.
What technologies on the horizon will affect your existing and future product development?
The constant push for bigger, faster, stronger machinery always drives tire technology. Growing awareness of the long-term effects of soil compaction is also a factor in designing tires with larger, more even footprints—a feat that requires a significant amount of engineering and technology.
Have you seen a shift toward smaller equipment? Is that effecting your product offerings?
Small tractors have definitely grown as a category in North America, and we are producing tires for several of the major OEMs in those segments. However, much of the more challenging technology revolves around larger machinery.
What are the key customer requests that are most driving technology and vehicle development? How?
Speed, size and load are major challenges in the tire industry. So is creating tires for heavy equipment that can operate with increasing effectiveness in rough terrain. When you think about how much load tires on the downhill side of a piece of machinery have to carry on a steep slope, you realize how rugged that tire must be.
What material advancements are influencing your product lines?
We are constantly working with new materials for the body plies and belts that improve the performance of our tires, and continually develop new rubber compounds to address the demands placed on tires by different surfaces, loads, speeds and other factors.
Where is Big Data in your company’s equation?
The capacity of many modern machines to record extensive data on productivity and engine performance could help us quantify the impact of tires on equipment performance. We’ll be working with OEMs on that in the years to come.
How important is automation to your future outlook and design considerations?
Our plants are highly automated and our engineers use cutting-edge CAD and analytical tools. However, we are also very proud of the people behind Alliance Tire Group – it takes real experts to develop, manufacture and test high-tech, high-quality, high-performance tires for the markets we serve.
What education programs do you offer or participate in to help cultivate the next generation of engineers?
We create opportunities worldwide for promising young professionals, though we don’t have a program for it, per se. We reach out to people who will grow with us, and help us grow as members of the Alliance Tire Group team.
HURDLES & CHALLENGES
What new challenges have arisen that effect the way you design or manufacture your product? How you do business? How you go to market?
Every manufacturing business faces common challenges – the price of raw materials, labor, transportation, regulations, the economy. But probably the thing that keeps me running hardest is making sure we can keep up with the demand for our tires as we grow our business in North America and worldwide. It’s the right kind of problem to have.