Responses by Minoo Mehta, President of BKT USA, Inc. and BKT Tires, Inc.
The Internet of Things & Connectivity
How do you see the Internet of Things shaping the direction of the heavy-duty vehicle markets?
IoT is defined as linking different objects to the net. This network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate or interact, has tremendous potential in relation to construction, mining, on-highway, agriculture and military operations. Since there is a huge amount of data generation (known as Big Data since 2011), the analytics part is most challenging. Data being generated is doubling the knowledge base every 24 hours and expected to double every 12 hours. Transmitting that data through wireless media will mean to vastly speed up the transmission from current 4G LTE to 5G LTE and fiber optics and more. Actual transmission of data to the consumer can be through any connected device to the internet.
How is your company integrating IoT solutions into your workspace, or what is your perceived plan for implementation and the benefits you foresee with its implementation?
BKT has already developed SPOTech technology, whereby with our hardware and software solutions, we can save the end consumer of mines, quarries or construction sites, huge dollars adding to their bottom line. Basic principle is how to get the best out of tires, eliminate premature failures and with IoT, one can start identifying and correcting reasons that take the life out of tires. The opportunities are limitless in their applications.
How has this concept influenced how you approach technology development and new ideas?
Every tire manufacturer must integrate IT solutions in their products to survive. The tires will need to interact with and inform the user about the data it collects through contact with road surface, info to vehicle, internal and external changes happening in the tires like drop in inflation pressure, rise in temperature, loss of grip or traction etc. The future driver will be a very informed driver thereby reducing risks of any kind of accident.
The Future of Diesel
Where do you see diesel playing a role in heavy-duty applications in the long-run?
We see alternate energy as the future as use of any material that pollutes, is not going to be sustainable for our world. With rapid increase in world population, the need will proportionately increase. Diesel usage will decline sharply in the future world along with petroleum based fuels as these are pollutants that hurt the environment.
Any expectation for significant shifts in diesel engine technology or expectations in the near-term?
Electrical power is currently seen as the most viable solution. Till the conversion is 100 % to electric power, diesel engines will continue to improve in terms of their output, thereby reducing the use of diesel. Eg. vehicles are continuing their efforts to increase the miles/gallon and at the same time, decreasing the fumes (CO2) it generates.
Automation Advancements & Smart Systems
What technology is the most significant contributor to the progress of vehicle automation?
Any technology that wirelessly assists in bettering the process of Analytics, Artificial intelligence, Applications, Capabilities, Computing, Connecting, Collection of data and therefore improving the quality of lives of people, will be the most significant contributor to the progress of vehicle automation.
How does your company contribute to autonomous systems development and success?
By developing a connected tire and with technologies like Spotech that help reduce the cost of operations, thereby increasing the profits and financial health of the companies that use our tires.
Hybrids & Electrification
What technological limitations currently exist that are impeding the ability to harness the full potential of hybrid power systems?
Ease of operating the systems, reliability of reaching the destination, risks and hardship of being stranded and lack of trust from the consumer, are some of the limitations that come to mind.
Is the future fully electric, or will there always be a need for engine/hydraulic supplementary power?
Right now, it seems to be electric power as the future but there can be a time when other material like Hydrogen may become alternate fuel with bi products like water. It will all depend on engines capable of handling the application with least amount of pollutants. Complete elimination of engine/hydraulic supplementary power is still a long way off.
Managing the Data Trend
How is your company utilizing data in new and valuable ways?
A connected tire means more inputs, most cost to us. For it to be viable business, there has to be a return on investment. We will see more efforts towards connected tires in higher priced products. BKT is a manufacturer of Off the Road tires only. Hence, our efforts will continue to be in bringing technology in mining, agriculture and industrial fields.
What value is this providing to your company and customers?
If BKT helps the customer in saving money and adding to the bottom line then the customer will be willing to pay for this additional services provided. It needs to be a win-win situation for both.
Where do you see data leading the industry? What is its potential?
We expect so much data to be generated in coming years that our prime need will be to develop talents to be able to effectively convert that data into actionable suggestions that if implemented, will result in higher profits.
Several manufacturers are now investing in data analyst and programmer experts to shape the direction of their company and its use of data. What is your company’s end goal with data?
Our head office is in India where IT talents abound. We have an unlimited pool of IT specialists to choose from and we are very confident that we have the manpower to do the job.
Challenges & Opportunities
What new challenges have arisen that effect the way you design or manufacture your product? How you do business? How you go to market? How you differentiate yourself from the competition?
With SPOTech, we have already taken the first step, where we can modify the existing tire to suit the needs of the application. However, to make a connected tire, the challenge will be to build a tire with a chip that can communicate correct data. Here, we will need to partner up with IT companies who have experience in providing us this technology.
Has the rate of technological advancement had any impact on business decisions, development, or product performance and client expectations?
Yes, it has. As a manufacturer, we have become proactive rather than reactive. The end customer appreciates the lengths to which BKT goes to give after sales service and care about improving their profits. This differentiates us from other manufacturers who don’t, especially importers who just want to off load the products for money.
What is your company’s opportunity to impact the marketplace with a unique product, capability or offering?
The opportunities are plenty. BKT is known to develop a new product in less than 6 months from inception to finish. We also have our own mold plant that facilitate that. We can also apply corrections to tweak the products for optimum results. Our quality at reasonable price has been the biggest seller for us, that our customers appreciate the most. Our monster jam tires where we are exclusive supplier for MJ trucks are a unique example. If these tires perform effectively under the type of abuse that they are put through, the customer who sees this immediately connects BKT to quality, an impression that is difficult to shake.
The Global Landscape
Has the recent nationalism focus for several key countries including the U.S. altered the way you evaluate international opportunities, work with global partners, or any part of your business currently? Do you see an impact in the future?
No, it has not impacted us as a manufacturer.
However, imposing of CVD on us has been unfortunate because we strongly feel that our company has not in any way affected profitability of any local manufacturers. We hope that it will be corrected in future.
What are your regions/markets of interest for expansion or investment you are looking at for future opportunities?
Fortunately, for BKT, the demand for BKT products has always exceeded our production capacities. Every expansion that we have done has been absorbed by the worldwide markets.
Are there any new industries or applications you are exploring?
We are going to invest in a carbon black plant in very near future that will help in improving our quality further. Our own mold plant, for instance, helps us in developing tires much faster than the industry standards.
What key policies are you watching closely that could impact your business, either positively or negatively?
Our Government policies impact our off the road business directly. If our President comes through with the promised infrastructure spending, it will immediately translate into huge demand for construction and building related tires. Another factor that influencing us is the export policy for our Ag sector. Making it easier for USA to export the products will result in higher consumption of Ag and implement tires. Policies that affect Raw material Index are also closely watched by us as it directly impacts our manufacturing costs.