"DISPOSABLE TIRES"? NOT FOR MICHELIN
Traditionally considered one of the market’s premium manufacturers, the Michelin Group offers to all end users products and digital services aimed at optimizing tire management costs and making full use of its tires. Pneurama recently spoke with André Billet, commercial director of Michelin truck Italy
Part of the Michelin family for 14 years, French born André Billet, moved to Italy in November 2013 following his appointment as commercial director of Michelin Truck Italy. As Head of Market Intelligence Europe, he spent three years in Russia presiding over the Marketing and Development of the Tyre Plus Franchising network, before being appointed as Euromaster Director of Marketing and Purchasing in Europe, a position held for 4 years.
Besides a CV that commands respect, a few biographical notes would be enough to describe André’s managerial qualities: in fact, along with his wife, he “manages” a family with 5 children. "Three, though, are adult and only the last two daughters live with us in Milan - said Billet – and we currently live in four cities in three different countries: all we can say is that we know quite well how new technologies can prove rather useful in keeping the family connected!".
We spoke with Billet about Michelin’s new technologies in the truck segment, as well as highlighting the importance of extending the life span of tires against the growing trend of getting rid of them soon after their use.
Michelin has recently introduced MICHELIN TIRE CARE, a digital service aimed at supporting transport companies in operations such as tire maintenance. Can you describe the main features of this service and how it will affect fleet management?
MICHELIN TIRE CARE includes three solutions destined to help users get the best possible performance out of their tires, which are often used well below their potential. Just one example: on average, in Europe truck tires are finally removed when 4.8 mm of tread is left, although, depending on the laws in force in each European country, these can be used up to a minimum depth of 1 to 2 mm. If we calculate that with 1 mm of tread a vehicle can travel 15,000 to 20,000 km, it is easy to see how many kilometers are lost and how this will affect a company’s purchases budget.
This does not mean that European hauliers are "careless" managers; it is rather the consequence of the fact that currently tire-monitoring operations are performed manually, which limits their frequency. In addition, data collection is not automatic, nor reliable or quick. Looking at these and other aspects, the three digital solutions that currently make up our MICHELIN TIRE CARE program have been designed and launched in October 2015 in Europe with the aim of offering a correct tire costs monitoring process, which through our digital services is able to reduce tire inspection time by as much as a third. Furthermore, traceability plays an important part , as each transporter, knowing with precision the state of the tires on each vehicle of the fleet, will be able to schedule any necessary maintenance operation well ahead of time thereby reducing a vehicle’s downtime.
Good data management through our digital services will also help to develop the proper attitude towards preventive tire maintenance. Besides the purchasing cost of a tire, managing a problem when the vehicle is traveling can prove both difficult and expensive. Tests, performed at European level on a number of fleets, and data from Michelin Solutions, which has been using these preventive maintenance policy for years, clearly show that our digital services can reduce these risks drastically.
You mentioned three solutions, could you highlight their characteristics and who are they destined for?
Michelin TireLog is an exclusive service for small fleets aimed at simplifying tire management procedures.
Companies with fewer than 20 vehicles make up 95% of all the transport companies in Europe and 98% in Italy. In a context where tire monitoring is mostly done manually, MICHELIN TireLog offers transport companies regular and quick data access. It is a free, user-friendly application for smart-phones that replaces paper providing three main benefits: time saving, better maintenance planning and decision support with the opportunity of comparing the performance of different brands of tires. Everyone can download this app, and since its launch, Italy is the third country in the world for number of downloads ... so much for those who say that Italy will never be a true digital country!
On the other hand, for those fleets made up of over 200 vehicles, which usually manage their tire maintenance operations internally, Michelin offers two services.
MICHELIN TIRECARE iCheck, which uses Bluetooth technology, is a predictive tire diagnosis system, which through collection of tread depth and pressure data, monitors the general condition of the tires throughout the fleet, reducing monitoring time by a third. The collected data is processed and inserted in tailor-made reports that reflect the needs of the fleet manager, allowing him to effectively plan and direct all workshop operations. Therefore, downtime is greatly reduced, re-grooving is done at the right moment and every millimeter of tread is actually used. This reduces operating costs per kilometer and, it goes without saying, improves profitability. This offer will be available in Italy at the end of 2016.
MICHELIN TIRE CARE iManage provides, thanks to an RFID chip (Radio-FrequencyIDentification), the full traceability of a tire throughout its entire life span. iManage collects and gathers all data reliably, automatically and easily, from the stock until the end of its useful life, thanks to the traceability of all maintenance operations.
Users receive data about pressure, level of tread wear, general conditions of the tire as well as its availability in stock: all important elements when workshops have to plan ahead operations such as maintenance, retreading and tire rotations.
This offer will be available in Italy from the second quarter of 2016 and is destined, at the moment, for passenger transport companies only.
Finally, I would like to add, with pride, that Italy has actively collaborated with the group’s European team in developing the MICHELIN TIRECARE iManage system, by supplying its knowledge and expertise in partnership with ACTV Venice, which runs the public transport in one of the world’s most unique cities.
Talking about correct fleet management, what role can retreads play?
Tire retreading offers three advantages for the user without compromising safety.
A retreaded tire is about 40% to 50% cheaper than an equivalent new tire. And if the retreading process is applied to good quality casings by an expert, this will double the lifespan of tires at the lowest cost. In Italy the retreading industry is run by professional entrepreneurs, driven by a passion for their work that allows them to cope with the current difficulties of the market with tenacity, determined not to "throw in the towel", something all too common in other industrial sectors.
Retreads have proved useful in a number of different settings, such as building sites or public transport, provided that the conditions of the casings are acceptable.
Not to mention the environmental impact. 100 retreads can save 5 tons of raw materials and prevent 6 tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. Moreover, this practice helps in reducing the number of ELTs to be discarded according to European regulations. Not to mention that, upon purchasing a new tire, a contribution towards the correct handling of ELTs must be paid, something that does not apply to retreaded tires. A further economic benefit for the user.
In addition, a sturdy casing is the best guarantee for safety, especially on Italian roads, where conditions are among the most difficult in Europe: winding roads, heavy loads and high temperatures. At European level, Italy’s "road hazard" is comparable only to that of Turkey or Russia which I know rather well... That is why it’s important to know how a casing is made, for example, how many belt plies are used.
In Italy, the Michelin Group has two retreaded products on offer.
Michelin REMIX, a hot-cure process used on Michelin casings, with the same compounds and tread design of new Michelin tires, and performed directly by Michelin in its factories. RECAMIC, on the other hand, is a cold-cure process using a pre-vulcanized Michelin tread, which is performed by a Retread Partner of the Michelin Group. The RECAMIC process is complementary to the REMIX system and can be performed on all casings. The key elements for both offers are the care and expertise of the operators behind each Michelin retread on the market.
Many transport operators are attracted by the “disposable tire” policy. What are the consequences of that choice in managing a fleet?
This is not part of Michelin’s DNA. All new Michelin truck tires are designed to be re-grooved and retreaded offering our customers the opportunity to optimize their tire management costs.
In June of 2014, we issued a "white paper" dedicated to re-grooving and retreading to provide customers and dealers the necessary knowledge to correctly manage the many potential lives of a tire. Using a "True or False" format, we intend to highlight the practical advantages of Michelin’s "Multi Life" truck tire management system, as well as removing all those preconceived ideas that prompt fleet managers to turn to the kind of products you mentioned, explaining that it is possible to drive in total safety even with re-grooved or retreaded tires, provided that these have been designed from the outset to be suitable for these operations, which must be performed by specialized personnel.
Proper re-grooving performed by a specialist following the manufacturer's standards and specs may allow the user to travel up to 25% more kilometers in safety, a 10% increase in cross-grip and traction, due to the sharp edges and a 6 to 8 mm tread depth. Re-grooving can save up to 2 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers and re-grooving 4 tires, stretching their lifespan, means saving 70 kg of raw material, enough to manufacture a brand new tire.
Are there any new Michelin products, for the truck segment, in the pipeline?
During 2016 our Michelin X Line Energy triple A will be available as OE. Thanks to its technical innovations, the front, drive and trailer axle Michelin X Line Energy obtained a triple “A” rating for rolling resistance.
Michelin’s tires with an A rating according to the European labeling system are: Michelin X Line Energy F 385/55R22.5 on the steering axle and Michelin X Line Energy D2 315/70 R 22.5 on the drive axle; both available from 2017.
The Michelin X Line Energy T 385/55R22.5 is already available in the market and has an “A” rating for rolling resistance. At the moment, Michelin is the only manufacturer able to supply “A” rated tires along the whole length of the truck, including the trailer, and is already available as OE on the new Mercedes-Benz Actros built for long distance transport. Soon to be adopted as OE by other manufacturers as well.
Furthermore, during the year, we will launch, both on the OE and replacement markets, the Michelin X Works range designed for construction sites and we will further expand the Michelin X Line Energy range to cater for the same sizes of the 60 series in size 445/45 R 19.5 for towed vehicles.
New products have also been unveiled by the rest of the Michelin Group with brands such as Taurus, Riken and Kormoran, while REMIX and RECAMIC, as we have already seen, have done the same for retreads.