REASSESSING, REBUILDING AND RESTARTING
53rd AIRP General Assembly
There’s a need for a clean break with the past and to invest in new ideas. In Rome, the retreaders’ general assembly discussed about new opportunities and how to prepare for the challenges ahead
The 53rd general assembly of the Italian Tyre Retreaders Association was held in Rome between the 9th and 10th of October, a rather agitated period seeing the recent resignation of the City Mayor Marino. In the midst of the many contradictions of a city, Rome, where beauty and neglect coexist side by side, Stefano Carloni, the association’s president, took the stand and pointed to the analogies with the retreading sector “that combines the best of today’s transport culture: for example environmental awareness and convenience, with the worst”.
The current scenario certainly does not help the category: negative signals coming from the market, the competitive pressure of Chinese products, as well as the profit and loss account of haulage companies, not to mention some operators who seem to favor short-term programs neglecting the needs of the customers, with costs playing a major role. "I must say that being an entrepreneur myself, I must keep a positive outlook, otherwise it would be better for me to do something else - said Carloni. This positive outlook, however, doesn’t come from the market’s signals, all negative, but from an almost fideistic awareness that we are in the right, therefore sooner or later our reasons must prevail".
In a scenario that has seen retreads lose 9% of their market share last year alone, “two different roads are before us: continue with the same approach used so far, or make a U-turn, providing a decisive sign of this change by monitoring the market, engaging in an organized evaluation of the overall quality of the casings available on the market and clearly stating the results”.
A thorough instrumental analysis of the casings would express, in macro figures, the real propensity towards retreading through a technical and qualitative picture of the market that can serve as useful data for transport companies, with the aim of making the cargo, as well as public transport industry, more efficient.
There are very few positive signs in the market and these deserve a mention. The legislator’s attention to environmental issues will prompt manufacturers into producing tires with consistently lower rolling resistance, featuring lower profiles that wear faster in order to enhance their retreadability. “Here is where labeling can play a pivotal role – continues AIRP’s president – a necessary discriminating factor we can use to promote successful retreading operations. We must prove to be ready to offer the best possible products in terms of quality and meet the demand that this will naturally generate. Hence, production processes must be honed, keeping well in mind that our work, from registration to production and distribution, depends much on quality investments, personnel training and time, the time we spend in doing things”.
Labeling, a possible scenario
Although labeling is currently the prerogative of new tires, the legislator foresees for the future the compulsory use of labeling also for retreads. To avoid being caught unprepared, retreading specialists and companies are already working on different tables in order to present the best possible proposal in the interests of the retreading sector. Giuseppe Magistrale, Material Development manager for Marangoni’s cold retreading process (precure system), spoke at the meeting to illustrate possible future scenarios concerning labeling rules for retreaded tires developed by the ETRTO working group currently handling the issue. The first possible scenario relates to measuring the impact of both the tread and retreading process on a tire’s rolling resistance, minimizing the contribution made by the casing. In this case, precured tread rubber strips manufacturers have the responsibility of issuing the tread’s labeling certificates, while mold cure retreaders must produce their own labels after performing the necessary rolling resistance tests. One of the limitations of this proposal, though, is that the labels of both new and retreads will not display comparable values, as it would be in the second scenario, in which the producer would have to declare the labeling value under his own responsibility by performing, at his own expense, the necessary road test on both types of product. However, providing for a greater tolerance for retreaded tires compared to new products would make it possible to offset any inconsistencies relating to the casings. Finally, the last possible scenario provides for a threshold level for finished tires as well as a voluntary adhesion to the labeling policy. Small retreaders can, in this case, choose whether to join or not the labeling system, provided that the threshold limit is respected by running a few worst-case tests.
At the same time, the ReTyre project – in which AIRP has participated in collaboration with the European Retread Industry Association (BIPAVER) and co-financed by the European Union - has developed over the last 30 months a software that can generate a retread label similar to that of new tires relying on a large number of practical tests performed to evaluate the influence of casings, treads and retreading processes on the various parameters of the labeling. ReTyre has just been officially closed and a predictive alpha software has been produced and described to the association’s partners through a simulation run by Andrea Balduzzi, an advisor who participated in the project from the outset. The reliability of the software as a valid alternative to road tests - for the benefit of small and medium-sized retreaders – will have to be approved by the competent bodies. It is reasonable to believe that if the European Commission decides to approve this new testing procedure, the legislative procedures would be finalized not before 2017/18.
Small companies, great responsibility
Under the lens of the association we find yet another issue of great interest for the entire sector: the renewal of the expiring national labor contract. After the unanimous approval of the report by the treasurer and advisor Maurizio Gessati, who illustrated to the association’s members the 2015 budget as well as the preliminary budget for the coming year, AIRP’s Secretary General Renzo Servadei took the stand and reviewed the situation following trade unions proposal of a contractual platform considered to be particularly onerous. Negotiations are obviously in the early stages and directives to be announced by Confindustria are expected quite soon. However, the Secretary highlighted how the association should also be aware about the actions needed to protect member companies, made up mostly by small and medium size companies. Small companies, that’s true, but engaged in great challenges. Quoting Sir Winston Churchill, “some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it for what it really is, a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon”. This wagon, stressed Carloni, can be pulled only with energies released by ideas, an essential requirement if the sector is to look ahead with a positive outlook. We must shake off the defeatist attitude of the last years and travel down new paths, even taking a few risks if necessary, putting technology and everything related to retreading in the middle of the picture, becoming protagonists of the sector’s transformations and not spectators, making the most of a privileged observatory on the sector’s innovations, Autopromotec, which boasted, once again, a record-setting edition.
"The invitation - he concluded - is to continue promoting new ideas within the association, because good ideas are the fuel of development and progress. If we allow the market to regulate our activities, we will not find any positive and permanent solutions. Best wishes and good luck to all".