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A Tire Is Not a Tire: Measurable Goals, Customer Participation Key to Fleet Test Success

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s with a “seeing-is-believing” attitude toward tire and equipment purchasing.
Such tests also allow dealers to build stronger working relationships with key accounts by demonstrating another  way they can provide increased value and service.

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Have the End in Mind

When setting up or proposing an OTR fleet test, the first step is to clearly define your goals and objectives. It’s important that these goals be stated in very real, quantifiable measurements up front. Questions such as “What can my customers gain if they use this new tire?” should help you to establish measurable goals.
   Let’s say that you are considering a fleet test with a new L5 radial loader tire for an operation currently using L5 bias-ply tires. The account currently removes 75% of all tires mounted due to rock cut damage.
Your objective – as required by the customer, or by your own initiative ®“ is to reduce the rock cut rate to 40% by introducing a radial tire. You also may want to quantify the results by translating the rock cut reduction rate into annual cost savings, either in terms of reduced downtime or longer tire life, or both.

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Make the Customer Your Partner

To be successful, fleet tests require the dedicated attention and resources of many people. By engaging the customer in the process, you’ll get the support necessary to follow the test tires as well as direct input into the planning and evaluation of the results.
A planning meeting well before the test can facilitate such partnerships. This meeting helps all parties understand the requirements, such as manpower and equipment resources, and the results you hope to achieve.
The pre-test meeting also allows you and your customer to prepare a written list of objectives and a complete timeline for evaluation of the product. But don’t let it stop there. Conduct follow-up meetings to discuss the test progress. Remember, the key is to make the customer an integral part of the process.
Tip: Engage the resources of as many site personnel as possible at all levels – from management to the maintenance shop. The more customer participation, the more ownership they take, increasing the potential for a successful result.

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Don’t Rush the Test

Developing a reasonable timeline for honest and accurate product evaluation is critical to determining whether or not a particular tire can increase productivity. Rushing to conclusions, which happens more often than most people will admit, can lead to poor purchasing decisions – and ultimately increased tire costs.
Timelines should be determined prior to beginning the test, and they should be strictly followed. Keep in mind that the time required for testing will vary depending on the tire type and operating conditions.
For example, it may take one to two years to fully evaluate the wear life of a new haul truck radial tire running in a coal mine application. If you put that same tire in a quarry application, the evaluation period may drop to as little as three to six months. You can analyze comparative projections at interim steps during the test. However, you should evaluate the tire sample over its entire life before issuing the final results.

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Compare Apples to Apples

When conducting a fleet tire test, it’s very important to avoid incorrect comparisons.
Many times, new tires in fleet tests perform below expectations and are rejected because they are compared in an incorrect control sample.
You’ll want to consider the following items when comparing tires during a fleet test.
®′ Compare the same size tires. If you’re looking at the life of L4 vs. L5 bias loader tire, examining the wear life of a 35/65-33 L5 tire against a 29.5-25 L4 tire may not provide an honest, accurate comparison of performance.
®′ Try to compare tires mounted at the same time and under similar conditions. In certain applications, changes in operating conditions, sites, or weather conditions can affect performance. Direct comparisons can be difficult for construction contractors who frequently move equipment from one site to another. In such cases, keep good records of the operating environments and then meet with the customer to jointly compare the differences.
If it’s not possible to draw comparisons between tires mounted at approximately the same time, you should consider testing a larger sample of tires to gain a statistical average over a period of time.

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Give the Customer More

One of the advantages of conducting fleet tests is that you can usually deliver more than just the information and savings on the tires being tested. Fleet tests allow you to offer your customers many operational insights, including:
®′ Improvements in site conditions that may increase tire life on all of their equipment.
®′ Opportunities to improve overall equipment efficiency and utilization.
®′ Methods to improve their maintenance procedures.
®′ A real cost-of-operation for their entire fleet.
Keeping these tips in mind should help ensure that your next fleet test provides maximum value to you and your customers. For more information on fleet surveys, contact your tire supplier. ®′

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Barry Rexroad, manager of product quality and original equipment engineering for Bridgestone/Firestone Off Road Tire Co., is a well-respected expert in OTR tire engineering and application. He can be reached at 800-905-2367

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