Changing the Tire Game - Tire Review Magazine

Changing the Tire Game

BKT’s factory in Bhuj, India, officially opened and has already begun producing ag and giant OTR tires. (BKT Photo)
BKT’s factory in Bhuj, India, officially opened and has already begun producing ag and giant OTR tires. (BKT Photo)

If the off-highway tire market were a chess game, BKT would be preparing to declare checkmate and claim its place as a global leader.

“In the game of chess, there is a unique quality that distinguishes a true champion from a mere player. It is the ability to understand that each game consists of challenges as the game proceeds. And hence, the flexibility to adapt one’s strategy till the final move,” said Arvind Poddar, BKT chairman and managing director. “Since its inception, BKT has chosen to be a main player in this game, on the global chessboard.”

During the tiremaker’s “The Game Changer” event in Mumbai from Dec. 3-6, 2015, trade media from around the globe got a firsthand look at the BKT’s game changer – its newest facility in Buhj, located in India’s state of Gujarat.

The Game Plan

The Buhj facility represents BKT’s winning chess move in the off-highway tire market.

Rajiv Poddar, BKT’s joint managing director who spearheaded the project, said the plant is part of the tiremaker’s overall strategic objective of “achieving leadership in the off-highway tire market worldwide.”

BKT’s vision to become a global leader prompted the company to make some major changes.

“In our case, it became evident that to support the new ambitious vision we had to make some radical changes in our production set up. This needed to be done swiftly in order to effectively seize new sales opportunities in global markets,” Rajiv Poddar said.

“After carefully analyzing different factors, it emerged that Aurangabad, Chopanki and Bhiwadi production plants were already working at full capacity. Taking into account all factors, clarity emerged, that we needed a new plant.”

To meet its goal, BKT outlined a strategic plan of what the new plant would need: a production capacity of 140,000 metric tons a year; around 300 acres of land to house a state-of-the-art R&D center with a modern outdoor testing track, large warehouses for tire storage, and additional facilities for housing; and a total investment of about $500 million to make all this possible.

Building in Bhuj

Before becoming the home of a state-of-the-art tire plant, the Bhuj location consisted of barren desert land where wild animals roamed free and water and electricity access did not exist.

After careful consideration, the Bhuj location was chosen for its continuous land and close proximity to the Port of Mundra, which BKT already used for exports.

The tiremaker purchased 312 acres in total, after negotiating with numerous landowners to acquire the property. To date, BKT has built on 212 acres, leaving 100 acres for further expansion. Rajiv Poddar said expansion would take place only after the facility is at full capacity.

(BKT Photo)
(BKT Photo)

To make the desolate land fit for the BKT facilities, a 5-mile pipeline for drinking water and roughly 8 miles of electric lines were laid. Paved roads were also laid and all BKT constructions were built to withstand harsh winds, earthquakes and floods that the area often encounters.

The 167-acre plant’s construction began Jan. 28, 2011, and produced its first solid tire and cured its first pneumatic tire in March 2012. By the end of March 2012, the plant was producing 100 metric tons per day.

The plant officially opened in November 2015 and manufactures off-highway tires, with special attention on agriculture and giant OTR tires, for BKT’s various markets around the world.

Currently, the plant has a production capacity of 150 metric tons per day and BKT expects to produce 325 metric tons per day by the end of 2016.

The new plant will allow BKT to develop new sizes for tires, such as the Liftmax LM 81, Portmax PM 93 and Multimax MP 540. BKT also has a non-marking compound in the works and in the OTR segment, the tiremaker has created a 51-inch giant OTR radial.

BKT has built a truly modern plant with state-of-the-art tire building machines from around the world, including automated tire building machines, some of which are a first for any BKT plant, officials said.

Testing at the BKT plant is extensive. Tire safety and reliability is tested every step of the way – from the compound to the finished product – with numerous laboratories monitoring progress, including an analytical, chemical and synthesis, compounding and sample reparation, physical, and microscopic laboratory.

BKT’s test track, located in front of the R&D center,  is the first outdoor test facility in India.
BKT’s test track, located in front of the R&D center, is the first outdoor test facility in India.

Part of BKT’s vision to position itself as a leader in the off-highway tire market not only includes a new plant, but also a power plant that produces 20 megawatts of electricity, a 25,000-square-foot research and development center set to be completed this year, a test track, two warehouses and township area that includes homes for up to 412 workers and their families and 90 homes for single workers.

The test track, located in front of the R&D center, allows BKT to test tire performance in various conditions and is the first of its kind in India. The facility features concrete and asphalt tracks that can be used for dry and wet conditions, a concrete and asphalt circular track, a dirt track, a stone track and a noise measurement path. BKT said it has already had requests from Indian companies to use the track for testing.

The plant currently has about 2,000 workers, and expects to double that number by the end of 2016, said Rajiv Poddar.

“Without ever losing sight of BKT’s fundamental values such as the care for our people, the care for the environment, and the care for our customers, Bhuj has enabled us to play a completely new game from the perspective of exponential growth and aiming at global leadership,” he adds.

Moving Forward

The Bhuj plant will produce tires for BKT’s markets all over the world.

Rajiv Poddar discuss the future of BKT.
Rajiv Poddar discuss the future of BKT.

In an interview with Tire Review, Rajiv Poddar said the U.S., Russia and India currently offer the greatest growth opportunity for BKT, adding that the U.S. has a lot of potential.

“In the U.S., we are looking at stabilizing our team and getting more and more distributors on board to help us promote our product – that is on the sales side. On the marketing side, we’ve teamed up now for over a year with Monster Jam to reach out to the end users,” Rajiv Poddar shared. “And we’re using more and more technologies such as help support and other things through our offices as a means to reach out to the end users.”

“Also in the service part we have four to five service guys for product servicing to the end user,” he adds.

BKT is also looking to expand all of their products in the U.S., especially in the agriculture and the industrial construction industry.

Currently, BKT has two offices located in the U.S.  The Akron, Ohio, office focuses on ag tires, and the location in Brentwood, Tenn., focuses on OTR tires.

“We focus on quality products,” Rajiv Poddar said. “We’ve never focused on pricing or being the cheapest because they’ll always find someone who’s cheaper than you. The way we’ve focused is how we can be better than the best. That’s the approach. By aiming for that we are at least at par with the top players.” 

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