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2020 OTR Conference: Yokohama Predicts the Future of OTR Tires

Yokohama President Jeff Barna and Vice President of OTR Sales Bruce Besancon took to the stage during the 2020 OTR Conference held near Palm Springs, California, to outline some of the changes approaching the OTR industry.

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Besancon named six areas in which the industry should be prepared to see rapid change:

  • Tire and equipment connectivity
  • Artificial intelligence
  • The Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Green philosophies, products and practices
  • Electrification and automation
  • Workforce demographics

Tire and Equipment Connectivity

Besancon said to expect tire-vehicle connectivity to continue to push its way into the industry, in the same way that some passenger vehicle tires are even able to contact the driver through their phone to tell them when there’s a problem.

“The connectivity is just going to get stronger,” Besancon said. “It’s not just going to be giving feedback to the drivers, it’s going to be giving feedback to the dispatchers – feedback to possibly even the tire manufacturer. These are things that are currently rolling right now and are moving your way.”

Artificial Intelligence

Besancon said 65% of companies say AI will lead to success in the future, and that it has currently already inundated the automotive industry.

“You probably use it everywhere. You see it in your car; if your car has any of those lane-change sensors or the smart cruise controls, automatic braking, these are minor examples of artificial intelligence already at work.”

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The Internet of Things

Besancon said the OTR industry is likely to run into the IoT when it comes to payment technology, namely Bitcoin and other blockchain technologies, which he’s seen enter the mining realm.

“You’d better have a good IT department because it’s all moving to digital and electronics. You’re going to have to face it,” Besancon said.

He also explained how the IoT is changing security concerns for businesses.

“Security used to be ‘where do I lock the tires up.’ Now security is ‘is somebody looking at my technology?’ Besancon said. “These are things that will be part of your role in moving this industry forward.”

Green Philosophies, Products and Practices

Besancon said companies and individuals around the world are moving to reduce fossil fuel consumption, which is changing the valuable ores and other materials sought after in the mining industry. He pointed to lithium and gold, specifically.

“You can’t go 10 miles from here [Palm Springs] without running into the non-fossil fuel energy. You’ve got all the windmills and solar power around here,” Besancon said.

Electrification and Automation

Besancon said autonomous vehicles are not a new concept for the OTR industry because one of the highest costs for businesses in the industry is the driver. He added that autonomous vehicles also help mitigate safety concerns, and electric vehicles are already in vogue for many fleets, especially in Europe.

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“Many times, before you can even go on site … you have to show if a certain chemical is in your possession, or that you don’t use those at all,” he said.

Workforce Demographics

Besancon explained how robots are likely going to be infiltrating the OTR workforce in the new future, giving an example about how a robot can be programmed to know the exact amount of force to use on a lugnut.

“Are we going to be employing people or are we going to be employing robots? Have you thought about a robot that goes out on a service call? We’ve talked about people who get distracted, who don’t want to go out early in the morning; send the robot,” Besancon said.

He added that within five years, 75% of the workforce will be comprised of millennials; he says this means it is millennials who will mainly be faced with adapting the OTR industry to this new technology.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Barna said that despite the upcoming technological changes facing the market, some comfort can be found in knowing that the fundamentals of the OTR industry will not change.

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Barna said Yokohama focuses its development efforts on five fundamentals: making things safer, more productive, more efficient, sustainable and profitable.

“We have to take into consideration what’s happening in real-time today. We as a manufacturer are sensitive to the fact that these things [that Bruce talked about] can be intimidating. They can be overwhelming,” Barna said. “What does it mean to you as a business owner? Ask yourself: ‘What’s in it for me?’ Do these scientific things make it easier or better or more profitable or more efficient to get your products and services to that end-user so you can grow your profit margin?”

Barna explained while Yokohama as a company is always talking about investing in and developing new technologies, the company’s core focus is “the here and now.”

“Our vision is very simple: Servicing customers through the independent dealer,” Barna said. “As we develop science … you have our commitment that this science is designed around this business model.”

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