BKT further enhances its off-road-tyre street tread

Many of the thousands of visitors each day to the recent bauma 2022 exhibition in Munich, Germany, will have passed an outdoor area by the East Entrance where a large, animated crowd were taking part in BKT's (Balkrishna Industries Ltd) basketball hoop challenge. Participants attempting to score basket after basket as the clock ticked down were flanked by the Indian off-road-tyre major's giant 3.5m-high EARTHMAX SR 468 tyre for rigid dump trucks (40.00 R 57), the largest in the company's history, plus two EARTHMAX SR 46 tyres (33.00 R 51 and 27.00 R 49, respectively). The eye-catching off-road-tyre trio are all aimed at quarrying customers looking for tyres to complement their increasing demand for high-power and robust machines.
Ancillary Equipment / November 29, 2022
By Guy Woodford
Dilip Vaidya, BKT senior president & director - Technology (left), and Piero Torassa, BKT field engineering manager, at bauma 2022 Munich

BKT EARTHMAX SR 468 tyre for RDTs
BKT's EARTHMAX SR 468 off-the-road tyre for rigid dump trucks on show at bauma 2022

Meanwhile, attendees at the latest (24-30 October 2022) tri-annual showpiece event for the construction, quarrying, mining, and recycling equipment and linked technology industries entering the Messe Mϋnchen site from the West Entrance will have struggled to miss BKT's EARTHMAX SR 51 (35/65 R3-3) tyre designed for loaders and dozers employed in loading and levelling activities requiring increased cut resistance. Alongside it stood the EARTHMAX SR 315 (26.5 R 29) tyre designed for LHD loaders working in loading and transport applications at underground mining sites in highly demanding rocky environments.


The BKT attractions continued on the company's indoor stand with the bauma-launched EM 933 SUPER (290/90 – 20) tyre for excavators and specific digging and loading operations and an EARTHMAX SR 313 (15.5 R 25) All-Steel radial tyre made of a particularly cut-resistant compound for articulated dump trucks (ADTs), loaders and LHDs working in tough, rocky conditions, joined by a MAGLIFT (10.00 – 20, available on 7.00 and 8.00 rim width) solid tyre for forklift operations in industrial settings.


On BKT's bauma stand, I enjoyed a great half-hour discussion with Dilip Vaidya, the company's senior president & director of technology, and Piero Torassa, BKT Europe's field engineering manager. As well as being buoyed by BKT's huge exhibition presence, the pair were keen to highlight Oxford Economics' recently published report, The Future of Construction, and its construction machinery segment, including off-road tyres. According to the report, the construction machinery segment will likely grow in value from US$150bn in 2021 to $200bn in 2028The same publication expects the global construction market to grow by US$4.5trn in a decade from 2020 to US$15.2trn in 2030.


BKT reported double-digit (20.6% to US$287.6mn) growth in earnings and sales revenue for the fiscal year ended 31 March 2022, with management forecasting double-digit volume growth in the 2022-23 fiscal year.

BKT stand with AB ed
Piero Torassa (left) and Dilip Vaidya with Aggregates Business editor Guy Woodford at bauma 2022


"Almost half our production is for Europe," explains Torassa. "Around five years ago, we started to invest heavily in more challenging products, including some of those you can see outside [at bauma 2022], as well as tyres for machines involved in underground applications.


"For a long time, the big issue has been trying to extend the life of big off-the-road tyres by reducing their wear, which lowers their cost per hour. You must also have reliability in underground work, such as mining and tunnelling. If you have a problem, it is much harder to address. I visited an underground mine in Germany, and to reach the extraction site by car, you had to travel almost 100 kilometres."


Torassa says that mining, construction and quarrying equipment manufacturers' focus on sustainability and plant electrification is helping to shape BKT's and other major sector players' off-the-road tyre research and development (R&D). Among current industry R&D priorities are off-the-road tyres that can respond to 'communications' from intelligent and automated equipment by relaying the current stage of tread wear, and can modify their pressure depending on the terrain they are passing over, thus better reflecting the kind of operations performed by the equipment on which they are fitted. "These customers need a strong tyre to support new kinds of on-site machines. We are well prepared to react to this," he stresses. 


BKT's 25" to 57" off-road-tyre range spans many industries, including construction, quarrying, mining, industrial, earthmoving, port and agriculture. The company has an 8,400 workforce and offers a staggering 3,200 products in 160 countries across five continents. With its global headquarters in Mumbai, the company has three subsidiaries: BKT Europe in Seregno, near Milan, Italy; BKT USA in Copley, Ohio; and BKT Tires in Toronto (Canada). Then there are BKT's six production sites in India, one in Bhiwadi, Chopanki, Dombivali and Bhuj, and, since autumn 2021, two in Waluj, a large village located to the west of the city of Aurangabad in the central part of Maharashtra state.

Tyre at new BKT Waluj factory
A tyre being made at BKT's new state-of-the-art factory in Waluj, India. Pic: BKT


The new 56mn Waluj production site's annual production capacity is around 30,000 tonnes of off-the-road tyres. Medium- and small-diameter tyres are being manufactured at the plant, designed for machinery operating in the agricultural and industrial industries. At full capacity, the site will house about 500 workers. For BKT, the new facility represented a strategic choice that increased its production and made it more efficient. Spread over 22 acres, the new greenfield plant is just 5km from BKT's original Waluj production facility, which opened in 1987.


"We have many tyres and different compounds. We must match up the right tyre and compound for each type of industry customer," continues Torassa. "It is not about the cheapest option but about the most productive and reliable off-the-road tyre. We support our dealers by carrying out TKPH [tons-kilometres per hour] and vibration analysis of our tyres' performance on, for example, articulated dump trucks. It lets us better understand the kind of work the customers do and how our dealers can best help them with the right tyre choice." 


"We are working on using natural rubber as a more sustainable off-the-road tyre solution," says Vaidya. "Much of the natural rubber comes from Southeast Asia, in countries including Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia, a region conducive to growing [Hevea brasiliensis] trees. However, as demand for natural rubber is increasing, we are also considering using a shrub [TKS Dandelion – a Russian dandelion] as an alternative rubber producer. We are working with a US-based company on that. At the same time, we are doing research at our Bhuj R&D facility into potential rubber extraction from another desert-based shrub, the Guayule. 


"We are also looking to reclaim and selectively reuse rubber from scrapped tyres and are researching different oils and chemicals to see how they might contribute to our off-the-road tyre production."


Vaidya says BKT can produce up to 140,000 tonnes a year of carbon black. The material is produced by hydrocarbon fuel [gas or oil] reaction to limited combustion air at temperatures of 1320 to 1540°C. The unburned carbon is collected as an extremely fine black fluffy particle, 10 to 500 nanometres (nm) in diameter, and this 'carbon black' is used to strengthen tyre rubber compound.


"We are the only global off-the-road tyre manufacturer that can produce its carbon black. Extra heat generated in our carbon-black production is used for producing high-pressure steam for power generation and tyre vulcanisation," Vaidya explains.

BKT test track in Bhuj
BKT's off-the-road tyre test track at its Bhuj facility. Pic: BKT


He continues: "We spend 3.5% a year of company turnover on R&D. We are adding another 350 acres to our 450-acre Bhuj site. That will be a highly sustainable expansion. We recently completed our sustainability report highlighting our work in this business area." The report was presented at SIMA 2022 [The International Agricultural Machinery Show], staged 6-10 November in Paris.


Being very close to its customers is of great importance to BKT, says Vaidya: "Piero [Torassa] heads up our large European field engineering team, and we have a similarly large team in India and North America. All our people go and see customers' work sites and often make special bespoke tyres by modifying our product range to best meet their needs."


Caterpillar and Komatsu, the biggest and second-biggest off-highway machine manufacturers by sales, are among BKT's long list of off-highway OEM (original equipment manufacturer) clients. Vaidya describes how BKT partnered with Caterpillar to test some of the company's off-the-road tyres on various Cat machines at its US proving ground. "One or two drivers reported that they felt vibrations from the tyres, and within a month, we modified the mould in our workshop to resolve the issue. They were surprised to see such a quick response."

BKT Europe HQ
BKT Europe HQ in Seregno, near Milan, Italy. Pic: BKT


I ask Vaidya and Torassa how BKT has coped with the widespread supply chain challenges impacting the global off-highway equipment industry. "There has been no difference in our Indian business, but it has been our export business's big challenge over the last two years," says Vaidya, adding: "Shipping our bigger tyres in open-top containers has been difficult. Thankfully, the situation is improving."


"Most of our dealers have off-the-road tyre specialists who can advise on what is needed in our tyre warehouses globally," explains Torassa. "They have succeeded during a difficult period in maintaining our high standard of customer support."


Vaidya stresses how the training of BKT's field service engineers and dealers is very important to the company. "All of them know how best to reduce tyre wear and pass this knowledge on to our mining and other customers."


I am keen to learn more about BKT's focus on quarrying tyre provision. "We are supplying quarries worldwide with many tyres," says Vaidya. "For example, South Korea only has stone quarries, and they need high-quality tyres on their ADTs. We have been supplying customers there for a very long time. In India, we also supply tyres for many machines working in cement plants."


"A lot of European quarries like our [size] 24.00 R 35 off-the-road tyres on their rigid haulers. This size can be offered in different patterns and load capabilities," says Torassa. "But in the South of France, for example, where the quarry site roads can be very narrow, they could fit 26.5 R 25 or 29.5 R 2-5 (E3 or E4) tyres for their articulated haulers. Our 23.5 R 25 and 26.5 R 25 tyres are also popular for quarrying applications. Our story in off-the-road tyres for quarries started around ten years ago. We now have a complete range, and our quarrying business has increased as customers appreciate the range of tyre sizes we can offer."


Focusing on the growth potential in the global construction, quarrying, mining and recycling off-the-road tyre markets, Vaidya says: "There is growth for us in the US. There is a lot of construction work going on there. It is a very interesting market, and we think we can double our sales there. We also expect a big jump in our Australian mining tyre customer business and growth in our mining tyre sales in South America."













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