Round, Black and Different
By Sharad Matade
We live in an era when the notion of progress is closely linked with technological innovation and therefore, research and product innovation have assumed central roles in the growth and sustainability of business along with marketing and sales, says Pradeep Kumar N, Head of Design & Development, Global R&D – CV, Apollo Tyres.
“Understanding the market dynamics, identifying needs of future, which are visible or latent, and developing suitable products with minimal ecological damage are sole solutions for business success,” he told Polymers & Tyre Asia in an exclusive interview. He stresses that the company that does this job better than others wins the race and this situation is no different for tyre industry.
“R&D efforts can no longer be restricted to just responding to the market needs and trends effecting incremental improvements, but instead is required to cause a far more systemic transformation in the way products are conceived, developed and marketed. Innovation and predictive capabilities hold the key for success. For tyre industry, major challenges are in raw materials, creating lighter and efficient structure, delivering greener products and performance, designing optimal product life cycle and providing for recyclability,” Pradeep Kumar said.
Apollo’s head of design also believes that tyre designing in future will see fundamental changes happening, particularly in structure amd materials used. The future tyres will of course remain round and also probably black, but changes are sure to happen, he said. “Surely there will be fundamental changes in structure and materials. They will be a lot lighter yet more efficient. They will have a major content of naturally occurring materials that can be recycled and will be manufactured in a highly automated environment.
“To aid functionally, tyres will have a lot of intelligence built into it by way of sensors, not just for measuring inflation, loads or friction but even dynamic forces to help automated steering and vehicle maneuvering. I can also see tyres getting integrated with wheel and even suspension for synergetic performance. They will employ lot of smart materials which will conserve energy and modify properties in dynamic situation for optimal grip and comfort. Essentially, environmental and energy challenges will drive many innovations in components as well as in automobile engines.”
The European labeling regulations that were introduced in late 2012 brought in a new focus on tyre performance, which has also impacted research and development processes. However, they have not been the only driver for the changes, but they definitely helped, Pradeep Kumar believes.
He said: “EU labelling legislationn, which came into effect in November,2012, was aimed to enable the customers to make an informed selection of tyres on the basis fuel efficiency, wet grip and external rolling noise. Tyre industry was aware of this upcoming requirement and was also equipped to meet them. Of course there was considerable pressure of time for designing suitable products, developing alternative materials and in manufacturing. But the technology to meet the requirement was more or less known as far as the first phase requirement was concerned. I can see more research happening to meet forth coming requirements of regulations, which impose stricter values.”
At a time when competition and customer preferences are defining the long term growth of the industry, the importance of investments in R&D has become crucial. Any kind of economic slow down must not be allowed to impact this area, Pradeep Kumar believes.
Full text in PTA December-January issue. Concluding part in next issue