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FLEXX Belt Maker, the groundbreaking machine that the Epe (Netherlands)-based VMI developed to launch at thevmi310 2013 in Cologne (Feb 5-7), represents an innovative design that can boost tyre industry productivity at lower costs. It represents a unique fusion of cutting and feeding technology, high speed vision systems and an extrudergear- pump technology.

The unveiling of the latest product from the world class stable is yet again a sign of VMI’s continuing commitment to come up with innovative products at are designed in line with its other highly-acclaimed technology-driven product portfolios that offer cost-effective solutions to the tyre industry.

As HJ (Harm) Voortman, VMI’s President & CEO, says his strategy is to take the company further forward as a highly innovative machine producer. It was during last year’s Tire Tech show that he introduced to the world the EXXIUM car and light-truck tyre building machine. The revolutionary operator-run machine has since become the workhorse of the global tyre industry. As an innovation leader, VMI is at the top in each market where it is active, he told Polymers & Tyre Asia.

Taking over the reins of VMI in July 2010 from the late JJ (Coos) Spanjer, Voortman has been the company to its position as the world’s most versatile machine maker to the tyre industry.

He joined the company in 2004 as Manager of the Projects Department, and after three years got promoted as President of Sales & Projects division responsible for all commercial activities within the VMI Group. Today, as the CEO of the VMI Group, he is focusing on the company’s commercial and R&D activities, while at the same time giving leadership to its global expansion.

“VMI is a highly innovative machine producer. In each market that VMI is active in, it has the ambition to have a leading position by supplying the best solutions to its customers,” he said in the interview.

Voortman reaffirmed that his company is highly service-oriented.

“ VMI is determined to deliver progress to its customers by putting extreme effort in product development and services,” he asserted.

VMI believes in intense customer relationship as a basis for long-term sustainable business, he explained while giving an overview of his business strategy.

“To achieve this VMI will continuously anticipate changing circumstances in society and in business as well as on specific needs of our customers. VMI strives to provide a progressive and healthy environment for its employees, while providing return-on- investment and a fair profit for its shareholders.”

Elaborating on VMI’s business strategy to enlarge its market share in a highly competitive global market, Voortman said that he believed that the basis for sustainable growth was twofold.

“The first pillar is that we make sure that we have excellent products which we continuously further developed to ensure to have the best fit products for the various markets. This requires an excellent, but also an efficient and effective, R&D department.

“The second pillar is the relationship with customers. “We intensify these relationships to ensure to understand the needs of the customer, but also to help us predict what the market will require in the future regarding product development.”

Since VMI’s market share in tyre building machines is already quite large, the growth of the company is built on widening its product portfolio while at the same time it is also striving to maintain its market share in tyre building in the open market. “In tyre building machinery, we still see some potential for growth, in case captive users could be convinced to switch partly or completely to VMI solutions,” he explained.

VMI’s sharp focus on R&D has enabled it to develop machinery and solutions for diversified tyre component manufacture. The focus is on increasing the quality of the product (the tyre component) to be produced in combination with high automation. Depending on the type of tyre component and on typical market circumstances, the emphasis can be either on flexibility on maximizing output.

Voor man evolves his business strategy to cope with the continuing uncertainties facing the market for natural rubber, the key input of the tyre industry. “Already for some years, VMI is working very hard to have its other businesses outside the rubber and tyre industry grows,” he pointed out.

“This to balance out the non-continuous workload and make the company less vulnerable to the ups and downs of the tyre industry. Especially in the care sector (machinery for the medical industry and for personal care), we are quite successful. This is an interesting market since it is rapidly growing and investing heavily.”

Voortman is also preparing VMI to the changes that the tyre industry could face in coming years. “If you look at the future of the pneumatically pressurised tyre, I am convinced this type of tyre will survive the coming decade. Switch to lower natural rubber content and all sorts of new compounds for sure has an impact on our equipment. But in this case, we follow the needs and requests of our customers.”

Says Voortman: “The only thing we can do is make sure we are ready for any changes in compound or component behaviour. And this we do. We monitor continuously market developments, we discuss with our customers, but perhaps more importantly, we constantly discuss new developments and trends with institutes, universities and certain component suppliers.”

Commenting on the major consumer perceptions that he sees evolving that will have a defining impact on the tyre industry, Voortman said that consumers will become more and more aware of the impact of a tyre on their mobility and costs related to it. Also the impact on the environment will become more and more an issue.

“Therefore, consumers will demand lower fuel consumption, higher mileage, lower noise levels and better performance of a tyre,” Voortman said.

“This means that for many different circumstances and customer perspectives, the tyre producer needs to have a solution that is better than that of the competition. In my opinion, this will lead to a further diversification and widening of portfolio.”

He said that tyre producers need to increase their R&D efforts in order to fulfil these demands and have more and more newly-developed tyres hit the market in ever shorter periods of time.

Referring to the importance of branding, Voortman said that in the past many end user customers of tyres didn’t care and used the tyres advised by the car dealer. And if they did care, the brand name of the tyre was more important than actual performance. In the last couple of years, a switch is seen in this ‘customer behaviour’ where the published test results of tyres steered their sales.

“In my opinion, the fact that anybody will immediately see the performance of each and every tyre they buy (labelling!) will definitely have a huge impact on tyre sales. Actual performance is more important than brand name. So this is a large opportunity for a lot of tyre producers,” said Voortman.



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