Tyres & Wheels Fea­ture: High Tyre Act

Deals on Wheels - - Contents -

The dig­i­tal col­lec­tion of tyre data can lead to sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in prevent­ing tyre-re­lated break­downs, but how can this be im­ple­mented to suit Aus­tralian con­di­tions? Two of the na­tion’s largest tyre sup­pli­ers dis­cuss how they are adapt­ing Euro­pean tech­nol­ogy. Ricky French writes

The next few years are set to be a time of great up­heaval in the way trans­port op­er­a­tors in­te­grate tyre man­age­ment into the run­ning costs of their equip­ment, thanks to in­no­va­tions in data gather­ing as well as phys­i­cal tyre tech­nol­ogy.

You could say that tyres are at once the most sim­ple and most tech­ni­cal piece of any ve­hi­cle whose task is it to roll across the ground.

There are el­e­ments of tyres that you might con­sider we got right the first time and will never im­prove on, such as their need to be round. Or so it ap­pears.

But any tyre sit­ting on the ground with the weight of a truck push­ing down on it is not round, and it’s from this start­ing point where all the prob­lems and in­no­va­tions arise.

Any­one who has ever tried push­ing a car with the flat tyre can at­test to the ef­fort it takes to over­come rolling re­sis­tance, or hys­tere­sis to use the tech­ni­cal term. And when you think about it, all tyres are flat to some de­gree, even if they’ve just been pumped up to their rec­om­mended PSI.

Tyre man­u­fac­tur­ers are con­tin­u­ally seek­ing to re­duce hys­tere­sis and to­day’s tyres are the best and most fuel ef­fi­cient we’ve ever seen. But the phys­i­cal man­u­fac­ture of tyres is only one el­e­ment. Data col­lec­tion of tyre con­di­tion and per­for­mance is now be­ing har­vested with such ac­cu­racy that fleet man­agers can now see tan­gi­ble sav­ings com­ing from their choice of tyres.

To bet­ter un­der­stand where Aus­tralia is at with tyre tech­nol­ogy for truck­ing fleets Deal­sOn

Wheels spoke to two of the coun­try’s ma­jor tyre sup­pli­ers: Bridge­stone and Goodyear Dun­lop.

UN­DER­STAND­ING LO­CAL CON­DI­TIONS

While it’s tempt­ing to look across to Euro­pean in­no­va­tions and ask: “Why can’t we do that here?”, the fact re­mains that the Aus­tralian mar­ket is a very dif­fer­ent beast.

Dig­i­tal mon­i­tor­ing plat­forms for tyres are be­ing launched at a steady rate in Europe. Con­ti­nen­tal has re­cently an­nounced its Con­tiCon­nect prod­uct, which dig­i­tally mon­i­tors tyre tem­per­a­ture and pres­sure and sends au­to­matic up­dates via a web por­tal to a driver app. It will be avail­able from 2019.

But the chal­lenge in bring­ing sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy to the Aus­tralian mar­ket lies in the vast dis­tances our trucks travel, of­ten through re­mote ar­eas with no in­ter­net ser­vice, and the types of trucks we use (think of the chal­lenge in con­nect­ing a dig­i­tal tyre mon­i­tor­ing set-up to a road train cross­ing the Nullar­bor and mak­ing it af­ford­able for the av­er­age fleet).

GOODYEAR DUN­LOP TYRES

Goodyear Dun­lop Tyres gen­eral man­ager of com­mer­cial PBU, Pe­ter Stacker, says the in­tro­duc­tion of any new tyre tech­nol­ogy de­pends on find­ing a busi­ness model that works.

“Telem­at­ics providers know about the tech­nol­ogy and how to pick up tyre data, but at the mo­ment the value of that tech­nol­ogy is too ex­pen­sive to war­rant im­ple­ment­ing it,” Stacker notes.

In Europe, Goodyear has launched Goodyear Proac­tive So­lu­tions, a sub­scrip­tion-based ser­vice that aims to pre­dict tyre prob­lems be­fore they oc­cur through pre­dic­tive an­a­lyt­ics tech­nol­ogy. In Europe it’s claimed to re­duce tyre-re­lated break­downs by 75 per cent.

Aus­tralia is set to see part of that sys­tem in­tro­duced in the form of drive-over reader tech­nol­ogy. It’s called a static so­lu­tion, mean­ing there’s noth­ing at­tached to the tyre or the truck. A truck re­turn­ing to base sim­ply drives over the reader, which records tyre pres­sure, foot­print and tread depth of the tyres and trans­mits the in­for­ma­tion di­rect to the ser­vice provider or fleet man­ager. Stacker says it’s a way of mon­i­tor­ing tyre con­di­tion in a tar­geted way, with­out need­ing telem­at­ics.

“Telem­at­ics has been driven around the dy­nam­ics of the en­gine and in­ter­ac­tion with the driver. Tyres have been harder to patch into those sys­tems. The great thing with these drive-over read­ers is they cap­ture tyre data and di­rect ser­vice on a needs ba­sis, rather than have some­one walk around the yard check­ing tyres and iden­ti­fy­ing is­sues,” he says.

The drive-over read­ers are be­ing tested cur­rently in pilot lo­ca­tions across Aus­tralia. “New tech­nol­ogy takes a lot of de­vel­op­ment and proof of con­cept,” says Stacker. “But we’re look­ing for­ward to launch­ing this to the mar­ket.”

Tyre sen­sors, which strap on to the wheel and com­mu­ni­cate like a telem­at­ics so­lu­tion, are also be­ing tri­alled. “A re­ceiver box on each piece of equip­ment com­mu­ni­cates via the cloud to our col­lec­tion cen­tre in Europe,” says Stacker. “That cen­tre mon­i­tors the tyre pres­sures and the tem­per­a­ture of the wheel in real time and can pro­vide alerts within one minute show­ing any in­di­ca­tion of de­fla­tion. It’s very im­por­tant for safety, and the driver will get a quick alert. It’s also a GPS mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem so it en­ables op­er­a­tors to track their equip­ment.”

What’s clear to Stacker is that the fu­ture lies in how we har­ness data col­lec­tion from tyres.

“At some point in the fu­ture there will be in-tyre tech­nol­ogy that col­lects more than just pres­sure and heat, but di­rectly col­lects tread depth and other el­e­ments, tyre dy­nam­ics as it in­ter­acts with the road.”

It might sound ob­ses­sive, or gim­micky, but the ra­tio­nale is strong when you con­sider the im­pact tyre per­for­mance has on fuel ef­fi­ciency of trucks.

“A lot of fleet man­agers are ex­tremely tuned in to the im­pacts tyres have on their costs. But some are too fo­cussed on the tyre costs rather than the value driven through the per­for­mance of the tyres,” Stacker says.

“The al­go­rithms in our cloud-based sys­tems can pre­dict a tyre fail­ure within a kilo­me­tre of it hap­pen­ing. You can pre­vent prob­lems and make your tyre ser­vice main­te­nance tar­geted, rather than gen­er­al­ist.”

But it’s not been easy to mea­sure ex­actly the dif­fer­ence one tyre makes over an­other, con­sid­er­ing all the other vari­ables at play, in­clud­ing driver be­hav­iour, ter­rain, road sur­faces and en­gine per­for­mance.

It’s one rea­son Goodyear has re­cently com­pleted a con­trolled test in Aus­tralia, us­ing tyre sen­sors com­bined with telem­at­ics.

“Our test showed that once you erad­i­cate the vari­ables there is a fuel ef­fi­ciency ben­e­fit to our Fuel­max tyres of around two per cent,” he says.

Stacker says get­ting to that level of un­der­stand­ing is not easy, but im­proved

tech­nol­ogy will make es­tab­lish­ing the ben­e­fits of one tyre over an­other eas­ier.

“Cost of own­er­ship is one thing, but to a ma­jor fleet op­er­a­tor the value propo­si­tion is higher – can I get ser­vice when I need it, do I need an ac­count man­ager, do I have con­sis­tent in­voic­ing across the coun­try. Proac­tive so­lu­tions is help­ing us de­liver all that for our cus­tomers,” he says.

BRIDGE­STONE

“Ev­ery­one wants as much in­for­ma­tion as they can get,” says Jon Tam­blyn, Bridge­stone Aus­tralia and New Zealand’s group tech­ni­cian field ser­vices and com­mer­cial sales de­vel­op­ment man­ager.

In Aus­tralia, Bridge­stone is fo­cus­ing on im­prov­ing the way op­er­a­tors col­lect and use that in­for­ma­tion.

Tam­blyn says it’s about get­ting the ba­sics right, hav­ing sys­tems in place that al­low op­er­a­tors to make sense of the bar­rage of in­for­ma­tion they will one day be get­ting from tyre sen­sors and in­te­grated telem­at­ics, rather than hu­man in­spec­tion.

That’s the think­ing be­hind the in­tro­duc­tion of B Mo­bile, a mo­bile tablet de­vice that col­lects all the data from a fleet’s tyres, cre­ates job cards and gen­er­ates in­voices.

“When a tech­ni­cian ser­vices a truck’s tyres they doc­u­ment it on the tablet, which makes sure all the data are col­lected, so you don’t miss any­thing,” Tam­blyn says.

“Peo­ple who ser­vice trucks are usu­ally skilled tech­ni­cians, they’re not spe­cial­ists in in­for­ma­tion col­lec­tion and stor­age.

“You can have all the in­for­ma­tion in the world but you can’t do any­thing with it if you can’t con­sol­i­date it into one sys­tem.”

B Mo­bile will hold a record of all the trucks in a fleet, and is de­signed to help op­er­a­tors pick up on prob­lems that would oth­er­wise go un­de­tected.

“It’s the truck that leaves in the mid­dle of the night, that no one sees. The truck that does the un­usual job,” Tam­blyn says.

“Those are the trucks that dig­i­tal sys­tems like B Mo­bile will pick up and flag.”

Bridge­stone’s fo­cus on ef­fi­cient data col­lec­tion doesn’t mean it is ig­nor­ing au­to­mated, sen­sor tech­nol­ogy. It’s re­cently patented and is tri­alling a sen­sor and Tam­blyn says he sees the in­ter­net of things (IoT) “re­ally be­ing the fu­ture in our in­dus­try”.

“But with­out a plat­form to utilise the in­for­ma­tion you’re col­lect­ing tech­nol­ogy like tyre sen­sors will just be ex­pen­sive gim­micks.

“We won’t be bring­ing gim­micks to the mar­ket. We’ll bring prod­ucts that add real value to peo­ple at a price point that’s af­ford­able,” he says.

It goes with­out say­ing that the phys­i­cal con­struc­tion of a tyre is where the fuel sav­ings are made. Not all tyres are equal, even if the ma­te­ri­als used are sim­i­lar.

Tam­blyn says Bridge­stone’s Ecopia tyres for the Aus­tralian mar­ket are the most ad­vanced yet, and are a much dif­fer­ent tyre to those used in Europe.

“We spend a bil­lion dol­lars a year on re­search and de­vel­op­ment, and feel we have a demon­stra­ble ad­van­tage,” he adds.

“We’ve in­vested a huge amount in de­vel­op­ing these tyres for the Aus­tralian mar­ket. Peo­ple have been sold snake oil for so long that they be­come scep­ti­cal. That’s why it’s so im­por­tant for us to have in­de­pen­dent test­ing.”

Ac­cord­ing to Tam­blyn, a Bridge­stone cus­tomer tested a range of tyres at a prov­ing ground and found a 9.6 per cent fuel sav­ing on Ecopia tyres. “With com­pound and rub­ber tech­nol­ogy we have a huge ad­van­tage. Around a third of the power in a B-dou­ble is spent over­com­ing tyres, so it makes a mas­sive dif­fer­ence.”

BEST TYRES + BEST DATA = BEST VALUE

One thing that’s clear is that all fu­ture tyre tech­nol­ogy will come down to a ba­sic value propo­si­tion.

The next five to 10 years will see a huge in­vest­ment in real-time data col­lec­tion for tyres.

The ques­tion of how much an op­er­a­tor choses to in­vest in that tech­nol­ogy will de­pend on the over­all dol­lar value the tech­nol­ogy of­fers, tyre ex­perts say.

Will real-time sen­sors of­fer a cost per kilo­me­tre pay­off at the end of the day? Has the over­all value propo­si­tion been taken into ac­count?

It’s a case of watch this space, with tyres fi­nally set to re­ceive the in-depth anal­y­sis of per­for­mance now stan­dard across fleets.

Above: In Europe it’s claimed pre­dic­tive an­a­lyt­ics tech­nol­ogy has re­duced tyre-re­lated break­downs by 75 per cent

Above: In Aus­tralia, Bridge­stone is fo­cus­ing on im­prov­ing the way op­er­a­tors col­lect and use in­for­ma­tion

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