By Dato’ Mohamed Ishak bin Abdul Hamid
Chairman, Asian Retread Conference (ARC)

 “Retreaders Strike Back.” That’s how Asian Retread Conference (ARC 2016) ended, echoing the urgent need for the retreading industry to act with the advent and threat of cheap new imported tyres.

The ARC 2018 tagline: BETTER, FASTER, CHEAPER captures in essence the actions needed for retreaders to remain competitive, relevant and to be the first choice of customers.

Many questions have been asked about the words in this tagline, particularly the use of the words Faster and Cheaper. Questions like:

  1. Does Faster mean that product safety would be at risk?
  2. Does Faster and Cheaper mean that product quality is compromised?
  3. Does Faster mean the product is made to go faster on the road and hence be unsafe?
  4. Does Cheaper mean that low quality materials and components have been used?

To address these and the many other questions that are and will be in the minds of people, let me shed some light as to the background to the selection of these three words and why they were chosen as the theme for ARC 2018.

When we were thinking of a theme for the ARC 2018 we reflected on the private discussions we had with participants and visitors to the ARC 2016 meeting, as well as the issues that came out strongly during the conference itself.

The three main issues captured and highlighted were:

  1. The perception that retreads were generally of poor quality as evidenced by tyre debris frequently found on highways. This had led to some non-governmental organisations calling for a ban on all retreads.
  2. Retread customers wanting a faster turnaround time of their own casings (COC) – basically wanting faster production cycles and
  3. Serious concerns of the impact of cheap new imported tyres on the retread business.

Based on the above three issues, and, during the closing of ARC 2016, we said that retreaders need to get down to doing things Better, Faster, Cheaper and we therefore decided that this was the most apt tagline and theme for ARC 2018.

Briefly, the choice for the use of these words and their meaning are as follows:

 Better refers to the improvements that need to be made to the present market situation of retreads as well the way of doing things. These are;

  • addressing the perception that retreads are of poor quality
  • reviewing all internal processes with a view to improving them for a better and more consistent product
  • investing in state of the art equipment as well as using new and improved materials and components for a better product

As for the perception of retreads, we would like to have papers for ARC 2018 to debunk this notion as it is a well-known fact that retreads, when properly made, can be as good as new tyres. It is also very well known that even aircraft tyres are retreaded many times.

  1. Faster refers primarily to production rate and efficiency in the plant, i.e., improving the number of tyres produced within a given period of time.

This came about because some customers wanted a quicker turnaround time of their casings – basically faster production cycles.

The word Faster is NOT meant to imply or suggest vehicles running faster with retreads but rather on how the retread companies speed up their production.

Again, we hope to have papers from retreaders, machine manufacturers, component and material suppliers on how they can contribute towards better and faster production methods for retreads which will, in turn, result in better plant operational efficiency and a lower product cost.

  1. Cheaper – by doing things Better and Faster this should naturally translate to a lower production cost. Retreaders, like in any other business, should also be mindful of all cost elements throughout the organisation. Cost reduction exercises must be done across the board and in all departments be it Human Resources, Sales and Marketing, Technical and others and not just in the Production.

We believe this is an area where the retreader is in full control. When the going       gets tough, the tough must get going! There is no time for pussy footing when the whole industry is facing a massive challenge.

This must be done as a Strategic Initiative with long term goals. To do this effectively, they must be bold and creative so as to innovate and introduce new and innovative ways of working into every process throughout the organisation, using technology extensively and aiming high to optimise their cost base.

As expressed at ARC 2016, this should be treated as the retreaders “Burning Platform.” Every employee and stakeholder in the industry must know this and must act in a consorted effort to save every dollar. They must know that one dollar saved is one dollar straight to the bottom line.

It is hoped that we will get many papers on how retreaders, machine manufacturers as well as material suppliers can together bring down the cost of retreads. Sharing of such knowledge will in general keep this green industry alive.

Compared to new tyres, retreads use less energy and oil to produce and worldwide help keep many millions of tyres out of the waste stream – helping create a greener environment for us and our future generations.

However, there are challenges! Cheap new imported tyres, thrown treads on the highways, poor perception of retreads and escalating costs all pose a real and immediate danger to the survival of the retreading industry.

It is hoped that at the ARC 2018, with the participation and coming together of the great minds and new technologies of tyre retreaders, material suppliers, fleet operators, logistics companies, academia, public transport firms and the aviation sectors, “Retreaders Will Strike Back” and keep one of the most environmentally friendly recycled product going for many years to come.