Is Goodyear's Impact the greatest thing since mother's milk?
Goodyear executives and technical people rave over their Integrated Manufacturing/Precision Assembled/Cellular Technology tire-making process. They expect it to end the need for internal mixers, to eliminate curing presses, to provide continuous, conveyor-belt assembly of components and "on-the-fly" size and type changeovers.
This isn't smoke and mirrors for Goodyear. Impact has been installed at several plants, with more on the way, and the company has spent in excess of $500 million since 1997 developing it. As usual, stock analysts don't seem to care about this, hence the continued weakness of Goodyear's share price. But if Impact really cuts costs 20 percent, as the company has claimed, it surely will help the bottom line.
But is Impact really that special?
Try this little quiz: Fill in the blanks in this quote with the appropriate tire manufacturing process acronymùMIRS, ACTAS, Impact, C3M, MMPùand the company the speaker is from.
"____will enable____to better compete with any producer. It slashes costs, heavily improves product quality and uniformity and transforms logistics from a problem into an opportunity. With____the incidence of labor costs on total product costs will sharply decrease."
Of course you said it's a Michelin exec talking about C3M. Or, was it Bridgestone and ACTASàor Continental and its MMP? Actually, it was Pirelli and MIRS.
The point is, when it comes to new, high-tech ways of making tires, all the majors have one. From what I'm told, everyone has tried out each other's ideas, and—because they can't make them work or don't believe in them—settled on their own approach.
It's all still evolving, though. Even Goodyear said some of the big achievements with Impact—eliminating internal mixers, for example—are several years away, and it will take 20 years to implement the system in all the company's plants.
Ask me in five or 10 years if Impact or the others' processes were the major achievements of their day. When it comes to hindsight, I'm never wrong. Until then, I'll reserve judgment.
Noga is editor of Rubber & Plastics News.