GREENBACK, Tenn.—BPS Engineering L.L.C. may be less than four years old, but that doesn't mean the firm lacks experience.
The 11 people, including three part-timers, on the staff of BPS have a total of 183 years of service in the tire industry, according to Mark Byerley, vice president of engineering. Members of the engineering group alone have their names on more than 30 U.S. and international patents related to the tire industry.
President William Popplewell formed the company in a 13,000-sq.-ft. facility in Greenback on a 10-acre site that has plenty of room for future expansion. The initial plan was to supply a variety of industries with high-precision, engineered polyurethane components, engineered spare parts and machining services.
As often happens in business, though, BPS had to go with the flow, and that means that most of its time is centered on the tire industry, with 95 percent of its business coming from that sector, Byerley said. Its capabilities now include tooling refurbishment; existing design upgrading; reverse engineering; and supply of spare parts and just-in-time inventory systems.
“Our main focus is the tire industry by far,” he said. “It's what we have literally grown up with. It seems odd for someone to get excited over tire assembly tooling, but we do this quite a bit.”
Byerley and several others came to BPS from Wyko Tire Technology Inc., also located in Greenback.
Davian Enterprises L.L.C. earlier this year acquired the assets of Wyko. In March 2009, two Wyko engineers had been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly conspiring to steal Goodyear's off-the-road tire manufacturing secrets and defrauding it of proprietary information.
Tire industry customers reached out to the Wyko personnel who did come to work for BPS, helping the new company become a sought-after alternative supplier to tire manufacturers, according to Byerley.
“All of these people had worked in the tire tooling industry for many years and their expertise varied from engineering to the production of tire assembly tooling,” he said.
During its short life, BPS has increased its product range, having eight pending patents with another five in the works, all related to tire assembly tooling and processes. These new developments include anti-back drive transfer rings that combine features from the most controllable transfer ring with ranges above other units on the market; extreme high-range belt and tread drums with diameter ranges larger than other available systems; and tooling for the newest tire assembly processes.
“The industry has realized it now has a new highly innovative supplier of critical services and tooling,” he said.
Concentrating on service
BPS also has made its mark with quick response times, cutting some deliveries that commonly had taken three months from some suppliers down to four weeks, the executive said. It also has established several custom spare parts packages and is helping some manufacturers design and supply some of the latest tire tooling designs.
“The industry was having trouble getting spare parts and service for particular lines of tooling,” Byerley said. “We were called on-site to review the customers' issues and to attempt to fill the void that existed for parts and development of existing designs.”
The BPS vice president said it wasn't difficult to revolutionize the service end of the tooling spare parts market because of what he called standing abuse in the past by suppliers. He said BPS can visit a tire plant within a day of the request, whether it's just to offer an opinion, set up a tooling rebuild program or to perform plant maintenance training. The firm can even fly to all North American tire plants on an hour's notice in a refurbished plane owned by Byerley.
BPS, though, also is working to expand its reach outside of the continent. Byerley said one of its largest customers has asked it to join forces with a German-based tire assembly tooling manufacturer so it can service the rest of the world outside the Americas.
“We have made visits to Europe and have additional projects and visits plan-ned in the near future,” he said.
Its biggest volume comes from the rebuilding of dimensional tooling such as first-stage carcass drums, transfer rings, belt and tread drums, and bead lock shaping drums. After that, Byerley said, comes the modifications BPS has developed to make existing tooling more productive.
While BPS was formed shortly before the economic downfall, he said the firm is starting to make good progress. “We have just tried to hold on through the last three years while we spent most of our time helping our customers reduce cost, downtime and changeover times, while improving their tooling.”
He didn't reveal revenues, but said they have doubled in the past year and the company believes it can repeat that in the coming year.
“All of our customers seem to be demanding more services from us so we have to make sure we run ahead and develop the new products and services before they make the request,” Byerley said.