AKRON—David Stafford had a cautionary tale for attendees of the International Tire Exhibition and Conference on Sept. 13: either embrace innovation or watch someone else take your place.
The chief human resources officer for Michelin North America Inc. stressed that with a number of new disruptors on the horizon, namely autonomous vehicles and constant pressure to be more environmentally efficient, that tire companies cannot just rest on their laurels. They must seek to work with companies working on the edge, some of which may even be outside of the tire industry completely, to continue to drive forward.
Companies like Google, Uber and Lyft—none of whom manufacture tires—are all involved in the self-driving car movement in various roles.
On top of that, Stafford outlined another challenge the industry faces: producing the employees of the future, the ones who will be needed to help drive this innovation and continue the legacy of tire companies like Michelin.
“Today the challenge to innovate and improve sustainable mobility is more formal than ever,” Stafford said. “The world of transportation is changing rapidly in many other ways. Put simply, the automotive world of today looks like it will most certainly change by tomorrow.”
He joined Michelin in 1984, working in the materials research department at MARC. In 1990, he transferred to the truck tire research and development group at the company's headquarters in France, where he worked for three years. From 1993 to 2002, Stafford was responsible for a number of truck tire product research and development groups both in North America and at the Michelin Group level. He was appointed technical director for Michelin Americas Truck Tires in 2002.
Along with his duties for Michelin, Stafford serves on the Area Commission for Greenville Technical College and on the Advisory Board for the School of Engineering and Science at Clemson University. He earned a bachelor's in Materials Engineering in 1982, and a master's in Materials Engineering in 1984, both from Virginia Tech.