COLOGNE, Germany—The successful adoption of automation technologies in the tire manufacturing industry will require new attitudes among people at every level—from shopfloor to boardroom.
This was a recurring message from this year's Future Tire Conference in Cologne, where keynote speaker Shibu George, head of automation and electronics at Apollo Tyres Ltd., said "the biggest barrier (to automation) is the willingness to change in existing plants.
"People say they have been doing things the same way for the past 15 years and ask why they have to change," he said.
Emphasizing the need for new thinking, the Apollo executive added that "with automation comes a good amount of discipline. You need to focus and automation doesn't mean you can do what you want."
Likewise, Jyrki Anttonen, technology director at Cimcorp Oy., noted that some big organizations question new methods because they have worked in certain ways in brownfield projects.
"People ask us 'are you sure? We've been doing this for ages, we cannot change this now,'" Anttonen said.
Oliver Schramm, director of development production technology at Continental A.G., identified skills and workforce-engagement as another challenging area.
"To begin with, you have to look into the acceptance (of the project) by the people," Schramm said. "But the biggest challenge, I think, is to turn mechanics to electricians and machine operators to machine managers.
"You currently have hard-working people, but you have to turn them into communicative team workers. We have a pool of people in existing plants and we have to change them somehow."
For Paolo Butti, who heads Rockwell Automation Inc.'s automotive and tire industry unit for Europe, Middle East and Africa, the challenge has to do with complexity.
"I strongly believe that we have to come up with technologies that are simpler. For me, simplicity is going to drive down the cost. This way, we will not need huge developments or a huge platform," Butti said.
"If we don't reduce complexity, driving down the cost and driving down the mental barrier for adoption [of the technology] at existing or future plants, will not be successful," he concluded.
In his presentation, David Shaw, CEO of Tire Industry Research, detailed the enormous pressures facing tire makers, in terms of legislation, sustainability, disruptive technologies and market competition.
Going forward, he argued, the industry had two options: "either build the skills and capabilities to become a systems supplier or become a component supplier to the systems supplier."
Similarly, Luisella Giani, digital director EMEA at Oracle Corp., detailed the opportunities and challenges around adoption of technologies such as the Internet of Things, big data, cognitive computing and artificial intelligence in the tire industry.
To benefit, though, tire makers have to embrace "the outcome economy" in which they create value not just by selling products and services, but by delivering solutions with directly quantifiable results.
This, Giani said, would become "the new competitive battleground" for the tire industry of the future.