The line, introduced last summer starting with 63-inch rim-diameter tires, is engineered for extended durability and can be customized to each mine site and operation. Bridgestone cites the use of proprietary technologies, including an anti-rust steel cord that resists moisture, along with a metal surface-coating technology, for the improved rubber/steel-cord adhesion and durability.
Seibert said the MasterCore product, which can be optimized for faster speeds, increased payload and maximized uptime, features a new casing design and new tread patterns. It is being manufactured at Bridgestone plants in Shimonoseki and Kitakyushu, Japan, as well as at the firm's 7-year-old OTR tire plant in Aiken, S.C. Later this year, the tire maker will unveil a MasterCore line for three underground hard-rock tires and two port tires, according to Seibert, as Bridgestone's plant in Bloomington, Ill., ramps up capacity to produce large radial tires.
"We are developing technology to support it and our dealer network," Seibert told Tire Business. "There are always opportunities. We have to keep innovating, looking for new products, evaluating capacity and technologies."
The COVID-19 pandemic created its share of difficulty for most every aspect of the tire industry, especially OTR.
Bridgestone reported in its third-quarter financial results that it expects fiscal 2020 sales of OTR tire to drop 16-20 percent from 2019. OTR tires are part of Bridgestone's specialty business, which also includes agricultural, aircraft and two-wheeler products.
The specialty business accounts for roughly 15 percent of the tire maker's annual sales, estimated at $24.3 billion in 2019.
"The pandemic has presented challenges, but it has presented opportunities, too," Seibert said. "We're trying to focus on both of those."
While business ground to a halt across North America, Seibert said he reminds his team of its accomplishments—such as a mastery of video conferencing with customers as well as planning, forecasting and introducing new technologies—while navigating safety protocols new to all industries.
"In general it was a successful 2020," he said. "It was unique to be able to solve challenges from a remote environment and do it as effectively as we would have in person and with higher frequency."
As the businesses grouped under OTR, deemed an essential service in the U.S. and Canada, resume normalcy, so has business for the tire maker.
Travel has resumed, although Seibert noted his staff adheres to strict COVID protocols, including social distancing, masks and any additional local regulations. Ontario and Quebec are in lockdown, for example.
"We have the advantage that the majority of work we need to do can be done outdoors, safely and social-distanced," Seibert said. "So as customers operate 24/7, they still need that essential support. And we're there to support them the safest way possible to make sure we do everything and use every technological means possible."
While some of the challenges from 2020 remain—such as a slowdown in permitting, due to processes and governmental agencies—Seibert said prospects for OTR sales are improving, citing record commodity prices for copper and gold.
"We continue to see strength on the mining side and opportunity in the market," he said.
That extends to construction and to quarries. Housing starts have increased 8 percent, he said, as residential construction and large-scale subdivision spending has increased
The global supply chain, he said, remains steady, thanks to Bridgestone's OTR plants in Japan that remained open, even as the U.S. plants incurred brief shutdowns.