By: Nelendhre Moodley
Following the onset of COVID-19, more industries than ever before are seeking options to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. SA Mining recently caught up with Kal Tire’s VP for Southern Africa, John Martin, to chat about the effects of the pandemic on the tyre industry.
What impact has COVID-19 had on the global tyre segment, and in particular, mining?
Just about all countries introduced some form of lockdown as a means to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. As a result, the retail industry serving the passenger and truck market most likely took the brunt of the resultant slowdown we have witnessed in the global economy. The global mining industry for the most part had continued operations throughout the various lockdown measures that were instituted.
In many countries, mining operations were declared essential services to the economy and through their naturally strong culture of safety and agility, were able to react extremely quickly to learn and refine new ways of working. By following protocols to keep team members safe, sites were able to help control the spread of COVID-19 and carry on operations. Bar a few exceptions, the mining tyre segment has been able to weather the storm without a significantly negative impact on the industry.
How have Kal Tire adapted and what measures has the company put in place during this challenging time?
Kal Tire serves an industry that demands extremely close working relationships on our sites. This ensures that our services, our people and our processes align with our customers’ objectives. Our reaction to the pandemic was as swift and efficient as our customers’ responses. Their work was deemed essential, so therefore our work was also considered an essential service to the mining industry. The speed with which Kal Tire had to implement sanitisation disciplines, processes, procedures and equipment was critical to maintaining Kal Tire’s high standards we are known for. COVID-19 infection rates within the global Kal Tire organisation are significantly lower than those of the global population, which is a clear testament to the adherence of the disciplines implemented throughout the company.
What has been the response from your mining clients and how have they been faring?
Global communities are continually learning how to manage and live around the COVID-19 challenge. Our clients have diligently adapted and applied those learnings as part of daily safety routines. In some instances, the global commodity prices have helped the economic outlook for some customers. However we know that some with marginal operations have struggled with sustainability, given the operational and financial burdens caused by COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic.
Have the effects of the pandemic impacted on your strategy on innovation and development?
Kal Tire’s investment in innovation and product development has continued unabated throughout the constraints imposed on the industry by the pandemic. For Kal Tire, innovation strategy is part of our ongoing drive to enhance safety, as well as the improvement of operational efficiencies.
Will kal tyre be launching any new innovations in the near future?
Kal Tire continues to focus on the rollout of TOMS, our proprietary Tire Operations Management System. Through TOMS, we’re able to focus on more planned tyre work to improve tyre life, safety and fleet productivity, which is more important than ever for our customers. This is just one of several tools we’ve developed that enhance the breadth and quality of the on-site services Kal Tire offers and demonstrates our value to the global mining market.
With respect to product development of mining tyres, Kal Tire continues to collaborate with all our selected manufacturing partners, to not only optimise the product offering, but to continually drive product performance enhancement. For underground mining, Kal Tire represents two of the best performing brands available in the South African market. However, new product versions of performance leading products are continually being tested to demonstrate the ongoing commitment to improving our customers’ safety and financial indicators.
How has Kal Tire been servicing the mining sector?
Kal Tire provides mining tyre management and supply to more than 150 mine sites across five continents. The work we do on-site every day continues to focus on helping customers achieve their goals and maximise their tyre investment – leveraging our breadth of expertise across commodities and conditions and our innovation in tooling, processes and safety.
Are there any new tyre-related challenges that clients are requiring solutions to?
Sadly, South Africa has witnessed the planned closure of another icon of tyre manufacturing – the 84-year-old Firestone factory in Port Elizabeth. This closure is not only devasting for the local economy, but also places a large stress on the SA mining industry, which has had to quickly source alternative products to compensate for the supply gap. Kal Tire is assisting the client base by sourcing sufficient products of adequate quality as viable alternatives to supplement the local Firestone supply.
The closure of the Firestone factory has created a great demand and many importers are looking to capitalise on an opportunity. Through our rigorous product testing policy, Kal Tire is able to ensure consistency and quality standards to a market fast becoming saturated with untested imports.
How is Kal Tire helping mines stretch their budgets?
Given the great need for mines to stretch their tyre budgets and reduce the total operating cost of a tyre, we are seeing a rise in queries about Alpha Mining Systems’ tyre and wheel combinations. These sets are tailored and proven for use in Southern Africa’s coal mines because they can bear high loads and remain durable in the face of tough conditions such as low seam heights and wet terrain. Given that ability to stand up to stresses, our customers appreciate that they can last up to four times as long as competing tyres and reduce the need for wheel changes – which promotes safety and productivity.
Kal Tire and Alpha Mining Systems have again collaborated by taking the same unique approach to designing tyres for underground hard rock mining operations, where rugged, purpose-built tyres are being tested against the highest industry benchmark in both performance and total cost of ownership.