Tyre maker BKT’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at Bhuj built with an investment of $500-mn is all set to be the “game changer” globally
Balkrishna Tyres (BKT), a name to reckon within the global off-highway tyre industry, created a marvel of tyre manufacturing out of nothing in a 300-acre of barren desert. Located in Bhuj, Gujarat, the $ 500-million plant has been set up to help BKT realising its objective to be the leader in the off-highway tyre market worldwide.
BKT’s journey of tyre manufacturing started way back in 1954 when it’s Founder Chairman late Mahabirprasad Poddar set up the production of cycle tyres. In 1987, he took the group towards new horizons by starting the production of two- and three-wheeler tyres. Seeing the potential in mid-segment brand, BKT entered into the off-highway tyre industry in 1994. In the same year, the company went international with intense activities of market penetration, first in Europe (starting from the UK), then in the US.
In 2004, BKT entered the segment of radial agriculture tyres, a segment that even today represents the company’s main product segment. A further breakthrough for BKT came with the launch of Agrimax Force tyres for high-powered tractors in 2007. Today, the company has an extensive range of radial agricultural tyres consisting of over 230 sizes.
In 2008, after establishing footprints in the bias OTR tyre industry, BKT marked entry into the specialised segment of OTR all-steel radial tyres – a strategic move to strengthen position in the off-highway tyre market. Huge investments were made to set up a new and modern production facility in Chopanki, Rajasthan.
Today in this segment at BKT has the production capability for the sizes ranging from 17.5-inch to 49-inch and in early 2017 it would go up to 51-inch for specialised mining application.
Strengthened productivity y
From an initial production of 10 tonnes per day, BKT is currently producing 600 tonnes per day, which would eventually reach 800 tonnes per day by 2017. From 200 SKUs, the tyre maker currently offers a complete product portfolio consisting of over 2,400 SKUs.
From 100 moulds a year, it is currently making over 300 moulds to ensure final product quality and design, along with a very short time to market.
Investments in infrastructure have also gone beyond the national borders, leading to the opening of four overseas offices: one in Europe, two in the US and one in Canada to support the local markets.
Firmly positioned among the top global off-highway tyre manufacturers, BKT wanted to claim the leadership position by setting up a world-class facility that can produce tyres of unmatchable quality. A plant that can meet the future market demand while matching with all the norms of environmental, economic and technological sustainability. Bhuj turned out to be the ideal solution for BKT.
“In the game of chess, there is a unique quality that distinguishes a true champion from a mere player. It is the ability to understand that each game consists of challenges as the game proceeds. And hence, the flexibility to adapt one’s strategy till the final move. Since its inception, BKT has chosen to be a main player in this game, on the global chessboard,” said Rajiv Poddar, Joint Managing Director at BKT.
He adds, “The objective given to us was very clear. All the machinery should be state-of-the-art. The equipment should be nothing but best in its class, thereby helping us maintain the high standards of quality for which our products are known.”
A walk into the Bhuj planty
The new BKT site stretches over a total surface area of 312 acres or 126 hectares. An area of 25 acres, almost 10 hectares, is dedicated to a modern outdoor track. Tractors and industrial vehicles equipped with BKT tyres are tested there. Together with the R&D area, it constitutes a true masterwork.
The state-of-the-art R&D Centre, which is expected to be completed by early 2017, contains an innovative structure, where research on new polymers is done and new tread compounds are developed.
“Our researchers, engineers and technicians can boast of having the most advanced equipment for chemical, physical and mechanical testing. BKT spends more than 3 per cent of its turnover in R&D,” informed D M Vaidya, President and Director – Technology, BKT.
The 776-metre long testing track, the one and only in India, is designed for testing tyre performance and driving comfort on various surfaces from uniform road conditions to bumpy terrain.
Bhuj plant also has its own fire station with 7 fire fighting trucks, 2 ambulances and a smooth fire fighting system covering the entire complex, extending over 37 km.
The entire production site of Bhuj operates setting new standards in terms of energy efficiency. In full coherence with BKT’s business model, which has been attentive to environmental aspects ever since, Bhuj includes an area dedicated to plant design and installation, optimising all site issues related to water and waste management as well as energy autonomy.
The plant is capable of making tyres of a diverse range – from 5-inch lawn tyres to 49-inch giant OTR tyres. The tyres currently produced in Bhuj plant include various sizes of Maglift solid tyre and Liftmax LM 81 tyre, both for forklifts, in addition to Portmax PM 93 in size 280/75 R 22.5 for straddle carriers, Radial multipurpose truck tyre Multimax MP 540, and the giant OTR Radial tyre 27.00 R49 Earthmax for mining applications.
Presently, about 175 tonnes are rolling off the production lines in Bhuj every day, even though the plant has a capacity of 350 tonnes per day.
When the going gets toughy
Without any doubt, BKT has gained enormous potential thanks to the production capacities in Bhuj. However, all was not that easy. Desolated desert land, no water and electricity, strong wind, lack of skilled labour, high-seismic zone, poor logistics connectivity are among the major obstacles BKT had to overcome while executing the project. So, what is the secret? “The secret lies in a clearly defined strategic vision supported by some organisational talent, well blended with a strong commitment shared by a great team. If any of these elements were lacking, BKT would not be a global player in the off-highway tyre market, and Bhuj would be mere fantasy,” said Arvind Poddar, Chairman and Managing Director of BKT.
Making in India for the Worldy
With over 92 per cent of its products exported to more than 130 countries across the world, BKT is a true campaigner of ‘Make in India’. Now the company plans to capture more market share in the domestic market especially in the construction and mining segment. BKT is looking for creating strategic partnership with major construction and mining equipment OEMs.