Kal Tire’s Mining Tire Group, the Canadian-based mining tyre service and supply provider, has expanded significantly over the course of the past ten years to become a global player in the OTR tyre market.
Kal Tire Set on Course for Expansion
With key acquisitions in Europe, Australia, and South Africa, and major investments in Latin America and Africa, the company has been implementing an ambitious expansion strategy which includes greater coverage in Southern Africa, targeted contract development in Africa and Australia, significant growth in servicing capability in Europe and an expansion into the tyre recycling sector.
Kal Tire, founded by Tom Foord in Vernon, British Columbia in 1953, is Canada’s largest independent tyre dealer with over 250 stores, servicing both retail and commercial customers and are Canada’s largest retreader, being active in the process for over 40 years. The company operates 10 Bandag truck retread plants across Canada, producing 370,000 tyres per annum. In total the company employs over 6,500 people. As part of Kal Tire, the Mining Tire Group, under the leadership of Senior VP Dan Allan, has over 2,700 team members and operates five retreading plants, including two in Canada and others in the UK, Ghana and Chile, with a further plant opening in Mexico in 2019.
The company services more than 150 mining sites across five continents, contractually serving some of the world’s largest mining companies - supplying complete tyre management solutions as well as providing both new and manufactured retread tyres. Kal Tire’s services are focused on safely minimising truck downtime for clients, while maximising the customer’s tyre investment and helping to increase truck productivity. Examples of these site-based services on offer include specialist tyre fitting, inspections, repairs, rotations and pressure and temperature management, as well as comprehensive reporting and analysis services, such as heat and weight studies, haul road design, payload monitoring, volumetric scanning and payload optimisation. Kal Tire also takes care of tyre budgeting, forecasting and performance studies to ensure the best tyre for the job is used.
An example of the value of this service can be seen in that provided to a Western Australian Gold Mine. After noting patterns of tyre damage on CAT 793 trucks, Kal Tire implemented a proactive tyre-life improvement plan in conjunction with the customer, including installing a dedicated on-site team at the workshop, performing daily pressure checks and carrying regular haul road surveys, focusing particularly on loading areas. In addition, tyre awareness training was given to truck operators to educate on best practices for managing tyres and preventing tyre damage. According to Kal Tire, after implementing this programme, tyre life was improved by nearly 50%, with a total value to customer of over $2,970,000 (AUD) in terms of increased tyre life and reduction in new tyres needed.
Kal Tire’s serious expansion into the international OTR tyre market began in 2009, when the company acquired UK-based OTR Tyres Ltd, a move which gave the company access to markets in Europe, Africa and Australia and retread facilities in Ghana and the UK. Since then there have been several international investments including new tyre repair facilities in Middleburg, South Africa and Muswellbrook, Australia, a new retreading and repair centre in Antofagasta, Chile, and a relocation to a new regional office in Brisbane for its Australian operations in 2016. These investments culminated in a major expansion into Eastern Australia with the acquisition of Klinge’s tyre services in 2016, then South Africa based Tyre Corporation in 2017, both adding many service centres, over 100 contracts and 1,100 new team members .
Innovation is Key
The Mining Tire Group defines itself as a complete service provider rather than simply as a retreader. As such it is not surprising to note that the company lays considerable importance on its ability to devise innovations that make the operations of mining operators more efficient, safer and more profitable. With that in mind, in 2015 the company invested in a purpose-built “Innovation Centre” in Canada to research and develop various operational tools to improve services to customers and safety for their team members.
These include the award-winning Gravity Assist System, a mechanical arm that safely and weightlessly manoeuvres heavy torque guns and other hand tools to reduce injury risk to technicians and increase efficiency. This is used on sites in Canada, Australia and Africa.
Other innovations include Ram Mounts exclusive to and patented by Kal Tire, which securely hold the ram in place when breaking the tyre bead, and the Rapid Deflator, which improves deflation time on the very largest 63" tyre by 50%, decreasing the service time per tyre and improving the overall utilisation of the hauling trucks. Across a fleet, this has significant productivity benefits.
Most recently, in 2018 Kal Tire launched TOMS, a Tyre Operations Management System, which is the first real-time management system on the market, incorporating best practice and years of knowledge from the company’s international servicing, providing data to aid real-time decision making and predictive maintenance strategies for fleet managers in mining operations.
TOMS is now being used on 34 open pit and underground mines in 12 countries, the key focus being on planning, predicting and prescribing best maintenance practices rather than simply reporting on past activities as other management systems do.
Innovation is also employed in the company’s retread plants. For example, at the company’s facility in Antofagasta, Chile, the company now uses new technology to shape the rubber compound into more complicated grooves on the tread.
“Now we have access to a wider range of patterns to suit specific conditions,” says Darren Flint, who is in charge of Tyre Lifetime Services for the Group as well as being Regional VP of the UK and West African operations. “The next step is to move to use a robotic arm to carry out the grooving and skiving processes. Our first robotic and skiving machine will be installed in our new plant in Mexico.”
Retreading and Repair Technology
Kal Tire’s new retreading method, Ultra Tread was introduced in 2017 – a process that builds rubber onto rubber, unlike traditional retreading which applies rubber to the casing. Ultra Tread is being used to give front tyres another life and can be performed on mining tyres up to 63” in size.
According to the company, tests using the process were carried out in Ghana comparing a Kal Tire Ultra Tread with a premium new tyre. In the test, the Kal Tire retread lasted 5,532 hours at a cost of $0.56 per hour. This compares favourably to the premium new tyre, which lasted 6,812 hours, but at an overall cost $0.99 per hour.
Also supporting Kal Tire’s retreading process is Ultra Repair – an award-winning proprietary technology, which allows the safe and effective repair of large injuries, which is actively saving thousands of tyres from scrap piles all over the world.
Three Point Growth Strategy
Growth into Europe with tyre management services is also a key priority. This is also a responsibility of Darren Flint, whose remit includes managing the company’s operations in the UK and Ghana. Says Flint; “We will be expanding our mine site service offering in Europe as well as developing our position in some other niches such as the waste management and port servicing sectors.”
Expansion into tyre recycling is also a key part of Kal Tire’s plan. In 2016, Kal Tire Canada’s OTR recycling service partnered with a tyre recycling leader to open a plant in northern Alberta that shreds up to 6,000 tyres annually, including ultra-class 63” tyres. The resulting tyre crumb is being used in road base, playgrounds, running tracks, mulch and more.
In addition to this, a brand new ‘Thermal Conversion’ recycling facility is set to be constructed in early 2019 in Antofagasta, Chile, close to many of the nearby mines. This 20,000-square foot thermal conversion plant will have the capacity to recycle 20,000 kg of mining tyres per day – turning tyres back into their original materials – carbon black, steel, fuel oil and gas, the latter of which is used to self-fuel the process, making for an environmentally and carbon friendly solution when compared to the energy required to produce these original materials.
Training and Health and Safety are considered crucial in Kal Tire, and the company has implemented a company-wide initiative “Journey to Zero” since 2012 for all team members, aimed at ensuring each and every person returns home safely at the end of the working day. In terms of training, all team members are enrolled in Kal Tire’s Learning Management System (LMS), with tyre technicians taking a comprehensive 27-month course. The ‘LMS’ houses best practices from international operations, combined with the latest industry standards and knowledge.
Kal Tire also operates a major social responsibility and sustainability programme, providing funds for schools and educational charities in the areas in which it operates. Following the Tyre Corporation acquisition, several such projects in Southern Africa are ongoing.