Industry Update

Inside BKT’s manufacturing mecca

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Firmly positioned among the top global off-highway tyre manufacturers, Balkrishna Industries Ltd (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.”

Inaugurated at the beginning of December 2015, the Bhuj site stretches over an area of 300 acres (121 hectares) in a geographically strategic location near well-developed roadways and about 60-km from the Port of Mundra on the Arabian Sea. Let’s take a closer look at some of its divisions and facilities such as production, R&D, and tyre testing.

Manufacturing prowess
Thanks to a 500-million-US-dollar investment, BKT’s Bhuj plant is transpired as a state-of-the-art, world-class tyre making facility. 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.

The main plant area of 72 acres is armed with internationally sourced highly efficient, state-of-the-art equipment including 9 Marangoni machines from Italy, 13 mixers, 177 presses, and 65 tyre building machines.

Today Bhuj 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.

The Maglift range is currently available in 22 sizes both in standard and LIP versions. A non-marking compound is being developed for which BKT has a dedicated mixer. Additional compound with antistatic properties is also under development. BKT is also in the process of developing deep tread solid tyres.

Focus on innovation
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.

“In view of the cutting-edge machinery and technologies available at the new Bhuj production site, the R&D department had to face a great challenge in redesigning the highly technological manufacturing processes taking full advantage of the new generation equipment,” acknowledged D M Vaidya, President and Director – Technology, BKT.

“On the other hand,” he adds, “state-of-the-art technology and processes were an essential prerequisite for the realisation of new products such as giant OTR and radial forklift tyres.”

Today, BKT’s researchers, engineers and technicians can boast of having the most advanced equipment for chemical, physical and mechanical testing. The company spends more than 3 per cent of its turnover in R&D.

A cutting-edge tyre testing track
With 776-metre long outdoor tyre testing track, perhaps the only one of its kind in India, the circuit stretches over a total area of about 25 acres (10 hectares). Six different tracks including concrete track (dry and wet), asphalt track (dry and wet), concrete circular track, asphalt circular track, dirt track and stone track are designed for testing
tyre performance and driving comfort on various surfaces from uniform road conditions to bumpy terrain.

Thanks to a large variety of tests, many relevant features such as traction, handling, comfort, noise, fuel consumption, braking, rolling resistance, soil compaction and many more can be measured by means of high-precision devices and instruments. As a result of this unique source of information, BKT is able to further enhance tyre performance and optimise user-specific solutions.

BKT’s Bhuj Plant: Milestones
28th Jan 2011: Groundbreaking
3rd Mar 2012: First solid tyre produced
16th Mar 2012: First pneumatic tyre was cured
21st Mar 2015: Reached a daily production of 100 tonnes a day
Dec 2015: Plant inauguration

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