The new plant at Bhuj is a result of BKT´s ambitious vision to become a global leader in off-highway tyres.
If the off-highway tyre market was a chess game, BKT would be preparing to checkmate the same to claim its place as a global leader. During the ´The Game Changer´ event at Mumbai in September 2016, BKT gave a first-hand look of BKT´s newest facility at Bhuj, in Gujarat.
´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 move presents a challenge as the game progreses. And hence, the flexibility to adapt one´s strategy till the final move,´ says Arvind Poddar, Chairman and Managing Director, BKT. ´Since its inception, BKT has chosen to be a main player in this game, on the global chessboard,´ he adds.
The game plan
The Bhuj facility represents BKT´s winning chess move in the off-highway tyre market. Rajiv Poddar, Joint Managing Director, BKT who spearheaded the project, says the plant is part of the tyremaker´s overall strategic objective of ´achieving leadership in the off-highway tire market worldwide.´
BKT´s vision to become a global leader prompted the company to make some major changes. ´In our case, it became evident that to support the new ambitious vision we had to make some radical changes in our production set up. This needed to be done swiftly in order to effectively seize new sales opportunities in global market´ Rajiv says.
He adds, ´After carefully analysing different factors, it emerged that Aurangabad, Chopanki and Bhiwadi production plants were already working at full capacity. Taking into account all factors, clarity emerged, that we needed a new plant.´To meet its goal, BKT outlined a strategic plan of what the new plant would need: a production capacity of 140,000 metric tonne a year; around 300 acres of land to house a state-of-the-art R&D centre with a modern outdoor testing track, large warehouses for tyre storage, and additional facilities for housing, and a total investment of about $500 million to make all this possible.
Building in Bhuj
Before becoming the home of a state-of-the-art tyre plant, the Bhuj location consisted of barren desert land where wild animals roamed free and water and electricity access did not exist. After careful consideration, the Bhuj location was chosen for its continuous land and close proximity to the Port of Mundra, which BKT already used for exports.
The tyremaker purchased 312 acres in total, after negotiating with numerous landowners to acquire the property. BKT has built on 212 acres, leaving 100 acres for further expansion.
To make the desolate land fit for the BKT facilities, a 5-mile pipeline for drinking water and roughly 8 miles of electric lines were laid. Paved roads were also laid and all BKT constructions were built to withstand harsh winds, earthquakes and floods that the area often encounters.
The 167-acre plant´s construction began in January 28, 2011, and produced its first solid tyre and cured its first pneumatic tyre in March 2012. By the end of March 2012, the plant was producing 100 metric tonne per day. The plant officially opened in November 2015 and manufactures off-highway tyres, with special attention on agriculture and giant OTR tyres, for BKT´s various markets around the world.
Currently, the plant has a production capacity of 200 metric tonne per day and BKT expects to produce 325 metric tonne per day by the end of 2016. The tyremaker has created a 51-inch giant OTR radial.
DM Vaidya, President and Director - Technology, BKT said, ´BKT has built a truly modern plant with state-of-the-art tyre building machines from around the world, including automated tyre building machines, some of which are a first for any BKT plant.´
Testing at the BKT plant is extensive. Tyre safety and reliability is tested every step of the way - from the compound to the finished product - with numerous laboratories monitoring progress, including an analytical, chemical and synthesis, compounding and sample reparation, physical, and microscopic laboratory.
Part of BKT´s vision to position itself as a leader in the off-highway tyre market includes not only a new plant, but also a power plant that produces 20 MW of electricity, a 25,000-sq-ft R&D centre set to be completed this year, a test track, two warehouses and township area that includes homes for up to 412 workers and their families and 90 homes for single workers.
The test track, located in front of the R&D centre, allows BKT to test tyre performance in various conditions and is the first of its kind in India. ´The facility features concrete and asphalt tracks that can be used for dry and wet conditions, a concrete and asphalt circular track, a dirt track, a stone track and a noise measurement path. It has already had requests from Indian companies to use the track for testing,´ says Vaidya.
´Without ever losing sight of BKT´s fundamental values such as the care for our people, the care for the environment, and the care for our customers, Bhuj has enabled us to play a completely new game from the perspective of exponential growth and aiming at global leadership,´ Rajiv adds.
The production units at Bhuj are provided with modern compound mixers, advanced equipment for the production of steel rings and the latest vulcanising presses even for large tyre sizes, to name a few.
Like all BKT plants, Bhuj has obtained the ISO 9001:2000 Quality Certification for its quality management system and operates in full compliance with the highest level of international standards regarding production parameters, quality control and environmental regulations. Within the production division, an entire area for OTR giant tyres stands out.
The R&D focus
As talent for innovation is one of BKT´s core competencies, the new and modern R&D centre in Bhuj hosts all facilities for developing top-of-the-range solutions.
Researchers, engineers, and technicians deal with anything related to the technical product development: from designing a new tyre, over developing new compounds, to improving product performance as well as production processes. Substantial investments in R&D are the key to success. BKT is always one step ahead in terms of innovation, thanks to: Carefully assessing tyre quality before launching new products on the market; Testing new compounds to improve pr&oduct performance, and Checking prototype development before industrialisation.
In line with BKTs mid- and long-term export plans, logistics requirements became a key determining factor. This perspective led BKT to focus on a location that was able to host such a large production site, being at the same time easily accessible and close to a large logistics hub. All these concurring elements restricted the number of options available.
BKT examined and evaluated all major ports in India. The Port of Mundra, in Gujarat, which was already being used by BKT for exports, turned out to be the most suitable one. It was and is considered a highly efficient hub with great container handling capacities. This led to the company´s second challenge of scouting for around 300 acres of continuous land around the port location, to ensure short transportation time between the production site and the logistic hub.
The state authorities of Gujarat were forthcoming to welcome a large industrial site in their territory in view of potential benefits of the local economy, in terms of development of both direct occupation and the induced effects.
The Bhuj plant will produce tyres for BKT´s markets all over the world. Rajiv says, ´The US, Russia and India currently offer the greatest growth opportunity for BKT, while the US market has a lot of potential.´
Bhuj Plant: Facts
Plant cost: $500 million
Total area: 312 acres
Central area of plant: More than 72 acres
Township area: More than 15 acres
Plant built-up area: 3.5 million sq m
Raw material storage area: 20,000 sq m
Daily present capacity: 120-150 metric tonne
Daily full capacity (2017): 325 metric tonne
Tyre warehousing capacity: 25,000 metric tonne.