New models, improved product quality and reduced cost: demand for Belshina products is growing
Amid the shutdown of tire factories of foreign manufacturers in Russia, the question arises — does Belshina seek to occupy this market segment? Demand for the plant’s products has already increased. Now it is loaded by work at almost 90 percent. In order to win the competition with foreign companies, the company’s specialists are constantly working on updating the range of products, improving their quality and reducing costs. We visited the Engineering and Technical Centre of Belshina and learned how Belarusian tires are produced.
Tire design and tread pattern design is carried out by the Engineering and Technical Centre. Experienced designers and chemists work together here. The first develop the tire design on paper, the second develop rubber compounds and reinforcing material. Over 25 years, more than 400 tire sizes have been developed here — from passenger to large cars!
“A tire is a complex combination of layers and materials. Tread, sidewalls, filler cord, carcass and breaker layers… Each element consists of a unique rubber compound designed for specific purposes. With the help of a special calculation complex, our guys select the optimal profile and virtually begin to fill it with various parts, selecting the rubber compound for each of them,” says Yevgeni Kernozhitski, the Head of the Tire Design and Construction Department of the Engineering and Technical Centre, demonstrating a radial section of a passenger tire, which shows the complex structure of the product.
On the trail of the protector
Tire production is a complex process. Bringing a new tire to market takes 3 to 5 years! It all starts with mixing rubbers of different compositions. Natural rubber is the key element. Also, the composition is full of all kinds of chemistry, some of which is the know-how of the enterprise. The mixture is fed into the extruder. There it heats up, becomes plastic and acquires the desired shape. An equally important element of the tire is the steel cord. It is it which gives the tire rigidity, prevents deformation. All parts of the future tire are fed to the assembly machine. The robotic complex does its job in less than a minute. From here, the raw tire is transferred to the vulcanisation shop. The tire will come out of it heavy-duty, it will be difficult to break it. Its performance will improve, and endurance will reach incredible parameters.
“We are constantly enhancing existing tires, new materials, types of calculations appear... The most common agricultural model for the BELARUS tractor is the 15,5R38 tire. We are constantly improving it. We are introducing new types of cords, using new compositions of rubber compounds... Currently, about 200 recipes of rubber compounds are used at Belshina production facilities. And that’s not counting their modifications. About 15 new positions are added to the ‘recipe collection’ annually. This takes into account the range of tires produced, their sizes, operating conditions, and price fluctuations in the raw material market,” explains Yevgeni Kernozhitski.
In the near future, the plant plans to put a new line of passenger tires with winter and summer Artmotion PREMIUM tread patterns on the market. It will be a new tire brand with improved performance through the use of a new tread compound. The new tires will be less noisy and have a lower rolling resistance coefficient, which will allow car owners to save on fuel.
The plant also produced prototypes of the new ESCORTERA OWNTRACK line of truck tires. It used advanced technologies for this segment of tires, using completely new mixtures, designs and tread patterns. The tires will feature improved fuel efficiency and will be able to carry more load than existing models.
Cars wearing tires!
One of the stages in the implementation of the import substitution programme was the creation of a new line of industrial tires for dump trucks, bulldozers and loaders. The plant has previously produced industrial tires, but with a diagonal design on a textile cord. The new line is all-metal cord. With the same parameters, the new models are able to carry loads much higher than their diagonal predecessors, and the service life is almost doubled!
Tires for BELAZ trucks look especially impressive. The largest has a diameter of more than 4 metres and weighs almost 6 tonnes! In the CIS, large oversized tires are produced only in Belarus. The workshop that assembles giant tires is the size of a football field, and the vulcanisation mold weighs about 110 tonnes.
“The most difficult thing for the designer is to figure out how to reduce the heat generation that inevitably occurs between the layers of the tire due to the colossal loads. One of the largest dump trucks weighs 260 tonnes, plus a load of 360 tonnes... So far, we are fully satisfying the requests of BELAZ, but in the future, I think, we will master new sizes for rare models of bulldozers. There are also ideas to create Belarusian tires for SUVs, allowing one to drive on any off-road,” shares his plans Yevgeni Kernozhitski.
Market is not made of rubber
The main directions for the sale of Belshina products on the domestic market are the machine-building cluster. All equipment manufactured by MTZ, MAZ, BELAZ, Gomselmash, AMKODOR is 95 percent equipped with Belshina models. Another priority is the secondary market. Customers can buy Belarusian tires in the branded trade network and at Belarusneft gas stations. About 40 such centres will open this year at gas stations across the country.
Russia is the largest buyer of the plant’s products. Rostselmash, KAMAZ, GAZ, Ural, the St. Petersburg Tractor Plant and many other machine-building enterprises of the neighboring country use Belarusian tires to put their equipment on. A large share of the products goes to its secondary market.
“If we talk about the structure of sales, then 40 percent of our products go to the domestic market, 60 percent — for export. In addition to Russia, we trade with our long-term partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan. A small part of our products went to Ukraine — no more than 70 thousand tires per month. Trade with the EU declined two years ago. Therefore, now, in terms of commodity flows, practically nothing has changed for us,” explains the Head of the Marketing Department Andrei Kanonik.
Amid the suspension of individual plants in Russia, the question arises: does Belshina seek to occupy this niche abroad? The plant produces about 350 thousand tires per month. Over the past year, the company produced more than 4 million tires, of which 2 million models for passenger cars went to the Russian market. Andrei Kanonik says that there really is an increased demand now, but it is basically impossible to satisfy the needs of the Russian market, there is a likely shortage, “A part of the Russian market is satisfied by local manufacturers — Nizhnekamskshina PJSC, Cordiant, Voltyre-Prom JSC. Chinese suppliers will actively join in, there are also Turkish tires Petlas... However, it will be difficult to fully replace the departed foreign tire companies. We’re pretty busy right now. We have a 90 percent load by work on passenger tires. And it is technologically impossible for us to grow to such a volume as to cover demand in the Russian market. We will now be actively involved in the large oversized tires direction, because the same Michelin and Bridgestone, which suspended their work, had a share of about 80 percent in the Russian market. And we see this as an opportunity for us.”
Belshina is optimistic about future, and sees the main advantage over competitors in price, because Belarusian tires are cheaper than imported ones and still has the same level of quality.
By Inna Gorbatenko Photos by BELTA and Andrey Sazonov