Continental Has Big Plans for New Truck Tire Plant, Digital Tools
Production ramp-ups and the introduction of additional digital tools to help its dealers service trucking fleets more effectively are just a few of the things that Continental Tire the Americas LLC has planned for 2021, says Tom Fanning, the company’s head of U.S. market for truck tires.
Accelerating production at Continental’s newest commercial truck tire plant - a $1.4 billion facility in Clinton, Miss. - will be a top priority, he says. The plant shipped its first unit this past October.
“We’ve been very cognizant about bringing the plant online carefully,” says Fanning. “To get production industrialized, to get people trained - there’s been a huge amount of effort. But to bring (the plant) online and ramping it up in 2021 and 2022 is extremely exciting for us.”
Currently, the Clinton plant has the capacity to build 750,000 medium truck and bus tires per year.
Fanning says the facility will supplement production coming out of Continental’s plant in Mount Vernon, Ill., which is able to produce 10,300 truck tire units per day at full throttle, according to MTD research.
The Mount Vernon plant, which also builds passenger and light truck tires, “is ramping back up to 100% capacity,” says Fanning. “When the pandemic struck, our first concern was the safety of our employees. We ceased production for a couple of weeks.
“We’re very big on in-market-for-the-market. We want tires for North America produced in North America. Clinton is there to augment the production we have in Mount Vernon. We’ve spent a lot of money over the years developing and building out Mount Vernon.
“But we were better off building a new facility than trying to push more production out” the company’s Illinois facility.
“There’s plenty of room” for expansion in Clinton “and with our modular style, we can add on pretty easily. We have tremendous scalability there. This is a huge opportunity.”
Continental will continue to expend what Fanning calls its “digital solutions package” - delivered by its network of dealers - to help trucking fleets and other commercial tire end users drive down their operating costs.
The goal, he says, “is to get every ounce of value” out of new tires. “It’s the age-old question of acquisition versus life cycle cost.
“Obviously, we will continue to refine and deliver new products. We’re about to launch a new premium, long-haul steer tire. But one of the complements, for us, is our digital solutions package.
“You’ll see more about some of our ‘softer’ platforms coming out on the support side" during 2021, he explains. “That’s the difference between being a tire company and a technology company. Changes in our tire sensors and yard readers will become more robust and more rapid in the future.
“A service tech walking around a yard with an air gauge in hand when it’s 20 degrees is not a value-add. If we can see the temperature and pressure of every single tire on a screen, that’s a different paradigm.
“And if we can automate that process, that will be a huge value-add for everyone in the chain," he explains. "When we rolled out our ContiTrack 2 system, we made it paramount that you do not leave the fleet yard until you (consult) with the fleet manager.”
Introduced in 2012, ContiTrack 2 digitally monitors tread depth, air pressure, irregular wear and other tire conditions. Using a connected iPhone, iPad or Android device, captured data is immediately formatted into reports that dealers can share with end users.
Among other digital solutions, Continental also offers ContiConnect, a portal that shows tire pressure and temperature levels for every tire in a fleet, helping fleet managers proactively address tire issues.
“It’s about real-time, actionable intelligence,” says Fanning.