Hankook's Suh challenges conference attendees
Quality and performance, with deep regard for the environment, must be priorities for tire manufacturers today, said Hankook Tire Co. Vice Chairman and CEO Seung Hwa Suh in his address to the Tire Society earlier today. And a strong commitment to research and development is the way to get there.
Suh addressed managers, engineers, researchers and other members of the tire industry during his keynote speech at the 29th annual Tire Society Conference in Fairlawn, Ohio. He spoke about current opportunities and challenges facing the tire industry, and ways to improve and adapt technologies for an ever changing market.
"Quality and performance speak louder than anything else," he said, and that philosophy has been the basis for his business strategy -- and Hankook Tire’s unyielding focus on research and development.
“Our ability to grow has been driven by our continuous investment in research and development. Performance and quality are the ultimate demonstration of technical competence.”
Hankook continues to invest more than 5% of its total revenue annually in research and development.
But advancements in technology should never be at the expense of the environment, according to Suh.
“When it comes to the issue of performance and quality, in addition to the essentials of durability, handling, and mileage, we must give further consideration to the importance of noise, comfort and lower rolling resistance. And we must do this with an even greater focus on the environment.
“We cannot be so absorbed in pursuing sales growth that we become blind to the vulnerability of our planet.”
Suh said it is essential that the industry do four things.
1. Develop new raw materials that aid sustainability.
2. Reduce energy consumption in manufacturing and distribution.
3. Reduce our carbon footprint.
4. Focus on quality and safety, but not at the expense of environmental responsibility.
The world is experiencing unprecedented change, and the tire industry is no exception, he said. But most of that change has been evolutionary, not revolutionary.
He asked industry to "do more."
“We must continue to reduce rolling resistance without a trade-off in performance. Original equipment manufacturers are pushing for further advancements in rolling resistance reduction, and consumers are increasingly demanding more fuel efficient tires.
"Despite the enormous advances our industry has made in this area, improvements in compounding technology have not kept pace with the relentless demands of the market.”
Suh applauded the industry for rising to the challenge in many ways, including making reinforcement materials lighter and stronger, and developing new tread designs and constructions that help reduce rolling resistance while improving traction and tread wear.
He also said the industry has answered the call for more environmentally friendly tires with the introduction of new materials that reduce or eliminate the use of petroleum based products, and reduce CO2 emissions. Hankook and other manufacturers have completed the global implementation of non-aromatic (low PAH) oils in all of their tires as part of a social and environmental responsibility drive.
“As global manufacturers we must work cooperatively to develop the tires of tomorrow -- tires that reduce our CO2 footprint.”
In closing, Suh called for a consortium between all tire manufacturers to jointly develop a global campaign to educate consumers about the importance of maintaining proper tire air pressure, citing the “overwhelming benefits we all can enjoy if we simply maintain proper inflation.”
In June, the Rubber Manufacturers Association released survey results showing that millions of drivers in the United States alone are putting themselves at risk and wasting gas by failing to properly inflate their tires. The survey reported that only one in six vehicles had properly inflated tires, and 55% of all vehicles had at least one under-inflated tire.
“I believe that tire manufacturers share a crucial responsibility in educating consumers about proper care and maintenance of their tires. We all know low air pressure degrades performance, endangers vehicle occupants, and harms the environment.”
Suh emphasized that consumers and commercial end users will continue to demand more, and that good healthy competition will continue to raise the bar.
“We need to continue our efforts in reducing rolling resistance, and making tires even more fuel efficient. Auto manufacturers are specifying this. Replacement consumers are demanding this. And many governments are, in fact, regulating this.
“Success lies in finding the next big technology breakthrough faster than your competitor.”
(To read Suh’s entire speech, visit www.hankooktireusa.com.)
The Tire Society Inc. is a not-for-profit Ohio corporation with worldwide membership. Its purpose is to increase and disseminate knowledge as it pertains to the science and technology of tires.
For more information on the Tire Society Conference, visit www.tiresociety.org.