TYRES: Tyres4U

By: David Goeldner


Chances are increasingly high your bus tyres were sourced through Sydney-based supplier Tyres4U

TYRES: Tyres4U
Tyres received for retreading

It’s easy to fall into the trap of stereotyping the style and nature of personnel behind the tyre supply industry.

While the rubber trade is distinctly blue collar, the level of professionalism and technical expertise resident among the ‘brains trust’ at tyre distributor Tyres4U is clearly breaking down the stereotype.

There is passion in abundance at Tyre4U’s head office and distribution centre at Ashfield in Sydney’s inner west.

It’s this passion that has led to a technically sophisticated approach to large bus industry contract tenders, exemplified by recent success as the preferred tyre supplier to the New South Wales State Transit Authority’s Sydney bus fleet.

Leading Tyres4U’s tender process is Thomas Hayes, a former Queensland Reds rugby player, and now the tyre distributor’s national manager for government and fleet sales.

Hayes plays it tough, but like many rugby fraternity is highly articulate and consummately professional in his approach to new bus business.

The recent STA ‘win’ came after a long association with a similarly large bus fleet in Queensland at Transit Australia Group’s Surfside Buslines, a relationship that has endured for more than a decade.

Hayes says Tyres4U is mindful not to push a particular brand at a bus company, but rather look at the overall tyre ‘solution’.

"It just so happens that we have been able to look at products in the Surfside fleet in Queensland and the STA fleet in Sydney and go back to the tyre manufacturer and aim for the same cost per kilometre — CPK — goal," Hayes says.

CPK is an important element in Tyres4U plank to pursue its plan to grow its client base in the bus industry. CPK relates to all costs associated with running a vehicle on a set of tyres over a certain distance.

Tyres4U National Fleet Monitoring Manager Dean Amedov is a veritable walking abacus of tyre cost calculations.

"Bus companies look at their figures at the end of the year and say ‘we spent this much money’," says Amedov, who warns against buying cheap for cheap’s sake.

"It’s not just about paying $200 for a tyre which will get you 10,000kms," he says.

"They might think the initial outlay is low and they will just keep doing this, but I can guarantee that their bill at the end of the year is going to be phenomenal."

Amedov’s cost calculations, along with input from Tyres4U Logistics Manager Jun Lin, helped seal the deal with STA after an extensive testing process where tyre suppliers were pitted against each other during tyre trial phases at depots across Sydney.

STATE TRANSIT AUTHORITY

Tyres4U had been supplying tyres across different STA depots for about eight years prior to winning the recent tender to supply across 12 Sydney depots.

Amedov was a key participant in the tyre trials which formed a formal part of the tender process in 2011.

"About four years ago STA went to trial with all the major tyre distributors," Amedov says.

"We were given four depots at the time to trial our tyres."

Amedov seized the opportunity help ‘clean up’ STA’s tyre procurement process, implementing a customised web-based online ordering and tracking system at the Burwood depot.

"We were supplying tyres to four depots, but it was the Burwood depot where we were trialling online ordering with the use of [personal digital assistants]," Amedov says.

While Burwood is one of STA’s smaller depots, it has high volume traffic.

"Buses are always in and out, there’s no sitting around," Amedov says.

Hayes says it was an ideal location to get the best results.

This part of Sydney’s inner west is a noted testing ground for route service vehicles, with its short sharp streets, twists and turns, high speed and low speed, with high tyre damage.

Tyres4U were given Burwood in the inner west, Brookvale and North Sydney on the north side of the city and Randwick in the east.

The team at Ashfield see the creation of Burwood depot’s tyre-supply information system as a key value-add for both STA and Tyres4U, with replication of the system planned for other large tyre procurement contracts.

Amedov says the system is cutting down double handling and streamlining the order system across STA’s Sydney depots since the Burwood trial.

"We save the STA a lot of time and a lot of paper," Amedov says.

He says there were about nine steps to order a tyre at STA prior to the advent of Tyres4U’s ordering system.

"We simplified the steps to make it easy for someone at a depot to log on, enter the account number, click on the tyre type and how many needed," Amedov says.

Tyres4U will pick up old tyres from the depot, bring them back to one of the distribution centres, strip and fit the new tyre, and drop them back off. A signed PDA generates an automatic invoice.

"There is an electronic paper trial, tracking every single case online," Amedov says.

"We took about five steps from the STA process."

The online ordering system is ‘tailor-made’ modelled on a similar system Tyres4U developed for its forklift tyre business SolidPlus.

Rather than compete on price, Tyres4U competes on ‘service solution’. A key client in the forklift trade, won through the online procurement approach, is Toyota Materials Handling, which Tyres4U claim as a ‘true partnership’.

"We looked at the software used for SolidPlus and tweaked it for STA," Amedov says.

"We worked together with STA, and we are still changing the system to improve it.

"Now that STA depot staff have started using it and realise they don’t need as much time to do what they used to do, they love us now," he says.

The system is bereft of a catchy title, which is generically referred to as the ‘Tyres4U Online Ordering System’.

The system carries codes relating to the type of bus at the depot, such as Volvo or Mercedes-Benz, which dominate the STA fleet.

The STA depot staff will then select a code according to bus make, such as a Volvo B7R, and tyres will be selected according to the type of bus.

"We do the rest," Amedov says.

"STA can track where the tyre is during retreading."

The system also notes the reason why the tyre was replaced, such as a damaged side wall.

Occasionally Amedov and the team see the notation ‘NWR’, which is a standard abbreviation across the tyre industry as ‘Not Worth Retreading’.

Amedov is aghast at how STA managed to keep track of an estimated 10,000 tyre retreads across the Sydney fleet each year based on a paper inventory and ordering system.

"I don’t know how they were doing it," he says.

Amedov explains that under STA’s old system it could take more than a day to communicate what they required, even until very recently sending through hand written orders by fax machine.

As the pace of ordering has picked up, Tyres4U continue to run tyres around Sydney town on a set roster.

"We have set runs to Sydney depots, picking up on set days, for example pickling up from Brookvale on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week," Amedov explains.

Retreads usually take under five days to deliver back to the depot, and new tyres within two days of ordering under the new system.

"We are stripping and fitting about 100 tyres a day at Ashfield just for STA," Amedov says.

Tyres4U take the whole wheel, rim and tyre, back to the Ashfield for stripping and retreading.

STA depot staff simply bolt off and bolt on the rims with new tyres as they come back from Tyres4U.

DOUBLE COIN

Many of the tyres STA depot staff are bolting on and off are sourced from Chinese tyre giant Shanghai Tyre and Rubber Company, the makers of Double Coin tyres.

Former Shanghai Tyre and Rubber Company engineer Jun Lin bought Chinese engineers to Sydney to see the trials of the company’s Double Coin tyre brand in use at Burwood, and according to Lin came away impressed.

Hayes says it was almost unheard of to have a team of tyre engineers from China come to Australia to inspect tyre performance.

Double Coin had been testing long-haul truck tyres in Australia for many years and were keen to see its product applied in the nation’s largest urban bus fleet.

The trial started with the RT660, eventually moving to the RT606 urban steer tyre which is now STA’s preferred tyre, supplied under the Tyres4U contract.

Rear tyres on STA’s fleet are mainly either retreaded Brazilian Vipal or Michelin’s Recamic.

Tyres4U now supply new steer and re-treaded tyres to all 12 Sydney STA depots, using combinations of Double Coin’s RT606 and GT Radial’s GT867, both Chinese manufacturers with distribution agreements in Australian through Tyres4U.

The GT Radial is used mostly on Sydney’s articulated buses on the axle closest to the centre turntable.

Hayes explains that the Double Coin tyres were a bit noisy in the centre of a bendy bus, and the GT Radial was a perfect alternative, also tested during the trial phase.

Also discovered during the trial was how STA operators were adjusting tyre pressure — a key element of the CPK equation.

Part of Amedov’s fleet monitoring brief was to consider tyre pressure mindful that underinflated tyres add to running costs.

"Maintaining correct pressure is huge in bus tyres," he says.

Incorrect tyre pressure can add to tread wear, increase the fuel bill, and in some cases damage the tyre through heat generation and blow out.

Tyres4U were able to monitor the tyre pressure scenario throughout the STA tender bid process, and continues to do so post-tender.

PUBLIC AWARENESS

With more meetings planned with other leading bus operators, Tyres4U are poised to leap frog a few ‘name’ brands, consolidating their place in premier position.

Tyres4U might not be a household name, principally due to its position as a wholesaler and distributor, but the push towards public awareness and branding is on the move in the form of its ever-expanding retail arm — Tyreright.

Tyreright branches are popping up all over the country with 60 stores across Australia, many placed strategically along coastal and inland truck routes.

There are 30 company-owned TyrerIght stores, and 30 licenced service centres.

The controlling entity, Tyres4U, is an importer-wholesaler with 15 distribution centres in Australia, three in New Zealand and one in Papua New Guinea.

While the Tyreright empire grows, bus operators might be largely unaware of the parent company.

Tyres4U is owned by two of Australia’ leading business figures, Emery Curtis and David Ross, who together founded Continental Distillers back in 1952, noted for its Black Douglas Scotch Whisky.

Even in their advancing years, Curtis and Ross still take an active interest in their enterprises and are very much engaged with Tyres4U and its expansion strategy as non-executive directors.

CEO Les DeCelis has engineered the company’s growth over the past two decades, taking the fledgling tyre distribution business at Ashfield from virtually nothing to an employer of 500 people across its Australasian network.     

Marketing Manager Gregor Stone emphatically states Tyres4U is the country’s biggest independently Australian-owned tyre distribution company, but sits at about fourth after Bridgestone, Goodyear-Dunlop, and Michelin, which are each owned by manufacturers.

Hayes says the average supplier will just look at ‘pushing’ the cheaper tyre.

"The next tier tyre supplier will look at CPK, what tyre gives you the best bang for your buck on your vehicle wherever it travels.

"The next tier, which is where we are aiming at and believe we have reached, is those two points, and everything else, including administration, customer service, downtime, fitting costs, absolutely everything," Hayes says.

It’s this new wave approach to trye supply Tyres4U aims to achieve with its three-year STA contract which commenced in September 2013 at the completion of the two year trial.

"We are all about continuous improvement," Hayes says.

"We are always looking out for the newest and best products."

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