Express Drives was recently invited by TVS Tyres aka TVS Srichakra Ltd. to the City of Temples, Madurai, where the company is headquartered and has a massive production facility. The brand primarily produces two and three-wheeler tyres that are supplied to multiple OEMs like Hero MotoCorp, Honda, Suzuki, TVS Motor Company, Bajaj, Piaggio and many more. TVS Tyres is one of India’s leading tyre manufacturers that produces over 26 million tyres per year. The company manufactures a wide range of tyres and apart from making two & three wheeler tyres, the brand produces multipurpose tyres, skid steer tyres, industrial pneumatic tyres and more. The 2018 edition of TVS Tyres Reviewers Meet saw us journalists taking a two-day tour of TVS Tyres’ R&D center along with their production plant and we also got a chance to test out company’s multiple products on different two-wheelers on TVS Tyres’ very own test track. So, the visit was all about understanding what goes into the making of tyres and how TVS Tyres sticks to the mantra of quality over quantity to deliver the best to the end consumer. Here’s our experience.
On Day 1, we were invited to see the TVS Tyres R&D center that is located inside the premises of the company’s production plant only. The building that looked rather serene from outside had some expert minds inside that determine what ratio of materials will be required for a specific type of tyre. They also ensure the highest quality standards to promise that the product is on par with the expectations of the customer. The senior management of TVS Tyres took us through the various equipment and processes that are involved in the Research and Development. Different kind of samples are taken to examine how much amount of materials would be apt for a particular purpose and these are further tested for different parameters like grip level, noise, wear & tear, fuel economy and more.
The market demand and OEM requirements are also kept in mind while testing such samples. Once the sample is finalised, the tread pattern is decided and all thanks to technological advancement, an imaginary tread design can be turned into a real-life sample in just a few hours. Multiple CAD software plays a crucial role in the designing part before the tread pattern becomes a reality and goes into final production.
The sample is then made to go through various processes and tests so that the tyre can meet certain criteria. Tests are also conducted that make sure that the tyre can withstand scorching heat along with chilling temperatures while delivering optimum performance and not compromising on fuel economy.
Once this is done, the final tyre design and specifications are fed into a software that reveals how much pressure will get applied on different areas of a tyre under various circumstances and variations in speed, compounds, and tread design are done in order to come up with the best results. Named as Finite Element Analysis (FEA), the company is able to predict the performance of the tyres without actually testing them out in real. This has indeed helped TVS save time and reduce the margin for error that eventually results in enhanced productivity.
The second day of the 2018 TVS Tyres Reviewers Meet was completely dedicated to the factory visit part that gave a deep understanding of how a tyre is made. The senior management at TVS Tyres took us through multiple processes in tyre making inside the factory and since these were taking place in real time, we got a better understanding. Once the R&D team decides the right ingredients and design for the particular tyre, the compounds are fed into a massive mixer that is equivalent to the size of three storey building. Once the different elements of the compound which has natural rubber, oils, carbon, nylon and sulphur as the prime components gets uniformly mixed, it comes out from the mixer in the form of a black paste.
After this, the paste has to go through a process called calendering in which it is converted into sheets that have predetermined thickness and width. After that, nylon topping is done in order to give it strength and the process involves the sandwiching of nylon between sheets of rubber.
The rubber fabric sheets are then cut for uniformity and the extra part that has to be removed does not contain nylon. These are now taken into the moulding machine which has a specific tread pattern along with the sidewall branding and these are applied on the tyres under high temperatures of over 300-degree Celsius. After the curing process, the tyres are sent to the Post Curing Inflation where the units are inflated to get a final shape. The tyres are now ready and are sent for inspection where a supervisor checks each and every unit for any cracks, wear & tear or any other damages.
This was indeed the most fun part of the two-day tour. The company had lined up five different two-wheelers for us to ride on their own test track in the factory premises and all of them were fitted with TVS Tyres’ products. The line up included a variety of vehicles from a Humble Honda Activa to the agile & quick KTM 390 Duke. Before the track ride began, we were given a brief that the tyres on Honda Shine and Bajaj Platina focus more on low rolling resistance aiming for better fuel economy and the ones on the Activa target more durability. The units on the KTM 390 Duke and Bajaj Pulsar RS200, on the other hand, were designed with an aim to deliver outright performance.
First, it was the turn of the KTM 390 Duke that was fitted with 110/70-17 54S Protorq CF front and 140/70-17 66S Protorq CR rear tyres and these were the ones that offered the maximum grip on the track. During high speeds, the bike felt stable and under hard braking too, it didn’t felt nervous and there was hardly any fishtailing. Moreover, all thanks to the Protorq units, the 390 Duke felt the most confident around corners. After the KTM 390 Duke, it was now turn for the Bajaj Pulsar RS 200 that got 100/80-17 52P front and 130/70-17 62P rear Remora tyres and these offered a sufficient grip under braking, cornering and high speeds.
At first, it was a bit hard to decide which out of the two had the maximum grip in three laps of a rather subtle test track as most of us thought it is the KTM that is playing the primary role in giving confidence around the corners due to its agile handling. In order to clear out this dilemma, it was decided to swap the tyres. Once this was done, it was clear that it is the tyres and not the bike that is instilling confidence around corners as the Bajaj Pulsar RS200 felt more sure-footed after it was installed with the Protorqs.
Next up was the Honda Shine that was fitted with 80/100-18-17 52P front and 130/70-17 62P rear tyres. These had a low rolling resistance property to target an enhanced fuel economy and hence, the grip slightly took a back seat. We felt that the rear wheel was locking up a bit too early under aggressive braking. However, on corners and while taking quick turns, the bike was cooperating without any complaints.
Bajaj Platina that was equipped with 2.75-17 41P front and 3.00-17 50P rear tyres also felt similarly under hard braking but the grip on corners and the straight line was decent enough. Last but definitely not the least, it was time for the Honda Activa to get a taste of the test track. The automatic scooter got 90/100-10 53J Conta tubeless units at the front and rear and these offered impressive grip on corners. The Activa felt composed under hard braking as well as while manoeuvring and ticks all the right boxes when it comes to overall performance.
The two days of factory & R&D visit along with the rigorous testing of multiple TVS tyres’ products at the test track made us understand the complete process of tyre manufacturing and we also got to know why offering the best quality to the customers is essential not just for a good business but also for winning the trust of customers.
At TVS tyres, quality is given great importance and the company says that all its suppliers have to meet a minimum quality certification of ISO 9001 in order to maintain the standards in line with the best in the market. All the products at TVS tyres undergo visual and balancing checks along with automatic scanning to ensure an error-free tyre fitment for your vehicle. All these measures proved their worth in real when the tyres were tested on the test track.
A lot is in the pipeline for TVS tyres in the coming years in terms of quality enhancement and product improvement and hence, we can see better products in the future from the company’s stable.
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