How tire management software can reduce costs

By |  June 9, 2017

Today’s fleet manager is empowered to make incredibly informed decisions based on real site data. Fleet management software can calculate optimized haul routes. Site simulation software can ensure the equipment fleet is perfectly suited to the operation and its production goals. Telematics software helps predict and plan for service, track locations for better fleet utilization and even identify needs for operator training.

With all of this data at a fleet manager’s fingertips, there is enormous potential to positively impact the operation’s bottom line. All too often, however, a critical part of the equation is left inadequately monitored and tracked – tires.

As the top wear part expense on the fleet, tires offer one of the greatest opportunities to reduce costs, but only if properly managed. Technology can play an incredibly important role in doing so. One of the best ways fleet managers can reduce tire costs is by using tire management software. However, with an already technology-rich environment, some fleet managers may be hesitant to invest in tire management software, whether owing to the cost or due to the perception that it’s one more thing that needs managed. However, when weighed against the value of a fleet’s tire assets, and the potential productivity lost due to improper tire management – the monetary and time investment in tire management software begins to look very justified.

For example, consider a medium-sized aggregate operation with 10 wheel loaders and 10 articulated dump trucks (ADTs). The average cost of a set of tires for a wheel loader is in the neighborhood of $15,000 – $150,000 total for 10 loaders; and the average cost of a set of tires for an ADT is in the neighborhood of $25,000 – $250,000 for 10 ADTs. This totals $400,000 in tire assets that a medium-sized operation may be managing at any given time.

Now, let’s take just one common cause of reduced tire life – improper inflation pressure – and examine the potential impact to the bottom line. If technology is not employed to be able to monitor inflation pressures in real time — or if it’s being ignored – it’s reasonable to think that up to 40 percent of tires in the fleet may be slightly underinflated. This may not seem considerable when examining individual tires, but over an entire fleet that carelessness is compounded.

A tire that is just 10 percent underinflated would be expected to have an approximate 16 percent reduced lifespan. If the average working life of a properly cared-for tire is roughly 8,500 hours, that goes down to 7,140 hours for a tire that’s underinflated by 10 percent. Now, let’s look at what this means for cost on the example fleet’s ADTs and loaders.

Saving big money

Tire-mounted sensors offer the capability to monitor internal temperature and pressure. (Photo courtesy of Titan International)

The cost to outfit an ADT with six tires is within the neighborhood of $25,000, or $4,166 per tire. If properly managed, each tire could run approximately 8,500 hours, which brings it to a 49-cent cost-per-hour. However, tires that are underinflated by just 10 percent would be expected to last 7,140 hours, or 58 cents per hour. The 9-cent difference can add up.

If only 40 percent of the ADTs’ tires are underinflated on 10 total haul trucks, that’s 24 tires that will have a 16 percent reduced life. That reduction in life on 24 tires amounts to losing $21,600 every 10,000 hours.

Equipping a wheel loader with tires averages around $15,000, or $3,750 per tire. Using the same math as the previous example, properly inflated tires lasting 8,500 hours would cost 44 cents per hour versus tires that are 10 percent underinflated, which would cost 53 cents per hour. If 40 percent of tires are underinflated on 10 wheel loaders, 16 of those tires could be costing you an additional $14,400 every 10,000 hours.

Improper inflation is just one of the many culprits behind high tire costs, so imagine all the cost-savings potential if the other common causes of tire issues could be avoided. Other factors that can have an enormous impact, and therefore should be monitored and tracked, include: operator behavior, tread selection, compound selection, ton-mile-per-hour (TMPH) rating, rotation schedule and preventive maintenance.

Document the performance

Managing tire assets can be done in one of two ways. Option 1 is done in part by memory (e.g., “I think this tire has performed well for us”) and by rifling through old purchase or service records to try to determine how long a tire lasted and when it was repaired.

Option 2 is done by reviewing a complete history of each individual tire. There is an easy, streamlined way to accomplish this – with technology. With $400,000 in assets at stake, it’s worth the effort. Thankfully, most operations already have some of these technologies in place. It’s just a matter of knowing how to use them.

Most fleets likely already have access to technology that can improve upon their tire management practices. Telematics and fleet management software are two staples in today’s aggregate and mining operations. Making an impact to tire costs is just a matter of knowing which features to utilize, what to look for and how to react.

Telematics

Telematics monitoring capabilities now come standard on most new heavy equipment, and each system has features that can help extend tire life.

◾ Monitor TMPH levels in real time to determine if machines are running beyond the capabilities of the tires.
◾ Monitor real-time onboard weighing information, which can alert the fleet manager if tires are overloaded and running beyond capacity.
◾ Monitor real-time inflation pressure and internal operating temperature information. This can only be achieved if a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is installed internally on the tires and set to integrate with the machine’s telematics system.

For tire management specifically, successful implementation of telematics hinges on the fleet manager defining allowable parameters for these datapoints and setting the software to create an alert when inflation pressures, temperatures, weight or TMPH ratings fall outside those parameters. Then, of course, the fleet manager must take action.

Fleet management software

The available features of fleet management software can differ greatly by provider. If offered, fleet managers should be taking advantage of the following fleet software capabilities:

◾ Monitor operator behavior to pinpoint areas where extra training may be required (e.g., abrupt starts and stops, consistent high-speed turning).
◾ Some systems come with onboard suspension monitors, which can log instances of rough roads, obstacles and spillage – plotting it on a map, and alerting the fleet manager to reroute traffic and/or make a repair to the haul road to avoid damage to the tires.
◾ Use the service log features to document time and scope of repairs, rotations and replacements.

Service logs can provide a basic history of a tire’s performance over time. But to gain a complete understanding of the root causes behind a tire’s cost per hour, tire management software is the most comprehensive and effective solution.

Why invest in tire management software?

Photo courtesy of Titan International

Tire management software gives fleet managers a complete history book on every tire in their fleet – from original installation to scrap pile. (Photo courtesy of Titan International)

Tire management software gives fleet managers a complete history book on every tire in their fleet – from original installation to scrap pile. Similar to certain fleet management software programs, it allows for recording data at time of service. However, the data that can be recorded is far more thorough, allowing for more in-depth, tire-specific analysis and decision-making.

Matching the right tire to the application is critical for maintaining equipment performance and enhancing productivity on the jobsite. Tire management software can help determine if a tire in one application on the same machine performs vastly different than that same tire on the same machine in a different application.

Each datapoint is documented against more detailed descriptions of the tire, including brand, tread style and compound for easy segmentation and side-by-side evaluation to determine which tires are delivering the lowest cost per hour for the site based on a multitude of design characteristics.

In addition to helping with more informed tire selection, the ability to document more in-depth descriptions of tire condition at the time of service allows for better cause-and-effect analysis of tire problems. For instance, if a tire was shown to wear significantly more quickly during a certain period of time, that knowledge can be weighed against service data and other operational data gathered from telematics.

Finally, tire management software can help reduce cost per hour through better inventory management – both on the site and through the tire dealer. The software can document the condition of any removed tires with remaining life to ensure they can be matched with others, reinstalled and used to their full capacity, rather than going to waste. Similarly, the software can be synced to have complete transparency between tire dealer and site to ensure new inventory is delivered on a just-in-time basis.

Implementation

It can often be daunting to add one more program into an already data-rich operation, and often, the most successful way to implement tire management software is to enlist the expertise of a trusted tire manufacturer or dealer. It’s important to seek out an expert that is willing to help with the upfront work, including conducting a site assessment, establishing a baseline of performance, making sound tire selection and maintenance recommendations, and ultimately, helping to integrate all of the technologies into a cohesive tire management plan. If done well, the return on investment will make the effort well worth it.


As global OTR product manager at Titan International, Johni Francis oversees the product development of Titan tires. He has spent much of his career consulting with mine and aggregate fleets to develop and implement successful tire management plans.

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