Balkrishna Industries Ltd. (BKT) is a major Off-Highway tire manufacturer on the global market equipping machinery and vehicles operating in the agricultural, industrial, earthmoving and mining sectors as well as in port, ATV and gardening applications. Today, BKT has one of the largest tire lineups on the market with more than 2,700 products that are exported in over 160 countries throughout five continents worldwide.

The company employs more than 7,000 people and has five production sites in India (four tire manufacturing sites and one mold production plant). BKT has also three Business Units: in Italy, in the USA, and in Canada. For more detaliles about the company, we talked with Lucia Salmaso, CEO of BKT Europe.

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

Lucia Salmaso: The main BKT’s focus is manufacturing a very extensive Off-Highway tire range for machines operating in the specialized sectors I have just mentioned.

We aim at continuously widening it by means of new sizes,  new patterns and technologies, which are specifically designed as a response to each market’s and each application’s needs. Our products literally comprise every field, application, operating condition, and every type of equipment. The goal is to enhance both equipment performance and efficiency enabling users to be competitive in their field.

BKT’s activities do not end with production. Our products are so specialized that sales assistance and after sales services are essential to maximizing return on investment and these services are carried out by BKT distributors within our extensive worldwide network. They are able assist every client in cooperation with BKT’s Field Engineering Team that is always ready to provide training and proactive information as well as stepping in, if necessary or in case of issues.

E.E: What’s the news for 2020 about new products?

L.S: Right now, at the time of this interview is April 2 and our headquarters, as well as the manufacturing facilities of BKT in India — where the government has declared a lockdown as a means to contain the virus and save the lives of the citizens — will remain closed until the end of the 14th of April 2020. The customer service and sales support are available in smart working, a modality which the Group activated before it became mandatory.

At the moment is thus difficult to stick to the original plan, as it is for everybody. We are observing the situation changing every day and differently all over the world. We are working on new plans, but it is too early to take a step.

Before this emergency time, our plan was to launch in 2020 a Giant OTR tire: a 57’’-version of EARTHMAX SR 46, for rigid dumpers operating in mines, dams, and the sites of great construction works and a 63”-version should also follow.

As for new agriculture tires, our original plan was to participate both to EIMA and SIMA shows in November, which are typically occasions for us to launch novelties.

E.E: What are the ranges of traded products?

L.S: As mentioned, BKT’s product catalogue includes more than 2,700 products for the different segments we operate in. To resume such a big portfolio I will go through the different machines we can equip.

In agriculture BKT has developed products for tractors of all sizes and powers, including high-power, compact utility, small and 2WD tractors, cotton pickers, harvesters and balers, implements, orchard and vineyard harvesters, pivot irrigators, roto rakes and rototillers, seeders, sprayers, spreaders, tankers, trailers.

Our agriculture range also includes products for multiuse vehicles, forestry vehicles (trenches, log skidders forwarders and forestry harvesters), ATV and go-kart, golf-cart, light trucks and mowers.

For the industrial sector of machines BKT provides specialized tires for all kinds of loaders including also backhoe and compact loaders, compact dumpers, compactors, container and empty container handlers, excavators, forklifts, gantry, RTG and mobile cranes, graders, low-platform trailers, mobile homes, reach stackers, road-rail equipment, scrapers and skid steers, straddle carriers, telehandlers and terminal tractors.

Very detailed is also our offer for the OTR vehicles including articulated dump trucks, dozers, graders, haul trains, load haul dumps, loaders, low-profile dump trucks, on / off trucks, rigid dumpers, scrapers and underground mining vehicles.

E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?

L.S: As mentioned, we are present in 160 countries and markets all over the world, for the specialized Off-Highway segments we operate in.

As a multinational company, BKT assigns huge resources as well as commitment and attention to all regions around the world considering the importance of all local needs.

Markets varies much one from another according to many factors and our presence as well.

This is why we work closely with our partners-distributors that really are the key-link to localize all our efforts and actions.

As for some figures, last year BKT had a turnover of over 900 million US dollars distributed as follows: 65% in the agricultural sector, 14% in industrial applications, 13% in OTR, and the remaining 8% split over the several specialist segments we represent.

50% of BKT sales figure is from the European market, whereas 20% derives from the Americas, and 30% from other countries worldwide.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

L.S: The sectors we operate in are very different and have very different needs to meet. These requirements lead the markets’ trends.

In agriculture, for instance, a general requirement is great resistance against cut, heat and wear, and this implies the continuous development of always more robust and more durable compounds. In addition to a high demand of tires that increase productivity avoiding soil compaction, users are requiring a continuously improved mix of features in relation to both operating quality and product durability.

The OTR sector has very severe requirements in terms of safety, traction, efficiency and durability to be satisfied. Operators’ goal is that of having durable, reliable, and resistant products that are able to master any difficulties right when the going gets tough.

E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?

L.S: We have launched many innovative products in BKT history, but a turning point the development of our agricultural line was definitely implementing IF Technology (Increased Flexion) on our product, AGRIMAX FORCE. This is a cutting-edge tire, which has a major load capacity at lower inflation pressure compared to a standard tire of equal size reducing soil compaction.

Another revolution came with AGRIMAX V-FLECTO, – a winning combination of technologies to enhance productivity and performance of latest-generation tractors on any type of field. It is an ideal tire for combined usage without the necessity of changing inflation pressure when moving from the fields to the road or vice versa. We definitely kept pace with the most advanced technologies after having implemented the innovative Narrow Rim Option (NRO) solution based on an experimental standard, which has been recently introduced by the European Tire and Rim Technical Organization (E.T.R.T.O.).

As for OTR segment I believe everything changed in 2008 when we launched our first EARTHMAX, that is nowadays an extensive range of radial tires engineered for the purpose of favoring best load distribution on the ground when fitted on dumpers, wheeled loaders, dozers, or graders. It was the beginning of a product lined that is constantly in evolution, very appreciated and whose strength is having a different model for each specific application and usage. Not everybody can say that!