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A Tire(less) Performance

Forklift trucks require tires. And transporting tires requires forklift trucks. The intralogistics industry and the tire industry are therefore inexorably linked. For many years, the brands of the KION Group have long been cultivating close, loyal partnerships with renowned tire manufacturers around the world, including Michelin, Continental, and Bridgestone.


The smell of new tires fills the air—or, more specifically: the smell of natural rubber and lipids. Here amongst the Mediterranean cypresses, orange trees, and bergamots in the little town of Ronchi, near Trento (northern Italy), the tire manufacturer Michelin produces 40,000 car tires every day on one square kilometer of land. The site, Michelin’s largest in Europe, is home to an extensive range of products, ranging from classic summer and winter tires to all-season tires and models specially developed for electric vehicles. Brands such as Mercedes, Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, Ford, and Renault are all supplied from here. The processes at Michelin represent a mammoth feat of logistics and take place within a self-contained cycle – in which forklift trucks from the KION subsidiary STILL play a key role.

Tire Logistics from Rome to Alessandria

And the same applies throughout Italy. For years, STILL has been represented at all four Italian Michelin locations—as well as Ronchi, its trucks are also in operation at the production site in Alessandria (also in the north of the country) and in the distribution centers in Turin and Rome. “Our forklifts keep the production processes at Michelin running,” says Luca Olivo, the Key Account Manager responsible for Michelin at STILL: “The four locations have a wide range of operations in place, all of which are associated with different requirements.” For example, STILL forklifts are used in the semi-finished product area to handle important components and manufacturing materials. They are also an essential part of the vulcanization process, where natural rubber is converted into synthetic rubber, and they also help with transport and handling.

“STILL and Michelin have become increasingly closer over the years”, explains Luca Olivo: “This led to Michelin switching to full-service leasing, which has been in place since 2014.” To provide the full service, a workshop was set up on-site in Ronchi, with three permanent service technicians on duty. This enables STILL to respond immediately to any faults. Since then there has been almost no downtime. The total fleet of 140 STILL forklifts used in Ronchi—from the RX 20-18, the RX 20-20 to the RX 60-20—are constantly being serviced and maintained.

Michelin on the Fork, Michelin on the Wheel

However, the partnership between the two quality brands is by no means a one-way street. After all, the STILL forklifts not only transport Michelin tires, they also drive on them. In Ronchi, Turin and Alessandria, The STILL trucks are fitted with tires from CAMSO—the Michelin Group subsidiary specializing in industrial tires.

A few thousand kilometers from the Italian village of Ronchi, another world-class tire manufacturer also relies on products from the KION Group. In Truganina, a sleepy suburb of the Australian city of Melbourne, Bridgestone operates an enormous logistics center, where thousands and thousands of Bridgestone tires are stacked meters high. The site is also home to a fleet of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) from the KION brand Dematic.

Driverless, Controlled by Software

The tires are transported from A to B using metal cables by Dematic counterbalanced AGVs—with no driver at the wheel. Observing the process is like watching a perfectly choreographed dance, all controlled in real time by Dematic software. “The trucks know exactly what they have to do,” says Nick Tzuntzurkas, ANZ National Warehouse Manager at Bridgestone: “They transport and manage product pallets and bring them to selected replenishment and transfer areas.”

Each AGV is a powerful machine that really packs a punch, with a load capacity of 1,500 kilograms and a lifting height of four meters. The trucks are navigated using a laser guidance system that identifies hazards at an early stage and avoids collisions. Even the charging of the lithium-ion batteries is automated—as soon as they are not needed, the AGVs make their own way to the charging platform. “The trucks work long shifts of up to 12 hours,” says Tony Raggio, General Manager of Sales, Mobile Automation at Dematic. “And at the end of such a long working day, the AGV goes to the charging station to recharge its batteries for the next shift.”

This self-contained process is highly automated, safe and efficient, which the customer, Bridgestone, really appreciates. “By implementing this AGV solution, we have been able to increase our efficiency by automating the movement and storage of products throughout the warehouse, without compromising the safety of our warehouse personnel,” says Nick Tzuntzurkas, ANZ National Warehouse Manager at Bridgestone, describing the Dematic system.

A Record-Breaking Partnership

Another subsidiary of the KION Group, Linde Material Handling, also enjoys a close partnership and mutual trust with yet another world-class tire manufacturer, Continental. The collaboration between these two brands is particularly remarkable, with the pair providing a real ‘goosebumps’ moment at the StaplerCup 2018. When it came down to who could do a comprehensive tire change the fastest, the stars aligned for Linde Material Handling and Continental. The Linde trainees gave their all, kept a cool head, and managed a complete tire change of the eight Continental CS20+ solid tires in just 69 seconds, breaking the previous world record of 110 seconds by a long way—and securing an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.

It was a real high point in the partnership between Linde MH and Continental. Based on shared values, the partnership has been in place since 2005 and has not been short of milestones over the years. Both brands attach great importance to safety and are constantly developing their products to further minimize risks and mitigate the risk of accidents even further. Continental has also developed tires especially for intralogistics—for example the CS20 model, which has been used in the StaplerCup for several years. With its excellent traction, outstandingly smooth running and low vibration, this model is ideal for use in competitive scenarios.

The Linde MH and Continental brands are also closely linked through the “World of Material Handling” industry trade fair, where Continental has been an exhibitor for years, showcasing its extensive range of products for industrial trucks. “We really appreciate the excellent, long-standing collaboration and partnership with Linde Material Handling,” says Matthias Engelhardt, Head of Sales and Marketing in Germany for industrial tires at Continental. They make the perfect match: The robust and versatile industrial truck from Linde MH, plus tires with low rolling resistance and high mileage from Continental. Ultimately, customers also benefit from the outstanding collaboration between the industrial partners. If the aim is to achieve safe transport, high throughput, low downtime, and punctual delivery, then reliable transport systems and forklifts are a must. And tires, of course!