After creating its tire use (wear) state estimation model for trucks and buses in July 2020, Toyo Tire has taken advantage of its unique strengths as a manufacturer to develop a maintenance solution in response to the needs of a next-generation mobility society.
Accelerating Digitalization Initiatives to Create Future Value
Toyo Tire Corporation (Toyo Tire) aims to contribute to the creation of more prosperous communities by supporting mobility in society through its business. In doing so, the company has garnered high acclaim both in Japan and overseas for its diligence in technological innovation. Toyo Tire celebrated its 75th anniversary in August 2020, and to commemorate this milestone, the company has designated 2020 as the year for paving new roads, a beginning to the next 25 years towards its centennial anniversary. Accordingly, the company is undertaking various initiatives as it embarks towards a new stage of its corporate journey.
It is said that the automotive industry undergoes a major transformation once a century, and as that transformation is happening right now, Toyo Tire has reflected from various perspectives on what added value its tires need to deliver in the nextgeneration society. We had an opportunity to speak about this matter with Tetsuo Shimomura, a Corporate Officer at Toyo Tire’s Central Research Center.
“Since 2018, we started evaluating what kind of added value our tires need to provide,” says Mr. Shimomura. “We are very dedicated to helping solve the issues of customers and society at large, and have been working diligently to promote that by demonstrating Toyo Tire’s strengths throughout the tire life-cycle-related supply chain—including everything from production to disposal. In order to do this, we needed to collect information from tires making contact with the road, connect various things, concepts and data across the entire life cycle, then use acquired data to create a business model that optimizes pricing as well as a balance between supply and demand.”
As these discussions progressed, Toyo Tire established a Digital Innovation Division in February 2020 to formalize its companywide digitalization efforts. The tire use (wear) state estimation model for trucks and buses ( Tire Wear Estimation Model) announced in July embodies the company’s first step in its digitalization journey, and has been a pioneering move in Toyo Tire’s contribution towards solving the issues of customers and society by linking technological and sales data. Sachiko Nakajima is the manager of the Research Planning Office at Toyo Tire’s Central Research Center. She was the leader of the project to create the Tire Wear Estimation Model and participated from the start of its conception.
“When Mr. Shimomura and I first started examining the feasibility of this model, we struggled with a lot of trial and error,” says Ms. Nakajima. “We rounded up key personnel from the entire company to participate in the endeavor, and created a ‘Wear Diagnosis Project’ where we discussed global trends and our company’s future vision. I think it was because of these discussions that we were able to come up with the Tire Wear Estimation Model. In fact, this model allowed us to take conventionally analog customer data and link it to our technology and production processes as digital data. This in turn helped us to optimize our overall supply chain.”
Automated truck & bus tire data consolidation system
Consolidating the Company’s Know-How & Uniting to Share Information as One Entity
As the Tire Wear Estimation Model was being developed, the area Toyo Tire emphasized most was how it was going to accumulate and consolidate as much unique tire manufacturer expertise from around the entire company as possible in order to create a model and system that estimates the use (wear) status of tires.
“Looking back at it now, our project members were not necessarily experts in tires,” says Ms. Nakajima, “and while this enabled us to conceive innovative ideas, we always found ourselves requiring expert knowledge in the end. That is why we decided to recruit key persons from seven different departments within the company. With their cooperation we were able to utilize customer data and share information in a unified fashion. That was the biggest factor for our project’s success.”
Nobuyoshi Ishizaka was one of the project members in charge of design. Mr. Ishizaka is an assistant manager in the Research Planning Office at Toyo Tire’s Central Research Center. “I have very strong ties with customers,” says Mr. Ishizaka as he recalls how difficult it was to get the project started, “and although maintaining good relations with customers is one thing, being able to build good relat ionships and seamlessly collect data from distributors, who act as customer liaisons, is another. It’s no easy task. Sure, there were probably some distributors who thought the whole process was a pain, but I used my experience to help them understand that in the end this process will resolve the issues their customers have been grappling with.”
Masashi Tsuchimoto was another member of the project. He was in charge of data-related affairs and serves as assistant to manager in the Research Planning Office at Toyo Tire’s Central Research Center. When asked about what was valued during the course of the project, he had this to say: “If you were to ask customers what they like, each one will tell you something different because they each have a different set of values. That’s precisely why we needed a comprehensive, not local, understanding of what those values are so that we can practice foresight and incorporate them in how we develop our business.”
Upon hearing that Toyo Tire was creating its Tire Wear Estimation Model, Satoshi Meguro, who has experience procuring tires at a logistics company and is currently an assistant to manager in the Research Planning Office at Toyo Tire’s Central Research Center, recalls how he came to play an active role at Toyo Tire after sensing that tire maintenance would become an increasingly important issue in the future.
“There were many issues that came to light while I worked on the procurement side of things,” says Mr. Meguro, “but I felt that the development of the Tire Wear Estimation Model was extremely advanced, so I decided to participate in the project not only for its social significance, but also because it would help to resolve that those issues.”
This is how the project began, and all of its members united to work as one under Mr. Shimomura’s clearly defined mission to thoroughly grasp what customers truly desire, and what their latent intentions are.
Members of the Tire Wear Estimation Model project in front of the Corporate Technology Center
Utilizing Live Data to Maintain & Manage Customers’ Vehicles
Toyo Tire says it faced several challenges throughout the course of this project. Some of these include the challenges related to obtaining customer data, as mentioned earlier by Mr. Ishizaka, as well as the reorganization, data verif ication and business model examination required to leverage that data. Tata Consultancy Services Japan (TCS Japan) partnered with Toyo Tire for this project and worked to resolve these types of issues. Mr. Shimomura spoke about why Toyo Tire chose TCS Japan for this endeavor: “We highly valued TCS Japan’s global expertise and rich experience dealing with digital transformations (DX), as well as their one-stop service that enabled us to work together in a wide array of areas, such as brainstorming, on-site support and business model development. They didn’t just simply help us create the system.” TCS Japan worked together with Toyo Tire on this project using “TCS DigiFleet,” an IoT solution developed by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) that offers, among other things, various applications that obtain, accumulate and visualize data.
The Tire Wear Estimation Model was announced earlier this year in July. This is a unique model that uses sensors attached to the wheels of transport vehicles like trucks and buses to automatically gather data on the status of tires, such as their air pressure and internal temperatures. This data is then accumulated in real time to a cloud server, along with other information gathered through GPS like location and vehicle acceleration speed, where digital environments are used to estimate how worn the tires are. The wear of tires used on trucks and buses are inspected manually once every one to three months using measurement equipment to check the depth of the grooves on each tire. This estimation model will allow companies to appropriately manage the status of the tires they use, and has been proven effective for maintenance work.
“This model adequately and systematically gathers and accumulates real-time information on the age of, and loads placed on, tires depending on the operation status of each vehicle,” says Mr. Shimomura. “ Toyo Tire will take this concept of using live data to manage customer vehicle maintenance and accelerate it even further in the future. We’ve already received many inquiries from customers, and as we are currently examining the possibility of rolling out this model, we are also exploring other options like joint ventures with auto makers in advanced initiatives. We are also receiving many inquiries from overseas countries such as from North America and China.” As Ms. Nakajima mentioned, there are definitely high expectations of this system, and expectations are rising for Toyo Tire’s DX.
TCS Digi Fleet images
Improving Customer Value Through DX
With the creation of the Tire Wear Estimation Model, project members are working to enhance this system to achieve greater leaps forward. Mr. Meguro says, “We used the data we received from customers to create a more effective system, and by establishing a cycle that acquires even more data from customers, I am confident that we will be able to provide them with even better tires moving forward.”
Mr. Tsuchimoto says that this project has also had a great impact within Toyo Tire. “We feel that this project has really helped to solidify a foundation for cooperation within the company,” says Mr. Tsuchimoto. “In the future, I would love to see even less intradepartmental barriers and a stronger corporate climate that makes it easier to consolidate Toyo Tire’s collective efforts.” Mr. Ishizaka also commented on the internal changes he’s seen and said, “Up until now there haven’t been any cases directly linked to industrialization in research themes initiated by the Central Research Center. This project has produced great results, and I hope similar cases appear even more in the future.”
Ms. Nakajima says that she would like to take the opportunity presented by this project to transform the company even further. “Until now, there really has never been a department that brings the entire company together to swiftly promote a new venture. If we could take this project to the next level and create an organization that promotes new businesses, I think it would really accelerate our potential for greater growth.”
In addition to the Tire Wear Estimation Model, Toyo Tire is simultaneously making headway in a variety of other endeavors, such as embedding sensors in tires, optimizing designs based on past data, and promoting IoT at its plants.
“In order for us to further promote DX throughout the entire company, we need to further enhance the links between production, technology and business,” says Mr. Shimomura. “We also need to link customer data with technical data moving forward. The key to achieving this will be TCS DigiFleet. We will utilize this IoT solution to take advantage of real-time data and use the Tire Wear Estimation Model more sophisticatedly. In doing so, I hope to optimize Toyo Tire’s operations as a whole by linking everything together based on the data we receive from customers. I am certain this will help us provide even greater value to our customers. In addition, it will also be essential to enter into joint ventures with other companies to create business models from new perspectives. In this regard, we look forward to continue working with TCS Japan and have high hopes in our innovation partner for promoting growth strategies that will help us ascend to a new stage in our corporate journey.”
TCS Japan will utilize its global expertise and professional know-how to support Toyo Tire during its continuing DX journey.
*Photographs were taken with due consideration to preventing the infection and spread of the novel coronavirus. Subjects in the photographs only took off their masks for a short time while picture were being taken.
Corporate Of ficer, Central Research Center Toyo Tire Corporation
Manager Research Planning Of fice, Central Research Center Toyo Tire Corporation
Assistant Manager Research Planning Of fice, Central Research Center Toyo Tire Corporation
Assistant to Manager Research Planning Of fice, Central Research Center Toyo Tire Corporation
Assistant to Manager Research Planning Of fice, Central Research Center Toyo Tire Corporation
* The contents are as of November 2020.
寺﨑 亮 様