Investment by agricultural tyre manufacturer BKT shows no sign of slowing as the company celebrated the official opening of its new European headquarters in April. David Williams was there.
BKT’s off-highway tyres division was formed in 1987 and its manufacturing facilities include a modern plant in Bhuj, India which is the world’s largest of its type. An impressive 10ha tyre test site aids development of the company’s own ranges allowing performance comparison with all other major brands. Part of the company’s success is its ability to develop new tyres from concept to full production quickly. Moulds are made in-house, and average time taken from initial design to sale is just six months, including rigorous testing at the plant and by potential users.
Meeting growing demand
Initially BKT tyres were regarded by UK users as a low-cost solution for less demanding use but as the range evolved, and having proved a match for other premium brands, they are now offered as original equipment (OE) by most tractor and machinery manufacturers. The company’s range of agricultural tyres is massive and includes IF and VF types to match the top specification of any other manufacturer, but one of the brand’s advantages is its competitive pricing achieved through efficient tyre development and cost-effective manufacturing.
BKT Europe was set up 13 years ago, and the new European headquarters at Seregno, Italy provides much needed capacity to keep up with growing demand. The new offices span 500m2, including areas dedicated to technical innovation, logistics, OE management, marketing and corporate development, and will be home to the 15-member European team. A large new warehouse is at the same site and there is also a state-of-the-art visitor centre.
BKT Space is claimed to be the only digital training and information facility entirely dedicated to tyres and includes VR Space – a virtual reality suite allowing customers and dealers to ‘visit’ the company’s facilities such as the production plant in Bhuj without leaving Europe. Tire World provides an interactive touch wall where visitors can find out about agricultural, industrial and earthmover tyres.
BKT’s European sales success has been impressive, and now represents 50 per cent of the company’s turnover which passed $900M (£690M) globally in 2018. BKT Europe CEO Lucia Salmaso says the company’s goal is to increase its presence and market share even further in Europe. “Our goal is to permanently strengthen the presence of the BKT brand with original equipment manufacturers, and we know how to achieve it.
“Our new headquarters has a key role in this regard and we will now be much stronger in every European segment; agriculture, industry, earthmoving, mining, port handling, gardening and ATV. Now we have one of the most complete ranges on the market and increased production capacity thanks to our most recent Bhuj plant, and we are ready to grow.”
Not just tyres
Talking to Farmers Guide, president and director of technology Dilip Vaidya stressed that further development of the VF tyres range to meet increased demand is the priority. “They are the future and we have no doubt that sales of VF tyres will continue to increase, and replace IF tyres completely,” he said. “Their ability to carry 40 per cent extra load at the same pressure as standard tyres means they offer advantages over IF versions which typically carry 20 per cent more.
“We already have 6–8 sizes in our Agrimax V-Flecto tractor range and a large selection of VF sizes in our Spargo series for self-propelled sprayers. We offer IF tyres for cotton harvesters currently, but see VF tyre technology for combine harvesters as a target area, and are working with Claas to develop these for OE fitment.”
Asked about additional areas of product development Dilip said that rubber tracks will be offered from 2020, including a range for industrial and construction equipment and a separate range for agriculture. “The operating characteristics are very different,” he explained, “and there will probably be just one size for high horsepower tractors initially, with tracks for harvesters and additional tractor sizes added later.”
There is no doubt that BKT is determined to continue growing its share of the European agricultural tyre market and with its intention to develop rubber tracks too, other manufacturers will be watching closely. For UK users and machinery manufacturers, the new European headquarters demonstrates the family-owned company’s commitment to matching growing sales success with genuine back-up, both before and after purchase.