A worldwide shortage of tyres used on big machinery in industries like mining, construction and shipping has seen an Oamaru business prosper.
Global Tyre Solutions specialise in the repair, management and maintenance of large tyres in several fleets in the Asia Pacific region, including OceanaGold who operate an open pit and underground mine at McCrae’s Flat.
South African-born owner, Dennis Smit, said it has become more critical than ever to look at ways of prolonging the life of tyres because of shortages in supply and lower prices received for gold, coal and other commodities.
“Companies have to weigh up the remaining life of a tyre versus purchasing a new one and during these periods we repair as many tyres as possible,” he said.
New tyre prices for some of the biggest tyres can be up to $45,000 and life expectancy in the vicinity of 8,000-10,000 hours.
Mr Smit broadly estimates repairs to cost 10-15 percent of new tyre price, dependent on several factors, and said they have a 65 percent success rate after a repair depending on the type of work undertaken. The company offer a 1000 hour guarantee on work done.
“We have been instrumental in getting large dump trucks operating, after being parked off due to a shortage of earthmover tyres,” he said.
“In 2006 when the company entered the New Zealand market it identified 50 ultra large OTR tyres on the tyre dump of a mine, of which 32 were repaired and successfully returned to service.”
Tyres normally deemed unrepairable using conventional methods are fixed by replacing damaged steel chords with new ones (an upward limit of 12), reinforcing the damaged area with a patch, filling with rubber on the outside and curing for a period of 10-12 hours.
Because the business fills a niche market it has largely flown under the radar in Oamaru whilst maintaining a presence in places like Lyttleton Port of Christchurch, Papua New Guinea and Fiji .
“We have a low profile because we don’t do road tyres,” Mr Smit said.
“People often come to the office wanting us to advertise but … there is nothing to gain.”
Demand is increasing through local dealerships for repairs to tyres on agricultural machinery but there are no plans to increase the scale of the business in Oamaru which employs six people, four in the workshop/office and two based on-site at McCrae’s mine.
Mr Smits wife, Sania, works in the Oamaru office.
The company has an office/repair workshop at Pukekohe, and service machinery at Holcim and two of its subsidiaries McDonald’s Lime Quarry (Te Kuiti) and Taylor’s Lime (Dunback, Palmerston), Lyttleton Port, SteelServ Limited (near Pukekohe), Vatukoula Gold Mines (Fiji), Anitua (construction and mining, Papau New Guinea) and OceanaGold (McCraes Flat and Reefton).
Mr Smit said managing a fleet’s tyres involves educating drivers to minimise damage, regular servicing and keeping comprehensive records of individual tyres’ cost, work hours, maintenance and repairs to help with making future decisions.
His entry into the New Zealand market started through his employment with an Australian firm who were contracted to manage tyres for OceanaGold.
After one month of Mr Smit being in the country the firm lost the contract, he said, and from there he continued on his own eventually setting up Global Tyre Solutions.
Environmentally, prolonging the life of a tyre has had a positive impact on the success of GTS but Mr Smit said disposing of ultra large tyres beyond repair is difficult in New Zealand because of transport costs involved in getting limited numbers of tyres to a central location.
“In South Africa we had people on site who would grind the rubber of the tyres and it would be bagged up and mixed in with other materials and used on athletics tracks.
“The high tensile steel left behind would be reused.
“I can’t see that happening here in New Zealand.”
By LINDA MCCARTHY
PHOTO: LINDA MCCARTHY – Global Tyre Solutions owners Dennis and Sania Smit (left) and James Nicol, repair shop supervisor.