Exclusive Q&A with Prabhash Subasinghe, Managing Director of Global Rubber Industries
"We believe that innovation through R&D, as well as continuous process improvement - both in business and in production - is a key to facing any challenge, whether now or in the future."
See below for the exclusive Q&A with Managing Director of Global Rubber Industries, Prabhash Subasinghe:
Outline your key products and their applications in ports globally.
Global Rubber Industries’ (GRI) key products for ports are Bombcart XT, Ultimate XT and Globestar industrial solid and press-on band tyres. Ultimate XT is a premium solid tyre that uses advanced compounds developed to ensure maximum comfort, reliability, safety and the longest-possible tyre life. It has the highest abrasion resistance and tensile strength, the lowest energy consumption and the coolest running temperature. Ultimate XT is built for high-performance and is perfectly suited for harsh working conditions. Bombcart and Globestar are standard three-stage solid tyres that have performed better than expectations. They have a centre core that provides a soft ride and reduces driver fatigue. These tyres run with reduced heat build-up and energy efficient, lower rolling resistance. All our products are built with naturalrubber compounds that ensure good resilience and high tensile strength. Our tyres are used in terminal/port trailers, Ro-Ro trailers, as well as lift trucks at ports. Solid tyres from GRI are built with advanced natural rubber compounds that make them perform better than tyres in the same categories from our competitors. We benchmark our products with the best in the world and develop compounds with superior properties to optimise performance of our tyres. We have also established a progressive quality management system that ensures our tyres are of supreme quality. Our premium tyres perform brilliantly in the most severe operating environments. Our tyres have proven their advantage with low maintenance cost and longer life.
Where are your markets?
GRI is a leading industrial solid-tyre manufacturer in Sri Lanka – the largest producer of high-quality solid tyres in the world. We have been supplying tyres to original equipment and replacement markets in more than 50 countries worldwide since 2002. We have sales offices and warehouses in the US, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Our state of the art factory in Sri Lanka employs the latest technology and the highest quality norms to produce some of the finest solid tyres in the industry. We supply solid Bombcart tyres which are used on terminal/port trailers at the port of Seattle, Washington state, and the ports of San Pedro and Long Beach in California. Our terminal/port trailer tyres are also under testing in Singapore Port (PSA). We also supply press-on band tyres for the Ro-Ro trailers used at ports in Scandinavia. Furthermore, we supply our industrial tyres for use on forklift trucks at ports in the Netherlands and Belgium. GRI is built on passion to identify new markets and to develop new products. Recording impressive business growth over the past few years, GRI has expanded its operations and is dedicated to delivering high-performance tyre solutions to the global materials-handling industry.
How does the type of rubber affect the performance of the tyre?
GRI tyres in port applications comprise natural rubber formulas; this is in contrast to the synthetic rubber formulas that are not acceptable in these severe applications. Natural rubber is much more forgiving with regard to heat dissipation; each tyre can breathe more easily and maintain correct deflection curves on Bombcarts at 140,000 lb capacity – this is extremely important to reduce tyre failure. GRI makes tyres for port applications with a special compound formula based on natural rubber which meets all operational requirements, such as heat build-up due to heavy loads, working onrough surfaces and the ability to cope with heavy weather conditions.
Outline your key growth areas, whether by product focus or location. Are you conducting any interesting product developments or R&D?
Our key growth areas are Asia, South America, Africa and the Middle East. We are optimistic about the economic and trade growth in each of these countries and regions. The growth in prospects in ports such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and ports in the Middle East is very promising. We are also focusing our efforts in Australia and have recently opened our own GRI distribution point in Brisbane, We continuously carry out R&D work on raw materials, processes and on the products with respect to performance, while maintaining environmental friendliness. Raw material substitutions are usually done with regard to improving quality and performance. Process improvements are done with the objective of reducing operator dependency and improving work safety. Product development and innovation is based on customer responses and analysing market trends. Continuous test results from our laboratory and field tests drive our product development. Our initiatives and endeavours have powered GRI forward to rapidly become a globally-recognised leader and worldclass company. We have grown our business through wider global outreach, strengthening business partnerships, increasing manufacturing capacity and developing a compelling product portfolio. We are determined to advance further with more innovations to fulfil demand in the material handling industry. GRI has won several awards for business excellence. The most recent was the overall Bronze Award of the National Business Excellence Awards 2013 in Sri Lanka. We will continue our pursuit of excellence, producing some of the best solid tyres in the industry and striving for greater success.
Describe the sort of testing that your tyres undergo
GRI uses the latest technology – we test our tyres against the best solid tyres in the world under dynamic and static conditions. Our tyres are subjected to routine testing using a standard endurance testing machine, and also performance-evaluated through field tests done locally and abroad. Global Rubber Industries practises a compressive testing procedure for raw material evaluations, selections and monitoring. Every consignment of raw materials is subjected to ‘incoming testing’ under the ISO 9001:2008 quality management system. All rubber compounds are tested 100% for rheological and physical properties, such as tensile strength, elongation, modulus, hardness, etc. Finished tyre samples from each product category are subjected to destructive testing while all tyres are passed through the ultra-sonic test to ensure a perfect bond between different layers of the tyre. In each tyre, hardness is measured and recorded to ensure the correct degree of cure; tyre samples are subjected to ‘endurance tests’ routinely, using a standard endurance testing machine. In addition to the above laboratory tests, we carry out field tests on the actual usage of all GRI tyre-brands to monitor performance. We believe that innovation through R&D, as well as continuous process improvement – both in business and in production – is a key to facing any challenge, whether now or in the future. GRI will relentlessly push the boundaries of technology advancement.
How have environmental regulations impacted your business?
It is necessary to obtain an environment protection licence (EPL) from the Central Environment Authority for any industry operating in Sri Lanka. EPL’s are issued on condition that our processes do not emit any toxic gasses or dust to the environment, while maintaining noise below permissible levels – measured on site on a regular basis. And because our process is a dry process, we do not generate any liquid effluent. Since we use bio-mass-operated steam boilers, there are no toxic gas emissions from our industry. No dust particles are generated in our process, hence environmental regulation has not impacted negatively on our business. We produce our own natural rubber compounds with fabrication technology that is of the highest standards, empowering GRI to compete with the best in the world. We also maintain a strict green policy on waste management and raw materials. GRI continues to move forward to meet the ever increasing demands of the industry while keeping our commitment to protecting our environment.
If you could, what one thing would you change, nationally or globally, that you feel would be of benefit to either your company or the port industry generally?
Nationally, I would encourage and support a Free Trade agreement between China and Sri Lanka. At present, the governments of Sri Lanka and China are finalising a free-trade agreement. The ability to provide Chinese ports with world renowned, high-quality solid tyres from Sri Lanka will be a huge benefit to our industry, our company and also to Chinese ports. Therefore a free-trade agreement between our two countries would be greatly beneficial to our industry.
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PTI EDITION 63This exclusive edition celebrating the Panama Canal's 100-year anniversay begins with a new section focusing on the Panama Canal and includes a brief history of the Canal from the first attempt at its construction to the on-going expansion project, as well as a guide to Panamax vessel sizes. Elsewhere is an exclusive section for port tyres, featuring interviews with GRI and BKT Tyres.