Kal Tire’s Innovation Centre developing ways to better handle giant tires

by Kathrine Moore

Founded in 1953, Kal Tire started with a single service station in Vernon, British  Columbia,  Canada. The  Kal Tire Mining Group, with a central office in Vernon, BC, now has operations across five continents: North America, Latin America, Africa, Europe and Australia. Kal Tire initially serviced the commercial industry and now provides services to the mining, oil & gas industry, as well retail and commercial customers.

In 2015, the company opened the Kal Tire Innovation Centre a few kilometres away from their central office in Vernon.

“Kal Tire has always believed we should continuously look for a better way to do things,” says Peter Nilsson, Innovation, Research and Development Manager, Kal Tire’s Mining Tire Group. “For a long time, suppliers turned to us for our global expertise to develop tools and solutions, or we turned to them to execute, but we realized we could really improve our service offerings and our value to customers if we pursued innovation in products and services ourselves.”

The Innovation Centre has been very successful in the few years it has been in operation. Three of its projects are being manufactured, and several more are in development. Some of the tools developed by the innovation centre include:

  • The Ram Mount Tool securely holds the ram in place when breaking the bead for tire changes. The bead is the edge of the tire that sits on the rim.
  • The Air valve protector is designed to prevent spinning rocks knocking off loader truck air valve stems—a common occurrence that often leads to leaks and downtime at open pit mines—the protector’s magnetic backing makes it stable but easily removed.
  • The Gravity Assist System allows technicians to weightlessly manoeuvre heavy tools and parts.

The company states that prior to using the Gravity Assist System (GAS), “Technicians would have had to fasten 70 or 80 lug nuts on their own holding an 80-pound torque gun for minutes on end. Now, using the GAS and attaching a range of industrial tools and parts, technicians simply let the system do the work.”

“What started us thinking about the GAS were questions about how we could support the weight of these tools to reduce strains and injuries for technicians, and how we could speed up the process,” says Nilsson.

The GAS is unpowered and controlled entirely by the operator. It reduces pinched fingers, fatigue and strain common when mounting earthmover tires, particularly ultra-class tires. The company states that, “The gravity assist system improves not just efficiency, but also quality and precision with heavy tools. And, since it’s 100% mechanical, with few moving parts, maintenance is minimal.

The Gravity Assist System won International Mechanical and Technology Innovation award at Electra Mining Africa, in 2018.

Kal Tire team members around the world are encouraged to contribute ideas for Innovation Centre projects that will enhance safety, performance or add value for customers.

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