AKRON, Ohio — Dozens of business leaders from around the globe gathered at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s world headquarters recently to learn the latest in global demand trends in the automotive and tire industries and how these trends will challenge the tire maker’s research and development organization.
But each of them also received a clear invitation from their Akron hosts: participate with Goodyear in the pursuit of innovations and achieve success, together.
"We brought together our key suppliers from across a wide array of industries and laid out our vision of the future for them," explained Jean-Claude Kihn, Goodyear’s chief technology officer. "We described the technologies we need to be successful in the future — to drive relevant innovation into our new product engine. Our message to them was simple: our goal is innovation leadership. We can try to achieve it separately, or we can succeed as a team, multiplying the shared benefit of our combined R&D efforts."
In today’s redefined auto market, there’s no room for slow players. So Kihn and his team of scientists and engineers at the company’s two Innovation Centers in Akron, Ohio, and Colmar Berg, Luxembourg, have embraced a much more open philosophy regarding innovation and new product development than is common in the tire industry. And they have also expanded their collaboration with the company’s global procurement organization.
Kihn noted that Goodyear innovators will continue to team with leading research and testing institutions like Sandia National Labs. However, this new initiative allows Goodyear to also tap into the company’s close working relationships with its suppliers to encourage joint technology development that will help the tire maker bring "game changing" products to market at an even faster pace.
According to Mark Purtilar, Goodyear’s chief procurement officer, executives from the supplier companies left the meeting energized. "The post-event feedback clearly demonstrates their overwhelming support of our initiative," he said. "They recognized the fact that this is a totally unique approach in our industry."
Companies that took part in the Goodyear supplier innovation events included some familiar names such as DuPont, Sumitomo Chemical, ExxonMobil, Bekaert, Kemai and Rhodia.
The more than 30 suppliers in attendance represent some of the industry’s strongest R&D organizations.
"Our suppliers have the skill, resources and experience to innovate in their respective areas — based on our input," Kihn said. "They are excited about the opportunity to team with Goodyear at a whole new level. They realize that it’s a winning proposition for both parties."
Since the April meetings, these suppliers have proposed nearly 200 initiatives in the areas of acquisition cost, materials management, conversion cost and new product development that can have a direct, positive impact on Goodyear’s product innovations. These initiatives will serve to enhance Goodyear’s overall R&D expenditures, but more importantly, they will significantly enhance the company’s supply chain.
"When fully aligned with Goodyear’s new products engine, the combined effort should accelerate significantly the introduction of relevant new innovations," Kihn said.
"Innovation in difficult times makes more of a difference than ever," stated Bert De Graeve, chief executive officer of Belgium-based Bekaert Corp., a global leader in drawn steel wire products and applications. "We greatly appreciate Goodyear’s commitment to long-term collaborative innovation with its suppliers. The definition of a good supplier goes well beyond a cheap supplier for the next quarter and Bekaert is ready to take on the innovation challenges outlined by Goodyear’s executive leadership," he said.
Goodyear and the supplier companies will facilitate the application of new innovations into new tire products while protecting each other’s intellectual property through a series of new, or enhanced technical and commercial agreements. "We want to ensure that the commercialization of any innovation occurs at the appropriate stage of a product’s development," Kihn said. "And we also want to make sure that there are sufficient incentives provided to our suppliers so that they concentrate on the most marketable innovations."