Getting a grip: A day at the TVS Srichakra tyre factory

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TVS factory - Madurai Visit (1)

Buying a tyre is one thing but watching a tyre being made is an experience that a petrol head, if given an opportunity, must witness at least once in his lifetime. One of the perks of being a motoring journalist is getting to travel to places, which are often restricted for many. One such visit for me was to TVS’s factory in Tamil Nadu. We were invited to visit the town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, famously known for the Meenakshi Amman Temple and also for being the home-ground for TVS’s Srichakra factory. The visit included a full tour of the factory and getting familiar with the tyre making process and a good four laps on two different motorcycles at the company’s test track.

Before we begin, let’s know the history of the company. TVS Srichakra Limited is a part of the TVS Group, one of the largest auto ancillary group in India, with a group turnover of over USD 8 Billion. TVS Srichakra is one of the leading manufacturers of Two & Three Wheeler tyres and Off-Road tyres. Incorporated in 1982, the company manufactures and markets its products under the ‘TVS TYRES’ and ‘EUROGRIP’ brands. The company rolls out around two million tyres every month out of its two units located in Madurai (Tamil Nadu) and Pantnagar (Uttarakhand).

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The Honda CBR250R equipped with TVS Tyres

TVS Srichakra has a network of more than 3,000 dealers and mechanics that ensures a Pan India presence. Apart from two wheeler and three wheeler tyres, the company also produces a wide range of Off-Road tyres like Industrial Pneumatic tyres, Skid Steer & Multi Purpose tyres, Farm & Implement tyres, Motorgrader & Agricultural tyres which are exported to more than 80 countries. TVS Tyres is the supplier for the leading brands in the OEM segment including Bajaj Auto, Hero MotoCorp, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India, Suzuki Motorcycles India, TVS Motors and Yamaha Motors to name a few.

Back to the factory visit then. Now what appeared to be a long experience filled day began at the TVS’s test track, and there barely are any ways to make a day look any better for us. The test track session comprised of two different set of tyres – Eurogrip and TVS Tyres – on two different motorcycles. It wouldn’t be fair to comment comparatively on the two test bikes, the CBR250R and Pulsar 200NS in this report, as it’s more about the tyres and not the models. The Honda CBR250R, shod with a set of TVS soft compound tyres felt stickier than the Bajaj Pulsar 200NS whose wheels were wrapped in a pair of Eurogrips. But comparing the ride and handling of two different tyres on two completely different motorcycles would be similar to comparing apples with oranges.

TVS factory - Madurai Visit (2)

The short track session was followed by the factory visit where we saw hundreds of workers in a really hot (this was during the monsoon and I really do not want to be there during summers) and loud environment. From accepting raw materials from suppliers to building the finished product ready to be delivered, the tyre making process is more than drawing random patterns on rubber. TVS, however, takes its tyre making process very seriously. We were not allowed to carry a camera inside the facility so we really cannot share the images of the process. But the R&D team was kind enough to share some bits of the information and we will stick to that.

Here is what the R&D team had to say:

TVS Tyres has been consistently focused towards extensive R&D and technological innovation to develop products in response to customers’ needs. When it comes to two wheeler tyres, factors that influence a purchase decision are:

  • Safety
  • Durability
  • Performance
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Value for money

The R&D department factors in a mix of different permutations and combinations to bring out a perfect tyre that addresses to the need of the customer. TVS’s R&D centre has been around for over 20 years, going through different mood swings of the market and producing a wide genre of tyres matching up to customer expectations. The R&D department is a fully functional in-house centre, spreading across 35,000 square feet area with the latest testing, designing and lab equipment has won the recognition of the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India.

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The R&D team covers three broad areas covering Products, Process and Technology. The Products part comprises to the specifications of the OEM. The specifications from the OEM are different from that of the aftermarket needs and the variations further increases with export market and off-road tyres. To manage that, the R&D department has dedicated interfaces that work closely with the OEM’s, aftermarkets, end customers and overseas customers who make a detailed scope of work and capture the essential requirements so that the research team can work on the specs.

The process part of the function covers the evaluation of the specs right from drawing board to the shop-floor and beyond. Elements like aesthetics, benchmark practices, testing, validation elements, materials flow process and scalability of these for large scale production are some of the areas that we excel in. The team relies a lot on some of our advanced technologies to get the process right.

TVS Tyres Roadsense (1)

From archives: Then there are TVS’s road safety campaings

Having the latest in tyre technology, the manufacturer can boast of complete in-house capability to bring out globally benchmark tyres. The R&D department uses the latest AutoCAD for design, Unigraphics for 3D modeling and CAM for tool design, the EDM machine for in-house mould manufacture. The design simulation has the latest Abacus software for simulation of product behaviour where over 10 different parameters can be verified even before the product is manufactured. And for testing, TVS has indoor capabilities for endurance, plunger test, hi-speed testing (going upto 350 kmph). The department also does extensive out-door testing as well, within the test track in Madurai as well as in real life conditions.

What also really impressed us was the effort that TVS Tyres delivers towards the safety of its riders. All the riders were provided with DOT certified ARAI helmets and airbag equipped safety jackets. Now that’s top notch safety gear. Tyre making is a serious business and one really needs to see it to believe the amount of effort and dedication it requires to what may appear as rubber with random lines.

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