Welcome to part two of Forkliftaction.com's coverage of the world market for forklift tyres, wheels and castors.
The forklift tyre, originally a moulded piece of rubber, has evolved into a complex piece of equipment affecting efficiency, budgets, health and safety.
The world market for forklift tyres is an amazing mixture of nationalities, fierce but healthy competition and billions of dollars in sales and revenue. Estimates are that more than 10 million industrial tyres, wheels and castors are sold every year.
The forklift tyre market is led by "the big two": Solideal International SA and Trelleborg Wheel Systems, followed by Continental AG. No companies contacted revealed comparable financial data, but sources confirmed the market leaders.
Solideal, based in Luxembourg, claims to sell two million tyres a year. The company, established in 1984, manufactures its products in Sri Lanka, as do most major manufacturers. The company's tyre range is a three-pronged attack - Solideal resilient, press-on and extra deep, Magnum resilient and press-on, and Hauler LT pneumatics. The company also makes press-on wheels, split-rim and four-piece forklift wheels, Backhoe and MPT tyres and Wellbase wheels for rough-terrain forklifts.
Solideal tyres are available around the world, with distributors on every continent.
Italy-based Trelleborg Wheel Systems is second cab off the world tyre market rank. Formed by Trelleborg AB's acquisition of Pirelli's agriculture division in 1998, the company is progressive in its products and aggressive in its coverage. Trelleborg achieved sales of SEK890 million (USD118 million) in 2002.
The company, which has industrial, radial agricultural and forestry divisions, markets forklift tyres through four brands: Bergougnan (press-on and resilient), Monarch (press-on and resilient), Rota (resilient) and Trelleborg (industrial pneumatics, polyurethanes and press-ons).
Trelleborg also supplies wheels for pneumatics and press-on tyres in multi-piece lock ring or split-rim variants. Trelleborg manufactures industrial tyres in Sri Lanka and Ohio, USA, for distribution to dealers on all continents worldwide.
Third in the world rankings is Germany's Continental AG, which sold EUR80 million (USD95 million) in industrial tyres to the world last year. The company manufactures its industrial range, comprising pneumatics, super elastics, non-marking, rough-terrain, press-ons and extreme off-road tyres, in Germany.
Continental announced in October that it had bought the majority shareholding in Malaysian tyre producer Sime Darby Berhad in Kuala Lumpur, but the company will not reveal whether forklift tyres will be produced there.
Thailand is the world's rubber capital, yet most big manufacturers have production interests in Sri Lanka, a move which has capped production costs for tyre manufacturers and delivered cheaper products to the world market.
A growing portion of the world's tyre production is occurring in China and other Asian countries, and there are hundreds of brands. Many tyre manufacturers re-badge their products with different brand names to sell "exclusive" distributorships. Asia, as in other areas of international business, is a region to watch in the future.
Innovations in world tyre production include the arrival of air-cooled tyres. These products have air holes built into the tyre's sidewall, a development which manufacturers promise delivers a smoother ride and cooler running temperatures, which translates into tyre longevity.
In the world of wheels, many products fitted to forklifts and pallet trucks are factory-made by forklift truck manufacturers. Of the companies involved solely in production of wheels, Räder-Vogel, with two factories in Hamburg, Germany, produces two million wheels a year for sale worldwide.
Räder-Vogel, established in 1946, claims to be one of the world's leading manufacturers of Vulkollan wheels and castors. It pioneered the principle of electrically conductive polyurethane wheels in 1985 and invented an improved production process for electrically conductive Vulkollan treads in 1999.
Despite several requests, the European Tyre & Rim Technical Organisation did not provide information on the European tyre market. The US market is covered by three associations, the Tire & Rim Association, the Tyre Industry Association and the Rubber Manufacturers' Association, but no total market figures were available.
Forkliftaction.com's editorial team has tackled the enormous task of showcasing the world market for forklift tyres, drawing information from sources worldwide. Unfortunately some companies did not respond to requests for information, and so have been omitted from this report.
Special thanks to the industry professionals who helped compile this report. Thanks also to advertisers who took advantage of Forkliftaction.com's marketing packages to have their companies and products share the spotlight in this special series.