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Pirelli: from the revolutionary new MIRS process a revolutionary new tyre: the e-tyre

The innovative scope of e-manufacturing and the e-tyre can
revolutionize the competitive system of the tyre industry. A total
investment of EUR 500 million: five e-factories to be opened in
three years. Important benefits also for the environment. An
international contest on the Internet to name the new tyres.

Milan, 11 July 2000 Today Pirelli presented to the press
and the financial world the first tyre manufacturing plant based on
the revolutionary MIRS (Modular Integrated Robotized System)
process, managed entirely on-line. MIRS: Bicocca hosts the first
on-line plant The startup of this first e-factory, located in
Milan’s Bicocca area, is a fundamental step in the process of
creating e-Pirelli, launched on 20 March and destined to be
completed in three years thanks to important investments in human
and financial resources. Within the framework of this Group
transformation project, which will permit the on-line management of
the entire company business cycle (from purchasing to marketing,
from R&D to design, from production to logistics), MIRS
represents the authentic backbone: e-manufacturing.

Only a few months after its first announcement, MIRS is already
an industrial reality, a plant completely managed on-line for the
production of a family of tyres with completely new
characteristics: the e-tyres.

The plant being inaugurated today in Milan is the first of five
MIRS operating units that will be opened over a three-year period
in Italy, Germany, the UK, the United States, and the Far East,
with an investment of EUR 500 milllion (to which are to be added
building and services) entirely financed within the Sector and for
a total installed production capacity of 10 million tyres/year.
This corresponds to a 25 percent increase in Pirelli’s current
production capacity of car tyres, which will not replace existing
capacity but will cover new demand and will thus have no impact on
global Group employment levels.

The Bicocca Milan e-factory is destined to the production of
high-performance tyres (V/Z segment, for the most prestigious
cars), as well as a highly advanced run-flat tyre (capable of
running even at zero pressure) to respond to the requirements of
total mobility under the Pirelli Total Mobility (PTM) project.
./.2. Company plans also include using the new MIRS process to
produce a new tyre concept, CYBER, an intelligent tyre
capable of interfacing with the user. This is a new tyre concept
that Pirelli intends to introduce this autumn.

Consisting of two e-factories of 125,000 tyres/year each (the
first factory in operation now will be joined by a second within
February 2001), the MIRS operating unit at Milan Bicocca would
therefore have a full-capacity production of 250,000 tyres per
year. The Milan plant will become also a pilot unit for further
development of this technology, for the training of human resources
and the development of products and prototypes, facing the needs of
the different production unit within the Group. The software
developed at the Bicocca plant will be transmitted on-line to the
other MIRS units throughout the world, to allow the on-line
starting of the production of new tyres.

It should also be underlined that studies are ongoing to widen
the application of MIRS to the production of motorcycle and truck
tyres. The first two prototype lines will be realized in the Milan
production location within 2001.

MIRS: e-manufacturing is born

MIRS, Pirelli has totally revolutionized the technologies and
traditional methods of tyre production. The new process is based,
in fact, on the concept of highly flexible “minifactory” (flexible
to the extent of one tyre per size) that can be strategically
located according to market demand.

On a robotized space of about 350 square meters, necessary to
lodge a MIRS minifactory, robots, working at an unprecedented speed
for this industry, accomplish the entire production cycle from
compounding to finished product, without interruption, without
intermediates handling or storage phases, and without wasted
energy. Thus the MIRS robots are capable of producing a tyre every
three minutes.
This makes it possible to reduce the lead-time, from the raw
materials warehouse to the finished products warehouse, from six
days with the traditional process to 72 minutes with MIRS.
It is precisely by eliminating the storage phases that the entire
production process can be concentrated in an extremely limited
area, virtually eliminating the space required by the enormous
quantities of materials and products that normally remain in
circulation during the traditional process, in which only 12% of
the materials are being processed at a given time, while 88% are
stored waiting to enter the production cycle.

Integrated software controls every stage of production: robot
movements, automatic provisioning of materials, selection of the
size of tyre and thus construction drum, tyre building, curing,
quality control, and finished product handling. But that is not
all: this program, in turn, is part of a global software complex
that upstream from the manufacturing phase presides over the
engineering process to the design. It is a single architecture that
starts with the definition of product specifications and
automatically designs the mould, selects materials and designs the
construction drum. The same software also defines the path drivers
for the robots and manages their working cycle. It is here, in this
total integration of design and manufacturing and product and
process design, that the real secret of MIRS total flexibility
resides.

The MIRS process technology radically changes the method of
manufacturing tyres, reducing the processing phases from the
traditional 14 to only three. Tyres are no longer assembled in
successive batch operations. They are built continuously by robots
directly around drums, which the machines pass on from one
“mechanical hand” to the next, without stopping and without human
intervention. On the drums, extruders gradually apply a strip
reinforced with steel cords with a circumferential and axial
deposition motion.
The movements of the robots permit the extruders to follow the
entire profile of the tyre. The final assembly robot physically
“hands” the drum with the green tyre to the next machine, whose job
it is to feed the curing press. This latter is a sort of “carousel”
with six moulds revolving around an axis, synchronised with the
building process so as to maintain the process continuum. Once the
vulcanization phase is finished, the same robot places the drum
back into the production cycle. If the size changes, the same
machine goes to get a drum of the required size. Meanwhile, the
cured tyre reaches the final finishing department, where it goes
through the final finishing phase: rigorous quality control via
laser.

MIRS: the e-tyre is born

This innovative process and product technology offers the market
a product of radically new conception in structural composition-the
e-tyre-slated to appear this year on OEM fittings. The MIRS e-tire
has totally innovative characteristics insofar as performance,
reliability and comfort are concerned. The elimination of the batch
approach, in fact, makes it possible to redefine product quality
parameters, since each interruption, each human intervention
introduces the theoretical possibility of product nonconformity,
from the temperature excursions of intermediates during handling
and storage to building joints and again to non-uniform heat
distribution in the curing chamber. The MIRS e-tyre thus possesses
a quality level far superior to the already high level of products
obtained by the traditional process. Joint tests of this new tyre
are already running with leading car manufacturers,for an
homologation expected soon. The flexibility of the MIRS production
process also accelerates the homologation process: whatever changes
in specifications are requested by a carmaker these are immediately
reflected in the sample tyres, shortening the prototype
industrialization time.

MIRS: an eco-compatible technology

The MIRS process also has strong positive implications in terms
of the environmental impact of the tyre production process.
Reducing the production phases and integrating them into a
continuous process drastically reduces energy requirements. In the
traditional process, each processing shutdown and restart requires
a large consumption of specific energy for the cooling and handling
of materials. By decreasing the steps from 14 to 3, the consumption
of energy is also decreased, thanks to process simplification and
the use of local generators in vulcanization, which drastically
reduces heat dispersion.

MIRS also transforms logistics from a problem into an
opportunity: not only from the obvious standpoint of just-in-time
and transport cost reduction but also for the environmental value
generated by the logistical flexibility of the plant. The reduction
in transport flows (today the tyre industry sets hundreds of trucks
into motion each day in Italy alone) results in an overall decrease
in fuel consumption and thus in polluting emissions.

A contest on the Web to give a name to the e-tyres

To stress again that the new MIRS e-tyre belongs to the
cybernetic universe, Pirelli has launched an international contest
on the Internet, open to the creativity of all young Web surfers,
to give a name to the new products that will be manufactured with
this revolutionary technology. Thanks to the rich prizes available,
the names chosen by Pirelli will also give their authors great
satisfaction in economic terms. On its web site Pirelli will
provide ample information on the contest, that will go on for one
month and end in the Autumn.

Categories: Institutional