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Kal Tire Considers Expanding Innovation Initiatives.

Roughly half way through a three-year partnership with a local university to cooperate on technology, innovation and engineering projects, Kal Tire reported the benefits thus far reaped will inspire further investment in innovation, said Peter Nilsson, innovation manager, Kal Tire.

The partnership with the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, forged in mid-2016 via a memorandum of understanding, emerged shortly after the establishment of the company's innovation center. The center was set up to take experience-driven ideas generated by customers and staff and turn the best into patented concepts and marketable technologies. It has cranked out headline-grabbing inventions like the Gravity Assist System, an early prototype of which was showcased at MINExpo 2016, Ram Mounts, and the Power Cart.

Such is described by Nilsson as the "low-hanging fruit" that easily exemplify the value of the center and the partnership, and the need for both to be grown and developed. "Our ultimate vision is to become quicker in delivering results and solutions for the operation," Nilsson said. "We first need to prove what kind of successes we can do in order to improve safety and performance and efficiency," he said. "When we can do this, it will be easier for us to justify why we should invest more in innovation, resources and maybe even different innovation center locations."

Kal Tire's partnership with the university has the company sponsoring research largely carried out by students and faculty in campus labs. It also places students in work-study roles in the company's Innovation Center.

At the Innovation Center, the company develops as many as five concepts at a time, most of which are patented at an early stage of development. "The reason for the patents is to show the customer that we are serious with this and we can enhance the market value," Nilsson said.

Many of the ideas that the Innovation Center develops arrive from team members submitting them via an online portal called Investing in Innovation. The company also acts on data arriving through its enterprise-wide incident reporting system, called Velocity, which allows the company to track trends in worker health and safety.

Having seen a handful of inventions through prototype testing and having learned from the process, Nilsson said going forward he hopes the partnership with the university will remain strong. "We want to work closer with universities because you have facilities, you have individuals, like students, who are full of ideas and competence, and you have professors who can guide students in the right direction," Nilsson said. "We at Kal Tire can come up with a vision and say this is what we want to do, or ask how we can do this differently, and the university resources are fundamentally helping toward the realization of our goal or vision."

Caption: Kal Tire's Gravity Assist System, right, an invention from the company's innovation center, demonstrates loosening lugs. (Photo: Kal Tire)

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Publication:E&MJ - Engineering & Mining Journal
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jul 1, 2018
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