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The TRI2 test day discovered optimum feel and extreme conditions: From professional experience to test results

Tue May 7 7:05 AM 2013 in category Company news

Rarely, if ever, have we seen a user test and comparison of heavy tyres that would have been as comprehensive as our test day at the Nokian Tyres track before Easter. Nearly 30 heavy machine operators tested 11 different machines for an entire day.

The general understanding is that tyre tests are technical measurements under standardised conditions. While this is indeed the way to develop the characteristics of a tyre, professionals know that there are no standard conditions in the world of heavy tyres. You cannot standardise winter, or a corn field for that matter.
  
The extreme conditions will always differ between machines and drivers. The test day used Nokian TRI2 tyres and rib-patterned tyres from our competitors using machinery from Valtra, Fendt, and John Deere (A93, N103, N143, T213+slurry trailer/Fendt 724/JD 6150). From the realm of property maintenance, we had the Wille 655C and Wille 265 and the Cat 906 and Cat 908. The machines were equipped with different tools, such as Hese blades.
  
The test track offered dry asphalt, icy bends, slushy and icy steep hills, and thick snow: nearly everything that the work requires at its hardest.
 
Plenty of skill and winter conditions on the track
 
The test day provided information that no instrument can measure. The experience and driving feel reports from the professionals are an important initiator of further product development for Nokian Heavy Tyres.
 
Sales and Marketing Manager Vesa Sampakoski ensures us that the Nokian TRI2 special tyres have already been refined to be the best in the world, but faith in further development is strong.
 
– It is a humbling experience to be able to gather 30 professionals on our track despite their busy schedules. Receiving direct feedback from end users is essential. The purpose of the day was to bring out the differences in the tyres, and we were successful in that.
 
– In addition to the test feel, we also discussed their experiences from their actual work. We are now even better aware of how people view our service, and how our products have survived under actual conditions, Sampakoski says.
 
Firm grip at the hardest parts
  
And yes, Nokian tyres have survived well. All of the test drivers valued the grip of the Nokian TRI2 both at work and on the test track, even though the machines at their worksites naturally have other tyres as well. Some test drivers needed more lateral grip on polished ice, and so in the real world studs have been installed to overcome this problem.
 
Further evidence of the amount of grip was that very few professionals indicated they were using chains with the block-patterned Nokian TRI2 tyres, whereas rib-pattern tyres practically require chains in order to achieve grip and avoid spinning. The test hill was icy and turned slushy during the day, but the machines with Nokian tyres could usually rise to the top with rear-wheel drive only; most other tyres demanded four-wheel drive. The Nokian TRI2 was also considered to be silent and free from vibration when cornering.
 
Initiating product development
 
The data and comments from the test day serve as initiatives for product development. Nokian Heavy Tyres needs to retain its lead in terms of both products and service.
 
– We use customer feedback and tests to evaluate if all the rubber compounds in the Nokian TRI2 are in optimal order. This information will also be directly available for the development of our next-generation tyre, the Nokian TRI3, and the definition of the goals for development. We want to preserve everything that is good about the tyre and tackle the areas for improvement – preferably as soon as possible, but at the latest in our next product generation, Vesa Sampakoski explains.
 
Product Development and Quality Manager Kalle Kaivonen says that you can never have too much tyre testing, and an instrument has not yet been developed to measure driving feel. Having a chat over coffee is the best way to gather human data.
 
– All of our end users had the same conditions on this track, which allowed us to perform real comparisons and aggregate the information. User experience is completely different from measured data. By means of technology, we can measure different characteristics such as tyre durability, traction, slip, and noise. A test day such as this allows us to compare comments from real users with our measurement results, he analyses.
 
For Project Manager Tero Saari, driving feel information from users gives cause to an endless chase. He wants to make the customers’ job easier and lower the operating costs by changing the characteristics of the tyre.
 
– Customers will always differ in their behaviour, and the use of tyres also varies between regions. A good tyre must have a wide scope of application. On the test track, we are looking for conditions that bring out the special functionality of the tyre – or lack thereof. When we find those extremes, we aim to make work reliable, steady and disturbance-free even under these conditions.
  
Even more winter
 
The drivers tested uphill starts, slow slalom, braking, and evading a pile of cardboard boxes, for example.
 
The conditions varied between different parts of the track. The polished ice on the wide rear corner surprised even the most experienced drivers on the first lap.
 
The forest route became softer throughout the day; this provided a challenge for the drivers, as they had to switch machines, tyres, and tools on each lap.
 
The areas for using blades and ploughs were marked on the terrain. No overtaking was allowed on the track.
 
The test was supervised at different points of the track and in the switching area by 15 members of Nokian Heavy Tyres personnel and 10 partner representatives.
 
For the next test, the test drivers requested more authentic work tasks, even harder winter conditions, and completely identical machines to bring out the effects of the tyres even better.