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3.7 Stakeholder interview tires producer Schwalbe

‘Starting production before we receive the order’

The German family-owned business Schwalbe (Ralf Bohle GmbH) is one of the largest producers of bicycle tires in the world and has been one of Accell Group’s key suppliers for many years. Frank Bohle, President and CEO of Schwalbe, talks about the reduction of delivery times and the progress Schwalbe is making in the recycling of raw materials.

What kind of products does Schwalbe deliver to Accell Group?
“Schwalbe specialises in tires and inner tubes for all types of bicycles: city and touring bikes, racing bikes, mountain bikes and e-bikes, plus the more recently added wheelchair tires. Our product range includes an extensive range of models and varieties in terms of sizes, colours and valves. If you include all of these varieties, we supply around 50% of our total of 2,700 products to Accell Group’s bicycle brands and wholesale companies. Accell Group is also one of the main distributors of our products in the parts and accessories market.”  

How do you and Accell Group maintain control of the delivery of so many different products?
“For many products, we are talking about small deliveries and we can often make those from current stocks. However, we also have products that Accell Group orders tens of thousands of at the same time. Over the past few years, we have intensified our cooperation to improve our ability to anticipate those kinds of orders. We regularly discuss optimisations to the supply chain and how we can contribute to that process. These talks are at the purchasing and sales staff level, but we also talk to each other at management level. Timely access to planning and forecasts now enables us to start production even before we receive the orders. That has helped us to cut delivery times by half.

Furthermore, we have recently started production at a newly-opened factory in Vietnam. Our production facilities in both Indonesia and Vietnam are now also operating with an extensive warehouse. These warehouses allow us to buffer stocks, which our customers can call upon at short notice so we can guarantee a needs-based product supply.”

What about sustainability in the bicycle industry?
“A number of players – and I certainly include Accell Group in that group – are taking the lead in terms of continued improvements to sustainability in the bicycle industry. And the rest are following suit. The companies associated with the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry are launching numerous helpful initiatives to monitor suppliers, increase the sustainability of production processes and eliminate chemical substances that could be a health hazard.”

How does Schwalbe contribute to increasing the sustainability of the bicycle industry?
“One of the main raw materials for the production of our inner tubes is butyl rubber. Together with the Science Research Center EPEA in Hamburg, we have developed a method for using recycled butyl rubber in our products, without compromising the quality. Today, 20 percent of our new inner tubes are made of recycled materials. The recycling programme has environment benefits on two fronts: in comparison with the production of the same quantity of new butyl, recycling uses just one fifth of the energy and recycling old inner tubes creates less waste. In Germany, we have teamed up with bicycle retailers to launch a programme to collect old inner tubes. And the end result is that the entire chain, including consumers, is actively involved in this cradle-to-cradle inspired programme.”