Reflecting Russian Truck markets

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Interview

Sergey Alexandrov, General Manager of ITEMF Expo

The commercial vehicle market in Russia has faced intense pressure in the recent past. How is the market placed today, and how does it impact the Comtrans exhibition?

At the start of 2017, there were 8.09 million commercial vehicles registered in Russia. Since 2009, the number of commercial vehicles has increased by over 13 per cent (by approximately 1 million vehicles). Regarding the ‘age’ of those vehicles, it is estimated that over 50 per cent of them were manufactured until 2002. Thus, every second commercial vehicle in Russia is over 15 years old. Notably, over 70 per cent of the overall commercial vehicles in Russia are domestic brands. Of the 8 million commercial vehicles, around 50 per cent are LCVs, 45 per cent are Heavy-Duty (HD) trucks with buses and coaches constituting the remaining five per cent. After the historic peak of new commercial vehicle sales registered in 2012, the market suffered a dramatic downfall in subsequent years, reaching its bottom line in 2015, which was as low as in 2009. The gradual recovery of the economy and the deferred demand since 2015 brought at the end of last year and beginning of this year very promising figures of 40 per cent growth, in the first half year of 2017 compared to the same period, in the previous year.

This upwards trend also reflects at Comtrans 2017 to be held from September 05 to 09, 2017 in Moscow. Compared to 2015, companies have expanded their exhibition booths owing to increased levels of competition. For instance, foreign companies, lost their market share in the last three years compared to domestic Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) producers. The expansion of exhibition areas are on the rise not only due to the current market revival, but also due to the manufacturers’ expectations that the market will continue to grow. Companies which gave the exhibition a miss in 2015, like Volkswagen commercial vehicles, DAF and Hyundai Truck & Bus, are returning to Comtrans this year, a testimony to the revival. Subsidiaries and representation offices in Russia of the European ‘Big Seven’, as well as PJSC ‘Kamaz’, ‘Gaz Group’, ‘Uaz’ are back at the show again. For the first time in the history of Comtrans, PJSC “Avtovaz” will participate in the exhibition. In 2017, Comtrans will be the leading commercial vehicle show not only in Russia and CIS but also in Europe.

What is the medium and long-term outlook for the Russian market, concerning light, medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks?

Almost all analysts and our partners are optimistic of growth over the next three years. Most of that is based on revival of the economy coupled with the fleet renewal. Other reasons include preparation for mega sports events (for example 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia) among other state purchase support programs. A broad consensus has forecast a 20 per cent growth for LCVs, 40 per cent growth for HD trucks, and 30 per cent for bus/coach segment. I would not dare to look beyond 2020 owing to the possibility of many factors that hold the potential to disrupt the growth outlook.

How is the service sector around commercial vehicles developing in Russia, with emphasis on keywords like fleet management, telematics, service and maintenance contracts, and drivers training etc.?

The Commercial vehicle market is undergoing a major transformation. Service will be a major developing factor in the industry, influenced by increasing customer demand coupled with stronger competition in both cargo and passenger logistics. It is expected that all OEMs will be competing over the next few years in a bid to better their offerings for all the stakeholders alike: be it drivers, fleet operators or the end customer. We will definitely see more internet-driven solutions both for clients akin to ‘Uber’ like aggregators in the cargo transportation space. The objective will be to increase overall performance and efficiency levels. Russia, owing to its geographic framework is certain to be a great market place, for new and smarter technologies.

How will this development reflect at Comtrans?

The headwinds from commercial vehicle market have dropped with the bottom line in 2015-2016 (showing a 40-60 per cent decline in comparison to 2012). More so due to the strong relations with major market players like Kamaz, Gaz Group among other key international producers giving us the chance to make Comtrans 2017 a grand success. I would like to specially thank the Association of European Businesses in Russia, with a special mention of its CEO – Dr. Frank Schauff for the valuable support extended. As mentioned above, there are so many new trends and recent technological developments of great interest to professionals. It is for this reason that we launched for the first time, a flagship conference – Moscow Commercial Vehicle Summit which is certain to become a recognised platform for exchange of ideas and presentation of strategies among decision-makers and opinion leaders. Comtrans was established in 2000. However, this year for the first time, ITEMF Expo, a joint venture of ITE Group (Great Britain) and Messe Frankfurt GmbH (Germany), has organised the fair.

What are the key changes that one can expect in this edition of Comtrans?

It’s a fact that Comtrans is already a well-established brand known not only in Russia but world over. Therefore, my colleagues and I tried to preserve all achievements of the past, at the same time adding newer elements. Nonetheless, expanding the exhibition area is not an end in itself, equally important criteria for the exhibition to succeed is customer satisfaction. That is why ITEMF Expo always pays a great deal of attention to additional services offered to the exhibitors. From technical support issues on the venue, to cooperation with companies after the exhibition. Notably, in addition to the press-day for the first time ever, we plan to hold a summit on topical issues of the commercial vehicle industry development too.

Another important area of focus is the synergy achieved between exhibitions like MIMS Automechanika Moscow and Comtrans. Requests were received from across companies, for sending them an offer regarding the participation in both exhibitions. It was particularly the case with the companies associated with components and spare parts production both for cargo and passenger vehicles. MIMS Automechanika Moscow has its special section called Truck Competence aimed at promoting companies and their products in the commercial vehicle industry, and we would like such an idea to be developed within Comtrans. Last but not least, one of the factors that contribute to the success of Comtrans is the ‘The Best Commercial Vehicle of the Year in Russia’ contest. An official award ceremony for winners, traditionally held within the framework of the exhibitions Comtrans making it a one of its kind initiative.

Could you hint at the novelties and innovations that visitors of the Comtrans 2017 expect? 

It is often the case that companies prefer to keep a veil of secret ahead of the show when it comes to novelties and innovations. What we know already today is that major Russian OEMs (Kamaz, Gaz Group and Autovaz) will definitely present some new models coming to the market inclusive of some electric vehicles. Scania, MAN and Isuzu are expected to premier for the Russian market too. The press day, which will be on September 04, is complete with press-conferences of all major OEMs. First up will be a press-conference of Uaz, presenting a range of new models. I am confident that after this day, when our press colleagues, journalists and partners enjoy innovations, visitors will be inspired by many products and solutions from a wide number of other companies during the entire exhibition.

With exhibitors from 12 countries, Comtrans is an international show. Apart from Russia, which countries are most represented? 

In 2017, Comtrans will be the leading commercial vehicle show not only in Russia and CIS but also in Europe. Traditionally companies from Turkey, Europe, Germany with the official German pavilion this year are well represented. Exhibitors from Asia will be focusing not only on vehicles but also on spare parts and solutions for the commercial vehicle aftermarket this year.

With all the new technologies, internet and worldwide communication possibilities, don’t you think exhibitions in their current traditional format risk being outdated?

Holding exhibitions is one of the channels for product sales and promotion. Of course, our world is changing, and new technologies are being introduced at a fast pace in the exhibition business. In particular, it refers to interactive technologies which transform communication from the real world into a virtual one. This process certainly holds potential in the near term. At the same time, direct and immediate contact among people continues to be the most important channel given that we are all social beings to begin with. In my view, there isn’t any advanced technology, which can replace real-life communication between people. It is an exhibition, which provides an opportunity to get acquainted personally with all new products of the market under one roof, whereby one can gauge current market trends. That apart, one can get a touch and feel of the products in person apart form getting in to the driver’s and passenger’s shoes. This holds the potential to gain valuable insights on the products on display. Meeting opinion leaders at such a forum is always inspirational. Therefore, exhibitions will always have one undeniable advantage – the opportunity of direct, maximally wide and rapid communication between sellers and their customers, on issues which sometimes take weeks or even months to be settled.

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A double-decker in Paris

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The movie, ‘An Evening in Paris’, found its way to cinema halls in India in 1967. Shot extensively in the picturesque locales of Paris–the French city of love, the Hindi movie starring Shammi Kapoor as Shyam (Sam) and Sharmila Tagore as Deepa Malik alias Roopa Malik (Suzy) depicted a story of two young souls who come in contact with each other quite by accident and fall in love. Travelling to Paris in search of true love, Deepa, supported by her wealthy father boards a rather futuristic looking Paris tour bus in an effort to get rid of the pesky romeo who is no other than Shyam. How Shyam lands there is a mystery, and their-in lies the plot of many a Hindi movies. Shyam follows Deepa onboard the bus, operated by Groupe Cityrama. Shyam’s perseverance pays off – He and Deepa fall for each other. The Paris tour bus turns out to be platform for a life changing event.

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At a time when ‘tail fins’ were in vogue as far as the design of automobiles was concerned, Groupe Cityrama is known to have engaged French coach-builder Currus to create a futuristic looking double-decker bus. Currus responded by building a double-decker bus on a Citroen U55 truck chassis. Called as the Citroen U55 Cityrama Currus, the double-decker bus, painted in a shade of red, white and blue (looks monochrome in the movie), was pressed into service in Paris in the 1950s. Flaunting styling elements like the faux wire-strike knife positioned atop the center of the driver’s windshield, and an extensive use of glass, the double-decker bus proved to be quite popular with the people of Paris. If the curved glass windows made it easy to catch a good view of the sights in Paris, a substantial portion of the side walls and roof were made in glass too. The bus also flaunted a transparent glass roof on the upper deck, which was quite rare at that time. The transparent glass roof could be taken off during summer. Enough to make people wonder if it came from outer space, each seat of the Paris tour bus was equipped with a Paris voice guide system in eight different languages. In service till 1965, the srangely attractive Citroen U55 -based city tour bus was powered by either a petrol or a diesel engine. The six-cylinder, 4.5-litre indirect injection diesel engine of the bus developed 73 hp. It was the first big Citroen (Type 45) engine to have not been derived from Citroen car engines! The rolling chassis was made available in either axle configurations, and in different wheelbase specifications. Making for a memorable city-tour experience, the Citroen U55-based city tour bus, plying the boulevards of Paris, made for a larger than life sight in the movie with Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore riding it.

Dearman hybrid bus completes trials

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Running on diesel and liquid nitrogen, the Dearman hybrid bus has successfully completed rigorous trials.

Team CV

A revolutionary hybrid bus that runs on both diesel and liquid nitrogen, powered by the UK-developed Dearman engine, has completed rigorous trials, bringing it one-step closer to the road. Expected to accelerate the use of liquid nitrogen for primary power, the hybrid bus – CE Power – has turned out to be the world’s first commercial vehicle of its kind to be powered by liquid nitrogen. Built by engineers at Horiba Mira as part of an Innovate UK consortium, the bus utilises alternative propulsion to address urban air pollution challenges and features a high-efficiency, zero emission Dearman engine, powered by liquid nitrogen, alongside a conventional diesel engine. The hybrid system enables the bus to reduce noxious tail-pipe emissions, improving local air quality. With the Innovate UK consortium comprising of leading leading industry, academic and local and national governmental organisations like Dearman, Air Products, Cenex, Coventry University, Horiba Mira, Manufacturing Technology Centre, Productiv Ltd, and TRL (Transport Research Laboratory), the CE Power uses a hybrid propulsion system to reduce emissions during acceleration.

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As part of a bus’ drive cycle, acceleration traditionally has a heavy impact on the diesel engine as it moves away from standstill. The engine can produce vast amounts of nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide emissions, which are harmful. As the Dearman engine produces none of these harmful emissions, it will enable the bus to continue to frequently stop to unload and pull away from a bus stop without expelling the same level of damaging pollutants. Whilst driving at 20 mph or below, the liquid nitrogen, stored in a low pressure insulated cylinder is warmed up to the point of boiling, at which time it creates enough pressure to drive the multi-cylinder Dearman engine. Once the bus reaches 20 mph, the diesel engine will kick in. It is at this speed that the bus requires less effort from the engine to operate.

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Completed at Horiba Mira’s engineering facilities and Proving Ground in Nuneaton, UK, recently, the trials included components and full system testing along with an engineered drive cycle to simulate a standard bus route with a variety of stops. Expressed Martin Watkinson, Technical Lead on the project at Horiba Mira, “The hybrid nature of CE Power demanded a sleek systems integration process. Our engineers worked to ensure the liquid nitrogen system operated seamlessly and safely with the diesel engine, in addition to carrying out the whole vehicle thermodynamics modelling and the overall vehicle control and testing.” “The completion of trials paves the way for the use of liquid nitrogen more widely in the automotive sector, and takes the UK one step closer to stamping out harmful emissions for good,” he averred.

The Dearman engine at Dearman in Croydon. 20th July 2015.

The Dearman engine at Dearman in Croydon. 20th July 2015.

The benefits of using liquid nitrogen over an electric hybrid bus include a much longer life, local production and easy refuelling. Batteries, which power many of the UK’s electric hybrids, require changing several times over the course of a bus’ lifetime, whereas the liquid nitrogen system will last the lifetime of the bus. Liquid nitrogen can be produced locally without the need for neodymium or lithium, which are both used by motors and batteries, and sourced from overseas. Refuelling liquid nitrogen can take a matter of minutes, and enables the bus to return to the road in a short timeframe. Mentioned David Sanders, Commercial Director at Dearman, “As the UK wrestles with dangerous levels of urban air pollution, a bus that runs on ‘thin air’ represents a significant breakthrough. The Dearman Engine has the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of both buses and HGVs, reducing fuel consumption and cutting pollution. Crucially it can provide a cost effective alternative to other emerging zero emission technologies, whose environmental performance if often offset by complexity and cost. This successful trial could be the first step towards rolling out a British innovation to the streets of the UK and around the world.”

Automatic braking as standard

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Volkswagen has made autonomous emergency braking systems standard on its Caddy, Transporter and Crafter vans.

Team CV

With the potential to reduce the number and severity of accidents, Volkswagen has made autonomous braking systems standard on its Caddy, Transporter and Crafter vans. Proven to have cut third party injury insurance claims by 45 per cent, autonomous emergency braking for van drivers and fleet operators means lower costs, and less downtime, courtesy fewer crashes. Using radar, which is built into the front end of the van, the system, named Volkswagen ‘Front Assist’, recognises critical distances to the vehicle in front. To ensure safe stopping in dangerous situations, the system first warns the driver with audible and visual signals of a vehicle in front, driving slowly or suddenly braking, and of an associated risk of collision. It simultaneously prepares the van for emergency braking by applying the brake pads and alerting the brake assistant. If the driver fails to react to the warning, a one-off short jolt of the brake in the second stage indicates the looming danger of a collision. The brake assistant’s responsiveness is further increased, and if the driver steps on the brakes, full braking power is made available immediately. If the driver does not brake strongly enough, the ‘Front Assist’ increases the braking pressure to the required level, so that the vehicle comes to a stop before reaching the obstacle.

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Front Asist’ also includes the City Emergency Braking function. This function provides assistance at speeds below 18 mph. If a driver fails to see or react to an obstacle, the system automatically applies the brakes and ensures that the speed of any collision is reduced. It even prevents the vehicle from running into the obstacle. Looked upon as the most significant development in vehicle safety since the seat belt, autonomous emergency braking systems are said to have the potential to save more than 1,000 lives and 120,000 casualties over the next 10 years. Said Sarah Cox, Head of Marketing at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, the move aligns with the company’s endeavour to produce safe and reliable vans. “Technology is advancing, and we are continually seeing more and better ways to keep drivers safe on the road,” she mentioned. Peter Shaw, Chief Executive at Thatcham Research, said, “Volkswagen are the first manufacturer to fit AEB as standard on all its vans in the UK. With a year on year rise in deaths and serious injuries involving vans, this technology can help to avoid such happenings.” He drew attention to a 2015 study by Euro NCAP and Australasian NCAP, which showed autonomous braking leads to a 38 per cent reduction in real-world rear-end crashes.

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Efficient off-peak deliveries

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Off-peak deliveries trial at Stockholm using ‘silent’ trucks resulted in a significant uptake in efficiency.

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A trial at Stockholm, Sweden, brought to the fore two distinct benefits of off-peak deliveries _ operational efficiency and environmental benefits. In many European cities, including Stockholm and London, deliveries are prohibited at night to reduce the noise impact in residential areas. For the off-peak, or out-of-hours deliveries trial, carried out by Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, two trucks were adapted for the tasks such that they were given nocturnal exemptions. Both the trucks that participated in the trial were fitted with noise-reduction equipment, such as silent roll cages, and noise sensor technology. Volvo supplied a diesel-electric hybrid FE truck, fitted with a device that enabled it to automatically switch from diesel power to electric power when entering a restricted urban zone, keeping noise and emissions to a minimum. The ‘silent’ truck was used by supermarket chain Lidl to deliver to three city centre stores between 22:00 and 06:00 hrs. It was observed that the Volvo FE hybrid ‘silent’ truck was able to complete three drops, significantly elevating efficiency.

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Before the ‘silent’ truck came around, Lidl operated at peak morning times. It needed three conventional trucks to serve its city centre stores. Off-peak deliveries carried out by one ‘silent’ truck ensured that there was no need for two other trucks to operate. The two other trucks could be simply removed from the road, elevating efficiency. In addition, the ‘silent’ truck was also able to travel over 30 per cent faster than the trucks that operated during the rush hour. Said Anna Pernestål Brenden, a researcher at KTH’s Integrated Transport Research Laboratory, that morning commuters are spared having to share the road with three heavy duty trucks. With one truck doing the work of three, there is a big jump in efficiency. The second truck used for the trial was a biogas-fuelled Scania R480. It was used to transport fresh goods to a number of city centre hotels and restaurants for temperature-controlled distributor Martin and Servera. The truck’s driving speed was 59 per cent higher than in the afternoon peak. Off-peak deliveries meant routes could be planned more efficiently and did not have to factor in congestion.

With one of the main reasons of conducting the trial being the effect of the noise of the vehicle on residents during off-peak hours, the trial had the drivers follow special rules to ensure the quietest of night-time deliveries. The trucks would not have a reversing alarm, and there would be no talking on the mobile phone outside the vehicles. It was observed that trucks unloading within city centre environments were not noticeable to residents. Only those in one quieter, outer suburb experienced minimal noise disruption. Averred Brenden, that the noise people complained about was of unloading the truck, and not of driving it.

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Shaping the future

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Q & A

Jacques Esculier,

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Wabco Inc.

Interview by: Anirudh Raheja

Q. What role do you see Wabco playing in shaping the future Indian CVs?

A. It is the turn of connectivity after electronics, which helps to improve safety and efficiency. It is about connecting the truck to the ground, and beyond braking, Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), and electronically controlled air suspension. It is about information that optimises the way one liaisons with the truck, and helps the driver to be more careful and efficient. Wabco is globally present in this area, and wants India to benefit from this technology. We have already taken a lead position in providing ABS. It is electronically driven, and one of the first electronic systems to find its way to Indian trucks. It is the first basic feature on the path to safer commercial vehicles. We are rolling out AMT, which makes driving comfortable. It also elevates efficiency, and can save almost five per cent fuel. We are introducing technologies and capabilities around advanced driver assistance systems like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB). Wabco introduced AEB to the world of CVs, and has been already mandated in Europe. The lane departure warning systems Wabco offers, assist the driver to avert accidents caused by drowsiness. In US, this feature is incredibly popular. It may not be mandated, but has been instrumental in avoiding 85 per cent of the collisions. In India, we are piloting this technology. We are taking an active part in providing the functionalities and hardware for telematics and fleet management. It will be a major step towards optimising logistics. The air disc brakes we have designed may not be electronically driven, they are however essential for safety. Not only are they lighter and simpler than the competition, they save 25 kg per wheel weight. They also enable 10 per cent gain in braking distance. The money that would have been spent on maintenance is saved since there is no need to change the pads. Air disc brakes can go up to 100,000 kms, and this has been demonstrated in India. It takes one fourth of the time to change the pads when compared to drum brake liners. We will soon localise air disc brakes in India. Technologies like these may have been rooted into designs and initiatives taken in Europe, they are being systematically reviewed for cost optimisation. We are leveraging the engineering and supply chain we have established in India. We are conscious about the need for such technologies, and there exists a price constraint.

Q. How is the demand for air disc brakes, AMT and ABS in India?

A. OEMs in India are interested in new technologies. There is awareness for the need to contribute to make roads safer, especially with the country developing so fast. There will be more commercial vehicles on the road. Their rising number will call for systems to make them safer. I think there is pressure from global manufacturers entering emerging markets. They are bringing technologies from Europe. Regional manufacturers are closing that gap and leap frogging to demonstrate that they are also capable of introducing new technologies. Truck manufacturers in India share the ambition to export vehicles to regions with higher standards of safety and efficiency. To compete with fully equipped European trucks, one has to be on par in terms of technology. Such reasons, I think, converge towards a strong interest for OEMs to develop and adapt those systems to their platforms.

Q. What is the level of localisation in AMT and ABS?

A. ABS has been completely localised, including the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) that has been historically manufactured in Europe and exported. With a strong focus to minimise costs in India, we decided to break the rule and manufacture ECUs in India. We have already achieved zero quality defects. Riding on this success, we will make ECUs for more systems in the future. For AMTs we have built an assembly line in our factory at Chennai. We are also progressively localising since we have a network of suppliers. Doing this will contribute to lower pricing for OEMs and fleet owners.

Q. How do you look at your vendor base in India?

A. About 30 per cent of what we manufacture in India is exported. All compressors for Volvo trucks worldwide are built at Chennai. All suspensions for BMW cars are built at Chennai. The suppliers in India are world-class in terms of cost, quality and delivery. It is amazing to see the commitment they have, and the way they adopt management approaches like lean management and six sigma. Our suppliers in India not only support Wabco in India, they also support our factories in Europe and US.

Q. What constraints do you face when it comes to driver assistance systems in India?

A. Driving in an Indian city is quite different from that in an European city. Highway driving is different. The environment there is fairly similar to other parts of the world. We are right now piloting those systems, gathering data, and understanding what exactly the drivers of trucks and buses are exposed to, and how we have to adapt those systems. This would ensure that we do not offer features that are not adaptable. We want to develop functions that specifically address the Indian environment. We are working with OE partners to process this information, and optimise the interface.

Q. India is a regulatory driven market. Does it pose a limitation for autonomous and connected technologies?

A. Most governments of major countries like India are going through the same path. It can be discussed and debated whether ABS, stability control are good or not. Someone has to put the stick in the sand and drive the market. It has been proven time and again that the steps governments take are instrumental in enhancing safety on the road. The Indian government is optimistic about cutting the number of road fatalities by half in the next five years. This would call for the need to impose certain improvements in the way vehicles are designed. They have to meet the set targets. Europe has already mandated AEB and lane departure warning. There are important milestones on the horizon. I think, stability control will become mandatory in US by mid 2017. It will soon be mandatory in Japan as well. It became mandatory in Europe a few years ago. For India to follow suit is absolutely normal. The move up to BSIV emission standards reflects upon us human beings addressing the problem of pollution. It is about pushing the industry towards cleaner engines and vehicles. There was quite a lot of push when EuroVI norms were implemented (in Europe). Lot of technical challenges had to be overcome to meet the incredibly stringent requirements. As a citizen, I am happy that our governments have been enforcing things. The talk about BSVI is normal and healthy.

Q. Isn’t the time frame to BSVI too short?

A. I would say that the technology is available. It was invented by the European manufacturers. All the technologies that are needed to move to BSVI are already there. About the 2020 timeline, it is hard for me to comment. It is a decision that India has to make given the constraints. The sooner the automobile industry offers cleaner air to the society the better it is for all.

Q. Bus Code implementation was delayed. Some regulations seem to lag. How does that affect you?

A. For us, the first experience was the ABS mandate. The government stood by its word and it happened on date. For us, the uncertainty is about managing the supply chain depending upon implementation. We factor those things in our planning.

Q. There is an urgency in implementing the truck code. Crash norms are also being talked about. What do you think of their implementation?

A. Whenever we set off, we always factor such things in the planning. There are a lot of stakeholders, and it takes time to reflect upon the impact of the measure you take. The Indian Government looks decisive. The world seems to be impressed with whatever is going on in India.

Q. How has been the response for AMTs in buses?

A. AMT technology took off in US only three years ago – when the price of oil was USD 100 per barrel. Each market has its own way of maturing. Like any other location, technologies will be adopted in India too. The trend of technology adoption is accelerating in India. It is aimed at elevating safety and efficiency. Except collision mitigation system, safety is often regulatory driven. In US, fleets are absolutely convinced that collision mitigation lowers accidents. In the case of efficiency, it is easier. From the total customer satisfaction point of view, AMT will pay back in a matter of months. The technology is mature. AMTs supplied to Ashok Leyland Janbus were as per the JNNURM program. We also supplied AMTs to many fleets in India through that program. It was specified under the JNNURM scheme. Against automatic transmission in terms of fuel saving, AMT is better. The central government has structured Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). It has asked the state governments to decide upon the bus specifications. The only problem is, the industry is fragmented in terms of fleets, which is not the case in the western world. There are large fleets there. The fragmentation makes it a bit difficult to reach out and convince. Smaller fleets makes it complicated. We have a strong presence with almost 7000 outlets to distribute our spare parts; 250 approved service centres, and precious anchor points which are in touch with trucks drivers and fleets on a daily basis. Wabco is taking steps to communicate values that technologies like AMT could bring.

Q. How do you plan to increase your reach in the Indian market?

A. With advanced technologies finding their way into India, it is becoming difficult for road-side mechanics to attend to vehicles. Training is essential. We are providing them (mechanics) with the right diagnostics tools and equipment. We have placed service engineers in the field to support our network. Roughly at every 100kms, we have a touch point. We are also looking at expanding both, the service engineers and the touch points. There is a need for the service centers to elevate themselves to be able to handle advanced products. There is more and more electronics involved. Globally, there is a Wabco university to support people involved in fleets. In India also we have a similar arrangement, but not as big as a university.

Q. India is known for its IT prowess. Are you investing in software development in India?

A. We have almost three times more software engineers in India than in Europe. Their number is fast growing, and their capabilities are formidable. The latest braking system Wabco has developed for Daimler global, 85 per cent of the software it has, was developed in India. This braking system will go on every Daimler truck, and is modular in nature. India develops major pieces of AMT software as well. The Indian operations are also capable of locally adapting systems developed in other advanced markets for the local market. In case of AMT, we made some adjustments to the system to suit the local working environment. India is right now the second pillar of engineering for us. Germany may lead in advanced technologies, the basic software is built in India. India is thus driving the mechanical aspect of our products and systems. No product is released anywhere in the world without Indian engineers either contributing directly to it, or reviewing it to make sure it has been optimised. This is because there are particular skills including the capability to engineer frugally, which leads to a drop in costs by 30 to 40 per cent. We have systematically shifted all the products we have designed earlier to India to avail of the frugal engineering capabilities the engineers here posses. While it is not just one country that benefits from what we develop in Europe, India is a major contributor to the value Wabco provides to truck, bus or trailer manufacturers the world over. We have more Wabco employees in India (close to 4000) than we have in any other country in the world. They amount to almost one third of the total Wabco employee strength.

Q. Do the Indian operations make a centre of excellence?

A. India is a centre of excellence for vacuum pumps, air suspension, compressors and actuators. We build actuators that are designed in India, in Europe, Japan and US. Compressors made in India support Volvo globally. Around 300,000 ABS systems in India have been localised. There has not been a single reject. Actuators made locally are commanded by ABS electronics. ABS directs compressed air to them.

Q. With systems like ABS and AMT finding their way to India, how far are we from connected vehicles?

A. We are fast moving towards connected vehicles. Wabco has developed a new strategy in that direction. It’s a completely new area of value that our industry would provide to the fleets. We acquired a leader in fleet management solutions in Europe. In India, we have developed a product, that is essential to connect the truck to the ground. It simultaneously gathers information (on fuel consumption, driver behaviour and other functions), processes it and transmits it. Functions like fuel consumption and driver behaviour are incredibly valuable for fleets to optimise their way of functioning.

Q. What is the level of involvement of Wabco when it comes to cloud based technologies?

A. We are gathering information as we are building electronic systems. We know how to interpret enormous amount of information, process it, and send it to the cloud. We are already building all those elements that will ultimately lead to powerful functions. We are working with insurance companies in Europe to gather all the safety events that have happened on a truck. We can have those insurance companies access the level of risk. They can accordingly adjust the premium by judging the level of risk. This can push other fleets to improve their performance; check how many times they trigger safety mechanisms. We have cameras that watch the driver, any time there is a safety event. We send the record of what has happened in the last 30 seconds to a centre in India. This system is very useful in US, as it has driven the number of events down significantly, making everyone safer.

Q. Is telematics a growing business for Wabco? How much does it contribute globally?

A. In India, telematics is picking up well. With BSIV emission norms, the use of electronics will grow. We are engaging with Volvo Eicher as an OE supplier to develop telematics for them. Telematics is a sizeable business for us, and is growing fast. In digitisation, the sky is the limit. The potential of what the big data will bring to fleets in terms of enhancing their efficiency is high. Half the trucks today anywhere in the world are empty. Think about what a Uber type of system can bring to this industry. There are many things in the fleets that can be brought together by the digital world.

“All compressors for Volvo trucks worldwide are built at Chennai.”

Trendline

The trend of technology adoption is accelerating in India. It is aimed at elevating safety and efficiency.

India is a major contributor to the value that Wabco provides to truck, bus or trailer manufacturers the world over.

Manufacturing tech

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Q & A

Samir Yajnik,

President Sales & COO – Asia-Pacific, Tata Technologies Limited

Interview by: Anirudh Raheja

Q. Tata Technologies is associated with Tata T1 truck racing. How is it helping the company?

A. There was complete disbelief when we got a call initially. This, despite us being an quintessential part of the Prima truck development at Jamshedpur, and in Korea. The positioning element was clear. Tata Motors wanted to position it (the truck) as a unique technology driven product in the market. There was also a need for a strong social angle. Trucking in India is looked down upon. The need was to change this perception. It was also about showcasing truck racing from a current and futuristic technology point of view. At Tata Technologies we saw a strong reason to drive improvements in the truck. Our focus on three markets – automotive (PV and CV), aerospace and Industrial Heavy Machinery (IHM), gave us a reason to drive technological advancements for different applications. We were clear about being associated with this project. It was in the third year that a question arose: How much more exciting and different can this get? The social angle, brewing in the background, was brought in, and not as a chance. A full fledged process of bringing the drivers up to racing standards made for much learning. We brought those elements into our courses in India. We are looking at them to provide a better means to train engineers; to make better vehicles, and to operate them successfully.

Q. What role is Tata Technologies playing in the CV space?

A. Our association with trucking in not only limited to product development, it also involves fabrication, painting, and other tasks. We simulated a line that is ergonomically designed; it is a result of much pre-work. In the case of the 1000 hp race Prima, CAE application was used. Simulation is pervasively involved in the early thinking stages, and all the way through to testing and validation. It helps to understand how different things put together will fare. Dynamic simulation, static simulation, ride and handling simulation, crash simulation, NVH simulation, and durability simulation is carried out. There is the ‘connected’ part with the use of different materials. The suspension system of the 1000 hp Prima race truck is connected to the LCD screen in the cockpit. We were involved in activities like the water jets; the temperature at which they will work. They are linked through sensors. Simulation is necessary for mechanical as well as the electronic side of it. It is also required for testing. For automobile companies to dominate the market, it is necessary to take down competitor vehicles; tear them down, and run them on the test track to understand the dynamics. We partner to simulate and understand how the product being conceived should be positioned in the market, and at what cost. Also, how it should be positioned. We partner to understand how a product should be developed from the pre-concept stage so that the price is right. We talk to suppliers, negotiate with them for the OEM. The early concept prototype that is built should come out at the right ball-park. We do talking through to New Product Introduction (NPI) and production. We are involved throughout the cycle – from the concept stage to the grave. We also help dealer management; capture data and feed it to the engineers. It is not just about concept-to-market, but also about concept to aftermarket. The insight obtained is ploughed back into the development cycle.

Q. Isn’t the work you do overlap with some Tata Group companies?

A. There are areas of overlap, but there are many more areas where we complement each other. If you look at an auto OEM, there are a lot of things that need to be done, including infrastructure management. We are very strong in that space. We have grown overtime in engineering. We were born and brought into the market to help companies engineer a product and provide technology enabling services around it. We have found a good balance while working with OEMs like Chrysler and JLR.

Q. So, you are a software and a hardware company?

A. I would say that we are a product-centric services company. This is good because it makes us good at networking and hardware management. We know how the whole thing works. A company specialising in software may make great automation software, we are about application of technology for building a product.

Q. You are neither a supplier nor an OEM. What makes you an associate of the CV industry?

A. We call our engineers PFLE (Passionate Fun Loving Engineers). There is a lot of innovation that can be attained, and when challenged by the problems faced. Simple things like noise and vibration can pose a challenge. A certain level of noise and vibration is just not acceptable in passenger cars; not in India either. When a minor or major innovation can help to deal with the challenge, there is a reason to be excited. It can be patented, and helps to get involved with an OEM. It can be used across different industries. Since we operate in different manufacturing environments, the lessons we have learned in one industry can be applied to other industries. The lessons that we learned in the digital factory, we are now using in the aerospace industry. It is exciting that such learnings can contribute to product improvement.

Q. Technologies like block chain and telematics are drawing attention. How do you look at them?

A. The involvement of suppliers in product development often starts at a later stage. The involvement of core suppliers in the development of a new product should start early. This would help to keep cost, weight and performance targets from becoming unpredictable. While technology is driving the sub aggregates, the big question that arises is, how early can they get involved. There is a need to have strategic suppliers. At the time of negotiation, 90 per cent of the concept is already in mind, and frozen. They (suppliers) are in no position to influence. It is therefore necessary to build a process that bridges the gap and brings them (suppliers) early into the equation. This would enable work through cloud of options to facilitate a product that is priced right.

Q. Amid the changes experienced by the CV industry, what role is Tata Technologies keen to play?

A. We were taken seriously when we made an impact outside. We did connected architecture for a brand new EV coming out in the Chinese market. Tata Motors was surprised. Our acceptability is growing. For the new norms, on the product development side, we looked at packaging, at cooling systems, and how everything will change when new engines are incorporated. Running analytics is important. It will provide valuable insights. Consultants can provide data regarding OEMs, and their supply chain, They can tell about vehicle performance in geographic terms. Not just for Tata but also for others. Mobile Apps. are coming in. They are finding their way into factories as well. The whole process of integrating the vehicle in a factory can be sequenced far better. Better inventory management can be achieved. Digitisation of manufacturing place is what we want to excel in. We understand how things should be sequenced such that they fall in place; are right. We are not going to be just a service provider but also run in the field, and beyond.

Q. As a home grown MNC, how do you seek a balance between domestic and international business?

A. We spend a lot of time on engineering outsourcing. We work with our clients to improve the product. This calls for an amount of balanced on-site and off-shore capability. The need for on-site presence could be as much as 70 per cent. Off-shore capability may call for much local engineering. Of the US $ 430 million revenue, almost US $ 150 million came from Europe, riding JLR primarily. In US, Chrysler and Caterpillar are our big clients. In India, we are in talks with new auto companies.

Q. Many companies are looking at India for off-shore activities. Is it because of the frugal engineering abilities?

A. I would say it (frugal engineering) is injected into our value proposition. May it be us, or Magna Styer, for example, we both can offer what is needed at a cost. Only our cost is much more balanced. We have a lot of engineers working together. They are in India, Romania, Thailand, and at other locations. Western engineers provide you a proposition in terms of product development and enabled engineering at a cost point that is higher. Having done scores of vehicles to build a database, we are ready to work on vehicles.

Q. How intensive is the business model. The amount of risks involved?

A. We got an opportunity to work with western OEMs; to benchmark with them, when we worked on the Nano project. It was then that we realised, it was a great way of starting an engagement. We thought about building our own lab. It is investment intensive. It is however necessary to understand that it works as a differentiation for us in the manufacturing world.

Q. Driverless vehicles are drawing attention. Is Tata Technologies playing a role?

A. We have been involved with technology companies in California where they are trying and testing driverless vehicles. In the space that we are in, the relevance of driverless vehicles is not as much as it is for driver assistance. We recently set up an innovation lab in California. The idea is to engage with technology companies, which will give us those insights. We are also working with companies that have to comply with EuroVI emission standards. To that end, we are already training our people. We are making them understand what they would be up to. We have a specialist organisation in Romania that focuses on powetrains and engines. We have had the opportunity to work with customers that wanted to progress to EuroVI. We co-invest with our customers; understand their current capabilities. We take what they have, put in our own talent, and help them frugally develop a product that is compliant. The lessons we learn, enrich our ability to develop frugally engineered products.

Q. Do you conduct tear down analysis in India?

A. We derive a cost advantage by doing tear down analysis in India. We set up a center at Pune, and since most of our customers wanted to see the operations happening in front of them. It would have been far more expensive to carry out the same in western countries. Even if it is a high end vehicle, we can bring it here, and tear it down. We are already doing it for multiple OEMs.

Q. How much of your business comes from CV segment?

A. Nearly 65 per cent of our business comes from automotive. Add 10 per cent for IHM. About 30-40 per cent of this total is from the commercial side. About 45 per cent of our R&D spend is on automobiles. Apart from our Pune centre, we have a center at Romania and Thailand. Through Land Rover we have got a fairly big team of highly specialised people involved in light weighting at Coventry. We also have a centre in Detroit, which is smaller and does work for dashboard and interiors. We also have one in China, We will go to Chennai this year. Our growth rate would be more than 10- to 15 per cent.

Q. CVs are modernising. What opportunity does Tata Technologies see in them?

A. A lot of our competitors have built software for connectivity, for embedded electronics, and do it on a mass scale. It is not that we don’t want to do it, where we are involved is in the area of connected architecture. It is about talking to the central servers by the means of telematics and service providers. Through NASSCOM we want to play a role in the IoT standards. The IoT devices that are coming up, have not been tested for human safety. There are no mandated standards as yet. We want to be involved in the setting up of those standards. Safety is quintessential in everything we do. It is a part of our sustainability criteria. We are trying to develop a network of companies that will help define those standards. I have an IoT lead section that works with NASSCOM COE.

Q. How long will it take and how it will effect automobiles?

A. When you talk about standards, there are standards available in the European market which are stringent. They are however closed. There is a need to connect with them. Standards are needed in India too. How long it will take is an interesting question. It is an ongoing process. We are working with the government in each country that we are present in. Ultimately our proposition is to apply technologies. We also connect with construction equipment companies and work with them in setting new standards for safety.

“We are involved throughout the cycle – from the concept stage to the grave.”

Trendline

We were born and brought into the market to help companies engineer a product and provide technology enabling services around it.

We are about application of technology for building the product.