Empowering transport veterans

Article by: Rajesh Rajgor

Seasoned transporters leave Mahindra Mentor Summit 2 at IIM-A on a positive note.

In the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna asked Duryodhan and Arjun to choose between himself (Krishna) and his army for the war. Duryodhan chose Krishna’s army and Arjun was left with Krishna. Duryodhan lost the battle with 11 armies on his side while the Pandavas with seven armies and Krishna on their side, won the battle. Every business organisation at some point in time has to make a choice like this, and more often than not, focus on the army (representing conventional available resources) instead of Krishna (representing their son’s newly-acquired management ways). This is where the Mahindra Mentor Summit 2 stepped in to help experienced fleet owners distinguish between Krishna and his army.

Addressing the second batch of mentors, Nalin Mehta, MD and CEO, Mahindra Truck and Bus Division, said, “We believe that overcoming the challenges the transport industry is facing, such as enhanced customer expectations, level of professionalism and imminent consolidation of transportation, will need fresh thinking, that of the younger generation, guided and motivated by the veterans.” The idea of creating such a platform, where veteran transporters visit IIM-Ahmedabad, came up after the highly successful Mahindra MPower Youth Transporter Programme. “Students from previous batches reported a discord in implementing the learnings from MPower in their organisations, as they were frequently challenged by their fathers,” averred Mehta. The two-and-a-half day programme for mentors thus sought to make the sector more organised by involving the industry veterans where they could guide their protégés to eventually take charge.

Debates and discussions

Conducted by the IIM-A faculty and moderated by the Mahindra Truck and Bus Division team, the two-and-a-half day programme led to an exchange of thoughts and notes on topics like challenges in the transport sector, understanding leadership styles, succession planning and delegation, attracting investments, brand management and analysing business data with the transport veterans. Experience sharing sessions conducted by Prof. G Raghuram and Prof. Debjit Roy turned into vehement discussions. An opinion seemed to emerge that over conventional micro-management, delegating responsibilities is the need of the hour. There were occasions when the classroom became a melting pot of expertise and maturity of transporters, and the refined techniques of the faculty. Speaking about the right and left brain, Dr. Mallika Sarabhai stressed upon the need to enhance the right brain functioning. She let transport and creativity amalgamate, allowing participants to leave behind their mundane routine and embrace creativity. The session sought to merge the experience of veterans with the energy of their protégés. A panel discussion accordingly brought fathers and their protégés on the same stage, where a healthy debate captured the imagination of both. The constant flow of ideas was channelled by experienced transporters and steered by moderators.

The fleet management session by Prof. Debjit Roy aimed at optimising one’s fleet in view of fluctuating demand patterns. The classroom of 20 was divided into four teams each representing a transport organisation given a hypothetical number of order for trucks (based on tonnage) for two different customers. When Prof. Roy projected (on screen) a demand from two customers in terms of the required tonnage, over the course of seven days (seven different demands), organisations had to calculate how they would meet the client’s demand for each day, on the basis of their existing fleet strength. For instance if the demand from customer one is 64 tonnes and from customer two is 96 tonnes, how would the organisation deploy their fleet which had five 16 tonne trucks and five 32 tonne trucks. The session tried to analyse the performance trade-off between renting and buying trucks during peak and lean period according to Prof. Roy. At the same time it also looked at the ability to forecast business, and buying or renting trends. During the course of the game, organisations (teams) could either buy or rent trucks and decide on their business strategy while calculating revenues, total holding cost, Equated Monthly Instalments (EMI) of buying a truck, rental fees and total operation cost per day per truck. Team members were having animated discussions even as Prof. Roy kept revising the screen with customer demands that would add to the transporter’s drudgery.

Prof. Sanjeev Tripathi emphasised upon linking mundane transport activity with an identity. “Consumers make purchase decisions based on the recall value of the service and that in-turn will become your identity. So it is important to create an identity which your business wants to communicate effectively,” he stated.

Summing Up

Commenting on the motivation to attend the course, and what they learnt, Sunil Jain of Jain Logistics, averred, “After the MPower Youth programme, my son Prateik revised the driver payment to per trip instead of a monthly salary. We now pay drivers per trip and this has lead to three to four trips per month over the two trips earlier.” “The new process has ensured that the driver reports faster turnaround times. He can earn more by making more trips,” he added. Naveen Gupta, Executive Director, Express Roadways Pvt. Ltd. mentioned that the programme made him realise the need to delegate tasks. “This skill is imperative to successfully increase operations across India and enter untapped markets,” he added. Allowing mentors to get in sync with their son’s or daughter’s way of conducting business, the ambience at IIM-A led to open discussions and debates. “The programme made me think about progress; I am now more receptive to new ideas, and would be able look at, and make sense of my son’s presentation,” quipped Gurpreet Singh Chadha, CEO, Narang Motor Transport Corporation. Expressing that she did not expect the programme to cover so many topics ranging from trucking, finance, technology and data insights, Ramola Sharma of Bulktainer Shipping Ltd., praised Vijay Batra’s guest lecture. “It helped me to understand that a leader should always be motivated,” she exclaimed. She said further that her son, Arjun Sharma, has gained confidence after attending the MPower youth programme.

Byram Dhalla, Director, BD Dhalla Transport Pvt. Ltd., found the sessions of Prof. G Raghuram and Prof. Sobhesh Agarwalla enriching. Prof. G Raghuram spoke of challenges in the sector, and Agarwalla provided an insight into how investment can be attracted by appreciating the net worth of the business. Commented Dhalla that apart from the opportunity to see how other transporters were conducting business he also gained a flash of brilliance from others. He aptly summarised perhaps on how the programme would help him to choose between Krishna and his army.

Tata Motors bags order for 1,239 defence vehicles

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Beginning with the manufacture of military vehicles for the Allied Forces during World War II, Tata Motors’ defence business has Rs. 1500 crore worth of orders currently.

Tata Motors has bagged an order to supply around 1,239 LPTA 2038 high-mobility 6×6 multi-axle trucks from the Indian Army. Claimed to be the single largest order awarded to an Indian OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) in land systems under the DPP by the Indian army, the order for 6×6 vehicles is for ‘Material Handling Cranes’ for the loading-unloading and transportation of ammunition pallets, spares and other operational equipment. Speaking about the development, Vernon Noronha, Vice President, Defence and Government Business, Tata Motors, said that defence and internal security have been the driving factor, supported by favourable government policies. “A favourable government policy in 2006, which aimed at cutting down the purchase of imported defence equipment from 65 per cent to 30 per cent was the driving factor. Another driving factor was the need for the forces to modernise. We are mobility specialists and therefore decided on Land Systems,” Noronha added.

With earlier Land System vehicles limited to being sourced from BEML-Tatra and government agencies largely, the 6×6 multi-axle truck supply from Tata Motors marks the inclusion of indigenously developed ones. The LPTA 2038 was subjected to a trial run of 25 months. Claimed to have been designed to cope up with extreme on or off-road loads, the LPTA 2038 underwent trials like water-fording, on cross country terrains and plains, and at VRDE’s (Vehicle Research and Development Establishment) torture track.

“The truck was tested in – 22 degree Celsius temperatures and at +50 degree Celsius in deserts. This was in the wake of competition from Tatra and MAN,” stated Noronha. With defence vehicles from the company finding use with US and UN peace keeping forces in Africa, including an order for 1,000 militarised Xenons from Myanmar, and 175 militarised Xenons for Afghanistan, Tata Motors is concentrating on Land Systems. “We are concentrating on combat vehicle range, and this is where an effort to move away from older generation vehicles is on in India. Armed forces floated an EOI to move to newer generation combat vehicles. Armoured vehicles command 30 per cent of the Land Systems market,” expressed Noronha. He drew attention to the FICV project to transfer defence business in India. It is a USD 10 billion anticipated programme to replace old BMPs, and is driven by ‘Make-in-India’ intent based on the need to localise key technologies Noronha added. He said further that his company has good advantage for FICV project as it has access to global technologies; the ability to focus on mobility; the ability to integrate, and the ability to indigenise. FICV is expected to emerge in the next three-to-four months.

Apart from the LPTA 2038, which is designed for easy operability and maintenance as accessing the aggregates is easy, Tata Motors has also developed LPTA 3138 8×8, LPTA 5252 and a mine protected vehicle powered by a ISBe 245 bhp Euro 3 engine with GVW 14,300 kg. Capable of withstanding a blast of 21 kg of TNT, a few mine protected vehicles (MRAP or APC) have already found their way into police forces operating in naxal affected areas. The wheeled amphibious ICV platform (Kestrel) that Tata Motors has developed, is an infantry combat vehicle. It is powered by a 600 bhp ISLe engine. It is also a part of the program that is funded by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Tata Motors has received an order for three, and will be fitted with diverse machine kits. It is a modular platform explained Noronha. He further explained that Tata Motors acquired many systems to put in Kestrel. Hydro-pneumatic struts, and electronic systems and architecture with plug and play for example. Group companies like TCS, Tata Cummins helped with the design, said Noronha.

Hoping that the modern Land Systems platforms will have a 30-year life cycle like the ones before, Tata Motors is also supplying kits to the Jabalpur Vehicle Factory (VFJ) to built the LPTA 715 4×4. The company is supplying 2,500 kits per year, and more than 40,000 units have been made by VFJ till date. Tata Motors is also co-operating with Ordinance Factory Board (OFB) and DRDO to enter the defence space. It has bagged an order to supply 702 Light Anti-Mine Vehicles (LAMV) with OFB, and 100 Kestrels with DRDO. Working on a revenue model, the company, according to Noronha, has Rs.1,500 crore worth of defence vehicle orders currently. The 6×6 order was won against two competitive agencies. Apart from the Central Tyre Inflation System (CTIS) for mobility in soft sand desert conditions to enable the driver to adjust the tyre pressure from his seat, the LPTA 2038 is also fitted with a self recovery winch, modular cabin with HVAC, and is fully-ready for warmongering. Capable of achieving sustained speeds of 40 kmph on severe cross country terrains, the vehicle can be customised for a wide range of applications like CGT (Common Gun Tower), MBRL (Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher), MFU (Missile Firing Unit), MSV (Missile Service Vehicle), FSV (Field Service Vehicle), SRSAM (Short Range Surface to Air Missile), QRSAM (Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile), LLQRM (Low Level Quick Reaction Missile), and MRV (Medium Recovery Vehicle). The combat vehicle according to Noronha will integrate at least 50 new technologies.

Having done business worth Rs.2,000 crore in the last three years, the company expects to double the revenue in the next three years. It plans to do so on many fronts including a front that is looking at modernising from 500 kg payload platforms to 800 kg payload platforms. “The Scorpio and Safari were selected,” said Noronha. His company has bagged an order for the supply of 3,192 highly modified Safari Storme platform at Rs. 10 lakh a piece approximately. With close to 30,000 to 45,000 Gypsys and Commanders on the verge of replacement, the armed forces according to Noronha are looking at vehicles with more power, auto transmission and independent suspension. Explaining that military vehicles are over designed, and have to undergo numerous trials (like the maintain-ability trial) over fairly longer periods, Noronha opined that it is the price that works to their advantage. He concluded, “In combat too, we expect to penetrate on price. Our vehicles are as good as a MAN or Mercedes-Benz, and cost approximately 35 per cent less.”

Banking on an early recovery in the travel industry

Article by: Anirudh Raheja
Rao Travels is increasing its fleet size with an anticipation that the travel industry will witness an
early recovery.

New Delhi-based Rao Travels is steadily increasing its fleet size. It added a 53-seater, multi-axle Volvo bus to its entourage, swelling its fleet size to 100. Of these, there are 27- and 41-seater Tata buses, and 15 Volvo buses. Considering the fleet mix, it does not come as a surprise when Srinivas Rao, the owner of Rao Travels, announces that they cater to the middle and upper-middle class segment of the market. “We also serve the volume market,” he adds. The new addition, according to Rao, is in-line with the early revival of the travel industry that he anticipates. “Expansions are cyclical in nature. We add buses at regular intervals to boost our image, and also engineer an all encompassing business that ranges from transportation, tour operation, and as travel agents. We want to offer end-to-end solutions under one roof,” avers Rao.

In the year 1977, S Subbarao establish Rao Travels by purchasing a Tata mini-bus and commenced tour operations. Business grew, and Subbarao expanded the size of his fleet. Over the years the company came to play host to both, Indian as well as international travellers. S Rao took over the reigns of the business in 1990, and has been laying new building blocks ever since. Rao Travels thus operates tours ranging between one day and four days. It also serves the travel needs of corporate companies like Airtel and GMR. For this purpose the company, says Rao, has aligned 25 mini-buses apart from the existing fleet of 100 buses. The mini-buses are of Force, Tata and Toyota make.

Leveraging its experience spanning over three decades, S Rao says, that the emergence and rising popularity of online and app-based travel players has helped private players like them to further increase their business. Speaking about competition from State Transport Undertakings (STUs), he opines, that their AC bus services does not pose much of a threat. “STUs function as point-to-point operators. Operators like us provide an end-to-end tour solution, which covers rail, air and hotel bookings too,” he reasons. With a firm belief that it is his company’s meticulous approach, that has led to growth, and in the wake of the rapidly morphing travel industry, Rao explains that they survey the market before expanding their fleet. Even if it is just one bus. “The vehicle has to prove its mettle in the market before we decide to invest in it. Everything is accounted for, right up to the look and feel of the vehicle,” says S Rao. The logic behind this is simple, he says. “It should add up to the expectations of the customer, and satisfy his needs”, he adds. “A customer on a holiday wants a return on every penny he or she spends. If left stranded during the course of the tour due to inefficiencies in vehicles deployed by us, it will not only ruin his or her plan of an ‘ideal’ holiday, it will also ensure that he or she will never return,” Rao opines.

To deliver quality fleet services, Rao Travels’ buses are serviced at the authorised service stations of the respective bus manufacturers. GPRS and fleet management systems have been incorporated to allow for better route movement, as well as to track any route deviations. These are monitored from the company’s headquarters at Delhi. The company also conducts a two-day refresher training on quarterly basis for all its fleet drivers to ensure that they deliver the best quality of service possible. With a presence in Southern India as well, with offices in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai, Rao Travels has adopted an organic growth model. It owns the offices rather than opt for a quick-bolt, franchise model. “Over the last two years, like the rest of the industry, we too were affected by the slowdown. The number of both, domestic and international tourists declined substantially. However, with signs of the economy reviving, we expect to grow at 20 per cent in the coming years,” Rao states.

The company actively engages with current and prospective customers through SMS and e-mail burst, offering tour package updates and offers. “Given the rapid flow of information in social media and the Internet, we believe it is important to maintain a connect with the consumers,” asserts Rao. While the company is doing all it can to stay ahead of the curve, S Rao believes that there is a pressing need for a higher involvement from the government in order to bring about the much talked about boom in the travel and tourism sector. “Inter state taxes are high and need consistency. There should be a greater ease of payment, particularly when it comes to vehicles that are continuously on move like buses for instance. Policies like GST can take note of various such factors. Additionally, multi-level taxes which are implemented on international tourists also need looking into, as this is one of the reasons why such tourists shy away from India,” concludes Rao.

Stanadyne unveils EcoForce

Article by: Bhargav TS & Rajesh Rajgor
Targeted at off-highway vehicles below 50 hp engine, EcoForce, promises improved fuel economy, increased engine performance and reduced particulate emissions.

Diesel and gasoline fuel systems manufacturer, Stanadyne, unveiled EcoForce, a new fuel injection system for the off-road and tractor engine market. This system, said Dr. John Pinson, President and CTO, Stanadyne, “reduces particulate emissions by 50 per cent and enhances the fuel efficiency by up to eight per cent.” According to Dr. Pinson, EcoForce is based on an innovative design concept for the under 50 hp market that offers superior engine performance and fuel economy with a lower total cost of ownership. Manufactured at the company’s Chennai plant, EcoForce is 90 per cent localised. Commenting on the robustness of the system, Sanjay Chadda, Managing Director, Stanadyne India, said, “The new fuel system can take any fuel available in India. We have even tested this system with kerosene.” Stanadyne’s products often go into engines that find use in the farming, construction and industrial sectors. Ironically, these sectors, experts opine, contribute to 95 per cent of off-road particulate emissions. “Stanadyne’s research and development engineering team has developed this new product to address the dual concerns of the Indian sub-continent. These are high fuel costs and air quality emissions,” explained Dr. Pinson.

The company has already factored in the current emission standards for diesel (agricultural) tractors.

S Jayabalan, Sr. General Manager, Stanadyne India, said, “This product is designed to comply with current emission level of Stage 3 A, which will prevail for the next 10 years.” Elaborating on the fuel savings in per centage terms, and how it will translate into monetary gains for the farmer, Chadda stated, “For a farmer who runs a tractor for approximately 1,000 hours in a year, the fuel saving derived from EcoForce should translate into Rs.14,000 to 15,000 (per year).” Escorts, which has tied up with Stanadyne for the new EcoForce technology, is jointly working on the development of the product and subsequent commercial launch in 2016. Rajeev Dhiman, Head, Engine Design and Testing at Escorts Agricultural Machinery, said, “We will test the performance of EcoForce on our tractors during a complete duty cycle of the tractors to ensure zero breakdown.” With the introduction of the new EcoForce fuel pump, Chadda opined that they are looking at enhancing the capacity to 2,30,000 units over the next two years with an investment of Rs.100 crore. Stanadyne, currently, rolls out 85,000 pumps from its Chennai facility annually, housing a fully integrated engineering and technology team which manages the design, development, testing and manufacturing of its products. The company recorded a turnover of Rs. 170 crore in FY2014-15. The aim is to double it by 2018.

Interview — Bhargav TS: Sanjay Chadda, Managing Director, Stanadyne India

Can you tell us about the new products that Stanadyne is working on?

We are working on the next stage of common rail diesel injection systems for passenger cars. This is currently under development, and we plan to launch it in the coming future.

How unique, in terms of technological advancements, is this new common rail fuel injection system?

We need to bring in a differentiation which will stand out from the current technology, used by almost all OEMs. We are working on including the voice of the customer, in order to fill in these technological gaps. In 2012, we saw common rail reach maturity in the Indian market. We plan to applicate that across the nation in 2017. Given that the requirement of common rail systems is only likely to increase with the impending new emission norms for on-road vehicles expected by 2020, we are considering future requirements, based on the emission standard, and are also working to mitigate the gaps suppliers have today.

Tell us about the engineering centre at Chennai?

This centre has been labelled as the ‘Centre of Excellence’ for mechanical fuel injection systems. At our Chennai plant we manufacture the smaller engines (single cylinder), single cylinder pump, rotary pump and injectors. In the development centre, we develop advanced injection systems which are currently used in Europe for diesel engines. These are manufactured in India and exported.
What are the advantages of newly launched fuel injection system?

We have developed this new fuel injection system to achieve breakthrough efficiency, increased performance and lower emissions. It can take fuel available from any part of India. It has been tested with kerosene as well.

OEMs are focusing on standardisation to enable a global platform, while conversely there are also talks about ‘customised solutions’. Could you elaborate on this?

OEMs primarily develop global platforms as it helps not only to contain cost, but also to reduce the development time. However, it is necessary to customise solutions according to the target markets. The emerging trend is to make the core development to happen in the major market and take the same to the other markets. For instance, India is a market for small cars and therefore OEMs are making the vehicle development on that platform led out of India for the world. They are positioning themselves in terms of the segment that the vehicle is targeted at, and the relative development. We see a convergence happening in this perspective.


Tenneco’s indigenous BS IV exhaust solutions for CV makers

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Article by: Anirudh Raheja

Tenneco is set to support CV OEMs with the most modern exhaust solutions so that they can stay ahead of the tightening emission norms.

Daimler India Commercial Vehicle’s new 3134 deep mining tipper and 3143 coal tipper are equipped with a Tenneco exhaust system. Even the BharatBenz 4940 long-haul tractor is said to have been equipped with a Tenneco exhaust. Supporting Daimler India Commercial Vehicle’s (DICV) ambitious Thunderbolt program, which culminated in the introduction of the tippers mentioned above, and which will replace the Mercedes-Benz Actros in the Indian market, Tenneco, it is clear, is working with global commercial vehicle manufacturers on what are termed as global initiatives. The 3143 is destined for export, and is powered by the OM457 400-series Mercedes-Benz engine. The Tenneco exhaust system is coupled to this power plant, which ironically, is also powering the Mercedes-Benz O500 luxury coach.

Hi-tech solutions for higher needs

Developments like these assume much significance. They are happening at a time when the government and judiciary are looking up to the next phase of emission reforms in response to curb the rising pollution levels. With the next phase of emission reforms expected sooner than later, developments like the Thunderbolt programme reflect on how OEMs are infusing new technologies with the support of their suppliers to produce ‘greener’ automobiles, and commercial vehicles in particular. It was in 2010 that the government announced the enforcement of Bharat Stage IV (BS IV) emission standards in 13 cities. Its nationwide implementation is yet to take place. As the nation gears up to look beyond BS IV emission norms, and perhaps jump to BS VI by 2020, the role of suppliers is set to be crucial. Especially those that are into the manufacture of systems that are in close proximity to the emission curbing units on an automobile.

Exhaust systems for example. From the BharatBenz 3143 (Thunderbolt) it will be clear that a move to high-tech products is already underway. Tenneco, it is no secret, is geared up to expand its portfolio for the CV industry. “A fully indigenous BS IV aftertreatment system, completely designed and developed in India, including the software, controls, sensors, calibration and adaptation of dozing technologies for a local OEM is currently at the certification level,” says Pankaj Kapoor, Deputy Managing Director, Tenneco Automotive India. Claiming to be a leader in developing Clean Air systems globally, BS IV emission standards, and the related automotive technologies, are not new to Tenneco. Kapoor adds, “A typical Euro IV exhaust system for commercial vehicles incorporates a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system. It is coupled with decomp reactors and urea dozing for which you need electronic sensors and controls. It turns into a complete exhaust system, which is quite complex and has in it mechanical parts, electronic parts, electrical parts and a software as well.”

Euro IV solutions for export programs; BS IV solutions for local needs

Prime supplier of Euro III emission compliant exhaust solutions, which involves a muffler with pipes attached to the catalytic converter, to almost all the major OEMs in India, Tenneco is also honouring contracts for three global commercial vehicle manufacturers for Euro IV emission compliant (SCR-based) exhaust solutions. One of these manufacturers is DICV. “We are ready for the launch of SCR system by the end of this year,” states Kapoor. “Mass production will start for the systems when the implementation of BS IV emission norms will happen,” he adds. Headquartered at Illinois, USA, Tenneco has been working on the challenges the Indian duty cycles have of offer. This includes the need to adapt as well as develop products and solutions that will address the needs of the local market. Kapoor avers, “Tenneco’s product development cycle in India incorporates the voice of customers, duty cycles and largely prevalent overloading problems as well. A lot of application engineering is done while following our TDPC process and to support this, our engineers work closely with OEMs to understand their development cycles and tweak products accordingly.”

Aiming at high level of localisation

Operating in India under two business units – Clean Air (CA) and Ride Performance (RP), Tenneco products in India have a local content of up to 80 per cent. This enables the company to better serve the local requirements, especially in terms of costs. According to Kapoor, his company is planning to hike the local content to 84 per cent in the next few years. The significance of cost reduction, it is clear, is high. For Tenneco has to balance between fulfilling the OEM’s requirement for the local market as well as the export markets. For example, Tenneco has been meeting the Euro V needs for Mahindra’s LCV export portfolio with Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF). Kapoor explains that it is important to understand the adaptability and design of the customer and his requirements to enhance performance while packaging the products. When it comes to the RP business vertical, Tenneco has developed various components like cabin dampers, axle dampers, steering dampers and lateral dampers ranging from 35mm dia. to 45mm dia. for commercial vehicles. These are capable enough to meet future regulatory requirements according to Kapoor. He adds, “We try to localise most of the products in RP. We have localised the piston rods; we have also developed localised sintered metal parts for Ashok Leyland M&HCVs at our Puducherry plant.” Over the past few years, Tenneco has been consistently working to achieve higher level of localisation as far as its current as well as upcoming products are concerned. With an average localisation level of 88 per cent, it is aiming at a level of 95 per cent in the next few years. Especially in the area of heavy duty trucks. It is in the area of heavy duty trucks that Tenneco has developed the blow-off design axle dampers to improve durability and offer high damping forces to enhance control at lower speed.

Addressing the needs through six manufacturing plants

Tenneco operates six plants in India. Each business vertical has three plants. Under the CA business vertical, the Chakan plant is serving the needs of Tata Motors and Mahindra LCVs and M&HCVs. This plant also serves the needs of other global OEMs. The Chennai plant would supply SCR systems to DICV for its Bharat Benz BS IV (Euro IV) needs in India. The youngest plant at Sanand is awaiting start of production (SOP) and will serve passenger vehicle manufacturers like Ford, which has set up a plant at the same location. At the RP end, the company has a plant at Bawal, Hosur (to develop shock absorbers and struts) and Puducherry (to manufacture sintered metal parts for inter-company use). Under the RP business vertical, the company would serve the needs of Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland along with other global OEMs from its Hosur facility.

Engineering prowess

Tenneco has 15 engineering centres worldwide. According to Kapoor, these work in close cooperation, and are virtually connected, be it the core engineering centres in USA and Europe or application engineering centres like the one at Hosur. Highlighting the cost requirements and environmental regulations in India, Kapoor opines that India is a very segmented market, and despite having relationship with global OEMs at the international level, it is important to provide them with local content at the local level with more or less the same amount of robustness. While doing this, states Kapoor, it is essential to be competitive. He adds that India will be the centre of excellence for shock absorbers worldwide. This again is based on the lower costs the product can be had at in India. Under the RP business vertical, Tenneco, in 2013, introduced a mobile workshop called the ‘ride tuning’ bus. It caters to both, commercial vehicles as well as passenger vehicles, and includes electromagnetic testing to facilitate precise work. Also installed in the bus are damper testing machines, special assemblies and gas fitting tools, which suit Tenneco’s designs and validations in a vehicle. “Apart from assembling and testing the shock absorbers at the premises of the customer, we have a complete library of ‘valve’ in our bus to suit the Indian terrain” says Kapoor.

Expecting CV business to grow

Over 65 per cent of the company’s revenues in India come from the RP business vertical. This also includes 10 per cent revenue earnings from the aftermarket part of the business. The CA business vertical contributes the remaining 35 per cent. The CV product portfolio in particular forms a smaller, 5 per cent chunk of the business Tenneco conducts in India. This is however expected to grow. Says Kapoor, “We expect the commercial vehicle business to grow substantially with the advent of BS IV emission norms and contribute 20 to 25 per cent in the next two-to-four years. According to Kapoor, much of this will come from the CA business vertical. Not worried about the talk off skipping one emission level to jump to the other, Kapoor concludes, “Euro IV products can be easily upgraded to Euro V. For Euro VI, apart from SCR you need DPFs. So as a global technology supplier we have products at the Euro VI level. We have no issues in getting them to India.”


Ring Plus Aqua lays emphasis on flexplates

Article by: Rajesh Rajgor

Ring Plus Aqua has entered into the manufacture of flexplates to address the demand for locally manufactured automatic transmission

Despite the push for Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) in commercial vehicles by OEMs in India, owing to its cost effectiveness, automatic transmission have had loyal followers. The most recent example is the supply of a front engine city-bus fleet by Tata Motors with Allison automatic transmission to the city of Ahmedabad.

US-based Allison transmission has invested in a manufacturing plant for automatic transmissions for commercial vehicles and special application vehicles (including defense applications) at Chennai. An essential part of such transmissions is a flexplate, a component that the Raymond Group company, Ring Plus Aqua Ltd. (RPAL) has taken to manufacture. Flexplates mark an extension of the product portfolio for the company, which has manufacturing facilities at Sinnar, Maharashtra. Though reluctant to reveal much about the order his company has received to supply flexplates, Vikram Jaisinghani, CEO, RPAL, announced, “Indulging in the production of flexplates when the market matured for automatic transmission was a natural migration.”

As the name would suggest, a flexplate flexes to and fro as the engine rpm rises and falls. It flexes across its main axis and the primary aim of its function is to connect the torque converter to the engine’s crankshaft. Flexplate occupies the place of a flywheel that is traditionally fitted on a manual transmission vehicle. Currently developing a variety of flexplates in-line with the requirement, RPAL has been manufacturing flywheel rings gears and water pump bearings for a long time. The flywheel ring gears range between 150 mm diameter and 1500 mm diameter. Flexplates range between 250 mm diameter and 450 mm diameter. The annual production capacity for flywheel rings gears and water pumps is five million units each and that of flexplates is 0.3 million pieces. As demand increases, the company will be expanding the capacity to manufacture flexplates. Supporting the manufacturing facility at Sinnar is a R&D centre, which includes an endurance test facility and a simulation facility. “We work with the help of Computer Aided Design (CAD) technologies and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) to come up with optimised designs for our customers,” said Jaisinghani.

Classifying its product applications depending on the nature of their application – Commercial Vehicles (CVs), Passenger Vehicles (PVs), Off-highway segment and power gensets, RPAL is also into exports. Remarked Jaisinghani, “Wherever there is an engine and a transmission, the products of our company find an application.” For CVs and off-highway equipment where the engine size is big and therefore the size of a flywheel or a torque converter is also large, RPAL’s products find use. Such applications also ensure that the company enjoys a better margin on the products. “It is common knowledge in the industry that higher size flywheel ring gears for CVs and off-highway equipment generate better margins. The size of flywheel rings gears in PVs is less than 300 mm diameter. For CVs it is up to 450 mm diameter. For off-highway equipment, the size is over 450 mm diameter. In terms of volumes, explained Jaisinghani, the flywheel ring gears for CVs and off-highway equipment amounts less.

Article by: Rajesh Rajgor

Europe, USA and Canada contribute to over 65 per cent of RPALs flywheel ring gear sales revenue. For bearings it is 70 per cent. To maintain higher efficiency apart from design and quality of the products Ring Plus Aqua has put in place an efficient supply chain network. RPAL is a tier 2 supplier. Its supplies are thus routed through tier 1 suppliers. “There are numerous part numbers, different complexities (different part sizes) and stock keeping units involved. All these play a role in 100 per cent on-time delivery (OTD),” explained Jaishinghani. To support JIT (Just In Time), RPAL has got warehousing arrangements that act as supply depots in India and abroad. “We have warehouses in Europe and USA which support our commitment to JIT,” Jaisinghani added. In a market that RPAL operates an OEM’s testimonial and approval for products and services is of as much importance as it is in terms of connectivity. Mentioned Jaisinghani, “Our production process is an amalgamation of raw material inventory, ERP to ensure efficient material planning and warehouses.”

RPAL has installed machines that ease operations like cutting, welding, induction hardening, slitting, hobbing, etc. Putting forth a case in favour of faster production capacity, Jaisinghani stated, “We can turn out a CV flywheel ring gear of 500 mm diameter with an order of 500 numbers in four to five days.” However, the turnaround time is a little longer for water pump bearings and flexplates. A water pump bearing goes through a lot of testing and validation at RPAL and at the respective OEM too.

A crucial part of an engine that is subjected to high levels of endurance is a water pump, and its bearing lives a hardy life. Its the bearing that is usually the cause of the water pump failure. Instrumental in making RPAL a preferred brand is the expertise of its skilled staff and engineers. The ramp up in flexplate production comes at a time when the CV sector is looking up. Infrastructural growth is expected to provide further boost to the CV sector in the near future. “Growth in the coming times will emerge from infrastructural activities. The one that has the technological edge and an ability to respond to market changes quickly will reap the benefit,” concluded Jainsinghani.

MapmyIndia and Eicher to make school buses connected

MapmyIndia has partnered with VE Commercial Vehicles for enabling connected school buses. The solution, which aims to provide comprehensive details about the children and the bus during transit, will be equipped optionally on newer Eicher buses.

The solution will include vehicle tracking via GPS, RFID tags for children to track when the get off and get on the bus, on board cameras with DVR and GPRS connectivity for live two-way communication, and an alert system that will send alerts above various activities of the child to parents via email and SMS.

Other features include driver authorization which only lets an authorized driver start the bus, remote vehicle disablers, historical route play and scheduling reports. MapmyIndia’s maps and voice guidance system will be used on the bus for tracking and route guidance.