Volvo to export buses to Europe

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar
In what could be termed as a significant development, Volvo Buses India, a decade and a half after it stepped into India, has begun exporting buses to Europe.Beginning its Indian journey by launching the B7R, 12 m long two-axle, inter-city luxury coach in 2001, Volvo Buses India Pvt. Ltd. has begun exporting fully-built, Euro 6 emission compliant buses to Europe. This initiative is an outcome of the Asia leverage program, which was launched in 2011 with the view of exporting products from India and China. Aimed at an inter-city coach segment in Europe that typically does between 100 and 300 km according to Akash Passey, Senior Vice President – Business Region International, Volvo Buses, the buses destined for Europe contain an imported driveline. To comply with Euro 6 norms, they are equipped with the SCR and other related systems. The body is 100 per cent indigenised. A two-axle design (like the B7R), the Europe-bound buses according to sources at Volvo Buses India, will be similar in appearance to the buses that are found in India. They will thus be imported as fully-built units, and have been built taking into consideration the feedback of European buyers.

Marking an entry into the new era according to Hakan Agnevall, President, Volvo Buses, the Europe-bound buses will also carry some engine components that have been sourced through Volvo Eicher’ joint venture engine plant at Pithampur, Indore. Said Agnevall, “We are the first bus company to export buses to Europe. Present here for fourteen years, we are taking the next step of the Asia leverage strategy.” As part of the Asia leverage strategy, Volvo first embarked on a plan to expand the bus plant at Hoskote, Bangalore. Pledging to invest Rs.400 crore, more lines and processes were installed; new paint shop was installed along with a warehouse, and a training and skills development centre.

An R&D centre was also setup, and has 50 engineers who help with driveline and body parts of the products. Enabling the company to offer better products and facilities locally, the plan according to Akash, also coincides with the prime minister’s plan to ‘Make-in-India’. Coming to include other activities as well, over Rs. 400 crore has been invested till date. Set to cater to a market estimated to be worth 5,000 units, and having the presence of Daimler, Iveco and many home grown brands in Europe, the European export initiative according to Hakan rides on a substantial competence built at Bangalore.

The Europe-bound buses will see some amount of customisation according to Hakan. Like the placement of ticket vending machine, etc., to satisfy the requirements of the European clients. Rolling out of the Hoskote facility, which has an installed capacity to build 1,500 buses in one shift post the expansion – before expansion it was 800 units, these buses are also bound to reflect on Volvo’s intent to bring hybrid and electric buses to India. Said Hakan, that the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric (FAME) vehicle program marks a good initiative by the government. “We are in dialogue with the government to participate,” he added.

Interview: Akash Passey, Sr. VP – Business Region International, Volvo Buses,
and Hakan Agnevall, President, Volvo Buses.

How do you look at the India journey of Volvo Bus – from entry into India, until the European export initiative?

Volvo has been driving a revolution. It has changed the Indian bus market towards seeking fully built buses. This is akin to driving a complete bus change, and amounts to a significant development. We have stayed ahead of the competition by introducing new products. We have upgraded ourselves locally through exports. We have also benefited locally from installing new processes and methodologies. The last four years have been quite defining.

How do you see the European export initiative benefiting the Indian clients?

European regulations are different from that of the Indian regulations. The mapping that we did therefore, would also benefit our Indian clients. An example is the application of double glazed glass. In India the regulation is for the use of single glazed glass. Our Indian clients will benefit from the use of double glazed glass.

Any specific reason why you chose India over China?

We looked at a segment that is existing, and found out that we have the right competence in India. The product that we have in India is a global product. Even though it is made as an Indian product. We therefore found that the Indian footprint would make a competitive footprint. We chose India over China because of the full control over business. We also see our competitors starting to do substantial investments. We encourage competition as we feel it will promote the quality of buses in India. The Indian operations of Volvo rank among the top 10.

Now that you are beginning to export buses to Europe, are you happy with the quality of the suppliers here?

Let me put it differently. Customer expectations are growing, and it was natural to address them. So we acquired vendors as part of our acquisition of the body building business. We are generally happy with our suppliers in India.

In India there were some accidents involving Volvo buses. Has this prompted any change?

We are working with the authorities to address the legal issues. When an accident happens, the government looks into it. At our end, we have a global team that looks into it. We took Indian accidents quite seriously. We designed a coach concept to have options that are also found in other markets. We are also offering options as per active regulations. We are a global company and offer
global solutions.

There have been experiments in the area of buses powered by alternate fuels. Are you also looking at an alternative to fossil fuel?

We did an analysis, which showed that future driveline sustainability will stem from electric solutions. It had to be less polluting and more efficient. We looked at hybrid, which we are producing since 2009. We have delivered 5,000 hybrid and fully electric buses. Under the hybrid portfolio we also looked at electric hybrid. We recently introduced a full-electric bus at Gothenburg in Sweden. Electric solutions will gradually take over as a urban mobility source for reducing CO2 emissions, noise, etc. Electric solutions are confined to infrastructure. Hybrid therefore looks like a sustainable infrastructure. Three cornerstones for us include hybrid, hybrid-electric and electric. We are offering battery per km cost so that the customers know, and we want to create common infrastructure. We have sold hybrids all over the world. We are trying them in parts of Asia. We are in dialogue with the government to participate. We believe that some of our competitors are also trying new solutions. Some of these may have failed to find sustenance in
other markets.

Good growth to embrace off-highway equipment sector in 2016

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Subdued demand in the off-highway sector has led to an amount of restlessness. Expectations are that 2016 will be a year of growth on the back of an uptick in construction and mining activities.

Signs of gradual improvement is what the 2015 financial year has offered to the off-highway equipment sector. With a new government at the helm, some of the key developments that helped in the gradual improvement were a rise in business expectations, exports and recuperation of industrial production to a certain extent. Apart from steps like the industrial corridor development, an announcement to construct roads worth 8,500 km; build 16 new ports and waterways; airports in tier 1 and tier 2 cities through a PPP model, and broadening the financing base provided the necessary impetus. Impetus was also provided in the announcement during the last fiscal that the Japanese government will invest USD 35 billion in the country over the next five years to build smart cities and finance infrastructure projects. Japan would also provide financial, technical and operational support for the introduction of Bullet trains in India.

To boost infrastructure growth, which will in turn drive growth into the off-highway equipment sector, the government at the centre is known to be working towards easing the task of funding, expediting the approval process, de-bottling the system and simplifying the bureaucratic complexities. An uptick in the mining activity should provide immediate respite. It is no secret that last year was not the best year for off-highway equipment. Growth was modest. Demand for off-highway equipment (mining and construction equipment) contracted by over 15 per cent to 47,000 units from 72,100 units three years ago, in 2012. While the volume decline was felt across all product segments during the 2014 calendar year, segments such as backhoe loaders and heavy mobile cranes were some of the worst impacted. Wheel loaders, in comparison, fared a tad better. Road compaction equipment suffered a sharp slowdown in implementation of road projects during the election period in the first half of FY15. A moderate growth was recorded thereafter.

According to ICRA analysts, the off-highway equipment sector did not witness traction in demand during the first half of 2015 calendar year. Like 2014, the first half of this year too has been lack lustre, and mainly due to projects being stalled or shelved, or simply abandoned. There have been other sector specific issues too, including product viability due to promoter cash flow constraints. A report released by ICRA mentions that demand in the Indian off-highway equipment sector will pick up towards the end of the current fiscal (FY16). Growth will be in the region of six to seven per cent, followed by a sharper pick up of 20 to 25 per cent in FY17. According to ICRA sources, 2016 looks promising. It looks like a year that will bring good growth to most of the product segments as a result of the ongoing policy measures leading to absorption of surplus inventory in the market. Industry sources claim that the scale up in demand for the off-highway sector are often non-linear and is a reflection of assured job orders and cash flows that trigger strong buying. Developments in the coal mining sector is expected to provide some respite on an immediate basis. Pick up in road projects continues to be slow even though the government is known to be taking steps towards removing the road blocks. What is looking interesting is the pace of development that will touch the railways. Projects to lay new lines and modernise the existing network will drive growth into the off-highway sector claim sources. Even corporatisation of ports and the starting of work on building waterways.

While growth is being pursued, some interesting trends in the near past could prove useful. In the span of last six months, absolute demand for backhoes suffered significantly more than the demand for excavators. Equipment utilisation was found to be abysmally low at 50 to 60 per cent. Wide disparity in demand across several states was also observed apart from the return of few large contractors in niche pockets. Ironically, the efforts put in by the government at the centre to extend easier funding did not seem to turn real. This was attributed to the rising delinquencies, making equipment financing a potential constraint for the market. A ray of hope continues, and an example is the environmental clearance granted for Mumbai’s coastal road project by the environment ministry at the centre. In the pipeline for the last five years, this project, expected to be based on the PPP model, is valued at Rs. 8,500 crore and will span over 35 km from Nariman Point to Kandivali.

Among equipment, it is the volume-driven backhoe loaders that are expected to record a slight growth in the 2015 calendar year. The backhoe market has been declining for the last four years. Excavator are expected to record a 10 per cent growth during the current calendar year. According to ICRA analysts, reforms on the cards are expected to support performance of the user industries. Meaningful recovery however is expected only in the next calendar year. Also worth considering at this point in time is the transition between backhoes, excavators and wheel loaders. One of the worst performers in the off-highway equipment industry, cranes are expected to witness a dull period ahead, due to supply glut. Some recovery, claim ICRA analysts, is expected in the lower capacity segments towards the later part of the year. A low volume and diversified user product demand recovery for dumpers is expected to be in the range of 10 to 15 per cent in the second half of the calendar year 2015. Characterised by low volumes, growth in the dozer segment largely hinges on an uptick in mining activities. Moderate pick-up is expected in the second half of the 2015 calendar year.

A sense of restlessness prevails. Demand revival continues to evade most stakeholders in the off-highway equipment sector. Dealers have witnessed a de-growth in sales volumes during the first four months of this year claim ICRA analysts. A good deal of them are yet to feel the impact of the policy measures announced by the government at the centre. Hope remains, and that projects will gain speed against the current scenario where machine utilisation levels are low. A deficient monsoon could spoil the party as off-highway equipment manufacturers as well as those that make tractors continue to focus upon the rural markets of the country. Growth there has been dull, and resulted in the tractor industry facing one of its worst performing years. Domestic tractor sales volume growth declined by 8.3 per cent during the first nine months of FY15 in response to unfavorable, underlying short term drivers. In the first half of last fiscal, the tractor segment exhibited mixed trends, and posted a sharp decline of 21.8 per cent in the third quarter of the 2015 fiscal year over the corresponding period last year. Conditions among the domestic farm community have been depressed. Some of the key reasons being non-seasonal rains that led to crop damage and lower crop prices to farmers. Non-agri pull for tractors has been dull too. Mainly on account of the dullness that has been prevailing in the infrastructure sector.

Clearly discounts have been at play to keep the sales momentum going. If this is worthy of a comparison with the way sales are driven in the truck and bus segment by offering discounts, the export market for tractors recorded fair growth in FY15. It grew by 19.7 per cent in the 9 months (three quarters) of FY15 in comparison to the growth in the corresponding period during the
last fiscal.

Eicher-Polaris launches Multix utility vehicle

Article by: Gaurav Nagpal

Eicher Polaris Pvt. Ltd., a 50:50 joint venture between Eicher Motors Ltd. and Polaris Industries Inc., has launched the Multix utility vehicle (UV). Positioned as India’s first personal utility vehicle (PUV), the Multix is targeted at independent businessmen and seats five people apart from offering cargo space of up to 1,918 litres, with the rear bench folded away. X-PORT power take off (PTO), which generates up to 3 kW, and can be used for lighting homes and powering professional equipment (like drilling machines, DJ systems and water pumps). Multix is powered by a Greaves four-stroke single-cylinder BS3-compliant 511 cc diesel engine developing 9.92 PS at 3,000 rpm and 27.1 Nm at 1,400-2,200 rpm. The company claims a mileage of 28.45 kmpl under test conditions.

Speaking on the occasion, Siddhartha Lal, MD and CEO, Eicher Motors Ltd., said that the untapped segment of independent businessmen was the target of the, “new and strongly differentiated automotive solution,” in the form of the Multix. The total investment in the project so far is Rs.350 crore.

Mike Dougherty, VP, Asia Pacific and Latin America, Polaris Industries Inc., averred that the partnership sought to, “build on the synergies of our core competencies in order to bring a valuable and effective automotive solution to India”.

The Multix is equipped with an independent suspension system, and has a 225 mm ground clearance. Tubular frame structure, roll-over protection system (ROPS) and a Flexituff body.

Commenting on the launch, Radhesh C Verma, CEO, Eicher Polaris Pvt. Ltd., said, “The Multix is a true ground up innovation, where all aspects of value proposition delivery – encompassing the vehicle, its accessories, the retail experience, and the service – have been duly considered and set norms have been challenged.”

Initially to be launched in 30 cities, deliveries of the Multix will commence in August. The vehicle has reportedly been tested for the equivalent of over 18,00,000 km for off-road reliability, safety and durability.

The Multix will be manufactured at a new facility at Kukas, Rajasthan. Spread over 25 acres this facility has an annual capacity of 60,000 units, scalable to 1,20,000 units, outfitted with robotic weld lines and an in-house paint system.

The Multix will be available in two variants – AX+ (open doorways and storage space) and MX (full doors and windows, optional rear cover). The AX+ is priced at Rs.2.32 lakh and the MX at Rs.2.72 lakh (both ex-showroom Jaipur). It will be available in four colours – Red, White, Silver and Yellow.

Isuzu’s D-Max cab-chassis follows fully-built version

Article by: Desiree Pereira

To address a larger chunk of the pickup market in India, Isuzu has introduced a cab-chassis version of the D-Max.

Isuzu India has introduced a cab-chassis version of its D-Max pickup truck to allow its buyers to modify it such that it better suits their business needs. “Currently, the pick-up cab-chassis market size is growing. Since this variant offers a customer the flexibility to build different types of bodies, for different applications, it has substantial potential,” says Capt. Shankar Srinivas, Head – Communications, Isuzu Motors India. With the Indian pickup truck market expected to grow four times in the next eight years to nearly eight lakh units, Capt. Shankar’s opinion that the cab-chassis version will find home in a number of applications hints at a market that is growing, and yet also changing in terms of perception as well as performance. The most prevalent being refrigerated vans and cash vans. These along with some other application types would be tough to build on flat deck pickup. “We are witnessing an increase in the number of customers looking for a cab-chassis variant. Isuzu Motors India has taken cognisance of this trend and is therefore offering the cab-chassis variant,” explains Capt. Srinivas.

Structured on a heavy-duty chassis, and with a cabin that is made up of high-tensile steel, Isuzu India is keen to let the buyer build a body that suits his business requirements. Powered by a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that produces 136 PS of power at 3600 rpm, and 294 Nm of peak torque at 1800-3200 rpm, the D-Max, in the cab-chassis form will be subjected to the body building abilities of various body builders in the country. Given the cost sensitive nature of the market, and the pressure a body builder is subjected to in terms of costs, a questions arises. Will the body builders do justice, both in terms of the quality of build, and the ability to build a vehicle that will satisfy the requirements of the buyer to the fullest?

Some body builders have already built bodies on the D-Max. Navi-Mumbai based Randhawa for example built a reefer body on a D-Max early this year. If body builders like Randhawa are part of the organised body building industry, there are numerous others that are a part of the unorganised side of the business. What if an Isuzu D-Max cab-chassis buyer turns to them to build a appropriate body? Will such a body builder be able to build a body of good quality, and without damaging the chassis or the cab? Questions remain. Capt. Shankar also admits, that improper body building may jeopardise the complete operation. It could even damage the chassis. “Some key aspects like quality, safety and the use of non-standard materials could cause some issues with respect to vehicle bodies. For instance, a vehicle having a dry container built beyond a specific height or width could damage the vehicle, if driven at high speeds,” he adds. To avoid such developments, and to safe guard the interest of the D-Max cab-chassis buyer, the company has designed a standard set of guidelines for building vehicle bodies. The guidelines are so engineered that following them will ensure that all critical elements are considered. For the safety of the driver, goods and the vehicle. “The guidelines will help customers to ensure vehicle chassis is not damaged, and at the same time offer them the flexibility of building a vehicle that suits their need,” says Capt. Srinivas.

Isuzu-India has also introduced an air-conditioned cab version of the D-Max. The air-conditioner is fitted at the factory, and is expected to find 

appeal with those who would buy a D-Max for business as well as recreational use. If a 4×4 model will be offered is not known yet. Chances of it arriving anytime soon look bleak. For, Isuzu India is currently concentrating on expanding its dealer network. To increase its reach, the company plans to open 60 outlets across India by end of this financial year. It currently has 21 dealership facilities at Delhi, Noida, Jaipur, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Madurai, Visakhapatnam, Tirupati, Cochin, Calicut, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Ludhiana, Lucknow, Gurgaon, Indore, Vadodara and Kolkata.

By the second quarter of this financial year, the manufacturing facility of Isuzu India is expected to go on stream. It is being built at Sri City in Andhra Pradesh. Construction commenced in January 2014. If the current manufacturing setup at Hindustan Motor’s plant at Chennai posed some constraint, the plant at Sri City going on stream will help the company to better reach out to its customer base. The plant will have an initial production capacity of 50,000 units per annum. This will be scaled up to 1,20,000 units per annum in the next three to four years. Having sold over 1000 units till date, the cab-chassis and air-conditioned version should widen the appeal of the D-Max.

Procam Logistics plans Rs. 10 crore capex

Article by: Anirudh Raheja

Specialising in over dimensional cargo movement, cargo and solution management, Procam Logistics is planning a Rs. 10 crore capex in FY16.

Specialising in the domain of heavy and over dimensional cargo movement, cargo and solution management for projects apart from conducting global freight management through multi-modal logistics, Delhi-based Procam Logistics will be adding 32 hydraulic axles and three wind turbine blade trailers to its portfolio with a capex of Rs.10 crore in FY16 in anticipation to the reviving market. Having grown at a CAGR of 20 per cent over the last five years, the company caters to industrial sectors like automotive and railways, oil and gas, power, energy, steel and infrastructure. Investing close to Rs. 25 crore, Procam Logistics owns 88 hydraulic axles (24 are of Goldhofer make and the rest are from Vishwakarma hydraulics), three 54 m long hydraulic wind turbine blade trailers, as well as nine prime movers and 14 heavy pullers from Scania and Volvo. The company recently provided end-to-end logistics for the transportation of skin panels that find use in the prime movers currently being built by Tata Daewoo Commercial Vehicle, South Korea, from Tata Motors’ Jamshedpur plant where they are manufactured. According to its managing director, T G Ramalingam, Procam Logistics will be investing Rs. 10 crore towards acquiring a 400-tonne hydraulic axle jack, which should help in the transportation of rail coaches. The decision to procure a hydraulic axle jack stemmed out of the challenges the company has faced in transporting metro coaches. And, because of the dearth of skilled operators. Apart from transporting 500 Bombardier made coaches for Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, from Vadodara to Delhi, Procam Logistics has also transported metro rail coaches for the Gurgaon and Hyderabad metro projects. In all, Procam has ferried 800 metro rail coaches to various projects in the country. Opined Ramalingam, “The decision to invest in a 400-tonne hydraulic axle jack was taken as we felt that the mechanical cranes would not serve the purpose.” Taking pride in adhering to stringent delivery schedules, the company transported 174 metro rail coaches, within a month to the city of Delhi, post a debilitating accident during the metro construction. Expressing that his company also takes keen interest in transporting skin panels to Tata Daewoo with the help of various modes, Ramalingam added, “The packing of such panels is critical. We specially developed a 140 ft. expandable container that can transfer 62 skin panels at a time. Before dispatch, we do a structural analysis of these containers, to gauge their behaviour while being transported through air, water and land, and also while being lifted by cranes.”

Successful networking

Apart from the use of its own resources, the company operates 100 tractor trailers for five thermal and hydro power projects in the country that are attached to it. Acknowledging the need to utilise its own resources first and foremost, Ramalingam remarked, “We have not limited ourselves from joining hands with others to pool assets.” To present an idea of the nature of equipment, he mentioned, “Considering the size of the axles, it is essential that the trailers are parked at the port or at the client’s.” Employing an asset management system that provides service and support, Procam Logistics has a depot in Chennai which services smaller vehicles from the fleet.

For successful networking, the company has deployed a fleet management system. This helps to offer its clients the facility to track the cargo in real-time. A cell phone application provides Procam’s employees with a constant data feed. It also provides an expense calculation during end-to-end cargo movement. The latter, according to Ramalingam, is important since it offers a clear picture of the expenses incurred, and on a real-time basis. The data is also utilised to benchmark, and proves helpful in the execution of new projects. A joint venture with Caparo Engineering Ltd. has enabled Procam Logistics to access nine warehouses with a total area of 4,00,000 sq. ft. at places like Patna and Gaya.

Infrastructural challenges

Procam Logistics faces many infrastructural challenges in its line of business. A majority of Indian roads (close to 90 per cent), said Ramalingam, are not structured for the transportation of heavy cargo, which falls in the 49 to 110- tonne GVW category. “Generally, these heavy projects are set up on political benefits. However, the non-availability of proper infrastructure is a perennial problem,” he added. Finding the need to build infrastructure for every movement almost, on completion of the entire transportation process, cost escalation can be anywhere between 30 to 40 per cent. The lack of adequate infrastructure not only escalates cost thus, it also eats into the crucial completion deadlines as well. Said Ramalingam, “What can be executed in less than two months can take over nine months because of infrastructural deficiencies. Apart from the management plan, it is important to conduct a feasibility study and arrive at a lashing calculation too. The cargo is exposed to the external environment, and it is therefore absolutely essential to ensure safe operation.”

Technology & quality

In an effort to better utilise technology to up the quality and efficiency of the projects it executes, Procam Logistics is working towards establishing an engineering centre. This centre will work in collusion with its IT set-up at Chennai, which currently keeps a check on the movement of cargo. The centre will focus on customising the software deployed across the firm’s business, and enhance its reach. “We plan to use technology to manage the cargo which is being transported. This would help in minimising the costs involved when actual transportation is under way”, stated Ramalingam. Conducting employee training sessions by engaging experts from across the world in the area of handling cargo, Procam Logistics is keen to ensure that its workforce is well-informed and well-versed with the latest developments. “Our classroom programs not only focus on the operational side of our business but also on aspects such as health, safety and environment,” remarked Ramalingam. Happy about the government’s move to issue permits online for the movement of heavy cargo, Ramalingam opined that procedural delays should be avoided at the regulatory level. “It feels nice that out of 1,250 permissions issued in the last one year, nearly 1,200 of them have been online permissions. If there can be initiatives where hydraulic trailer operators come together to minimise delays at the operational level, it will be highly advantageous,” he concluded.

Bullish about vestibule buses

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar
Hubner sees a substantial opportunity for articulated (vestibule) buses in India.

At the Auto Expo 2014, Tata Motors displayed an articulated bus. It was called the Starbus Urban 9/18. Built by Marcopolo, the articulated (vestibule) bus had 3-axles and measured 18 m in length. Powering it was a 280 hp, 6.7-litre ISBe six-cylinder BS4 diesel engine located at the front. The bus specifications claimed that it had a capacity to ferry 45 people and 48 standees. A prototype, according to Makarand Shahane, Director, Hubner Interface Systems India Pvt. Ltd., the articulated bus employed a Hubner articulation system. Stating that Tata Motors has shown interest, Shahane opined, “an articulated bus nearly doubles the amount of carrying capacity when compared to a bus that measures 12 m in length.” Most modern low-floor city buses in India measure 12 m in length, and have a capacity to seat between 32 to 40 people.

While the bi-articulated Volvo B12M of Curitiba with the body built by Neobus is considered to be one of the longest vestibule buses running in the world, measuring 28 m in length, the demand for articulated buses in India is also expected to grow. It is currently at a nascent stage. Claimed to be effective in reducing traffic congestion in many cities of the world, most vestibule buses find use as part of the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) systems. Most are supported by the articulation systems made by Hubner. Kassel-based Hubner GmbH and Co. KG was established in 1936, and specialises in the manufacture of gangway systems, articulation systems, folding bellows, window systems, entrance systems, PUR-moulded foam parts, plastic injection moulded parts and rubber products under the bus business vertical. Claimed to be a EUR 350 million company by Makarand, Hubner operates under various industry verticals like airport, passenger cars, commercial vehicles, rail, medical technology, (Sensa) life quality, photonics and Terahertz.

Present in India since 2002, and offering articulation systems to the bus industry, the company, Hubner India, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hubner GmbH and Co. KG, begun trial production in late 2014 at its new plant in Bangalore. Stating that the plant capacity is enough to take care of the Indian market requirement, Shahane remarked, “We want to produce German quality (products), over numbers.” Pointing at an articulation system, Makarand stated, “We offer several models.” A result of the need to address diverse requirements like lower weight, higher load capacity and temperature resistance perhaps. Catering to low and high floor segments, Hubner, until 2013 supplied articulation systems by importing them from Germany. A facility was planned at Belgaum initially, but Bangalore was found to be more suitable. Mentioning that the articulation system occupies 1.6 m of length of an 18 m long articulated bus, leaving the bus body builder to build the rest (16.4 m) of the bus body, Shahane claimed that his company has supplied 400 units in India till date. “Almost 99 per cent of the articulated buses went on to operate in the cities of Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chandigarh,” he added. Most of these are high floor articulated buses built by Ashok Leyland, and fitted with Hübner articulation systems.

Also called as ‘sweeper buses’ according to Makarand, a good deal of the articulated buses were built by Ashok Leyland in the period between 2001 and 2007. Of the opinion that Tata and Ashok Leyland have intentions to make articulated buses, Shahane said, “We are here to support them.” Employing an articulation system that costs in the region of Rs. 18 to Rs. 20 lakh, articulated buses in India are expected to follow the success of Metro-rail and Mono-rail in a road-going form. Producing articulated systems at the Bangalore plant with the help of people trained in Europe, Shahane averred, that engineers from Germany come down to work with clients. “Support is needed for installation,” he said. Incurring close to 20 per cent less cost due to local manufacture, Huber is well aware of the unique requirements the Indian market may demand. The company is also aware that the Indian market could be a mix of push-articulated buses with the engine at the rear, and articulated buses with the engine at the front. Like the one that Tata Motors displayed at the Auto Expo 2014. “We believe that there is a substantial opportunity for articulated buses (in India),” stated Shahane.



Customised Volvo bus promotes Godrej locking solutions

Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

DC Design and Godrej have highlighted the other side of luxury by employing a luxury coach to promote Godrej locking systems and solutions.

It may sound highly unusual; even insane. The task of procuring a fully-built 15 m-long luxury coach and customising it to promote a range of locks. Defined by Oxford dictionary as a mechanism typically operated by a key to keep a door, window, lid, or container fastened, the use of luxury coach as a media to promote something as humble is certain to sound too far fetched. This is however not the first time that a well known manufacturer of locking systems and solutions in India has taken to a bus to customise it in an effort to reach out to a target audience. Mumbai-based Godrej and Boyce Mfg. Co., in association with DC Design, built a Mobile Experience Centre (MEC) some three years ago, and called it the MEC-1. Two years ago, it did a similar exercise, albeit on a bigger bus, and called it the MEC-2. It has now done it again, and this time, on an even bigger bus. The MEC-3 is thus built on a multi-axle Volvo 9400 bus measuring 14.5 m in length. Dedicated to the promotion of a range of locking solutions and systems that Godrej has to offer, MEC-3, painted in an attractive shade of black with orange bands on either side, and an ultra large windshield at front, will travel across the country with stop-overs at Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Raipur, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kochi and Vizag. It was flagged off from the Mumbai headquarters by Shyam Motwani, Executive Vice President and Business Head at Godrej and Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd., and Prasad Gupte, General Manager, IMC and Trade Marketing, recently. Set to seek the attention of architects, interior designers and contractors, MEC-3 will draw attention to the innovation (led by design) in the area of locking systems and solutions.

A result of a highly ambitious project according to Dilip Chhabria, Founder and MD, DC Design, what is surprising about the MEC-3 is it being based on a 15 m long multi-axle luxury coach that can otherwise ferry up to 53 people over long distances in high levels of comfort. Even the cost of such a bus is no less than one-crore rupees to start with. Rightly termed as a highly ambitious project by Chhabria, MEC-3 was designed and developed to elevate the appeal of the locking solutions Godrej and Boyce has to offers. Taking it to the next level. Third and perhaps not the last in the series of mobile experience centres built by DC Design exclusively for Godrej and Boyce, MEC-3 will present architects, interior designers and contractors an opportunity to touch and feel the range of Godrej locking solutions and systems. Leveraging on the success of MEC-1 and MEC-2, which are out touring parts of the country and have managed to reach out to their target audience, exposing them to the locking systems and solutions Godrej has to offer, MEC-3 takes the concept to the next level. Presenting new, state of the art designs that are ideal for residential and commercial applications in an attractive shape and style of presentation. And, almost at the door step. Found on MEC-3 are thus a range of locking solutions, electronic and analogue in nature. In the form of smart, electronic locks and customised locks produced for industry specific applications.

Explaining the idea of creating MECs as an opportunity to reach out to architects and engineers rather than call them to a brick and mortar showrooms, Gupte described them as the busiest and whackiest lot. Stating that they have had the experience of working closely with leading architects like Hafeez Contractor, and their projects, Gupte mentioned that MEC-1 happened three years ago. “MEC-2 happened two years ago. MEC-3 adds to the two experience centres we built, and is bigger. It will facilitate our trade focus,” he added. Speaking about the creation of MEC-3, and the use of a orange band across the sides, Deepak More of DC Design, stated that the design had to look like a huge 3D mobile sculpture, “It had to shock and awe, as if a futuristic spaceship has landed”. “The interior was designed in such a way that it would be organic as well as look asymmetrical from left-to-right, and from the front-to-back,” he said. This design philosophy led to the creation of a unique sinewy look and feel.

Intending to numb people with its ultra high-end classy and organic surfaces, the interior of MEC-3 attempts at replicate some concept cars and yachts even as it displays a range of aspirational locking systems and solutions. If the combination of an orange band over a smooth black surface was done to present a 3D impression, and to make a clear distinction in terms of style and boldness, the use of dual-colour scheme was done to hint at niche product positioning ability. An effort was made to amalgamate digital engineering and craftsmanship. Also looked into, according to More, was an ability to infuse acute styling sensitivity. Confirming to CMVR regulations under special application vehicle, MEC-3 saw 30 people at DC Design work on it. It took three months to build the vehicle. Expected to run for five years, MEC-3 adds a new dimension to the use of a multi-axle luxury coach. A few years ago, actor Shahrukh Khan invested in a vanity van that was built on a similar multi-axle luxury coach from Volvo. The creation of MEC-3 may be a logical extension of an experiment in the form of MEC-1 and MEC-2 gone right, it marks the culmination of the abilities of Godrej and Boyce to take a bold step to invest a considerable sum towards its creation, and for DC Design to think out of
the box.

Highlighting creativity with a practical edge to it, MEC-3 subtly endorses the fact that 600 million Indians use Godrej products. It represents a locking systems and solutions market that is estimated at Rs. 4,200 crore. Stating that Godrej is happy with the creation, Gupte described Chhabria as an entrepreneur with the brain of an engineer as well as a designer. He may not be off the mark. MEC-3 marks the creation of a mobile experience centre that presents a design-led innovation as a concept that blends design excellence and functionality into a manufacturing process. And, with customer centricity as one of the core pillars.