Article by: Zoher Bohra
Schaeffler is developing solutions with a focus on the changing needs and mindsets of commercial vehicle operators in India.Schaeffler India is poised to derive the most out of the changing needs of commercial vehicle operators and owners. The earlier concept of cost of ownership and maximum average distance per day now has an additional component – comfort and safety. And that’s where this subsidiary of Germany-based Schaeffler Group, may have an edge. “We have noticed a gradual shift in the mindset of Indian truck and bus owners. They now take into consideration factors like the look of the vehicle, durability, safety and driver comfort to decide whether they are comfortable enough to drive the extra mile,” said Abhishek Goswami, Manager-Business Development and Strategy, Schaeffler India, at a vehicle clinic the company organised at Pune.

Stating that Schaeffler India’s products are specifically designed to meet the requirements of commercial vehicles. Goswami pointed out to the the company’s automatic adjuster units for brakes which compensates for brake lining wear and ensures optimum braking performance. The kingpin bearings the company makes go into the steering axles. These are sealed in order to keep out moisture and dirt and are touted to be maintenance-free. The bearings can absorb radial and axial loads better. Some of Schaeffler’s other CV related offerings include stabiliser bearings, brake adjusters, half-shells and insert bearings.

The current trend in India is to make CVs as good as personalised cars and OEMs have taken a huge step in this direction. Take Tata Motors for instance. The Tata Prima, with its ergonomic cab design, technology and aggregates ensures better uptime and durability. Mahindra takes performance to the next level by creating trucks designed for various business needs,” mentioned Goswami. Taking this shift into consideration, Schaeffler India is not only ramping up investments across its plants, but is also working towards capacity addition. Bolstering its R&D and engineering capabilities, its centre in Vadodara, was recently awarded the Schaeffler Technology Center (STC) certificate. It was also amalgamated into the group’s global technology network. Explained Goswami, that a STC must demonstrate a defined performance range consisting of 12 competencies related to rolling bearings. Besides product expertise, it needs to have in-depth knowledge in bearing calculation and optimisation, condition monitoring, mounting services and reconditioning. With the Vadodara centre receiving a STC certificate, Schaeffler, which has been represented in the Indian market for 50 years now, is all set to meet growing market requirements, as well as enhance its technological expertise. 

Continuous innovation is the trigger that is moving Schaeffler India ahead, as Matthias Zink, President-Automotive, Asia Pacific, Schaeffler Group, would put it, that the only way to conserve scarce resources and substantially reduce emissions is by employing the latest technologies in engines, transmissions and chassis, and by ensuring that these changes are seamlessly integrated. He further opined that in parallel with the electrification of the automotive drive train, it will remain a fact that more than 90 per cent of all vehicles worldwide will be driven by an internal combustion engine, either as a primary drive source or as a range extender. “We, at Schaeffler, are focussing on optimisation of the internal combustion drive train and its electrification. There is still room for improvement in terms of fuel efficiency and Schaeffler with its innovations is a dedicated partner to achieve this,” added Matthias.

Present across 50 countries and 170 locations, sources close to Schaeffler claim that it is considering making India a global manufacturing hub for two-wheeler and tractor components. Sources also claim much emphasis will be placed on its product portfolio for commercial vehicles. The group plans to invest Rs. 900 crore towards localisation and R&D in India over the next five years. Meanwhile, Schaeffler India’s aftermarket segment for commercial vehicles continues to do well. Its product range includes the three brands, LuK, INA and FAG, and offers around 20,000 different products for passenger cars, heavy vehicles and tractors. The replacement parts from the original equipment manufacturer cover applications like clutch release systems, engines and transmissions as well as chassis. The LuK product range includes a complete range of clutches and related system solutions, like the LuK RepSet, dual mass flywheels, release systems, and vacuum and steering pumps. Engine and transmission parts from the INA brand for passenger cars, commercial vehicles and buses complete the range. In addition to single belt drive components, tension pulley sets and kits are available for passenger cars and trucks. Valve tappets, rocker arms and finger followers round off the replacement parts range from INA for passenger cars and trucks as well as a large number of transmission components that are also available for heavy commercial vehicles. “Wheel bearings and wheel modules, seals and seal kits are available for customers in the heavy commercial vehicle segment. There’s also a complete range of wheel bearing sets for trucks, such as the recently developed wheel bearing repair set, WheelPro,” Goswami informed.

The company is also paying significant attention to material development and tribology (the study of friction, wear, lubrication and the design of bearings; the science of interacting surfaces in relative motion) to make commercial vehicles lighter and more efficient. To that extent, tools such as simulation and rapid prototyping for developing increasingly complex products that involve mechatronics are being deployed at its engineering centres so that all the necessary tests from individual bearing systems to complete vehicles can be carried out on test stands. “This means we can increase the operating safety of our products and gain valuable insights for developing and improving our products,” said Goswami.

The fact that the company is on the right road is proved once again through its financial performance. Recording above average growth, the company’s revenue increased to EUR 12.1 billion in 2014, representing growth of 8.2 per cent from the year prior. “Our positive revenue and earnings trend once again demonstrates Schaeffler Group’s strength as an integrated global automotive and industrial supplier,” remarked Klaus Rosenfeld, CEO. “By increasing our investment in new technologies and in the expansion of our global production network in 2014, we have laid the groundwork for future growth,” he added. In fact, the automotive division of the Schaeffler Group has grown faster than the market. “The automotive division once again grew considerably faster than global production volumes of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. We have benefited from the continuing high demand for our products, especially in the key sales markets of China and the US,” Rosenfeld confirmed.

And to take it further, the company has created a strategic concept – ‘mobility for tomorrow’ to be well prepared for the future. For the commercial vehicle segment in India, as Goswami said, the improvement in road networks across the country will provide a tremendous boost for not only the trucking segment but also for the fact that the push to cover longer distances will call for higher standards in safety, cost efficiency and comfort. The company’s recent study, titled ‘Efficient Future Mobility’ that focuses on transport and market conditions in India indicates that some of the company’s technologies represent a reduction of 10 per cent in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

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