Stressing on knowledge and skills

SML Isuzu held the second National Skill Competition for its technicians.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

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Vehicle complexities are on the rise. With the upcoming BSIV emission norms, complexities are expected to rise even further. Usage of electronics is at the core of complexities rising. The other is composites. Combined with rapidly changing buyer requirements and market cyclicity, OEMs, it is evident, are training their workforce to tackle what could be termed as weird and unanticipated challenges. Such training, and transfer of knowledge to be able to tackle challenges is being extended to dealers as well. It is in this direction that Chandigarh-based SML Isuzu has set up two new regional training centers in India, at Bangalore and Kolkata respectively. According to Eiichi Seto, MD and CEO, SML Isuzu, “The two centers are strategically placed to enable us to impart better training and education. These centers will also ensure that one does not have to travel to Chandigarh for the purpose. This would help us to keep our costs down.” The Bangalore center is expected to go on stream in December 2016, and the Kolkata center is expected to go on stream by early 2017. Over the last one year, the company has applied thrust on improving its sales and service network. It has invested in the training of its dealers, and has taken steps to further study and enhance its operations. SML Isuzu is gearing up to evaluate trainees once they come down to attend the training sessions regardless of the duration. Said Nawal Kumar Sharma, General Manager, Product Sales and Customer satisfaction, SML Isuzu, “The pre- and post-training evaluation will allow us to understand the improvement in the trainee. It would also help us to understand if we need to change the training module for better imparting of knowledge and skills.” For its technicians, SML Isuzu organised its second National Competition at its Ropar, Chandigarh plant recently.

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Second National skill Competition for technicians

Following in the footsteps of the first National Skill Competition, the second edition saw SML Isuzu further fine-tune the competition model to make it more effective. Aimed at strengthening the company’s dealer and technician network, the competition saw over 110 dealerships across India participate. Out of the 110 dealerships, 50 dealerships were shortlisted. They made it to the competition on the basis on their demonstration of skill sets and technical abilities. The last edition had 25 dealerships. Averred Seto, “The basic motive of such competitions is not to imbibe a spirit of competition among various dealerships, but to help them to build an ability to meet service challenges.” Out of the 50 dealerships shortlisted, six were selected after further evaluation. These six dealer teams were invited to the Ropar plant to exhibit their knowledge and abilities, and show their aptitude towards problem solving. “If they are able to deal the situation well, the customer will return to them for his or her service needs,” expressed Sharma.

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The six teams were challenged with SML Isuzu vehicles in the eight to nine tonne GVW. These were Samrat XM, Supreme XM T3500 and Prestige T3500 to be precise. All three were fitted with BSIV emission compliant engines. Based on six basic parameters including safety, protection, inspection, failure analysis, measurement, and tool selection and usage, the competition reflected upon skills and knowledge. Held in two parts with three teams taking part in two groups, the first 10 minutes of the competition had them field a five set questionnaire; the works managers and service engineers. This was about judging their abilities in situations like a vehicle not starting, and how they would diagnose an error. It was also about identifying issues in a vehicle during general inspection. The next task involved the inspection of a connecting rod bush and piston by using appropriate tools. An issue regarding the clutch was also to be identified and dealt with. For 45 minutes, service engineers used various tools and gauges including micrometer, digitech multimeter, vernier caliper, dial gauge, etc., to identify and repair the vehicle. There job was complete when they brought the vehicle to life.

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Solan-based BEE GEE Automobiles, won the competition, and was awarded Rs.30,000 in cash. They were also given shopping vouchers worth Rs.10,000. The first runner up in the competition was Rathinam Motors, Coimbatore. It was awarded Rs.20,000 in cash and vouchers worth Rs.6000. The HKS Automobiles team from Delhi was awarded a cash prize of Rs.16000 and shopping vouchers of Rs.6000. SML Isuzu gave a consolation prize of Rs.5000 to the rest of the three teams. Opined Sharma, that it is necessary for dealers to have a modern setup, and be well equipped to tackle a service challenge. They also have to ensure that a vehicle is back on the road quickly. “From April 2017, BSIV emission norms will be implemented. This will complicate repairs. Repair skills will become more crucial, and a systematic approach will be vital,” concluded Seto.

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Tata Motors banks on LNG tech

Tata Motors is bullish about LNG powered commercial vehicles.

Story by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

 

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Tata Motors showcased a LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) powered bus at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, recently. It did so in association with Petronet LNG Limited (PLL) and the Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. The bus is based on the Tata LPO1613 platform, which is currently available with a CNG engine. With plans being drawn to launch the LNG bus by April next year, it is clear that Tata Motors sees a good future for such buses. Expressed Dr. A K Jindal, Head – Engineering Research Centre, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, that Kerala is keen to place an order for 10,000 buses, with 10 per cent of them, LNG powered. The supply constraints posed by CNG infrastructure makes LNG a logical extension for CV manufacturers like Tata Motors, and the operators, it s clear. There are other issues too. “To increase the range of a CNG powered bus (from 300 km), more storage cylinders will be needed. This will adversely affect the power to weight ratio, payload capacity and seating capacity,” he says. In the case of trucks, the additional weight of the CNG tanks lowers the payload capacity. With gas prices on the rise, a CNG truck or bus operator will have to visit the CNG bunk more often. This will limit the travel range. Avers Dr. Jindal, “Limited availability of CNG will lead to time wastage.”

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LNG for longer range

The possibility of powering a city bus, or an inter-city bus that travels longer distances on a single fill is perhaps the biggest advantage LNG may offer. LNG terminals, as of current, are under utilised. According to Dr. Jindal, “Operators find it risky to operate CNG vehicles, what with the lack of CNG infrastructure. “We therefore expect a migration to LNG.” India has a long contract with Qatar for gas. It is transported to the western coast of the country in the form of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG). The government has invested in infrastructure at the ports of Dahej, Kochi, Dabhol, and Hazira along the western coast of India. These terminals are under utilised,” he adds. If the under utilised terminals provide an opportunity to set up LNG dispensing pumps, the need is to understand customer needs from a transportation point of view. One big advantage is the cost of LNG. It is expected to be 30 to 40 per cent cheaper than that of a diesel. States Dr. Jindal, “LNG powered vehicles (trucks and buses) make good candidates. They were not fitted with CNG because they would find it difficult to fill; LNG has a two-and-a-half times more per litre capacity than diesel. The range therefore will be between 600 to 700 km.”

Advantage Kochi

The LNG terminal at Kochi has got the Kerala Government interested, claim industry sources. They add that it is therefore that Tata Motors chose to showcase their LNG bus at Thiruvananthapuram. With an LNG dispensing unit being setup at Kochi, it can be expected that over time, the whole of Kerala will be covered as it amounts to a radii of 300 to 400 km from Kochi. Mentions Dr. Jindal, “The indications we are getting are that LNG can be easily transported from the port to a distance of 500 km. Any further, and the chances of 30 to 40 per cent cost advantage being neutralised are more.” With the erection of five to six LNG dispensing stations being planned along the Mumbai-Delhi corridor, a distance of 1200 km, LNG as an automotive fuel is expected to get a shot in the arm. For proliferation of LNG, a terminal is said to be under construction at Haldia. It would support LNG-powered barges running upstream of the river Ganga. “Big plans for LNG are being chalked out,” states Dr. Jindal. He mentions, “Commercial vehicles will benefit from such an exercise.”

For its part, Tata Motors has been working on LNG for sometime now. With gas companies forthcoming, according to Dr. Jindal, the push for LNG is rising. “We displayed a LNG powered Prima four years ago. We also took efforts to get the government to declare LNG fuel as an automotive fuel,” he adds. Rules were framed in the last three-four years to ensure the use of LNG as an automotive fuel. With regulatory framework in place, the potential for LNG commercial vehicles is looking up.

Cleaner and better

Coming out of natural gas fields, it is about compressing the gas to make it easy to transport it in cylinders. The density of CNG is 16 kg per litre of volume; LNG density is 41 to 42 kg per 100 litre, which makes it 2.5 times denser than CNG. A gas derived product, LNG is clean. It is claimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent with respect to conventional liquid fuels. According to Dr. Jindal, the possibility of impurities finding their way into CNG fuel is more. “Since LNG is liquefied, impurities are unable to find a way into it. LNG is thus pure methane,” he quips. Cleaner than CNG, LNG also rises up in the instance of leakage. It is safe because it operates at lower pressure and evaporates quickly. It is lighter than air and evaporates extremely quickly under atmospheric pressure and temperature. Opines Dr. Jindal, that LNG is safe, and without any known incidents in vehicles.

In trucks, he claims, LNG has a clear potential to enhance the TCO. Compared to CNG buses and trucks, the performance of LNG trucks and buses may not be very different, he adds. “The advantage however will be less weight due to weight saving in areas like cylinders,” he says. If the need for more performance is felt, a solution, explains Dr. Jindal, would be to offer higher horsepower engines. “With a turbocharged engine, we have been able to get the same amount of power from a CNG engine as a diesel engine,” he adds. The DMRC buses Tata Motors has supplied to Delhi make a good example in terms of drive-ability. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine can develop the same power as that of a diesel engine. Pure methane in the form of LNG is expected to ensure superior performance over CNG. With pure methane content, engine knocking is taken care of, and efficiency increases. Thermal efficiency, according to Dr. Jindal, will be better in the case of LNG. Like all CNG engines, that are BSIV emission norms compliant, LNG engines will also be BSIV emission compliant. From 2020, they will be BSVI compliant. The liquified form that LNG is in, makes it 95 per cent Methane in content. This makes LNG one of the most purest gases available.

LNG conversion

To attract truck operators to LNG is going to be a big challenge, and Dr. Jindal is aware of it. He opines, “LNG will make a superior proposition for trucks operating in regions like Delhi NCR. A trucker going from Trivandrum to Guwahati will however not be enticed by the propsect of LNG; not unless and until he gets supporting LNG infrastructure to bank upon.” The introduction of LNG trucks is most likely to be limited to dedicated corridors therefore. Buses will be the first to get LNG. The 30 to 40 per cent cost saving will be a big enabler. Making practical sense for heavy vehicles because the return on investment in the case of heavy duty LNG vehicles will be faster, one may also consider the fact that cryogenic cylinders, as of now, are of the size suitable for bigger CVs. Fitted to small CVs, they would make a costlier proposition as far as the total cost is concerned. Efforts to package LNG on smaller CVs, except the very small ones like the Ace, are on.

Pricing

Pricing is one area that Tata Motors is working on as far as LNG commercial vehicles are concerned. Cryogenic tanks, according to Dr. Jindal, are imported. Their prices are high. Work is on to ensure that the prices are brought down to a reasonable and competitive level. Local development of tanks is underway. While that happens, the biggest pull for LNG will come from a (total cost of operation) saving of between 30 to 40 per cent. Dr. Jindal is of the opinion that LNG buses will pick up faster. Trucks will take longer because of their pattern of usage. It would entail an amount of confidence building as far as truckers are concerned. “By mid-next year we will be ready with buses. We will be ready for trucks by the end of next year. It will take time even though we do not see packaging as a challenge in this case,” signs off Dr. Jindal.

Tata LPO1613

In the CNG form, the Tata LPO1613 platform measures 11120 mm in length. Available as a cowl chassis with a 900 mm floor height, the platform, designed to spring a bus, is powered by a naturally aspirated 5.7-litre BSIV water cooled engine that does 96 Kw at 2500 rpm, and 405 Nm of peak torue between 1250 and 1500 rpm. The transmission is GBS-40 synchromesh unit with six gears. The bus chassis is fitted with five CNG cylinders of 650-litre. The cryogenic cylinders on the LNG LPO1613 bus showcased in Kerala are imported, and known to provide a range of between 600 and 700 km. The LPO1613 chassis is built at the company’s Lucknow plant. The body is built by Marcopolo at their Dharwad plant.

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Demonetisation hardships for transporters

Demonetisation affected numerous truck and bus operations in India.

Story by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

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While many may hail prime minister Narendra Modi’s decision to strike out Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes, and introduce new Rs.2000 notes in an effort to curb black money, and the menace of fake currency, the effect of what is being termed as demonetisation is affecting every Indian, or it seems. Since November 8, 2016, after the prime minister announced the demonetisation measure, the transport sector is looking bruised. Accounting for roughly 4.5 per cent of India’s GDP, the transportation sector, which includes numerous truck and bus operators, is having to deal with the prospect of over 80 per cent of the currency taken out of circulation overnight. The economy of India, Asia’s third-largest, is said to be heading towards a liquidity crisis. Truck and bus operators (transporters) are finding it challenging. Especially with the flow of new notes controlled by the government. Supply chains at small, medium and even large companies are claimed to be breaking down. With corporate operating profits feared to fall by as much as 40 per cent in the current quarter, it is not just the taxi drivers, street hawkers and big consumer goods firms that are seeing their earnings plummet, truck and bus operators are seeing their flow charts being curtailed.

Transporter hardships

Transporter hardships are best described by the fall in fleet utilisation levels. According to Hemant Laddha, Director, Shivani Carriers Pvt. Ltd., fleet utilisation has fallen by 25 per cent. Mukund Desai, Managing Director, Mukund Roadlines Pvt. Ltd., is of the opinion that his fleet utilisation is down by 40 per cent. Avers Sanjay Sharma of Assam Transport Service, that fleet utilisation is down by 40 per cent. “Because of cash crunch, our trucks are stranded at various places,” he states. Sharma explains that they cater to corporate clients who pay them through bank transfer. For return transportation, Sharma’s company relies on food grain traders. It is here that the issue is more acute; food grain commerce is cash intensive, and the sector, according to Sharma, is down by 50 to 60 per cent.

Catering to the FMCG sector, Laddha operates a fleet of 110 trucks. The issue, he feels, is towards the remittance of Rs.30,000 to Rs.40,000 towards operating a truck. The sum, he explains, involves cash expenses towards loading and unloading of goods, driver allowance and toll. “We have RFID tags for tolls, but not all tolls are RFID ‘ready’, adds Laddha. Sharma states, that even if he were to pay the driver by making a NEFT transfer as every driver today has a debit card, the difficulty lies in him withdrawing the money. “With most ATMs out of order, and withdrawals restricted to Rs.2000, it is simply impossible to operate a truck.” he adds. Claims Laddha that he is managing to keep the business going by paying the driver a mix of old and new currency notes. “For example, out of an allowance of Rs.5000, we are giving the driver Rs.2000 old notes and Rs.3000 new notes,” he says. With buyers beginning to postpone their purchases, Laddha feels that the FMCG business has began to pause. This, he states, is a sign of the economy slowing down. “More time is spent in a queue, and adjustments have become a primary activity over all other activities,” mentions Laddha.

Echoing the sentiments of Laddha and Sharma, Desai, who operates a fleet of 50 trucks, opines that they are facing hardships when it comes to driver allowance. “An expense of between Rs.50,000 and Rs.100,000 is incurred,” he adds. In what could well define the extent of difficulties faced by the transporters, Manjinder Singh Dhaliwal, Secretary, Maharashtra Tanker and Lorry Owner’s Association, says that they are the worst affected due to demonetisation of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 currency notes. As one of the largest unorganised and cash-based sectors of the country we are facing immense problems, he adds. Informs Sharma, “At various border passings, there are these fine slips which the RTO is demanding, and have to be paid in new currency notes. Even the government offices are refusing to accept old currency notes.” Claims an industry source on the condition of anonymity, that even those who are seeking bribes are insisting on new currency notes.

Bus operator woes

Buses in India touch the lives of every citizen. They come in various sizes, forms and are used for the most diverse functions ever imagined. The industry is made up of private and public bus operators. Public bus operators are termed as semi-government bodies and run a business model that is subsidised through government funding. This underlines the socialist agenda that concerns buses in India as they move people within cities, and between cities as well as villages. Competing with, and yet carving out a business model of their own are the private bus operators. They could be an owner of a single bus, or of a fleet that is no less than a whopping 8000-10000 buses. Demonetisation is claimed to have affected the business of both, public and private bus operators. There are less people moving around as businesses begin to slow down. Says K T Rajashekhara, CEO, S.R.S. Travels, “Our flow chart is getting curtailed as people are curtailing travel due to the money crunch.” Of the opinion that road connectivity is lacking in India, and the law is against road transporters, Rajashekhara avers that bus travellers have shrunk by 50 per cent since the demonetisation measure came into force. Stressing upon the need to customise the laws framed for road transporters as they are restricting the sector growth, and thus the overall economy, Rajashekhara sounds concerned about the factors that have played out over the last few months. He says, “Now it is the issue of demonetisation; yesterday it was the issue of Cauvery. The day before, there was something else. For us, transporters, there are too many hurdles to be tackled. And, they have been affecting our flow chart. Business has gone down, but taxes remain as they are. This means, our fixed costs continue to be high – towards the payment of insurance, various government taxes, and salaries. Operations are being hampered as staff punctuality has gone down. Our employees stand in long queues to withdraw small sums of money to run their household.” Of the firm opinion that laws for transporters have to be customised, and take a long time to change, Rajashekhara explains, “Toll closure does not affect us as much as the fixed costs do. Taxes especially. While business for the last one month was affected, there was no concession in taxes, offered. Compared to a truck, which accounts for Rs. 35000 in taxes for one year, taxes for a bus amounts to Rs. 800,000 per year.” Operating a 8000 bus fleet, including long distance luxury coaches like the Bangalore-Jodhpur (2000 km) service, S.R.S. Travels is one of the leading private bus operators in the country.

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Shedding the baggage

Under the condition of anonymity, quips a transporter that many customers, in a bid to let go off their old currency, have paid them in old higher denomination notes. If a transporter refuses to accept old notes, he is threatened that no revenue will come his way, he adds. SP Singh, Convenor, IFTRT, is of the opinion that cash flow in the transport industry is not an issue. The issue, he adds, is the steep fall in cargo despatch post demonetisation, as businesses and traders do not procure goods due to unsold inventories.” The drop in fleet utilisation has been sharp,” he adds. Claims Singh that businesses and traders are used to having almost 50 per cent of the transactions out of the books, and common carriers and transport agents have been facilitating this to escape excise duty, VAT, Service Tax, etc. He adds that an estimated Rs.45,000 crore worth of unaccounted money has been pumped into the transport industry since November 9, 2016. This is being done by making payment in old notes towards the purchase of diesel, and by paying the employees. Pressure, says Singh, is being put on the government to extend the toll exemption deadline. While utilisation of country’s nearly 85 lakh trucks is said to be down by almost 40 per cent since demonetisation was announced, and is attributed to the fall in cargo movement, the fact is, opines Singh, that the common carriers and transport intermediaries are busy seeking an extension for cash acceptance of Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 old notes, toll exemption, and higher cash withdrawal limit on exaggerated claims. Many other difficulties are being cited too. “Many transporters and businesses are busy neutralising their books of accounts by exchanging transaction with 20-30 per cent cut offered to people needing to dispose off real unaccounted currency at mass levels so that unethical and under-reporting of transactions could resume after 50 days with business being as usual,” adds Singh.

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Optimism prevails

Despite the hurdles, transporters are optimistic. Much like the Indian population, they are of the impression that this is a passing phase. Some are of the opinion that a long-term framework towards improving the business environment may be necessary, Others think that things will soon limp back to normalcy. Says Laddha, that he hopes normalcy to return soon. It is this optimisim that is keeping the truck and bus operators going.

Taxi woes

Taxi operators have seen their business mellow down in the wake of the currency crisis since November 09, 2016. The worst hit are the conventional taxis as against the likes of Meru, Ola and Uber. The Ola money digital purse has proved to be useful to both, the taxi operators and the travellers since it does not entail any cash transaction. With conventional taxis, the situation is not as good. The pre-paid taxi counters at Mumbai’s Sahar International airport are said to have shut down for a few days since the taxis could not be paid due to the shortage of new curency. Though the conventional, black and yellow cabs, that run as pre-paid taxis make the most cost effective way to travel among other taxi means, the shortage of currency is ensuring that such operators are asking for random sums, which may be on par with what a traveller would have paid at the pre-paid counter. A sense of mistrust is however taking hold of the situation. In an instance of travel within the city, cab drivers are in no mood to turn down a ride, but do not have change to offer at the end of it. Business, opined a Mumbai cab driver, is down 50 per cent, since November 09, 2016.

Focusing on challenges

At the recent SIAM annual convention, focus was on long-term policies to counter future challenges

Story : Bhargav TS

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It was in 2000 that the Indian automobile industry rolled automobiles complying with BSI emission norms. Much has changed since. The industry has moved past BSII emission norms in 2002, and past BSIII emission norms in 2005. The BSIV emission norms were introduced in 2010. Their pan-India implementation is however slated for mid-2017. Unavailability of fuel proved to be a detterent for pan-India implementation. It took Europe 13 years to move from Euro1 to Euro4. In India, this journey was completed in 11 years. Work is on to meet the BSVI emission norms deadline by mid-2020. This was reflected at the 56th SIAM Annual Convention held at Delhi recently. Said a SIAM source that the industry is ready. He drew attention to the additional expenditure of Rs. one-lakh crore that may be necessary to get to a new level. The theme of the convention was, ‘Building the nation, responsibly’.

The future

In his inaugural speech, Anant Geete, the minister for heavy industries and public enterprises, expressed that the government’s move to subsidise electric vehicles, implement GST and encourage a transition to greener vehicles will ensure good growth. Hinting at the future, Geete mentioned that environment is one of the biggest concerns for the sector. “We have therefore allocated Rs.14,000 crore for the FAME scheme to promote hybrid and electric mobility. This will save Rs.60,000 crore worth of fuel, thereby benefitting the environment,” he added. Announcing that hybrid and electric vehicles are expected to dominate mobility by 2025, Geete stressed upon the key role the Indian auto industry has played in the ‘Make in India’ programme. Reiterating government support, he averred that jobs need to be created for the youth of this country. SIAM president Vinod K. Dasari, called upon the central government to support the auto industry concerning laws governing diesel vehicles, and regulate GST to ensure the auto industry is able to focus on innovation. Dasari said that the auto industry lost Rs.4000 crore in the last nine months post the ban on sale of diesel vehicles in the National Capital Region. “Such losses could be avoided if the industry gets a clear long term policy perspective,” he added.

The ban on sale of diesel vehicles above 2000cc engne was recently lifted after levying an additional one-per cent green cess, and is reflective of the challenges the Indian automotive industry is facing towards providing sustainable mobility for the masses. The industry is keen on a long-term roadmap on safety, emissions and fuel efficiency from the government. In order to make practical and rational regulations, the auto industry has been calling for the establishment of a single ministry, and a single window system. “We would like to thank the Government for accepting SIAM’s suggestion of fleet modernisation. The industry will be happy to offer incentives to customers to supplement the incentive the government will offer for the purchase of new vehicle against a scrapped vehicle,” expressed Dasari.

Global benchmarks

The session titled ‘Sustainable Mobility for Creation of Wealth of Nations’, as part of the annual convention, saw prominent industry figures participate. Discussion focused on India setting the trends – global benchmarks, rather than follow them by pursuing innovation and best practices. Gunter Butschek, MD and CEO of Tata Motors averred that the Indian economy is witnessing an unprecedented advantage compared to other countries since it is home to the world’s largest young population. “The Indian automobile industry contributes 40 per cent to the nation’s manufacturing GDP, and is surrounded by a cloud of opportunities,” he expressed. Drawing attention to challenges like safety, pollution, unemployment and lack of adequate resources, Butschek explained that it is imperative for leading automobile manufacturers to focus on developing ‘sustainable mobility solutions’ and nurture skilled engineers and people managers rather than technocrats and theory masters. “New developments like safety norms, GST and scrappage policy will be an opportunity to counter such challenges,” he added. Wilfried Aulbur, Managing Partner India, Chairman Middle East & Africa, and Head Automotive Asia, Roland Berger India, stated that the automotive industry is a significant driver for FDI in India. It also drives process improvements and quality. Aulbur stressed upon the need to stimulate volumes to boost GDP and create more job opportunities, A holistic, long-term policy is required, he opined.

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In the interest of safety

Participating in a discussion under the theme, ‘Technology Trends’, Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, praised the auto industry’s performance and assured of his government’s support to avail new technologies. Speaking via video recorded message, he appreciated industry’s support to solve pollution problems and agree to move to BSVI from BSIV emission norms. “The automotive sector is on the road to growth and success with a turnover of Rs.450,000 crore. It is generating employment, and the government is seeking ways to ensure that a large part of the global supply can be exported from India,” averred Gadkari. He drew attention to safety, and stated that five lakh accidents take place annually, causing 2.5 lakh deaths. Calling upon the auto industry to help address the issue of accident spots across the country, Gadkari mentioned, “In 10 years, we believe India’s automotive sector will be number one in the world. To realise this goal, the industry will have to play a key role.”

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Smart mobility solutions

In his address, Areil Sella, Managing Director, Capsula, called upon the Indian auto industry to come together and develop smart mobility solutions. He expressed that it is the latest and perhaps the most disruptive technology that is changing the world. Dr. Robert Stephen Moran, Deputy Head, Office for Low Emission Vehicles, Departments for Transport, Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Government of United Kingdom, spoke about his country’s plans to go all electric by 2040, and how they’re creating awareness among people and supporting electric vehicle production. Moran stated, that the move towards efficient models, diesel engines will play a big role in the UK. There are four policy drivers – air quality, energy security, carbon and inward investments, he informed. Drawing attention to his government’s plan of spend Euro 600 million between 2015 and 2021 to support uptake and manufacture of ultra low emission vehicles and achieve the goal of zero emission vehicles by 2040, Moran explained that the challenge is to create a self-sustaining market that is not reliant on government support.

4th Industrial Revolution

As part of the discussion under the theme, ‘Overcoming Mindsets’, John Moavenzadeh, Head of Mobility Industries, World Economic Forum on Global Trends in Mobility, USA, averred that the 4th industrial revolution is on. It is a shifting automotive game, he said. Stating that the 4th industrial revolution is not categorised by one single technology but by diverse technologies, Moavenzadeh mentioned that the global auto industry is in the midst of a more profound transformation not seen in the past 100 years. “Automotive demand is undergoing a seismic shift between developed and emerging economies. The automotive game is changing from volume to value; from the customer’s focus on the product to the mobility experience; from customer-driven vehicles to software-driven ones. By 2026, the Indian automotive industry will be among the top three in the world in the area of engineering, manufacture and export of vehicles, and components,” he added.

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Vindo Dasari MD, Ashok Leyland has been re-elected as the president of SIAM. Ravinder Pisharody, Executive Director (Commercial Vehicles), Tata Motors, will continue to serve as the vice president of SIAM. Kenichi Ayukawa, MD and CEO, Maruti Suzuki India, continues to be the treasurer of SIAM.

Global trends to survive, thrive

Stress was laid on progression to partnering with OEM for product development from being a mere supplier at the 56th Annual Session & National conference hosted by ACMA.

Story & Photos: Bhargav TS

The Indian auto component industry recorded a turnover of Rs.255,600 crore in 2015-16. Exports contributed almost 30 per cent of the Indian auto ancillary industry’s revenue at Rs.70,900 crore. From a long-term perspective, the Automotive Mission Plan (AMP) 2026 has already set ambitious growth aspirations for the ancillary sector with growth in the region of Rs.12,11,500 crore. The AMP has set exports growth ambition to the tune of Rs.462,500 crore, which would roughly amount to 35 to 40 per cent of the overall industry output by 2026. To achieve these goals, the Indian auto ancillary industry, it is clear, will have to align with global trends like electrification and lightweighting. It is clear that the industry players will have to invest in innovation and modern manufacturing practices.

This is what the captains of the Indian ancillary industry underlined at the 56th Annual Session & National Conferencee hosted by Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA) in Delhi recently. The conference reflected upon the changes, challenges and opportunities the industry is foreseeing. With the government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign encourging Indian companies to indulge in local manufacture of high value goods, the auto industry, the captains expressed, have an important role to play. They also drew attention to prospects like ease of doing business, and what key reforms like GST will have to offer. According to ACMA sources, the Indian auto components industry has been focussing on improving quality. There is a need however to be proactive while focusing on holistic qualitative growth. The industry, they said, is investing, working to imbibe culture and develop leadership, which will reflect on commitment and an ability to grow. Sources drew attention to the transformation the global automotive industry is going through with the advent of new technologies and changing regulatory environment. Trends like electrification, connectivity, autonomous driving, advanced material and manufacturing were delved upon at the conference. Focus was also laid on how the automotive industry will transform over the next few years.

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The way forward

In order to understand the challenges that lie in front of the Indian auto ancillary industry, and the way forward, ACMA engaged McKinsey & Co. to conduct a study.. The study, ‘Winning with Quality and Innovation’, tabled at the conference, mentioned that the auto component industry, in order to stay competitive, will need to develop in-house design capabilities, harness frugal engineering and create product differentiation through innovation. A move towards product and process innovation, and quality, the study mentioned, will deeply influence growth. It also stressed upon culture being the most critical dimension of quality. Contrary to popular belief, the culture of quality can be created in all organisations regardless of age and size, the study underlined. It highlighted upon four steps to create a quality culture in the organisation. Touching upon the key observations of the study, ACMA sources averred that innovations in the auto components industry have grown quickly and profitably. Innovation historically, they mentioned, have been driven by European suppliers. In the changing global order, the Indian suppliers have found a significant opportunity to innovate, they mentioned. Innovation, said an industry captain on the sidelines of the conference, need not be limited to products and processes, even portfolios and business model make important candidates for innovation. It is they that help to create value, he added.

Quality and technology

Reflecting upon quality and technology, president of ACMA and the joint managing director of Lucas-TVS, Arvind Balaji, expressed that the Indian auto component industry is at a crucial stage where quality and technology will be the key differentiators. To achieve zero defects, the auto components industry will require upgradation of existing facilities and capabilities, he added. He drew attention to the government policy that makes manufacturing more attractive and industry more profitable. India has all the ingredients to be among the leaders of the global automotive industry, mentioned Balaji. “The overall quality levels in the component industry have improved significantly, but there is some more distance to be travelled to meet the global industry levels,” he added. Stressing upon the rapid change the automotive landscape is undergoing globally with integration of digital technologies, and with rising concern for environment and safety, Balaji averred that there is a need for the Indian component industry to move to the next level. With the advent of newer technologies like 3D printing, the digital edge is upon the auto industry, and will lead to unprecedented level of automation. Changes like these will have to be addressed, and will call for significant investment in R&D to create value, expressed an industry figure.

Government support

Emphasising upon government support, union minister for heavy industries and public enterprises, Anant Geete, in his speech mentioned that his government would leave no stone unturned to ensure the auto industry in India grows. He stressed upon the need for the industry to absorb new technology and find frugal ways of working without compromising quality. “New technology is essential to compete at the international level. There is so much more that has to be worked upon. The level of acceptance of new technologies is high in India, it is the utility value that we must focus upon since it is vital to provide global standards of quality to increase exports and make the Indian auto component industry numero uno in the world,” he stated. Geete expressed that the auto-component industry has displayed excellent performance in the last decade. The growth the industry has achieved, has generated tremendous employment opportunities. Stressing upon the Indian auto industry as the primary contributor to manufacturing sector growth, and for ‘Make in India’ programme, Geete averred that his government will help resolve issues troubling the auto industry. and pledge full support. With implementation of GST, industry prospects will improve, he opined.

Union minister for road transport, highways and shipping, Nitin Gadkari, in his speech, assured the ancillary industry of government support. He spoke about the plans to develop internal waterways for transportation to bring down logistic costs. He also spoke about plans for scrapping old vehicles to help make way for new, greener vehicles. “It is essential to bring down logistics costs. To do so, we are trying to connect rivers across India. We are also developing 27 industrial clusters, and are looking at the auto industry to play an important role in it.” In his speech, Rattan Kapur, Vice President of ACMA and CMD of Mark Exhaust Systems, expressed that the industry has to graduate from one that merely ‘builds from print’ to the one that ‘innovates and experiments’. To achieve this, we need to strengthen our relation with the customer, he added. Stressing upon the need to turn co-development partner to OEMs, Kapur stated that there is a need to ‘share risk’ in areas like technology and product development.

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Need to scale up

In his keynote address, RC Bhargava, Chairman, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., emphasised, “The auto component manufacturers need to have a singular focus to scale up their businesses with quality and technology as the bedrock. The industry needs to invest in design and capability, in world class testing and manufacturing facilities, improve profitability of operations in order to become integral with the global supply chain .” Speaking on the theme of ‘Quality and Innovation’, Guenter Butschek, MD & CEO, Tata Motors, said, “The Indian auto industry is going through a very dynamic phase. It is witnessing a dramatic shift in landscape for the auto components industry. Quality and innovation are the cornerstones for success in today’s business environment and at the core of Tata Motors’ new mission and vision, along with a continued focus on R&D investment in design and engineering. We at Tata Motors are looking to streamline our supply chain operations and focus on suppliers with comprehensive capabilities and high performance levels in areas of technical know how, quality, cost, delivery and financial health. We will be rolling out a new supplier capability assessment process with the intention to bring synergies and efficiencies in the whole ecosystem and to create win-win situations for both, Tata Motors and the supplier fraternity.”

Team Spirit

A panel discussion on ‘Winning with Quality and Innovation’ saw eminent speakers from the ancillary industry as well as the government share their views. These included Girish Shankar, Secretary Department of Heavy Industry, Government of India, Rajan Wadhera, President and Chief Executive, Truck & Powertrain Head – Mahindra Research Valley, Mahindra & Mahindra, C V Raman, Executive Director (Engineering), Maruti Suzuki India, Dr. Christian Brenneke, Vice- President – Product Engineering, WABCO Inc., Malo Le Masson, Head – Global Product Planning, Hero MotoCorp, David Keeling, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company India, and Shivanshu Gupta, Partner, McKinsey & Company. The discussion was moderated by Ashok Taneja, MD and CEO, Shriram Pistons & Rings. Stress was laid on achieving global quality, and an ability to learn best practices to be able to team up with vehicle manufacturers as development partners. Averred CV Raman, that supply chain is critical for smooth functioning. It is they, our partners, that need to be guided in terms of employing best quality practices. To be a global player, they will need to strictly adhere to global quality standards, he added. Wadhera emphasised upon design and engineering as the core parameters to drive the quality culture. Stressing upon the need to engage suppliers from the beginning, he said, at Mahindra we organise supplier capability building programme, which has seen the participation of over 50 suppliers in the last two years. We also conduct Mahindra Supplier Evaluation System, Supply Risk Management and other sessions to help the suppliers to follow best practices, he mentioneds. Malo Le Masson of Hero MotoCorp expressed that in order to meet BS VI emission norms target, vehicle manufacturers need to collaborate with suppliers and focus on R&D. “We have done this earlier, and a good example is the development of Splendor’s start-stop iSmart technology. We are looking at developing technology of global standards at Indian cost. We think it amounts to a good opportunity,” Le Masson stated.

Inputs from Prashant Talreja

Federal-Mogul India applies aftermarket thrust

With a target to double the turnover by 2020, Federal-Mogul India is betting big on the aftermarket.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

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Showcasing a slew of OE and aftermarket products like Goetze engine valves for heavy commercial vehicles apart from gaskets, pistons, piston rings and liners, spark plugs, wiper blades and steel rings at the Auto Expo 2016, Federal-Mogul India is banking upon the aftermarket to double its turnover in India by 2020. A subsidiary of US-based Federal-Mogul Corporation, the company clocked a turnover of Rs.1,363.16 crore in FY2016. Working towards launching new products in the commercial vehicle segment starting from the third quarter of this fiscal, Federal-Mogul is employing a strategy to get closer to the end customers on the basis of a robust product portfolio to provide an unmatched competitive advantage. “We will be introducing engine valves for HCV segment under the Goetze brand in the third quarter of this fiscal. Focus would be on the aftermarket group,” says Sanjeev Singh, Director – Aftermarket, Federal Mogul India. In the case of engine valves, the company, which sources 95 per cent of the products from India, will bank on a blend of engineering capabilities of Federal-Mogul in India and Thailand as of current. The Thailand facility would thus serve as a base for manufacturing engine valves as well. The introduction of engine valves will follow the launch of engine oils under Federal-Mogul’s acclaimed Champion brand for the aftermarket by the end of 2016 according to Singh.

A 100-year-old brand belonging to Federal-Mogul, Champion is known for its spark plugs. Entering India two decades ago, the brand has a facility at Bhiwadi, Rajasthan, dedicated to it. Manufactured at the facility are spark plugs, wiper blades, coolants, ignition coils, pistons and piston rings for commercial vehicle segment. Under the Champion brand, the company has recently launched Champion iridium spark plugs and wiper blades. Federal Mogul has used its proprietary iridium fine wire centre and nickel alloy ground electrode for its heat active alloy in the spark plug. This allows for better control over the spark characteristics and erosion resistance, regardless of the conditions while maintaining stable operating temperatures under varying engine loads. The flat wiper blades launched by the company carry a tensioned metal strip within the rubber structure. Designed aerodynamically to provide better vision to the driver, it also reduces wind noise. A supplier of spark plugs for CNG commercial vehicles among a wide variety of other vehicles, the company, according to Singh, plans to launch a complete line-up of cabin and oil filters and engine oils in a phased manner beginning 2017. Claimed to grow at 15 per cent, the company has eight plants in India and a R&D center at Bangalore. Part of the plan to double the turnover by 2020 is to push exports to the SAARC region as well.

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Federal Mogul’s aftermarket domain

Federal-Mogul’s automotive aftermarket business is structured under three divisions. The Goezte brand is about engine associated parts. The Ferodo brand offers non-asbestos braking system products. The Champion brand is about servicing and replacement parts that are needed during the normal course of vehicle usage. Describing aftermarket as a different ball game altogether, Singh avers, “For a product that has already done 50,000 km, it is important to offer a product that suits (and withstands) operating conditions. Especially in view of the largely prevalent overloading practices.” “To increase the life of an engine with the same alloy, a different design and coating can be employed. This will reduce the wear and tear of the piston and the sleeve. Also, enhanced lubrication will not only avoid excess fuel consumption, it will enable the engine to perform well,” he adds.

Under the Ferodo brand, Federal-Mogul India has introduced brake linings for light commercial vehicles. It has also changed the mixture of grades of its existing portfolio for CV linings being manufactured at the Chennai plant. The portfolio is 30 per cent costlier than the competition, and yet in demand according to Singh. He mentions that the demand for products like these, which are based on European formulations, is rising. Having grown by 100 per cent in the non-asbestos based braking system segment in the last two years, the company has recently expanded into other segments including two-wheelers for a wider reach. Apart from engine oils, engine valves and filters under the Champion brand, Federal-Mogul will soon line up glow plugs. An application engineering team to understand the needs of the aftermarket has been setup and the design of the products will be based on the inputs received.

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Aftermarket vibes

Indian aftermarket is driven by a consumer who is not just looking for cheaper alternatives, but is also looking for quality products at competitive prices. Given the way the automotive aftermarket and the automotive service industry operates, there is a need to educate the technicians and the consumer. Opines Singh, “It is important to educate not only the mechanics but also to raise awareness among consumers for high quality products.” He states that there is a difference between a product designed for an OEM and for an aftermarket. Quite often, aftermarket parts can be inferior. Counterfeiting is also an issue. To ensure that high quality parts are made available, and there is no piracy issue, Federal-Mogul India is working with its distributors to ensure that the consumer is made aware of genuine and dubious parts. “We have also opened up an India specific engine product website where customers can go directly and see whether the product that they have bought is genuine. We will be taking a similar approach for Ferodo and Champion brand of products,” explains Singh.

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BKT Tyres: Changing rules of the game

BKT is eyeing a leadership role in the global OHT tyre market by means of a USD 500 million investment.

Story by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

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Established in 1954 as a manufacturer of bicycle tyres at Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Mumbai-based BKT Tyres is changing the rules of the game. It is diligently working towards realising the vision of achieving leadership in the off-highway tyre market worldwide. The total size of the Off-Highway Tyre (OHT) is estimated to be around USD 15 billion. With over 90 per cent of its tyres exported to 130 countries, BKT is also working to increase its share of the domestic market. Claimed to derive 88 per cent of its revenue from exports, the company operates five facilities (Aurangabad, Dombivali, Bhiwadi, Chopanki and Bhuj) in India with an output of 600 Metric Tonnes (MT) per day. Slated to reach 800 MT per day by 2017, BKT commands a 4 per cent share of the global Off-Highway Tyre (OHT) market. Hoping to achieve its vision largely on the strength of its newest and youngest plant at Bhuj, which is in close proximity to the ports of Kandla and Mundra, the company, offering a product portfolio of over 2,400 SKUs, employees 7000 people. Producing over 230 sizes of agricultural radial tyres apart from solid tyres, port application tyres, crane tyres, earthmoving and construction equipment tyres, tipper tyres, and dump truck tyres, BKT supplies over 15 to 20 per cent of the tyres it produces to OEMs according to Rajiv Podar, the company’s joint managing director. A large chunk of BKT’s tyres are consumed by the replacement market.

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Humongous is the word

Humongous is the word best suited to describe BKT’s Bhuj plant. Providing a distinct logistical advantage since 90 per cent of the products of the company are exported, the plant, spanning 312 acres of a parcel of land is home to the newest and the BKT’s biggest 49-inch dia. dump truck tyre. The tyre is said to cost a whopping Rs.15 to Rs.20 lakh. The main plant, with an achievable capacity to produce 350 Metric Tonnes (MT) of tyres, occupies 77 acres. The current capacity of the plant is 220 MT. It presently does 175 MT. Entering the international OHT market (radial agriculture tyre, which today represents the company’s main product segment at 75 per cent share) in 1994 through UK after identifying a mid-segment opportunity, the need for a new (Bhuj) plant was felt as the existing plants neared their full capacity. The going was good, the introduction of Agrimax tyre for high powered tractors in 2007, followed by an entry into the OTR all-steel radial tyres in 2008, having helped the company to secure a strong foothold in the international markets – mainly Europe and USA.

To achieve the vision of global leadership in OHT tyres, the need for a radical shift in manufacturing was found necessary. The need was for about 140,000 MT. All the departments were consulted, and a figure of 300 acres was arrived at. This was born out of the need to have a large warehouse to better channelise export consignments; to have a modern R&D to produce world-class products, and to have a large manufacturing foot print with the most modern machines. Post the permission of the board to invest USD 500 million, which according to Arvind Podar, the chairman and managing director, was the net worth of the company then, a continuous parcel of desolate, desert land was acquired with the help of Gujarat Government. Work started in 2011. The black soil was found to be unsuitable; excavation of up to 7 m had to be carried out. Bhuj’s seismic risk necessitated a structure that could withstand a tremor of up to nine on the Richter scale. “Lack of electricity, water and labour made it difficult. Eight-km long water lines were laid, and electricity lines over 30 km were laid out. The roof was engineered to withstand strong desert winds,” mentions Rajiv. To ensure self sufficiency, a 20 MW thermal power plant was invested into; two water reservoirs were invested into; a township over 15 acres of land was invested into, and includes a mall. A fire station and a hospital were also invested into. They are a part of the company’s CSR activity.

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Well defined

Commissioned in 2012, the plant at Bhuj is set to add new products to the company’s already wide range of OHT tyres according to Dilip Vaidya, president and director of technology at BKT Tyres. With focus on increasing the domestic market share, and addressing the needs of farmers to whom BKT sells OHT tyres by offering them two-wheeler tyres for their motorcycles and scooters, it is the large warehouse that draws attention upon entering the plant. This is however not before catching a view of the R&D centre with two attractive tractors doing the testing rounds. Their are six test tracks that offer wet and dry driving conditions; the asphalt track measures seven-metre in width, and the concrete track measures five-metre in width according to Vaidya. There is also a circular dirt and stone track. Apart from prototype and handling tests, the track will enable BKT to carry out most common and specific tests including noise tests.

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Inside, the warehouse, raw material like natural rubber, synthetic rubber, polybutyl and chlorobutyl rubber, bromobutyl rubber, sillica, carbon black, additives, accelerators, and more, procured locally and from international markets (like Thailand, Malaysia, Turkey, Poland and Vietnam), are systemically stacked and labeled. It is fed into the mixers as per the need to make a compound. The mixing area amounts to 16.8 acres and contains 440- and 330-litre mixers. According to Vaidya, the 440- litre mixers are for the master batch, and the 330-litre mixers are for the final batch. Over 228 compounds are made for different types of tyres. Supporting this operation is a dosing plant. The compounds, as they come out of the extruder past the mixer, are used to build bias ply, radial ply and solid tyres.

Employing young engineers trained at the Bhiwadi and Chopanki plants, the wide variety of tyres produced at Bhuj, and their uniqueness calls for unique monitoring. Presenting an opportunity to pursue the dreams according to Rajiv, the Bhuj plant is subject to strict monitoring of each an every process. “While the R&D centre will be operational next year, supporting the plant operations is an analytical lab, chemical and synthetic lab, compounding and sample preparation lab, physical lab, aging and life prediction lab, and a microscope lab to ensure top quality,” avers Vaidya. With hard compound calling for higher viscosity, softer compound calling for low viscosity, steel radial construction calling for higher viscosity, each compound batch is tested. Special software for Silica-based compounds with controlled temperature has been provided according to Vaidya. Kaizen is practised at the Bhuj plant.

Seven types of chords are used in the manufacture of tyres at Bhuj. For the manufacture of radial tyres, body ply cutter machines are employed. Over 95 per cent of the machines at the Bhuj plant are imported. They are instrumental is ensuring very good zipper quality. Says Vaidya, that the plant has 150 curing machines. There are four calendar rolling machines for textile and steel chords. These, adds Vaidya, provide better width control, fabric centering, tension control and uniform chord distribution. There’s a fully auto gauge control system and metal detectors to avoid roll damage. The duplex extruder includes a eight-inch hot feed and a six-inch cold feed line. Treads with two different layers can be made for high speed tyres with deep tread. There’s an auto bias cutter and a auto splicing system for perfect ply joint with uniform overlap. The splicers are especially made for agricultural OTR tyres. For most agricultural, industrial and flotation tyres up to 28-inch dia, BKT has installed building machines with turn-up bladder for wrinkle-less turn of operation. For 25-inch OTR and industrial tyres, there are turn-up bladders with 3D construction. For lamination, the company has developed spin station for the application of base and cap with two different compounds for superior quality.

Employing synchronous rotors and turn screw sheeters, the company, for giant OTR tyres, has installed a three stage tyre building machine. There are also these giant curing presses, x-ray testing machine, shereography machine, and an endurance machine. “The strip winding machine gives us the ability to handle wide tyres such as the giant OTR tyre,” mentions Vaidya. He adds, “Our stress is on producing new compounds from sustainable materials in an innovative manner.” Building machines for 49- and 51-inch tyres have been installed. The three stages of their construction includes band building, carcass building on solid drums and belt assembly transfer followed by shaping of carcass and lamination. Giant curing presses of 145- and 175-inch are suitable for up to 51-inch tyres.

For solid tyre production, the plant has three stage tyre building machines, two-stage auto machines, and strip winding machines. Explains Vaidya, “Contrary to manual mill operation, we chose advanced technology machines like a specially designed station with two mandrels for application of base and cushion compound by auto controlled calendar sheets. We have machines that apply beads precisely at controlled distances. Apart from tread application and strip lamination machines, we have installed multi-daylight curing presses that enable higher productivity.” The new systems at Bhuj include on-line auto weighing system, PLC band program on bias cutter, and a quality (FTQ) monitoring system that avoids rework generation and helps to achieve the highest FTQ per centage for cured tyres. Apart from Kaizan, the Bhuj plant has safety systems built-in explains Vaidya. He informs that third party audits are carried out.

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New products from Bhuj

Armed with an advanced manufacturing infrastructure at Bhuj, BKT is working towards launching a good number of new products. According to Vaidya, the company will be launching non-marking compound solid tyres, deep tread solid tyres, new ‘Liftmax’ radial forklift tyres, new ‘Portmax’ radial port tyres, new ‘Multimax’ radial multi-pattern truck tyres, and new ‘Earthmax’ giant OTR tyres. Expressing that agricultural tyre buyer’s needs are changing, Vaidya states that their new IF and VF technology agricultural tyres lead to reduced soil compaction and improved traction. Associated with most construction equipment OEs in India according to Rajiv, BKT caters to the needs of various CE sectors through their associations. Rajiv stresses upon OE being a big segment for growth. About their plan to carve out a greater pie of the Indian market on their way to achieve their strategic global objective, he avers, “India is a growing market. This is the right time to be India.” With the Bhuj plant paving the road to increase the market reach, the days ahead for BKT Tyres look bright.

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