International Tractors: Bullish about Growth

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International Tractors is banking on growth by providing ergonomically advanced products that best suit the needs of the farmers.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

International Tractors Limited (ITL), which manufactures and markets Sonalika brand of tractors, reported a robust 19.6 per cent increase in sales at 81531 units in FY2016-17, the highest sale of tractors to be ever recorded in the history of the company. In comparison, tractor sales in India grew 18 per cent in FY2016-17, recording a sale of 582844 units according to the Tractor Manufacturers Association. In FY2015-16, 493764 tractors were sold. Increasing the market share from 11.9 per cent to 12.3 per cent, domestic sales of ITL grew 18 per cent, at 69290 units. Exports registered a growth of 29.3 per cent at 12241 units in last fiscal. Bullish about growth, and keen to provide ergonomically advanced products (tractors) that best suit the needs of farmers, ITL has commissioned a fully integrated tractor plant at Hoshiarpur, Punjab. Spread over an area of 85 acres, the new plant is located adjacent to the existing plant. With a capacity to produce two lakh tractors per annum, the new plant will elevate the total manufacturing capacity of ITL to three-lakh units. The existing plant has the capacity to make one-lakh tractors per annum. Fueled by an investment of Rs.800 crores, the new plant is fully equipped to roll out tractors ranging from 20 hp to 120 hp in a takt time of two minutes. Engineered to produce tractors up to 180 hp according to Amrit Singh Mittal, Vice Chairman, ITL, the new plant will support the company’s move to higher capacity tractors, and exports. “Ninety-nine per cent of the tractors sold in India may amount to a power output of less than 60 hp, we are confident that the tractor industry will soon graduate to higher hp engines,” he said. Stressing upon a modern approach, Mittal averred that mechanisation in agriculture is rising. On the account of exports, claimed a source close to the company, that plans are being drawn to export one-lakh tractors. These would be produced at the old plant.

Tracing its roots to 1969 when it manufactured its first farm equipment (thresher), ITL in an effort to enhance its technical capabilities entered into a joint venture with Renault Agriculture, France, and Class Tractors, Germany, in 2000. This was 14 years after ITL produced the first tractor in 1996. The company began producing engines in-house in 2001. By 2005, the company grew up to become the fourth largest manufacturer of tractors in India. It tied up with Japanese diesel engine specialist Yanmar. The new plant, by leveraging technology, and the experience the company has gained over the years, will contribute to the endeavour to produce a good number of aggregates in-house. Aggregates like engine, chassis, sheet metal parts, differential and transmission.

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The new plant will hike ITL’s capacity to produce tractors to 300 from the current capacity to produce 225 tractors per shift. ITL at present runs two eight-hour shifts. When the demand increases, a shift is extended to 10-12 hours, said Mittal. In an effort maintain a competitive edge in what is termed as the biggest tractor market in the world, third shift is also pressed into service if the need arises. ITL manufactures an entire range of engines – from 20 hp to 110 hp, at the plant. The engine plant has an installed capacity of 500 engines per day, and has been engineered such that it will play an importat role in ITL’s endeavour to develop engines of different capacities. There are 24 engine test beds. With the current emission compliance standards for tractors being BSIIIA, ITL’s Sonalika brand of tractors have been affected with the Supreme Court order to stop sale as well as the register BSIII vehicles from April 01, 2017. In many parts of India. RTOs not wanting to attract contempt of court, are said to refuse registration of tractors that complying with BSIIIA emission regulations. This is despite the emission standards for tractors being different from what the trucks and buses follow. Informed Raman Mittal, Executive Director, ITL, that the (tractor manufacturers) association is making the required presentations, and is hoping that business is not significantly affected.

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Producing two, three and four cylinder engines, in naturally aspirated and common rail turbo-diesel guise, the engine plant of ITL has over 23 production stages. Particular attention is paid to the quality of manufacture from the initial stage. Averred Amrit Singh Mittal, “India is a price sensitive market. It is important therefore that we develop fuel efficient products.” Post deregulation, price of diesel has been rising. In the wake of that, the company is working on a completely new series of tractors that are stylish, ergonomically sorted and comfortable. ITL, in a bid to address the exacting needs of the Indian market, developed a 35 hp DI35Rx Sikander tractor recently. Powering the tractor is a three-cylinder unit that generates a torque of 157 Nm peak torque. Transmission is a constant mesh design with six forward and six reverse gears. For superior fuel efficiency, the hydraulic pump of the tractor can be disengaged from the engine when not in use. “This reflects on our understanding of the Indian market,” quipped Mittal. He pointed at the four tractors his company launched in October last year. “These tractors have beeen designed and engineered for potato farming, and are equipped with adjustable track width, a hydraulic system that was specially developed, and have a compact turning radius to help them maneouvre in the field without damaging the crop,” opined Mittal. Pramod Rajan, Head, R&D, ITL, expressed, “We are developing a six-cylinder 120hp engine for tractors. Production of this engine will begin later this year. The engine will find application in big tractors the company exports. The 120 hp engine platform will be leveraged to produce higher capacity engines mentioned Rajan. A 200 hp engine is on the anvil too. If this will provide a glimpse of ITL’s plans for the future, the 120 hp tractor, informed Rajan, will be equipped with a 24+24 transmission, and offer a massive 4,500 kg lifting capacity. Of the opinion that a tractor should transform into a status symbol, Rajan revealed that engines above 50 hp are being equipped with common-rail technology. The change in emission standards for engine above 50 hp is said to be a reason for this. The other is perhaps, the rising sale of tractors in the 40 to 50 hp range. In the last five years, most tractors sold in India are in the 40 to 50 hp range.

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Tractor transmission

If the engine assembly makes for an interesting insight at the ITL plant, the transmission line adds to the knowledge of tractor manufacture. Found on the line are transmission cases, gears, shafts, clutch plates, and more. Multi-speed transmissions are produced with a 12+12 speed range. To maintain consistency, the company manufactures four wheel drive axles in-house. Stating that the shift to 50-60 hp tractors in India is likely to happen faster than expected, Rajan revealed that they are working on an eight forward and two reverse speed transmission. It will be upgraded to 12 forward and 12 reverse gearbox, and introduced in the 60 hp segment followed by the 40-50 hp segment as well. ITL is also working on 30 hp tractors with hydrostatic transmission. The company plans to export them to Europe and US.

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For tractors to withstand tough working conditions, ITL’s gear shop manufactures between 250 and 400 different components. The facility has a capacity to manufacture 1.5 million parts per annum. A total of 112 machines including 22 gear hobbing machines and 12 gear shaving machines have been installed. Also, a part are a Seal Quench Furnace (SQF), induction hardening and pit type furnace. A modern metallurgical lab has been set up. It contains Leco Spectrometer and a Micro Hardness Tester from USA among other test equipment. A Japanese spectrometer is used to ensure the quality of spur, bevel and helical gears is right.

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R&D and manufacturing

Employing 200 engineers and 100 technicians, ITL R&D is at the core of numerous initiatives the company is taking. Out of the 200 engineers, 120 engineers are engaged in design projects that will materialise in the future. They are closely supported by 50 product testing engineers. Crucial to the smooth functioning of the world’s largest integrated tractor manufacturing plant with world-class technologies, ITL R&D, according to Rajan, is playing an important role in the design and development of aggregates. The cathodic electro-coating pre-treatment facility has a dip tank of 70,000 litre capacity. The paint shop technology ensures up to 95 per cent paint utilisation, and is manned by six robots. While the sheet metal parts are produced at the press shop, most plastic parts are also made in-house. The company has 26 machines including 19 presses of up to 400 tonne capacity; two laser machines (sourced from Prima, Italy), and three injection moulding machines. To manufacture in-house dies for press tools, sheet metal parts and injection modules, 35 machines work in tandem. The desired level of accuracy is maintained by ITL with 167 special purpose machines and 57 CNC machining centers sourced from Mazak, Japan. To achieve a competitive takt time, castings at the plant are transferred through under pit conveyors. The final assembly line is structured such that every unit undergoes a number of tests. These include a roller test, hydraulic test and a vibration test. To ensure optimal product quality, the company employs quality management systems like Pokayoke.

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Exporting tractors to 80 countries, ITL is developing products that will comply with the stage IV emission norms. These would be aimed primarily at the export markets of Europe and US. ITL is also working on telematics. Testing of a telematics platform, according to Rajan, is on. The results will determine the time to market. Rajan is of the opinion that it will still take some time before the tractor market warms up to the prospect of using telematics. Costs, he said, are a barrier. Looking at expanding its reach in the domestic, and overseas markets, ITL is banking on ergonomically advanced, robust and efficient tractors. Apart from an assembly unit in Cameroon, Africa, the company is setting up a unit in China. A cost sensitive market according to Raman Mittal, the unit at China – expected to be operational at the end of this fiscal – will open up new avenues for the company. With Yanmar agreeing to buy Blackstone Equity Investors’ shares in ITL for Rs.1,600 crores, Yanmar’s holding in the company is set to rise to 30 per cent. This is expected to boost outsourcing. Mittal is keen to see his company export one lakh units. “Out of the one lakh units, 50,000 units will be manufactured for our partner Yanmar’s outsourcing commitments. The remaining 50,000 will be sold independently under the Sonalika brand,” said Mittal.

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Pramod Rajan, Head, Research and Development, International Tractors Limited

Q. What role is the R&D playing in the company’s growth?

A. We have a team of 200 engineers and 100 technicians. Of these, there are 120 design engineers. Supporting them are 50 engineers that carry out testing. Playing an important role, the R&D carries out numerous tasks including design, development, and testing. For example, work is being carried out on a 120 hp engine that will go into production later this year. In India, BS IIIA emission norms apply to agricultural products. So, we are working on the engine for it to meet these norms, and offer superior efficiency. The R&D plays an important role in the design and development of aggregates. With aggregate manufacture and assembly carried out in one plant, we also play a role in developing skin panels. Final processing of 50 per cent parts is done in-house. It is the child parts that are procured from outside.

Q. What new projects are you working on?

A. We are currently focusing on two things – fuel efficiency and performance. We want to improve the fuel efficiency of our product portfolio. Diesel prices have started moving north. Indian customers are very price sensitive, and it is therefore essential that we offer fuel efficient products. Our products are known to be robust, stylish and comfortable. We want to ensure that our products exceed their requirements. With rural markets warming up to new things, expectations are rising. This is making it necessary that we look at styling and comfort in the case of tractors. We will soon launch a completely new series of tractors for the domestic market. These will highlight comfort and styling. We feel that the tractor should be a status symbol.

Q. What role is the R&D playing in exports?

A. We export tractors to Europe and US. For these markets we developed StageIV compliant engines that will go into production in the last quarter of this fiscal. In India, we believe that BSIV emission norms for tractors will come only in 2020. The cost of technology at this point will be very high. We expect an emission norms shift in the category above 50 hp.

Q. How soon could telematics become a standard fitment on tractors?

A. We have already put telematics systems on our test tractors. We have the system ready for customers, and offer to those who demand it. We have not marketed it because cost of having a telematics system is high. The perceived value for customer is not high. It may be not be a standard fitment solution for now therefore, and will be offered only on demand. It is true that the competition is already offering telematics systems on their machines. The cost of telematics, in India, is still on the higher side. Telematics is used by fleet operators. For an individual owner to use a mobile phone makes more sense since it is cheaper. Owning a phone costs no more than Rs.200. Servicing a telematics system every month will cost more that Rs.500 per month. Customer therefore is still reluctant to pay.

Q. What new could ITL offer next year?

A. One of the plan is to shift tractors in the 60 to 120 hp range to common-rail technology. The 120 hp tractor is equipped with a six-cylinder engine. It is aimed at the African market where the land size is huge. This engine can be elevated to produce 200 hp. As per the demand, we will slowly move forward. In India, where the land mass is not as big. We will go up to 75 and 90 hp tractors at the most. For special applications, some government tenders are calling for 100 and 110 hp machines. These would be used for clearing snow, and will account for a very small volume. We do not produce hydrostatic transmissions for India. For Europe and US, we are looking at hydrostatic transmission for less than 30 hp. This transmission could be aimed at the hobby farming segment.

Q. Which do you think are the fast emerging segments in India?

A. In the last five years, the maximum tractors that are being sold are in the range of 40 to 50 hp. In 2011, there was an emission norms change for tractors above 50hp. As far as the tractor industry is concerned, a shift is likely to take place from 40 to 50 hp, and to 50-60 hp. A shift beyond that looks difficult. Tractors in the 40-50 hp range account for 30 per cent of the market. We are currently selling eight forward and two reverse speed transmissions. We are working on 12 forward and 12 reverse gears transmission. This will be offered on 60 hp machines, and later on in the 40-50 hp segment tractors.

Q. Does the rising use of plastics in tractors hint at the need to light weight?

A. There is a requirement for light weighting of tractors. Especially in the rice producing belts in South India. We will introduce products in that segment with our partner Yanmar in the 40-50 hp segment.

Harita, IIT-M develop Intelliseat

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The Intelliseat developed by Harita Seating in association with IIT-M aims at minimising accidents by detecting driver fatigue.

Story & Photos:

Bhargav TS

In order to reduce road accidents due to driver fatigue, Harita Seating Systems Limited (HSSL), and the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M), have developed ‘Intelliseat’, an Internet of Things (IoT) device that monitors the performance and behaviour of the driver. To develop Intelliseat, HSSL joined hands with IITM two years ago. Operating independently, and capable of providing vehicle information like vehicle location, Intelliseat can be used for driver training and fleet risk evaluation as well. Capable of influencing fleet insurance and ownership costs, Intelliseat is expected to present Harita Seating a unique advantage.

Specialising in the manufacture of truck and tractor seats, the improvement of automotive seating system, particularly for the driver, has been a priority at HSSL. The company found out during its interaction with drivers and other industry stakeholders that professional drivers spend most of their time behind the wheel, and experience considerable fatigue. In case of people carriers, drivers experience more fatigue than the passengers experience. On an average, a truck or bus is driven for 10 hours a day. The drivers sometime tend to drive continuously, causing fatigue and leading to an accident. Developed as a performance monitoring tool, Intelliseat is engineered to detect fatigue. It will subsequently warn the driver, and signal him to take a break. This, in turn, would eliminate the possibility of an accident. Expressed AG Giridharan, President, HSSL, “Improvement of an automotive seating system, particularly that of the driver, is important to us.”

Developed at the Rehabilitation Bioengineering Group, Department of Engineering Design, IIT Madras, Intelliseat, according to Prof. Venkatesh Balasubramanian, Department of Engineering Design, IIT Madras, was developed over a span of two years. A team from Harita and IIT Madras translated the conceptual work in the lab to a viable solution that can be productionised and applied. Expected to make roads safer, and have an impact on driver benchmarking (training) and fleet insurance, Intelliseat, developed to operate independent of any other system in the vehicle, can be used for in-vehicle information and tracking. Capable of being used for driver training and fleet risk evaluation, Intelliseat starts functioning as soon as the driver occupies it. The sensors detect his or her presence, and send a warning signal if there is a movement. When the sensor senses minor fatigue, the driver is notified with a red signal on the dashboard. When the system senses a moderate fatigue, a chime goes of. If the situation goes out of control and the driver is close to dozing off, the Intelliseat vibrates. This makes a compelling reason for the driver to stop.

According to Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, India has an unconscionably high rate of traffic accidents, and technologies that can reduce accidents due to driver fatigue are sorely needed. Tested in South India, Intelliseat will soon began testing in other parts of the country. Taking into account driver performance and behaviour, which is greatly influenced by physical and cognitive factors, Intelliseat, according to Ramamurthi, will elevate safety. The system’s contribution would be to curb accidents by understanding driver behaviour, fatigue, and performance slippage. Appropriate intervention to avoid road accident looks like the best remedy.

Said C N Prasad, Director, HSSL, “It has always been the endeavour of Harita Seating to develop cost-effective technologies, which are relevant to the immediate Indian context. The joint development opportunity with IIT Madras for the Intelliseat showcases the results of such an endeavour. I hope that this innovation will lead to safer roads and reduce the risk of accidents due to driver fatigue.”

Suppling seats to Ashok Leyland, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, John Deere, M&M, Mercedes-Benz Buses, AMW, New Holland, TAFE, Tata Marcopolo and Tata Motors, HSSL has six plants in India. The mother plant is in Hosur. The other plants of the company are at Pune, Jamshedpur, Dharwad, Chennai and Pantnagar.

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With the National Crime Research Bureau (NCRB, 2016) report put this number of road accidents to 464,674 cases in India in 2015 (a detailed study of accidents by researchers had them attribute 40 per cent deaths to human error, which often translates into driver fatigue), the Harita Intelliseat looks like an innovation that will provide the right solution to curb accidents in India that happen due to driver fatigue.

Mahindra MPower for cutting edge transport management

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The third edition of Mahindra MPower summit stressed on cutting edge transport management.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

Demonetisation affected the transport industry. It brought about a disruptive change, and led the transport industry to embark on a challenging ride that would last for a few months. The third edition of Mahindra MPower Summit held at IIM Ahmedbad recently reflected on this and many other developments in an effort to attain cutting edge transport management techniques that would help to tackle challenges, either disruptive or constructive in nature. Organised by the Mahindra Truck and Bus Division, the summit focused upon developing a docket for industry veterans and further professionalise their businesses. The summit included a course that would facilitate faster decision making.

Following in the footsteps of the earlier MPower editions, starting 2014, the summit provided transporters an insight into various aspects of the ecosystem that they may have overlooked. With many transport enterprises being family owned business, the broad agenda of the summit turned out a course that will facilitate faster decision making and tackling of challenges in areas like succession planning, family business managemnent, and attracting investments in challenging times.

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With GST scheduled for July 2017, the summit sought to highlight the challenges the transport industry will face. Nalin Mehta, Managing Director & CEO, Mahindra Trucks & Buses Limited, drew attention to the digitisation the industry is witnessing. “This is accompanied by disruptive practices, and will make for an interesting time to do business. A big implication of GST will be on the logistics industry, and how it operates. There is a need to stay alert and gear-up for any challenges that may arise,” he mentioned. Pointing at the CV industry’s progress in migrating to BSVI emission norms by 2020, Mehta averred that there is a need to address the legal aspects as well. “Apart from load aggregation and the mushrooming of internet-based models, the way the industry used to work until now, and will need to work henceforth will be different,” he said.

New ways of working

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Delving upon the various industry trends that are prevalent. Members of Mahindra Trucks & Buses Limited, and IIM-A faculties aired their views in front of the 22 participants – veteran transporters and their prodigies, from 11 cities. A healthy exchange of ideas and practices ensued as the summit got underway. If the 22 participants represented logistics companies that have a collective turnover of Rs.1100 crore, the brain storming session as part of the summit saw the presence of five transport excellence award winners. The faculties provided valuable inputs and insights into the way the transport industry operates, and should operate to ensure agility and efficiency. The faculties highlighted a need for better synergies even as they touched upon various topics connected with the way the transport industry conducts business. The two-day summit delved upon topics like current macro economic scenario, the effect of GST, value creation in trucking industry, re-inventing family owned business, inventing new business models, and more.

Emphasising on upgrading transporter skills, V. G. Ramakrishnan, Managing Director, Avanteum Advisors, drew attention to the shrinking manufacturing base in India. Despite this, the freight movement increased by 4.5 per cent in last three years, he stated. Stressing upon transport by road continuing to dominate with over 60 per cent share of the overall transportation in the country, Ramakrishnan averred, “Freight movement through road will be complemented with the implementation of GST. It will lead to the removal of check points, better road infrastructure and faster turn around times.” He cautioned that there was a need to work on other areas like fleet upgradation to reap the most benefit. Stating that CVs have become costlier because of the implementation of the BSIV emission norms, Ramakrishnan opined, “Freight rates have not kept pace with diesel rates due to which profitability continues to be under pressure. With GST coming in, there will be a rapid shift towards higher tonnage vehicles. The scarcity of skilled drivers could be compensated for to an extent by the deployment of new technologies in CVs.”

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Academic outlook

Former Dean of IIM-A, and now the director of IIM-Bangalore, Professor G. Raghuram, through video conferencing, highlighted the significance of road transport sector in India. He drew attention to a report by National Transport Development Policy Committee, which expects freight traffic to reach 13118 billion tonnes per km (BTKM) by year FY2032. The report expects rail and road transport to enjoy an equal share of traffic by FY2032. This, said Raghuram, is significant when one considers the current situation where road share is almost 65 per cent at 1986 billion net tonne kilometer (btkm) out of the total 3056 bktm of roads India has. Stating that India has already crossed 100 thousand kilometers in national highways, which is just two per cent of total road network in India, carrying 40 per cent of the traffic, Raghuram averred, “This will get more boost with all weather roads under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.” Road network is still dominated by rural roads by over 60 per cent, he added.

Terming practices like overloading as induced, and representative of front-line immaturity, Raghuram described that only 10 per cent of the truck owners in India have more than 20 trucks. “Professionalisation of the transport sector is very important. The more organised the road transport is, the better it be will be for logistics framework to improve. This will in-turn improve the transport industry,” he explained. Conducting a discussion on challenges faced by the transporters, Prof. Debjit Roy encouraged the participants to think of amicable solutions that could help resolve the various problems they face.

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Deploying technology

Touching upon the technical aspects of trucking, Dr. Venkat Srinivas, Principal Chief Engineer and Head – Product Development, Mahindra Trucks & Buses Limited, through video conferencing, delved upon the technological trends in CVs in India. Growing urbanisation, he said, will induce the much needed momentum in the refinement of the hub and spoke transportation model in India. This will in-turn, lead to a move to higher tonnage vehicles that will call for the employment of sophisticated technologies,” averred Dr. Srinivas. Highlighting emerging CV trends in India, including the rising awareness for safety and connectivity, prognostics, and policy regulations, Dr. Srinivas called upon the participants to think what it could mean to each and every industry segment. Also, what it could mean to move from BS IV to BS VI emission norms.

Rising use of telematics

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With electronic content in CVs rising, the use of telematics is growing too.

Story by:

Ashish Bhatia

Every CV maker in India is offering telematics. With the move to BSIV, many have turned it into a standard offering. If this constitutes a part of the organised market for telematics, and OE bit in particular, there is a big chunk of aftermarket offerings that are serving CV operators too. A small chunk of unorganised players include fly-by-night operators that have earned the telematics industry a bad name. As fleet operators in India learn to leverage telematics to up the efficiency of their business, its use is moving beyond track and trace.

Globally, telematics trucking solutions are classified into three types – embedded, portable and independent (often smartphone-based). Embedded solutions include a telematics console that is functionally hardwired into the CV, and serves as a connection provider. Embedded solutions offer a range of vehicle management features, and facilitate the integration of multiple features. Portable solutions comprise of detachable devices like Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and a Portable Navigation Device (PND). Rugged computers that maintain contact with the vehicle also come under portable solutions. Also, a part of low cost solutions, detachable devices collect information and synchronise it with other devices (typically a tablet or phone) through medias like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. These are classified as independent solutions. Internet and Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled phones have become a powerful tool too. As per the report, ‘Global Connected Truck Telematics Outlook 2017’, by Frost & Sullivan, the growth of internet and GPS enabled solutions has come to incorporate additional value chain participants such as content providers, application providers (for applications like distracted driving), and wireless providers. Another report, ‘Telematics in India: Trends and Opportunities’, by Roland Berger, pegs the global vehicle telematics market at US$ 39 billion. It estimates CV telematics market in India to grow at a rate of 25 per cent per annum.

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Evolution of telematics in India

Telematics is said to have found its way to India in 2003. In 2008, Ashok Leyland introduced a GPS enabled telematics platform ‘Alert’, which was tailored to Indian operating conditions. ‘Alert’ bundled the latest telematics technologies then available through tie-ups with international technology providers, and by leveraging its in-house R&D. Two services, vehicle tracking and Passenger Information System (PIS), were offered. Employing an On Board Unit (OBU), ‘Alert’ provided location, speed, direction of travel, date and time on a second-to-second basis. The information was stored in memory and transmitted to a data centre for a prefixed time period, or on demand from the customer. The transmission took place on a General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) communication network, and a packet oriented mobile data service on 2G and 3G cellular communication system’s global system for mobile communications (GSM). Most public transport undertaking buses in India are telematics equipped. The root of this dates back to 2012 when the central government announced a plan to install tracking and fleet management services in 400,000 buses. Almost all state transport buses today feature a telematics-based intelligent transport system on-board. The electronic ticket vending machines found with ticket issuers are claimed to be GPS enabled. They facilitate the passage of information about the number of tickets sold as well as the location, route, and direction of travel from time to time.

In what is looked upon as a unique development in the area of cloud-based GPS system operation is the tie-up between Mahindra Electric and Bangalore-based Lithium. A fleet of Mahindra e2o electric cars operated by Lithium are claimed to be telematics enabled, and provide information about driver behaviour, vehicle charging pattern, etc. Mahindra has also partnered with cab aggregator Ola for a pilot e-taxi project at Nagpur. The success of this project will help replicate e-taxis in other parts of the country. It will also underline the successful use of telematics in the operation of radio taxis; electric and conventional. Ola, Uber, Meru, and other radio taxi operators have been leveraging telematics successfully. Telematics is at the root of their business. They are leveraging telematics to get information, track the vehicle, track driver behaviour, and conduct commerce. Radio taxi companies are invading new markets in the country by leveraging telematics. In response to the call for safety of women travelling in cabs, the government made it mandatory for taxis to feature a GPS, and a panic button.

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Market penetration and market potential

In commercial vehicles, despite the government push, the use of telematics has a long way to go. Claimed an industry source that it continues to be low in single truck operations because of the costs involved. Users continue to be big fleet operators and taxi companies. To drive telematics in CVs, the driving factors will be optimisation of fuel costs, safety and security. In India, the CV telematics market is expected to grow at 25 per cent per annum. Reports suggest that growth will be led by the aftermarket with entry-level solutions. By 2022, the telematics market for CVs in India should reach 1,383 units. In 2015, it was estimated to be 293 units strong. Of the total number of installed base units by 2022, 16 per cent would be fitted by OEMs. Expected to be structured such that (by 2022) 68 per cent will be entry-level, 31 per cent will be mid-tier, and a mere one per cent will be high-end. It is the cold-chain, courier and pharma industries that are expected to demand the use of telematics most. Demand is expected to come from across all regions of the country.

For the 20 players that are currently there in the domestic market, the top three are claimed to account for 60 per cent of the market share. Trimble is claimed to be a market leader with 30 per cent market share. Following close are Arya Omnitalk and CMC Technology.

Competition level in the Indian telematics industry are expected to intensify on the back of product extensions, technological advancements, and Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As). To remain competitive in the market, vendors will be required to not only develop new technologies but also keep abreast with the global trends. With impact on product portfolio inevitable, popular telematics solutions in India in the CV space, including Tata Fleetman, Volvo Dynafleet, Ashok Leyland i-Alert, Eicher Live, and BharatBenz Ormat, will continue to change; will continue to better in value and use-ability. With the need for connectivity and driver assistance expected to drive growth, the telematics market in India is set to grow into a sizeable chunk of software and hardware. To support advanced endeavours like ADAS sensors, which find use in driver drowsiness detection systems, parking assist systems, and lane departure warning systems, telematics is here to stay. It is set to influence driver assistance and related services, and will lead to the recording of various types of vehicle and driver data.

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Growth in telematics has turned the hardware part complex. This is influencing market growth. Growth in the hardware segment (on-board and off-board) is expected to be at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21 per cent till 2022. The services market (content providers and content aggregators) is expected to grow faster at 25 per cent CAGR.

Indian OEMs ‘engage’

It is no secret that Indian OEMs are leveraging telematics to understand customer needs. They want to address their need for customised service and support offerings. With the move up to BSIV, CV OEMs are claimed to be looking at leveraging telematics to learn about the behaviour of the vehicle, the driver, and what they would do to help their customers earn more. With customers successful, CV OEMs can be assured of brand loyalty. While factors like fuel adulteration, driver behaviour, etc., make for an interesting use of telematics, it is turning out be a constant source of learning for all those involved. The growing need for extended support and user-specific products like remote diagnostics, load detection and monitoring, and order management is turning telematics in a domain of full-service providers that can engage the entire value chain. Logistics companies, claimed an industry source, will be required to focus on business contracting and operation of core routes in a bid to maintain capacity, and cost flexibility. This would augur well to contract new business or face demand volatility.

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Promoting growth

Telematics users in India are finding wireless connectivity, remote diagnostics, navigation and anti-theft features useful. An interesting feature is the data collected by the telematics ‘black box’ to provide valuable insights into the functioning of a vehicle, and provide crucial service reminders. It would go a long way in promoting the growth of telematics in Indian CVs. The other feature, to understand the driver behaviour, will further enhance the popularity of telematics. Telematics will also have an influence on the insurance premium in the future. With GPS connectivity and navigation services gaining popularity on the back of increasing complexity of road network in cities, the availability of real-time traffic information, will pave the way for route-optimisation. A crucial feature that will popularise telematics will be the highly accurate fuel level information, which works even when the ignition is off.

Global Outlook

Against an expected growth of Indian telematics market at 25 per cent CAGR, the global telematics market is slated to grow at a CAGR of 18 per cent till 2022. Commercial vehicles are expected to account for nearly two third of the total share of the telematics market. The rest of the market will be shared by passenger vehicles, aircrafts, etc. With passenger vehicle demand expected to be fueled by significant usage by cab aggregators, telematics will find an opportunity to keep growing. The Asia Pacific market follows the Middle East market, and includes countries like Japan, China and India. By 2022, this market is expected to grab the lead, ably supported by a big jump in the use of telematics by commercial vehicle operators.

TAL Brabo is Euro compliant

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TAL’s Brabo industrial articulated robot is Euro compliant.

Story by:

Ashish Bhatia

TAL Manufacturing Solutions Ltd., showcased an industrial articulated robot Brabo at the ‘Make in India’ week in February 2016. In less than two years the company has launched the robot with Euro compliance, and a CE certification. Available in a two kilogram, and a 10 kg payload variant, the robot is priced in the range of Rupees five-to six-lakh. Built in partnership with an Italian firm, RTA Motion Control Systems, the robot aims at micro, small and medium scale enterprises. Large manufacturers looking for cost competitive automated solutions could also look at the Brabo to address their needs. Having tested the TAL Brabo successfully, the acquisition of CE certification marks a big step ahead, expressed R.S Thakur, Non-Executive Director and Chairman at TAL Manufacturing Solutions. “With ‘European Confirmity’, the Brabo robot can now be exported to European markets besides others,” he mentioned. TAL Manufacturing is also developing the all-important IP certification for the Brabo. This will ensure a degree of protection against the entry of foreign objects, especially water.

Expected to find application in the auto industry, which is constantly on the lookout for attaining a higher degree of automation and localisation, the Brabo, according to R.S Thakur, will revolutionise industrial manufacturing in India. Addressing the need for smaller and more portable robots in the auto industry, especially at the suppliers, the Brabo, said Thakur, marks an important development for his company. “With TAL Brabo, we have taken a quantum leap in revolutionising industrial manufacturing in India,” he averred. Touching upon RTA Motion Control Systems providing critical components like motors and drives, Thakur expressed, “The collaboration has not only helped to indigenise the Brabo, it has also helped us to come out with new variants.” Planning to launch new variants of the Brabo robot to cater to the needs of diverse industries, especially in the automotive field, the company designed and styled the robot in-house. Also involved in the process was another Tata Group company, Tata Elxsi, according to Thakur. Tata AutoComponents is also known to manufacture some of the most critical components of the robot. Claimed to have been tested in 50 customer work-streams already, TAL Manufacturing is looking to supply these robots to the logistics sector as well. The company is also looking at supplying the Brabo to various other industrial streams to improve quality and productivity.

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Promising to elevate productivity by 15 per cent to 30 per cent on a cast-to-case basis, the Brabo was primarily conceptualised to complement human workforce rather than to replace them. Said R.S. Thakur, “The robot will complement the human workforce and assist them in dull, dirty and dangerous tasks.” Suitable to carry out tasks that are repetitive in nature, of high volumes, and are dangerous and time consuming, the Brabo, according to Amit Bhingurde, Chief Operations Officer at TAL Manufacturing Solutions Ltd., can be used to increase efficiency spanning raw material handling to packaging of finished goods. Capable of being programmed to operate round the clock, and in all situations, the robot facilitates continuous production, and high degree of flexibility. The robot can also help to perform complex functions in a cost effective manner. Designed for diverse applications including pick and place, assembly of parts, machine and press tending, as a sealant applicator apart from finding utility in camera and vision based jobs, the Brabo extends beyond capabilities of Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm (SCARA) robots that are still prevalent in the automotive industry.

The Brabo is a five-axis robot that can operate at different speeds. With varied degree of axis, the robot, capable of operating in a temperature range of zero degree to 50 degree centigrade, has a maximum reach of 600 mm as far as the 10 kg variant is concerned. The two-kg variant’s arm has a reach of 750 mm. Looking at doubling the specifications, the Brabo, on the controller side, has 16 (programmable) digitally controlled inputs and outputs. The robot requires a 230 Volt AC, single phase standard supply to operate.

Complying with European health, safety and environmental legislation, TAL Manufacturing is keen to export the Brabo to Europe to penetrate the highly evolved European market. This would helped the company to up its ante. The company is also developing IP certification to represent a degree of protection against foreign objects like water that could enter the machine and cause damage. This, according to Bhingurde, will widen the scope of Brabo’s application. A six-axis variant of the Brabo will be launched in September 2017, according to Bhingurde. He drew attention to the Brabo’s price advantage. The robot is 30 to 40 per cent cost competitive over the competition. Promising savings on life-cycle costs when compared with imported machines, buyers of Brabo stand to benefit from a 15 to 18 month payback period in monthly EMIs. The current list of Brabo customers include Mahindra and Mahindra, CPG Industries and Tata Motors.

Volvo CE crowns its Operator Champion for India

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Volvo CE’s Operator Champion contest for India saw Bheemappa K S bag the title.

Story by:

Bhargav TS

Bheemappa K S from Karnataka was judged the winner of Volvo CE’s Operator Champion contest for India. The event is an endeavour by Volvo CE to choose the best equipment operator, and highlight the importance of skill development in the construction equipment industry. Volvo has been present in India for quite some time now. It has invested in a construction and earth moving equipment manufacturing facility at Bangalore in India, Aware of the need to develop as well as have skilled manpower to operate construction and earth moving equipment, Volvo CE, as part of its focus on efficient operation of equipment has been conducting the Operator Champion contest the world over. An effort to highlight the fact that the equipment it makes feature highly ergonomic cabs and advanced and intuitive operating technology, the company, in India, held the Operator Champion contest in India for the first time, recently. The inaugural event was held at Bangalore, and played out on the belief that any machine is only as effective as the person operating it. With stress on the creation of good operating environment and systems, and higher productivity, the contest saw Narendra Singh from Rajasthan receiving the runner-up prize. Announced Dimitrov Krishnan, Vice President and Head, Volvo CE India, that the Operator Champion contest received excellent response from the industry. “We are celebrating the tremendous value equipment operators bring to the construction and mining industry. It is necessary to celebrate their role in nation-building”.

Through the Operator Champion contest, Volvo CE India, connected with numerous equipment operators in India. The company connected with their networks in India with an aim to promote, and propagate a thought that the work that they are doing is important. Said Krishnan, “Our aim with the programme has been to make the operators realise the importance of the role they play, and the need to improve their competence as well as confidence.” “In the case of winners, we hope the prize money will change their life,” he mentioned. Pointing at the challenges faced by the country in terms of infrastructure development, Krishnan expressed that it is essential to focus on skill development in order to meet the ambitious targets set. “The men and women that sit at the controls of our equipment have the power to deliver a real change. This is something that we should celebrate as a nation,” he quipped. A three day event, the Operator champion contest got the winners from nine regional beats in the country down to Bangalore for the Indian final. Marking the achievement of a milestone with work starting 18 months ago, the event at Bangalore saw a host of VIPs attend. Present among the important people in the industry was Gaurav Kapoor, Head – Industry Partnership & CSR at SCC Engagements, which is part of the National Skill Development Corporation. His presence reflected on the rising focus on skill development in the country.

On the first day of the finals the attendees were recognised for their achievements, and taken on a tour of the Volvo CE plant at Peenya and Hosakote. On the second day, two rounds of the competition were held at the Hosakote Customer Centre. Each participant was tested for speed, dexterity, logical thinking and more. Operators were subjected to carrying out operations on both, the equipment and simulators. The equipment included and excavator and a wheel loader. On the final day, the operators took part in the final round of competition. The results were announced later in the day. Attended by 100 people, including Volvo CE senior leaders, government officials, construction contractors and Volvo dealer representatives, the event saw the winner, Bheemappa K S, receive a prize money of Rupees five-lakh. The runner up received a prize money of Rupees two-lakh.

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Wabco looks at growth from new solutions


Wabco is looking at leveraging its technological prowess, and the acquisition of Mico Incorporated to grow more than the industry average.

Story by:

Anusha B & Bhargav TS

Wabco is known as a supplier of braking systems to CV manufacturers the world over. It is one of the few companies in the world, except Knorr Bremse, which specialise in this field. Not limiting itself to braking systems, the tier 1 supplier has also come to offer AMT technology and telematics solutions that tap into artificial intelligence to offer CV operators smart monitoring solutions, business execution tools through real time information and driver assistance systems among others. In India, the company, through its wholly owned subisdiary, is looking at leveraging its telematics solutions to offer a connected future to CV operators. The company plans to integrate telematics solutions in the vehicle and supply it as an OE offering. Wabco is already offering telematics solutions in the aftermarket. There are 3000 basic systems being offered. They are designed for track and trace, and perform a few other basic functions. Aware that telematics has a lot more to offer, the company is looking at leveraging its capabilities to carve out a unique standing among other telematics solutions providers. P Kaniappan, Managing Director, Wabco India Limited, opined, “Wabco’s specialisation is in mobilising vehicle intelligence. Our telematics solutions make it possible to communicate with the sensors in the system. Add to it, the service network we have invested in the world over. Our engineering prowess in vehicle dynamics will enable us to service the vehicle anywhere in the country. This will make it easier for a fleet operator and driver to stay connected with the authorised service centre.” “Our focus is not to sell the product, but to offer solutions that empower the fleet and driver,” he added.

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The share of electronics in CVs is growing. The future, it is clear, belongs to CAN-enabled vehicles. With CAN-bus making up the backbone of all the electronic systems that are employed in a CV, it is but inevitable for CVs to head towards a connected future. A connected future where onboard diagnotics and remote monitoring are a way of life to guarantee maximum uptime. Predictive maintenance through telematics will form a crucial link in CV operators quest for maximum uptime. Wabco, through its telematics solutions, is looking at playing at role in this area, and in other areas that will signal value for fleet operators and drivers. The telematics solutions that Wabco is looking at offering as an OE fit will include collection of crucial data for analysis. Data from the engine; data for other smart aggregrates like the gearbox as well. “Large amount of data is becoming available. If the CV makers want us to incorporate the analytic bit, we are open. We can engineer it such that it provides feedback to them in the form of a dashboard. With our telematics solutions, OEs can add value to their product,” said Kaniappan. “With our engineering prowess, and the ability to provide service across the country, we can take pride in positioning ourselves above other players in the field. It is no secret that predictive maintenance helps to identify issues before hand. The telematics system sends a trigger warning to the driver. It also flashes on the screen the nearest authorised service station so that the driver can reach it. In the development of such telematics solutions, integration is the most important element. It is also the differentiating element for us over competition,” he added. By offering its telematics solutions as OE fit, Wabco, in India, is keen to highlight the fact that it is not just offering a software intensive product, it is also offering a solution that is ‘complete’ and adds value.

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The telematics solutions that Wabco is keen to offer go beyond track and trace. They include fuel efficiency, fuel monitoring and time management. Time management, it is no secret, is crucial to a fleet operator. Even if one vehicle is idle or undergoing service, effective fleet utilisation is affected. Based on the number of trucks queuing up for servicing at the service centre, a trigger can be sent to the driver. This would help him to plan his visit accordingly, and even find out the time it will take to service the vehicle.

The electronic nature of telematics solutions Wabco is looking at, aligns well with the ABS and AMT solutions it is offering. These two are mechatronic in nature. Made mandatory on a certain class of CVs in India, including those that carry hazardous goods, ABS, it is acknowledged the world over, enhances safety. In India, the costs associated with ABS have been a deterrent for CV operators. For them, it is the most essential that matters largely. Awareness for ABS however has been rising lately, and it being made mandatory on certain class of CVs is making a difference. Operators are slowly coming to understand the benefits of ABS in terms of tyre life among others. According to Kaniappan, ABS, with the addition of few features like hill hold can offer greater value. The hill hold feature, he said, optimises the compressor and engine functions. Compressor need not run when not required. With electronic stability control in ABS, the roll back effect can be drastically reduced. This feature is expected to be made mandatory soon. Wabco is tasting good success with its AMT technology in India. “Two years ago, only three per cent of the population was using AMT. Today, AMT is finding greater acceptance. With engines electronically governed, the use of AMT is only set to increase,” announced Kaniappan. “We are ready with the AMT portfolio. We are working with most Indian OEMs, and want to make global products keeping India as a base. We plan to pass on the advantage to Indian customers,” he added.

Wabco has begun supplying disc brakes to the aftermarket. They are receiving a positive feedback. The bus operators have come to appreciate them especially. Plans, claim Wabco sources, are underway to provide the same to OEMs. Product localisation is progressing, and is expected to get over in the next 18 years. Once localised, the company will add more value to it. For AMT, the company has already setup a local assembly. For ABS solutions it offers, the company has achieved a localisation of over 90 per cent. Sensors continue to be imported. They are a highly critical element of ABS. Efforts to locally produce the sensors are on. The company hopes to achieve the desired result by April. Once achieved, ABS will be 100 per cent localised. About Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), Kaniappan expressed that it is too big a technology and involves a lot of modules that serve electronic needs ranging from basic to advanced. “We first need to bring the technology to India and see how it can be applied to Indian vehicles. Lowest level is autonomous braking, and is mandatory in many European countries. Whether Indian CVs need full braking is the question. Collision warning systems and autonomous braking could make for a system that is feasible in terms of costs for India. A mandate may be necessary. We are figuring out whether we can tap the mining segment to absorb this technology first,” he stated.

Wabco is contemplating if the two products – vacuum pumps and electronic suspension, it offers to passenger vehicles can be applied to ambulances in India. These two products are exported the world over. Apart from vacuum pumps and electronic suspension, the company also produces wiring harness for ABS to endorse the quality of the product. The wiring harness business could be leveraged for other applications. Wabco, said Kaniappan, has acquired Mico Incorporated. It is a global acquisition, and expected to provide Wabco access to the off-highway industry. The acquisition could increase its operational footprint. Mico Incorporated is a supplier of complete pneumatic and hydraulic brake control systems for off-hghway vehicles worldwide. In India, Wabco could leverage the relations of Mico Incorporated to enter into the hydraulics market. Wabco, according to Kaniappan, wants to grow faster than the industry average. It plans to do so by increasing its product reach. What better opportunity than to offer new, exciting solutions to CVs, passenger vehicles and off-highway equipments.