For a cleaner and greener future

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SIAM’s annual convention stressed on a cleaner and greener future through ‘Design in India’ and ‘Make in India’.

Story by: Anirudh Raheja

With an eye on BSVI emission regulations slated to come in force from 2020, the SIAM annual convention held in Delhi recently provided a good image of where and how the Indian auto industry is moving. Apart from BSVI, the stakeholders of the industry stressed upon the need to pursue green technologies. The keynotes of the various industry leaders pointed in the direction of electric mobility as the goal. Elements like connected mobility were also spoken about. While the crude oil prices in international markets dipped to the half-way mark almost over the last three years, the prices of fuel in India have remained high. They rose significantly in the last few months after a decision was taken to link them every day to the price of crude oil in international markets. With discussion revolving around the fact that alternate fuel propulsion technologies need to be perfected as quickly as possible, SIAM stakeholders, at the 57th annual convention, called for all-round efforts to not only safeguard the future of mobility, but to also find new ways of working in the wake of new regulations.

Clear roadmap

Pointing at the disruptive phase the auto industry is currently facing, Vinod K. Dasari, the outgoing president of SIAM, and the managing director Ashok Leyland, expressed that the auto industry in India contributes to the GDP of the country, and to the needs of the defense forces for equipment. He mentioned that the auto industry generates 30 million jobs, and spends over 10 per cent of the country’s R&D. It also contributes 50 per cent of the manufacturing GDP, said Dasari. To gain more traction from the central government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, Dasari called upon the automotive industry to emphasise on ‘Design in India’. He also urged the government to create a National Automotive Board to protect the auto industry. “Despite auto industry’s apprehension on how much R&D would be required to move from BSIV to BSVI, and whether fuel will be available or not, the auto industry has agreed to jump an entire emission regulation to align with what is in the best interest of the nation,” explained Dasari.

Stating that it is strange for SC to pass an order that no BSIII vehicles can be sold, Dasari averred that thousands of crores were lost by the industry. He expressed that authorities sometimes write directly to the transport ministry to ban certain type of vehicles. Claiming that it is the auto industry that is subjected to intense scrutiny for pollution problems, Dasari called for a need to speed up work on vehicle scrappage policies. He said that the auto industry will fully support the government for a clean and green tomorrow. Requesting clarity on auto policy, and a roadmap for regulations since the industry is facing unprecedented challenges and standing at the threshold of major transformation, Dasari stressed on the need for a collaborative effort from the industry that is supported by a vital regulatory mechanism.

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, in his speech, reiterated the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. He urged the industry to look for cleaner options. Pointing at the move to electric vehicles, Gadkari asked the industry to brace up for growing global competition to meet the rising challenges. “I want the industry to research and at least kick start. Once a costly affair, I called for you to start, and batteries are now cheaper by 40 per cent. Prices will go down once mass production is undertaken,” he said. Stating that his ministry is in favour of vehicles that pollute less, Gadkari mentioned that the cabinet note on electric vehicles is ready and aims to take care of the charging infrastructure.

The union minister expressed that whether willingly or not, everyone will be dragged towards cleaner emission vehicles. Emphasising upon alternate fuel technologies as the future, he mentioned, “I want the import bill and pollution to come down. The government has decided to start 15 industries for second-generation ethanol. Ethanol can be easily produced from agro-based cotton straw, wheat straw, rice straw, bagass and bamboo. Alternative fuel is an import substitute, and is cost effective.”

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Manufacturing capability

Providing an assurance to the auto industry that the government is with them, Anant G Geete, Union Cabinet Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Sector Enterprises, expressed in his speech that the industry should brace itself to be competitive globally. Stating that he is aware of the auto industry facing a tough time, Geete drew attention to the production of BSVI engines and vehicles by the industry even though the BSVI emission norms are still some time away. “We are capable despite the non-availability of fuel, which means capability is not an issue,” he said. He quipped, “There are disruptions, and there is a need to safeguard the local industry too.” In his speech, Amitabh Kant, CEO of the NITI Aayog said that disruptions like electromobility and connected mobility are unavoidable whether the economy likes it or not. He stressed upon a policy regime to be predictable, consistent and clear. “The government should keep the auto industry at its arm’s length for faster growth,” he mentioned. Calling upon the industry and components manufacturers to gear up and not be left behind, Kant expressed that the challenge is to think through the current situation. “I want the policy to come from the industry, rather than from the government. The industry should tell about how it can brace up. It must speak one voice, and with strategy of create early impact to achieve full electric status in the long run,” averred Kant.

In his keynote address, Guenter Butschek, Chief Executive Officer, Tata Motors, expressed that the Automotive Mission Plan and Smart cities have had positive iimpact on the industry. The transition from BSIII to BSIV norms, GST and demonetisation, he said, have however caused disruptions in the market. In order to realise the true potential of Automotive Mission Plan 2026, there is a need to eradicate the deep rooted basic challenges within the overall ecosystem, accentuated by intermittent regulatory uncertainties, opined Butschek. Stressing upon the auto industry’s understanding of the regulatory issues, and the need to be in tune, Butschek stated that the industry is looking for a platform for collaborative and participative approach from the government for a policy framework that fosters sustainable growth. Drawing attention to India lagging in emission and safety norms implementation when compared to the rest of the world, Butschek called upon the need for OEMs to commit; to leverage the emerging trends, and to work in tandem to bridge the gap by investing in future technologies.

Talent

The annual convention also included a discussion on skill development and talent. Abhay Damle, Joint Secretary, MoRTH, expressed that India is not short on talent, there is however a need to carry out new research and development activities. He shared his observation that India is not keeping pace with the emission norms prevalent in the developed nations, and is buying new technologies from the world rather than developing them locally. “For faster growth of the industry, it is important to sell technologies, rather than to buy them. If we can stay one year ahead of the world, only then can we give technology to the world rather than take it from them,” said Damle. One of the ways to enhance ‘Design in India’ averred Damle is to put our engineering capabilities to the test. Appreciating the commitment shown by the industry in adapting to regulatory policies, he said positivity prevails in the Indian auto industry. The simple reason why the government makes regulations is to bring systematic reform, and to address problems at their source.

In his address, Vinod Aggarwal, Managing Director and CEO, Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles, mentioned that India has tremendous advantage in design and engineering. It can do things in a more relevant and frugal manner. Citing that the biggest advantage comes from competent engineers available at reasonable cost, Aggarwal stated that manufacturing excellence is extremely important, and should reason an investment in technology, skilled workforce, lean manufacturing, and in design and engineering to enhance asset productivity. “We need to bring automation in a balanced way; the need is to partner and develop more suppliers in India; develop world class quality to ensure process discipline,” he concluded.

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Schwing Stetter looks at transit mixer uptake

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With infra projects accelerating, Schwing Stetter is looking at a rise in demand for transit mixers.

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Schwing Stetter India is looking at a good uptake in transit mixers as infra activities accelerate. The company is looking at leveraging its decades worth of experience to support the growth in demand for transit mixers. Manufacturing the transit mixers at a world-class facility at Chennai, Schwing Stetter offers transit mixers in C, C2 and N version. They are a part of the transit mixer range the company offers the world over. Proven reliable all over the world, the transit mixers the company offers are characterised by low maintenance technology according to sources close to the company.

Claimed to be technologically advanced and modern in terms of design, the transit mixers are simple to handle and cost effective to maintain. Claim sources that the transit mixers help to reduce the time it takes to fill, discharge and clean. This helps the customers to save not just time, but also money. Available with mechanical or electronic control units, the transit mixers offer the buyers and users a choice to choose the transit mixer suiting their requirements. Offering high loading volumes with the virtue of having a high water line, the Schwing Stetter transit mixers are engineered to meet the demanding requirements of today’s users. With project demands changing in nature, and the time to complete the projects shrinking, a reliable machine is only the basic requirement. The other requirements include speed of operation, efficiency and low cost of ownership.

The Schwing Stetter transit mixers not only fulfill the demanding requirements of users in terms of operational speed, efficiency and lower cost of ownership, they also make it easier and safer to work in an environment that is no less risky. Made from reliable drive components, which guarantee smooth operation, the transit mixers, available with a nominal volume of three to 12 cubic meter with the option of a slave engine, or with power drawn through a PTO, are available in numerous models to suit the exacting needs of the operator. While the low centre of gravity of the mixers helps them to possess optimum drive characteristics, the feed hopper, discharge funnel and swivel discharge chute are designed with wear resistant plates for an optimum TCO.

Equipped with 5 mm mixing spirals in the main wear zones, and Stetter T-protect wear protection (30 x 8 mm) on the mixing spirals, the transit mixers not only last long, they also make highly efficient machines. The compact design of the transit mixer adds to their efficiency count, making them one of the most efficient transit mixers on offer according to sources close to the company. Offering high fuel efficiency due to their compact build and balanced weight distribution, the Schwing Stetter transit mixers also help to lower the maintenance cost of the truck. The overall maintenance is much lower state sources. They draw attention to the usual routine, which includes change of engine oil and washing of the drum. It is all that it takes, they explain, to keep the mixer running for years.

Backed by a strong support network, the experience of opting for a Schwing Stetter transit mixer is made positive by their ability to mount on a large variety of truck chassis. Capable of being mounted on the most sophisticated or the most modern truck chassis, the transit mixers the company offers have a large service network to look up to. The large service network of more than 300 skilled service engineers is one of the key pillars of the company that traces its roots to Germany. These engineers are highly skilled and attend to the numerous needs of the market, and the customers. They offer the best possible support according to sources close to the company, and are a force to reckon with. It is they who are contributing to the sustainability and growth of the brand add sources. This statement does not come as a surprise. The presence of Schwing truck mounted transit mixers is had from their high visibility in most parts of the country. It is a reflection of the confidence the company has in its products, and also of the customers who are happy with the prospect that their transit mixers are working efficiently, and profitably.

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Escorts raises the bar

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Escorts has unveiled an electric farm tractor in an effort to address the demands of progressive farmers.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

Clocking 33 per cent year on year (Y-o-Y) growth in net profit to Rs.63 crore for the quarter ended June 2017 (Q1FY18) as compared to a net profit of Rs.47 crore in the corresponding quarter in June 2016 (Q1FY17), Escorts Ltd. has unveiled an electric farm tractor to address the changing demands of progressive farmers. Keen to serve the growing aspirations of both domestic and global farmers, the Faridabad-based farm equipment maker is also expanding its global portfolio of tractors under the Farmtrac and Powertrac brands. Lining up tractors in the range of 22 hp to 30 hp that are tier IV emission norms compliant, and are aimed at international markets like US, Latin America, Africa, ASEAN countries and Europe, the company launched a new range of tractors under the New Escorts Tractor Series (NETS). These produce between 70 and 90 hp.

Speaking at the launch, Rajeev Nanda, Chairman, Escorts Ltd., expressed that they are keeping up with the demands of today’s progressive farmers. “For them, it is important to offer products that are of high quality with specifications that would make them competitive and attractive,” he mentioned. Anticipating a rise in demand for tractors above 75 hp, Escorts Ltd. is driving its exports portfolio to have tractors of up to 120 hp. Stress is on being a full range player. Said Nikhil Nanda, Managing Director, Escorts Ltd., that the effort is to disrupt as well as offer a new experience. The intention is to create a quality platform that will serve multiple applications at affordable costs, he mentioned. With an investment of up to Rs.30 crores, the existing Powertrac and Farmtrac tractor production facilities at Faridabad have been upgraded. The upgradation would touch three models – hydrostatic, electrical and mechanical. It will also lead to an improvement in areas like engines, transmissions, and electrical systems. To ensure high quality and tighter cost management, the company builds nearly 70 per cent of the components in-house. The Poland and Faridabad facility combined have the company rolling out one lakh units every year.

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Electric and Hydrostatic transmission

Working on electric as well as hybrid tractors to offer environment friendly solutions that are viable and sustainable, Escorts Ltd., according to Shenu Agarwal, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, customer acceptance will be the key. Agarwal averred that the entire tractor has been built around the battery, and it is necessary that it is sustainable for cost friendly operations. Opting for lithium ion batteries as they are light in weight and easy to maintain, the company, taking into consideration the limited area a tractor often operates in, has engineered it such that it can be charged by plugging into a 220-volt outlet. Keen to leverage the fact that the lithium ion batteries can hold more charge to support longer operational hours, the ability to charge using a 220-volt outlet may not be fast, it nevertheless saves the cost of setting up a 440-volt charging infrastructure. Pointed out Shailendra Agrawal, Chief Executive (Operations and R&D – EAM & ECE), Escorts Ltd., that the challenge in an electrical tractor are the initial costs. “Initial costs are high as the technology is new, and includes lithium ion batteries and control systems. Such things can nearly double the cost in comparison to a diesel-engine tractor,” he said.

Confident of the components costs dipping as volumes rise and technology gets embedded, Escorts Ltd. will continue to further invest in electric-tractor technology. It will continue to develop electric tractors. Mentioned Agarwal, ”I believe operating an electrical tractor would be less than 50 per cent of the maintenance of a diesel tractor.” As part of the continuing development of electric-tractor technology, the emphasis would be on minimising the wastage during vehicle operation. Particular attention will be paid to the software, the nature of operation, how energy is conserved, and if the same battery could be used to operate the tractor for longer hours. Touching upon the 75 hp, hydrostatic transmission equipped tractor that his company produces, Agrawal explained that the tractor is 20 to 25 per cent more fuel efficient due to the hydrostatic transmission that it flaunts. Ensuring less friction and transmission losses, the hydrostatic transmission, said Agrawal, is like the automated transmission prevalent in cars. Building tractors that are equipped with an ergonomically designed air conditioned cabin, 24×24 transmission (developed indigenously), and temperature sensors, Escorts Ltd., is looking at fast increasing its market share. The company registered a growth of 21.2 per cent in FY17 by earning a revenue of Rs. 4,167.6 crores (up from Rs. 3,438.7 crores in FY16). Registering a volume growth of 24 per cent during the same period, the company sold 63,786 tractors, against 51,455 tractors in FY16. Enjoying a market share of 10.8 per cent in FY17, the company hope to increase it by 20 basis points in the next one year. “Our exports may be small, but our range is complete. We are targeting an export of 12000 units. It may take us next four to five years to accomplish it,” said Aggarwal.

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Shenu Aggarwal, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Escorts Ltd.

Q. What are the reasons for the development and introduction of heavier tractors?

A. Tractors up to 75 hp can work in India. We may have showcased a 75 hp tractor, but we already make tractors up to 120 hp. For the

75 hp tractor to work in India, we are looking at farmers with large farm holding. It might not be a very wide spread market right now, it is however growing. The main reason is the use of bigger implements like big potato grinders. Tractors in such applications of up to 50 hp may not offer the lower cost of ownership. It will be the higher hp tractors that will offer lower cost of ownership. For tractors above 80 hp, we do not see much demand in India.

Q. How is Escorts addressing the local and global tractor markets?

A. The market outside India is in the range of 75 and 90 hp. There is no country in the world where the demand is zero for such tractors. So, each market that we go to, the tractors that we offer in the 75 to 90 hp range will play a crucial role in helping us to establish our presence. We were a bit starved of the exports volumes because we were not having the right range. Now, we have the complete range. Our export volumes are currently very small. We are targeting up to 12000 units for exports. We should bridge the target in the next four to five years. We produce the Farmtrac and Powertrac brand of tractors at our two plants (adjoining each other) at Faridabad. While we were designing our new range, we also made the necessary changes to the plants. We invested Rs.30 crores. We have also produced tractors in Poland. The Polish entity is 100 per cent owned. We have also outsourced assembly lines. If a local distributor wants to satisfy local norms and wants local value additions, they manage the same.

Q. Why did you opt for electric propulsion?

A. We are currently working on both, hybrid and electric models. The latter is a pure form of non-diesel tractor. It poses certain challenges, which may have led some companies to think of hybrids before moving to it. Much depends on how an electric tractor could be made commercially viable; the demand it will enjoy. Demand increase should be in the shortest time. We are also looking at challenges like charging the battery with the use of a 440-volt supply for fast charging. Charging with the use of a 220-volt outlet is not as fast. This calls for a suitable infrastructure. To devote 10 to 12 hours to charge the battery of an electric car is difficult. In the case of tractors, they are idle after the sun sets. An operation at night over a vast parcel of land is difficult. A tractor can thus devote up to 10 hours for charging. It could do without proper charging infrastructure as it has to work inside a confined area. It is only if you have to use the tractor day and night, that there is a challenge. The challenge to charge with a 440-volt infrastructure. A full charge at 440-volt could be achieved in six hours.

Q. What batteries have you opted for?

A. We have opted for lithium ion batteries. These are light in weight, compact in size and can store more charge. Since we are not a battery research company, we are outsourcing it. We are looking at costs, and at the task of designing tractors. We therefore took a battery and designed a product around it. The fact is, it is not the battery but the software where the trick lies. It is all about how the tractor operates, conserves energy, and makes its possible to operate for long hours. There are many leakages, which could reduce the efficiency. A tractor cannot run for seven hours non-stop. One cannot have an electric tractor that looses charge in one hour. For us, an electric tractor is work in progress.

Q. Many parts of India have experienced floods. Will this affect the sales of tractors?

A. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are some of the big agri-markets that have seen flooding. Floods are often found to affect areas that are not well irrigated, and dependent on rain water. Flooding usually gets the ground water level up. Farmers find that they are in good supply for the next two or three years. It is exactly the opposite when there is a famine. There, the water level takes three to fours years to come back to the normal levels. The problem with floods is that it destroys a standing crop. Farmers lose money.

Q. Are you seeing a demand for AC tractors? Do they not affect the efficiency?

A. An AC will need more power. Beyond that there is no major impact. In a 75 hp tractor, the AC consumes 3hp. These are four by four tractors and a ‘major’ game outside India.

Q. How many vendors are you currently working with?

A. We are currently working with almost 300 vendors. We are outsourcing various components. The bonnets, for example, are supplied by Krishna Maruti. The intellectual property rights are ours; the design is ours, and the quality level is also specified by us. It is things like the treatment of sheet metal parts that is done in-house to ensure there is no room for rust, vibration, etc. We have thus kept manufacturing of up to 70 per cent of critical components with us for in-house development. This helps us to assure quality.

Q. What are you doing to comply with the future emission norms?

A. We are currently at BS III norms for agricultural products. The next level of norms is going to be BS IV in India. It will be applicable to everything else other than tractors. The date for the same has not been decided yet. Earlier the government wanted to implement it in 2022. But now, because of the worldwide pressure, the government is said to have pre-poned the date of implementation. As far as we are concerned, we are fully prepared. The world is already at tier IV, and we can’t export anything until we can produce tractors that comply with that level of regulation. We thus have the technology, which we can apply in India as well. It is not challenging for us.

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A.A. Trailers banks on value engineering for growth

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A.A. Trailers is banking on value engineering to achieve strong growth.

Story by: Ashish Bhatia

A shift to higher tonnage trucks is influencing the sale of tractor-trailers for some time. Offering the lowest cost of transportation per tonne per km, tractor-trailers are rising in volumes. The truck-trailer market in India is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.5 per cent over the period from 2016 to 2020. Production is anticipated to rise to 71,249 units in 2020 from 52,468 in 2016. To grab a large share of the burgeoning truck-trailer market, Navi Mumbai-based A.A. Trailers is banking on value engineering. It wants to grow faster than the industry average. As an organised player the company is competing with a large contingent of unorganised players found in various regions of the country. As part of its value engineering strategy, A.A Trailers is sourcing not just the best grade of raw materials from established vendors, it is also investing in green manufacturing technologies and materials. Using polyurethane paint, which is free from lead and chrome for example, A.A. Trailers has to its credits many industry firsts according to Ranjan Pahadsingh, the chief executive officer. Manufacturing truck-trailers since 1997, the company has a capacity to build 160 trailers per month. Offering 82 trailer varieties including flat bed trailers, skeletal trailers, semi low bed trailers, low bed trailers, tanker trailers, hydraulic modular front axle trailers, side wall trailers, multi-axle trailers and bomb cart trailers to name a few, the company is confident of leading the truck-trailer market in India.

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Catering to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) since inception, and to aftermarket customers, A.A. Trailers, in a bid to attain rapid growth, is investing in capacity expansion. It is building two plants at Faridabad and Mumbai each. Expected to go on stream soon, the two new plants will hike the manufacturing capacity of the company to 500 trailers per month. Catering to customers all over India, the company is also planning to build a large scale manufacturing base in Orissa. Contemplating whether to build a facility at Pune or Orissa, the company, plans to begin with the manufacture of tip trailers, running gears and side wall trailers because of their demand at Orissa. Aiming at a turnover of Rs.500 crore, A.A. Trailers will float an IPO once it reaches that mark. “We will become a listed company once we reach the Rs.500 crore level,” revealed Pahadsingh. With the Faridabad facility expected to cater to clients in the North West region, and especially Rajasthan, which is India’s biggest tractor-trailer market, the company is keen to leverage the large manufacturing base at Orissa, once operational, for exports. Without losing sight of quality, A.A. Trailers with its order books full, is operating at all shifts to address demand. Mentioned Pahadsingh that the quality is getting them good orders. The polyurethane paint the company uses, costs three times more than the enamel paint used by other trailer manufacturers at Rs.350 per litre according to Pahadsingh. “It is this quality that gets us repeat orders,” he quipped.

Fabricating the beams for the main structure of the trailer in-house initially, A.A. Trailers used to also produce its own kingpins unlike the industry practice of importing them. To ensure quality, the company is sourcing the beams from companies like Jindal Steel. “We have defined a universal beam and uniform thickness for the flanges. In the last one and a half year, we have not compromised in any area of our technical process, and the technical ability. To move to the next level, what we have done is to introduce analysis methodology,” said Pahadsingh. What makes it interesting to use technology wisely is the demand. It varies wildy across regions. Averred Pahadsingh, “The demand for side wall trailers is high in Rajasthan compared to other regions.” The need to cater to demands that differ from region to region, A.A. Trailers has engineered an ability to be flexible in its manufacturing. Attributing this as one of the key qualities to achieve rapid growth, Pahadsingh opined, “In-line with the market requirements, we have to cater to a whole lot of trailer applications. It is simply not the standard trailer most of the times.” Flexible manufacturing ability is also helping the company to address the needs of customers. An interesting case, mentioned Pahadsingh, is the preference for flat bed trailers by customers who are looking to transport steel coils. “After observing the tendency of such trailers to crack under the load of steel coils, we started adding extra coil reinforcements. This is one of the reasons why we get the customer to disclose the exact application before we take an order. We also make them disclose the maximum load the trailer could be subjected to. It helps us to engineer a trailer that works under extreme conditions,” he explained.

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Introducing cold coil carrying trailers (canopy device), which were earlier imported from Italy, A.A. Trailers, with up to 38 different lengths of prime movers available, offers side wall trailers range from 23 ft to 50 ft. The heavy side wall trailers that the company makes are used to transport granite and marble. Supplying trailers where glass is stored in a wooden pallet and held against the side wall, the company sources key components like axles from well established manufacturers like York and Jost. The same is the case with the hydraulic tipping systems that finds use in a tip-trailer. Depending on the requirement of the customer, the company offers axles that are hydraulically steerable. Trailers with such axles are used to transport heavy and long structural machinery. The bomb-cart trailers that the company makes, find use in ports. Planning to manufacture axles, A.A. Trailers builds different types of air-suspension trailers. Keen to launch new variants with a minimal cost difference when compared to trailers with mechanical suspensions, the company is also gearing up to make slideable trailer platforms. Scaling up operations from 120 to 160 trailers in the last eight months, A.A. Trailers, according to Pahadsingh, should reach a turnover of Rs.500 crore by 2021 given Pahadsingh’s experience in hydraulics, the company is also looking at diversifying in other areas without losing focus on manufacturing trailers. Expected to exceed a turnover of Rs.100 crore this year, the company is busy going pan-India. Attracting clients from Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Kolkata, Tamil Nadu and many other regions, A.A. Trailers is also looking at rising opportunities in the LPG segment for growth. Signed off Pahadsingh, “The challenge is to not lose site of quality even if the volumes grow manifold. Our endeavour is to be regarded as a quality manufacturer of truck-trailers as it will help us to scale greater heights.”

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Lucas aftermarket thrust

Lucas Indian Service is looking at building product and service brand equity in the aftermarket.

Story by:

Bhargav TS

Specialising in the sale and service of Lucas TVS Auto Electricals and Delphi-TVS diesel fuel injection equipment, Lucas Indian Service is building a strong product and service brand equity. With the Indian auto aftermarket worth Rs.56,098 crore in FY2016-17 according to Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA), the application of thrust by Lucas Indian Service (LIS) to grab a larger pie of the market should not come as a surprise. The strategy to portray itself as a one-shop stop, or a total solutions provider, should put it in good stead with the market expected to grow at 10.5 per cent to reach Rs.75,705 crore by FY2019-20. In the commercial vehicle bit of the Indian auto components market, which is estimated to be Rs.19,748 crore worth, LIS has a significant presence. Offering a wide range of products that include ignition coils and solenoid switches from Lucas-TVS, and a wide range of diesel fuel injection systems components from Delphi-TVS, the company is aiming to be predominant player.

Leveraging its experience in the Indian automotive aftermarket with the ability to cater to the changing needs of vehicle buyers and operators, LIS is also looking at Internet of Things (IoT) to track market trends. It is planning to incorporate an amount of ‘intelligence’ into its ways of working (it already has SAP connectivity). Keen to build an agile and quick responding business structure to grow, LIS is looking at building intelligence. “SAP connectivity gives us an entire spectrum of manufacturing details and facilitates effective contacts with the retailers to track the inflows and outflows. We are also capable of providing training to the aftermarket mechanics. These capabilities differentiate us from other players,” expressed Muralidharan S, President, LIS. With a distinct advantage of having a strong and wide network of authorised and genuine parts retailers, which give the customers the much needed support as well as peace of mind, LIS, according to Muralidharan, is fine-tunning its strategy to be a total solutions provider. It is training mechanics and electricians.

Expanding its retailer network from 15,000 outlets to 40,000 outlets, LIS, to overcome the challenge of last mile connectivity, will soon have 40,0000 retailers. Keen to cover the grey areas sooner than later, LIS is conducting a programme called ‘Skill the Mechanics’. To overcome the challenge of spurious parts, the company is working on creating awareness. Of the opinion that critical parts are touching spurious-free zone with the automotive aftermarket becoming more quality-conscious, Muralidharan averred, “Better quality of products reduces aftermarket demand. Increasing number of vehicles on the road makes up for the loss. This should provide good elbow room for the aftermarket.” Drawing attention to the term counterfeit, Muralidharan explained, “It is often connected to spurious spares, but such spares are not necessarily spurious. They may be of a local make and come at a discounted price because of lower overhead costs. The good part is, with various campaigns, there is an increase in sensitivity. If a locally made genuine spare part is available at less cost, and ensures safety and efficiency, buyers will go for it.”

Looking at stocking parts from other OEMs, LIS is focussed on becoming a total solutions provider. It is looking at increasing the capability to source part numbers of other OEMs. Keen to penetrate into regions that do not have many showrooms, LIS, according to Muralidharan S, is looking at tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Currently located in 1260 towns, LIS is realising more sale in small towns. “The ambience we provide to discerning customers gives them a premium feel. If we give a warranty of six months on the parts, it will further increase the confidence of the customer,” announced Muralidharan. Of the opinion that the market is moving forward with click-away service styles and technology overdrives, Muralidharan opined that the segment has to keep pace with mega trends. “Even the unorganised players are forced to fall in line,” he remarked.

LIS is keen to achieve a niche in the aftermarket space by supplying multiple parts so that the customer can associate with it as a total solutions provider. Muralidharan is aware that to stock almost every part, and to keep track of it, will require technology intervention. Beyond SAP, the company is looking at reaching the customer through devices. “A customer could book a service using his smart phone and mention the issues he is facing to get an estimate. Based on the estimate he could decide whether he should say yes or look for other options,” averred Muralidharan. With the number of vehicle models and their variants rising at a fast pace, technology will help to keep track, Muralidharan expressed. Confident that by SAP linking the spares, the salesman can simply key in the order in an app., LIS is looking at the next stage of play in the Indian auto aftermarket space. To maintain an edge, it is developing a catalogue.

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Brijbasi fire fighters

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Brijbasi Hitech Udyog commands a good 30 per cent market share in fire fighters.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

Brijbasi Hirech Udyog was established in 1971 with an aim to redefine the fire fighting industry and supply quality products. Serving oil refineries, pharma companies, fertilizer complexes, thermal power projects, state fire brigades, municipal fire brigades, steel plants, port trust organisations, civil aviation bodies and atomic energy establishments, the company has till date delivered more than 7000 fire fighting vehicles. The count also includes vehicles that were exported. Commanding a 30 per cent market share in the domestic market, the company, according to Arun Bhatnagar, General Manager, Sales and Marketing, Brijbasi Hitech Udyog Ltd (BHTUL), goes the extra mile to understand the requirements of the customer and how a certain vehicle platform will be suitable. Fetching a significant order to supply 60 crash fire trucks to the Airport Authority of India in 1975 according to Bhatnagar, the company refrains from offering what they have, and instead pay attention to what the customer requirement is. Having supplied more than 150 fire crash tenders to the Indian Air Force, BHTUL has fabricated 110 crash fire tenders for the Indian Air Force through Bharat Earth Movers (Bangalore) as well.

Meeting the standards

Serving diverse clients, BHTUL has to comply with various regulations as it builds and supplies fire tenders. The regulations include specifications set by the Bureau of Indian Standards for fire tenders (IS 960 and 6067), for foam tenders (IS 951 and 10460), for medium capacity dry chemical powder tender (IS 10993), air crash fire tenders (IS: 951/ ICAO/NFPA or International standard/Ministry of Defence) and for defense vehicles under the DRDO and DGQA. Mentions Bhatnagar that the clients that they serve as different as cheese and chalk. “The requirement of BPCL, IOCL and HPCL could be far different from the requirement of a thermal power company like NTPC, or that of an electricity board,” he says. The requirements of muncipalities for fire tenders could be far different, Bhatnagar emphasises.

Serving heavy industries like the Durgapur, Bokaro, Bhillai and Visakhapatnam steel plants, BHTUL has supplied fire tenders to the state fire services of Maharashtra, Assam, Jammu & Kashmir, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and others. The company recently executed an order of 38 water mist systems or quick response vehicles. These were supplied to the Kerala Fire services. BHTUL recently supplied 100 medium water tenders to IOCL and BPCL refineries. Opining that the setting up of National Disaster Management Authority in 2005 has led to the elevation of safety awareness, Bhatnagar states that the demand for quality is increasing. “The demand for quality is increasing putting us in a position of advantage since we have always strived for the highest quality standards in all our endeavours,” Bhatnagar expresses. He explains, “The hazardous nature of the job demands minute attention to quality.”

Apart from the demand for quality, BHTUL has had to account for a change in vehicle chassis. Avers Bhatnagar, “Vehicle setup has been changing.” BHTUL chooses the vehicle chassis for a fire fighting job as per the class of fire it is expected to deal with. Fire tender vehicle chassis may be of the single cab type or of the double crew cab type. Their tonnage could be in the 25-tonne range. Chassis are typically sourced from Tata Motors, Mahindra, Ashok Leyland and Eicher. For high end operations, BHTUL procures chassis from Volvo, MAN and Mercedes-Benz. “The non-availability of requisite chassis from Indian OEMs for high end operations drives us to international OEMs,” reasons Bhatnagar. The variety of fire tenders that BHTUL supplies include water tenders, water bousers, foam tenders, dry chemical powder tenders, rescue tenders, hi-tech foam tenders, crash fire tenders, defence vehicles, aerial platform vehicles, and vehicles carrying water mist system informs Bhatnagar. Almost each and every fire tender is tailor-made to the specifications of the industry.

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Building a fire tender

Inking an agreement with Finnish firm Bronto Skylift Oy Ab in 1984 for aerial ladders, BHTUL supplied over 100 hydraulic platforms ranging from 23 m to 112 m. The company commenced the assembly of CKD kits at its facility at Mumbai. Platforms of up to 42 m began manufacture. Platforms ranging from 42 m to 112 m continue to be imported. The ones that are assembled, follow the EN 1777 and CE standards. Patforms below 45 m are engineered at the back of the Tata or Ashok Leyland truck chassis. Platforms above 45 m are installed on a Volvo or Mercedes-Benz chassis. Avers Bhatnagar, “Power Take-Off (PTO) challenge lies in maintaing the height and water pumping capacity.” The system has to pump water at pressure to a certain height. Chassis power often proves more than enough. No change is effected to the chassis expect for some fabrication undertaken as per the customer requirement. “Anything touched on the chassis level can change the centre of gravity and compromise vehicle balance. This would lead to the rejection of the vehicle,” mentions H. B. Suresh, General Manager – Hitech Vehicles, Brijbasi Udyog.

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Subject to fitness test every three years, a fire tender takes 30 days to build. Some 300 parts are required. The challenge is to source high quality components from trusted sources, according to Bhatnagar. Supported by 200 vendors, BHTUL sources aluminium from Hindalco and stainless steel material from Tata steel. “With over 60 per cent of the vehicle occupied by the tank carrying fire extinguishing material, any compromise in quality can jeopardise the whole operation,” mentions Suresh. Designed and built to fight fire over longer durations and disperse water quickly, fire tenders require high quantity fire extinguishing material. In the case of a water bowser, explains Suresh, the tank covers 80 per cent of the vehicle chassis. The impetus on quality is therefore quite high. Developing mild steel or stainless steel tanks that carry fire extinguishing material of capacities ranging from 1000 litres to 18000 litres, and as per the customer requirements, the company pays particular attention to the chassis.

Once ready, the fire tender is subjected to rigorous testing by BHTUL. This is followed by a demonstration of the vehicle at the customer. Only after the customer tests the vehicle, and is satisfied, is the final inspection certificate issued. Training the customer staff to operate the vehicle, the company also undertakes annual maintenance contract. Its executives visit the customer and conduct health checkup of the vehicle every six months to ensure optimum performance and suggest ways to overcome any challenges the customer is facing. “In case the customer wants to handle multiple jobs, we also supply tenders with two extinguishers like foam and water, or even with CO2,” informs Suresh. Water is a general fire extinguisher whereas foams are used in petrochemicals, oil spillage and petroleum fire. Dry chemical powder (DCP) is used to put off electrical fires. Expresses Suresh, that State fire brigades are well aware of their needs, and have an acute understanding of their needs. Every state follows different standards, says Bhatnagar.

Infrastructure

BHTUL has three manufacturing facilities. Of these, two are located at Mathura, and one is at Mumbai. All combined, the facilities have a covered area of 10000 sq. yards. The infrastructure of BHTUL also includes 20 acres of open land to conduct performance test, and to park vehicles. The Mathura facilities can together roll out 100 vehicles per annum. As per the market demand, production can be scaled to 150 vehicles. The Mumbai facility is younger than the Mathura facility, and can build 50 vehicles per annum. Production could be scaled up to 100 vehicles depending on the demand. At Mathura, BHTUL has also invested in a reasearch and development facility. Close to ten per cent of the revenues, the company spends on research and development, Employing 150 people, BHTUL has setup a college at Mathura to train people in fire safety and disaster management. “Depending upon the need or the requirement, the course duration varies from six months to two years,” mentions Bhatnagar. He concludes, “We are not just building fire tenders, we are also training people

to prevent fire, protect and rescue.”

Safe and sustainable public transport

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A conference on ‘safe and sustainable public transport’ by the Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT) reflected upon its fifty years journey.

Story & Photos: Ashish Bhatia

Celebrating fifty years of its journey in pursuit of transport efficiency and excellence, the Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT) organised a conference, ‘Safe & Sustainable Public Transport’ on September 08, 2017, at its sprawling campus in Pune. Delving upon global best practices that can be implemented in India, public transport safety norms, sustainability challenges and solutions, and green fuel vehicle technology and mobility, the conference saw the stakeholders of State Transport Undertakings congregate at the CIRT campus. In his welcome address, Dr. R B Saner-Patil, Director, CIRT expressed that CIRT’s road map has always been progressive. “We have achieved excellent footprint in consultancy, training, component testing, and more, as part of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR), and will continue to play a pivotal role,” he mentioned.

A joint initiative of the Ministry of Shipping & Transport, and the Association of State Road Transport Undertakings, CIRT was established in 1967. Helping the transport sector to attain high efficiency and productivity levels, CIRT has been offering technical training, consultancy and automobile component testing services to STUs, component manufacturers and automotive OEMs for the last 45 years. Instrumental in developing an automated vehicle fitness testing module and an automated driver license issuing module (called the Institute of Driving Training & Research), which could be replicated across regions and through out the country, CIRT also works as a test agency (CMVR 124 & 126) authorised by the Ministry of Road Transport (MoRTH). Accredited by the National Board of Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), and by the Bureau of Indian Standards Recognition, CIRT has come to have testing laboratories. It has gained an ability to carry out feasibility studies for public transport systems, BRTS, metro bus system, toll plazas, automated border check posts and driving test tracks.

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Focusing on public transport

Revealing in his inaugural speech that the Central Government has decided to provide a strong push to the public transport, Union Minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari said that a change in the mindset to be able to address issues like traffic, pollution and accidents is necessary. Stating that the growth of private vehicles is exerting pressure for the expansion of existing national highways by one lane every three years, which is not feasible, expressed Gadkari. He expressed, “Enhancing public transport is our foremost priority.” Stressing on a complete transition to electric and alternate fuels like ethanol, methanol and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Gadkari mentioned, “At a time when the government is moving to BSVI compliant fuel, there are those who are hesitating to shift.” Citing public transportation as a priority, Gadkari said that his ministry is focusing on the operation of buses, taxis and two-wheelers on electricity. Stating that the use of alternative fuels will provide boost to the agricultural sector, Gadkari expressed the need to transform bus depots into bus ports. Urging state governments to make land available, he spoke about a plan to constitute district-level committees under the chairmanship of the collector to monitor road security, identify black spots and suggest road security measures by submitting a report of their findings to the state and central government.

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Bus performance

Putting the blame on alternative energy sources for rising energy consumption, M Ravindra, Executive Director (Engg & IT), Telangana State Road Transport Corporation, in the first technical session of the day, expressed that greenhouse gases are responsible for the greenhouse effect, which ultimately leads to global warming. Stating that India ranks sixth globally in terms of energy demands, Ravindra averred, “Domestic crude oils are able to satisfy only a fourth of the total demand.” Advocating the use of alcohol based fuels, vegetable oil, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and bio-fuels among other alternate fuel sources, Ravindra drew attention to the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TRSTC) using 10 per cent bio-fuel blended diesel at 36 depots. “The plan is to extend its use to the remaining 60 depots,” he said.

On the use of 130 CNG buses by TSRTC, Ravindra opined that a CO2 reduction of around 2111-tonnes per annum has been achieved. Revealing that the blending of 10 per cent bio-fuel in diesel has led to a reduction of 8885-tonnes per annum CO2 emissions, Ravindra stated that the cost advantage is expected to be to the tune of Rs.15.75 crore. Touching upon the space consumed by CNG storage cylinders and the higher acquisition cost when compared to a diesel vehicle, Ravindra commented that TSRTC is looking at increasing its fleet of alternate fuel vehicles. Drawing attention to TSRTC availing a grant of Rupees-three lakh to convert existing diesel buses to CNG, Ravindra informed that the state government, in principal, has agreed to wave off MV Tax for electric vehicles.

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Electric vehicle technology

Stressing upon the need to adopt a combination of fuel and technologies to limit CO2 emissions, Sanjay Bhatia, DGM Marketing, Tata Motors, said that electric buses as a sustainable transport solution are not profitable yet. He stated that the costs could be brought down by buses with a lower operating range, Bhatia mentioned, “The opportunity to lower pollution, lower NVH levels and increase reliability are hampered by the lack of infrastructure.” Drawing attention to the 12 m electric city bus displayed by Tata Motors at the event, Bhatia said that it will be made available in the fourth quarter of this year and is aimed at BRTS operations. Bhatia also touched upon LNG as an alternate fuel. He expressed that it supports higher payload, has a superior operating range, enables faster fuel refills, and presents superior refinement. The total capacity of LNG, said Bhatia, is estimated to reach 86.5 million tonnes per annum in FY2021-22. It is currently at the 6.5 million tonnes per annum level.

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Safety and efficiency

Expressing that fares have largely remains stagnant despite the rise in input costs of STUs,

S Balachandran, Vice President (Vehicle Control Systems), Wabco, said that even a minor accident gives rise to a huge compensation burden. Stating that buses accounted for nine-per cent of the 31 per cent accidents recorded, involving trucks, buses and multi-axle vehicles, Balachandran averred that the reasons include loss of control, collision and lane departure. “This,” said Balachandran, “calls for the adoption of safety features.” We fought with OEMs for 15 years in India for the introduction of ABS, mentioned Bhatia. Citing the need to frugally engineer technologies in India, Balachandran expressed the need to incorporate technologies like ‘Tailguard’, ‘ESCsmart’, ‘OnGuard’ and ‘OnLane’. If the OEMs were willing to take the plunge, these technologies can be integrated at the cost of Rupees-one lakh per chassis opined Balachandran.

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In his keynote address, Ashu Mahajan, DGM (Marketing), Allison Transmission, mentioned that an auto transmission system does not interrupt power during shifts and eliminates issues like clutch wear and replacement, and faster wear and tear of driveline components. Offering high tractive effort spread, and the ability to use full engine torque to tackle steep gradients, Mahajan said that their auto transmissions assure higher productivity and low cost of ownership. Possible to retrofit, the transmissions Allison offers, opined Mahajan, improve safety as driver can concentrate on driving. Drawing attention to the ‘Bus Systems’ survey, which samples 24 countries, 70 authorities and operators running 68500 buses, Atulkumar Katti, Director (Product Development), Volvo Group India Pvt. Ltd., said that future trends suggest a move to hybrid vehicles followed by electric, diesel, bio-diesel and CNG. Mentioned Katti, “Hybrids have attained a majority with electric propulsion systems a distant second. Plug-ins are at number three, and followed by trolley and fuel cell.” Citing Volvo’s strategy to offer a complete system that includes buses, infrastructure and services, battery charging on kilometre basis, and a competitive life cycle cost in comparison to diesel, Katti commented, “Open interfaces form the third cornerstone of Volvo for charging infrastructure and enable buses from other suppliers and driving standardisation together with partners like Siemens & ABB.”

Touching upon the need for charging terminals that offer a charging capacity of six minutes per 300kW for a 76 kWh charge, Katti said that manufacturers are looking to offer smaller battery packs that could be charged more frequently. “Not only will this help to light weight, it would also help to attain higher efficiency,” he averred. Claiming that the two hybrid buses sold to Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport under the FAME scheme have achieved 30 per cent fuel economy, Katti opined, “The need is to look at tropical climate conditions, traffic patterns, society and economic environment, electrification, demand and scale.”

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The right chassis

Stating that the procurement of chassis is a big task for a STU, S H Ali, Scientist, CIRT, said that representatives are not even aware of wheelbase options the OEM has to offer. “A whopping 48 wheelbases are available across bus segments today,” he mentioned. Expressing disappointment over buses built on a truck chassis, Ali averred, “STU fleets use the maximum permitted (60 per cent) rear overhang without taking into account the overall length of the vehicle, which is twice that of the wheel base.” He urged STUs to look in detail at the location of the engine (forward or rear), and if the exhaust aftertreatment system is EGR or SCR based. “STUs should look at the manufacturing date of tyres, battery packs, brakes, seating and gangway layouts. A mandate for gearless automatic transmission should be passed,” said Ali. The chairman and managing director of Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd. (PMPML), Tukaram Mundhe, expressed a need for STUs to outline issues affecting their performances. “STUs should change their approach. They should take into account the need to change their approach over providing buses to passengers as well as enable transportation access through public transport,” he said. Stating that STUs should use information technology as an enabler, Mundhe explained, “The need is to make the operations sustainable.”He opined, “There is the need to create a pull; to plan, to maintain and to implement.” “Apart from the need to create an effective framework, care should be taken while purchasing spares,” he remarked. Expressing that governance does not come from increasing layers, but through effective management, Mundhe called for drastic measures to stem the decline of STUs like optimal fleet utilisation, data based route rationalisation.

“There is a need to maintain breakdowns at one per cent, or less,” he averred.