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Fuelwatch competition conducted by Volvo Trucks would make the driver aware of the importance to conserve fuel and environment.

Story by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

The nondescript town of Besur, 70 km south of Nagpur will rise to fame if the Indian driver Anil Kumare Reddy, working for S V Engineering Constructions, Telangana, wins the Volvo Fuelwatch finals at Sweden in September 2016. His eligibility to compete in the finals at Sweden stems from the fact that he won the Indian leg of the competition held at Gokul Coal Mines in Besur. Making it to the top by competing against 29 equally capable drivers, Anil Kumare Reddy proved that he and his machine were the most frugal. In the finals, Reddy will compete against winners from respective Asian countries in the mining tipper category. What began in 2007 as a local competition among Volvo mining tipper drivers in Korea has grown to become a global event. It is now held for both the off-highway as well as on-highway trucks of Volvo. The off-highway event is limited to the Asian region. Over 15000 drivers from Asia have participated in the Fuelwatch competition untill now.

The first edition of Fuelwatch was held in India in 2009, and highlighted the need to save fuel and conserve the environment. The Besur event marks the seventh edition of this endeavour. Made interesting albeit by the fact that a typical heavy-duty mining truck like Volvo FMX440 8×4 consumes Rs.25 lakh worth of fuel per year. It would typically operate 24×7, the only break being that of a driver change, refuelling and maintenance. The fuel consumption average of such a truck is typically 1.5 km per litre. Instances of overloading are not rare. Designed to ferry 28-tonnes of overburden, and the GVW amounting to 49-tonnes, the trucks are decommissioned after four years. Not much is left of them by then. Such is the intensity of abuse. The drivers live longer, and are in much demand. According to G V Rao, Vice President – Product Strategy, Brand & Marketing, Volvo Trucks (India), 11000 drivers were sensitised for this edition of Fuelwatch. Out of the 11000 drivers sensitised, 230 were chosen. Out of the 230, 30 made it to Besur for the Indian finals.

In the desolate mining landscape of Besur, 30 drivers spent three days competing against each other. With temperatures soaring closer to 50 degree celsius, the drivers were treated to a four-km earthern track simulating mining operating conditions like gradients, dumping yard, etc. The track would eliminate any possibility of hindering the actual mining operations. The drivers were treated to a FMX440 with manual transmission and one with an I-Shift AMT transmission. Each driver took off from the start point, travelled to the loading area, picked up the overburden and drove to the unloading point. He then reversed the truck into the unloading area, got rid of the overburden and then drove back to the starting point. The rounds over three days included a run by each driver in the manual transmission model with load and without load. The same procedure was repeated by each of the 30 drivers on the I-Shift model. Stressing upon wanting their customers to be profitable as one of the many reasons to drive Fuelwatch, Rao mentioned that with every tipper sold the company trains two drivers free of cost. Volvo Trucks India, said A. Sreerama Rao, Senior Vice President – Sales, Marketing, Aftermarket, Volvo Trucks India, has also invested in on-site training of drivers.

The two FMX440s Volvo Trucks India deployed for Fuelwatch at Besur were that of Volvo trucks. They were driven down all the way from Bangalore. Rather than borrow them from an operator in the region. This was done to enable an ‘apple to apple’ comparison. To capture the data, Volvo Trucks India roped in its training chief Hari Babu. The team overlooking the event ensured that they arrived at precise recording of the fuel efficiency achieved. Volvo Dynafleet was used to record and calculate the fuel efficiency results.

Wheel alignment solutions for new generation Cvs

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Manatec’s new Jumbo 3D Super multi-axle wheel alignment machine promises more work for less energy and time.

Story by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

Pondicherry-based Manatec Electronics Pvt. Ltd. has launched a new wheel alignment system for commercial vehicles. It is called the Jumbo 3D, and builds upon an earlier model for commercial vehicle wheel alignment called CCD. A more specialised form of the Jumbo 3D, the Jumbo 3D Super can carry out the alignment of up to five axles of a multi-axle commercial vehicle at one go. The usual practice until now, and even today, is to carry out the alignment of multi-axle commercial vehicles by attaching the sensors to one axle, then the next axle and so on. This procedure consumes more manpower, energy and time. In case of Jumbo 3D Super, all that is needed is to fix the image plates in all the wheels. The camera is able to receive all the images (from across five axles) and process the images to arrive at a conclusion. More than two-third of the time is saved by using this alignment system over the one that requires every axle to be aligned at a time according to R. Mananathan, Chairman, Manatec Electronics Pvt. Ltd. “Apart from one-third of the time required to carry out the alignment of multi-axle commercial vehicles, the alignment system we have developed also calls for less energy consumption and manpower,” he added.

First of its kind

Claiming to have patented the first of its kind design, Mananathan said that their’s the first system of its kind in the world. In terms of accuracy, he stated that the same has been proved by the 3D models they have delivered to the industry and are in use. Mananathan pointed towards the commonality of parts between the systems that are already in use with various wheel alignment specialists and workshops and the Jumbo 3D Super. “We have used the same cameras and the same technology”, he quipped. What is new, and quite logically, is the architecture. To suit the needs of the new system, the software architecture of the Jumbo 3D Super is different than the systems that are already deployed. “The changes in the software architecture was carried out to accommodate all the five wheels,” averred Mananathan. No compromise in terms of accuracy has been made in the development of the Jumbo 3D Super. Stating that the Jumbo 3D Super, was designed and developed locally, Mananathan said, “Manatec has never had a collaboration with any other company. All our products are developed by our in-house R&D team. We have specialists in electronics, mechanical and software.” The Jumbo 3D Super is a result of flawless team work according to Mananathan. It is also the first such product in the world that has been patented.

Genie 3D for LCVs

For the light commercial vehicle segment, the company has developed a new alignment system product called Genie 3D. Mananathan claimed that this is the world’s first in-lift 3D wheel aligner with two cameras and smallest front wheel targets. According to him, Genie is a creatively designed module that houses high definition cameras and electronics to capture images of the targets on wheels. Each Genie has one camera, making Genie 3D the only aligner in the world using just two cameras for an in-lift model. The interesting part, said Mananathan, is that the camera need not be removed and refitted every time. A cost effective design, according to Mananathan, Genie 3D has no electronics on wheels. Is easy and safe to handle; has no battery charge or discharge issues. Having the world’s smallest target plates for front wheels, Genie 3D is light and small. It weighs only half a kg, and is 70 per cent lighter than other designs. Expressed Mananathan, that when they develop a product they are constantly thinking about how it will address market needs the most. “This particular aligner,” averred Mananathan, “can do LCVs, small cars as well as big trucks.” “For trailers, the Jumbo 3D aligner can do up to eight axles. This aligner can do a wheel alignment check for a large number of vehicles,” he added.

More jobs per day

Pointing towards the rising number of alignment procedures carried out by a workshop per day, from five to twenty for example, Mananathan said that the solutions provided by the company can help to carry out the same at one-third the cost, and in one-third the manpower. He stated, that the return on investment is good. Apart from the supply of machine, Manatec also trains people in the operation of the machines. A big advantage is the local manufacture of the aligner as it translates into spares that cost less than that of an imported machine. Local manufacture also helps with service. Manatec carries out on-site service. Local manufacture also ensures that the upfront price of the machine is competitive. Said Mananathan, “For the machines that we manufacture locally, the technology is the same as the machines that are imported. Software is better, and suited to the varying local needs.” The fact that Manatec has developed PCBs, control boards, lenses, holders, wheel brackets, plates, etc., has a bearing on the cost as well as service. The most valuable is the software, and the same is done in-house. All this combined presents Manatec with a big advantage. Manatec’s R&D team consists of 55 people.

Receptive to market needs

Touching upon Manatec’s three-decades journey, Mananathan attributed the company’s success to its dedication towards serving its clients; being receptive to the market needs, and constantly making changes to the organisation to address the market needs. Mananathan attributed the survival and growth through recession cycles to export orientation. Manatec exports products to over 55 countries. Enjoying a good presence in Latin America, the company’s newest offering, the Jumbo 3D Super, is the newest addition to the export product list. Conducting export business, opined Mananathan, is easier because of the ability of the clients in those markets to appreciate technology. In the domestic market, the company has appointed dealers. It is working towards expanding the network from 55 to 60 dealers. Having invested in a well equipped training centre at Pondicherry, Manatec’s new Jumbo 3D wheel aligner is likely to cost close to Rs 10 lakh. “A youth wanting to build a business could look at a Return On Investment (ROI) of two years. He could find this a good career option. The best part of this business is its nature – it is of the cash and carry nature,” concluded Mananathan.

Sustainability and Cvs

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Sustainability in the CV industry was attended to at the Frost & Sullivan India Sustainability summit.

Story by:

Ashish Bhatia

The need to reduce the carbon footprint in the CV industry as it progresses towards the manufacture of modern and less emitting vehicles found a mention at the recent Frost & Sullivan India Sustainibility summit held at Mumbai. The discussion on sustainability and CV industry delved upon sustainability practices implemented. It also delved upon practices that were being implemented, or needed to be implemented. Arvind Bodhankar, Global Head – Health, Safety, Environment and Chief Sustainability Officer, Tata Motors, in his keynote address cautioned the industry about the rise in operational costs as sustainability took the front seat. He mentioned that to manufacture a low carbon emitting vehicle technology would effectively mean re-looking at the engine and associated technologies, weight reduction practices, aerodynamics and drag, hybrid technology, tyre technology, HVAC systems and alternative energy vehicles. All these would lead to a hike in the production cost even as they bring about more sustainability. Apart from life cycle assessment, a sustainable supply chain will have to be attained, added Bodhankar. He also spoke about connected vehicles as an important category to propel sustainability. Stating that a fully connected transportation system will be made possible by the upcoming transport regulations, Bodhankar said that it would compel manufacturers to produce them on a larger scale.

Present at the summit were corporates cutting rank across diverse industry sectors. A common thread that seem to bring them together was the need to collaborate and adopt sustainable business practices. In the course of the event, it became apparent that the auto industry and the transportation sector is lagging in the adoption of sustainable business practices. Nitin Kalothia, Director, Manufacturing & Process Consulting Practice, Frost & Sullivan on the sidelines of the summit expressed that there is a need for the stakeholders of the commercial vehicle industry to incorporate a 360-degree change in their ideologies and business methodologies. He pointed at the transport industry contributing 14 per cent directly to global Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) emissions and 0.3 per cent indirectly. The transport industry is placed second, and after electricity and heat production, which contribute 25 per cent of carbon emissions as per data sourced from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth assessment report. Also stated in the report is that the transport sector accounts for more than half of India’s petroleum consumption, and a quarter of the overall energy needs.

Referring to a statistics report that indicated how in a typical CO2 emissions life cycle in an automobile 72 per cent of the total emission is generated at the stage of manufacture, a delegate claimed that the remaining was contributed by materials, fuel production and other processes. He opined that the onus is on the government as much as it is on the automobile industry to work closely to iron out the creases in a set time-frame. The current scenario looks quite interesting, quipped another delegate while pointing at diesel vehicles. Said Kalothia, that technology is of importance when it comes to curbing climate change. This, he said, apart from the need to manage brand image, creates a competitive advantage and reduces cost as the main drivers for adoption of sustainable development practices. Kalothia further expressed that the good part is, technological advancements and lowering operational costs are being supported by the government and stakeholders of the auto vehicle industry alike. “Upgrading emission standards to Euro-six is one such concrete move,” he mentioned. Informed Bodhankar, that they are employing certain mechanisms to mitigate climate change at Tata Motors. “The mechanisms deployed include energy efficiency and focus on renewables; attaining fleet fuel efficiency, use of hybrids, alternate fuels and electric vehicles, and supply chain engagement,” he added. Towards attaining fuel efficiency, Bodhankar claimed that his company was amongst the first to conduct a fuel life cycle analysis in the Indian context. This included wheel-to-wheel Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and energy efficiency evaluation of various fuels. Drawing attention to Tata Motors electric commercial vehicle portfolio that includes a mix of hybrids and electric vehicles, Bodhankar averred that hybrids are far from being popular in India, and that the company expects them to gain acceptance over the medium to long-term. Making hybrids and electrics commercially available would depend on how soon the market attains maturity. This in-turn is driven by numerous factors, including the ability of the industry and government to work closely as mentioned earlier by a delegate.

Defined as development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, to be sustainable is not an option. It is the convergence between the three pillars of economic development, social equity and environmental protection.

Sustainable business practices are becoming the order of the day across industries. A certain difference of opinion about assessing the life cycle did reflect at the Frost & Sullivan summit, and whether to adopt a cradle-to-cradle (where the end-of-life disposal step for the product is a recycling process) or a gate-to-gate (partial LCA looking at only one value-added process in the entire production chain) approach. It was indicative of the fact that sustainability is finding a place of importance in the day-to-day functioning of companies. A video played at the summit on Bhutan reflected upon how the small hilly country is investing in sustainability. The Bhutan prime minsiter Tshering Tobgay spoke of investing in sustainable transport and subsidising electric vehicles in a bid to make Bhutan carbon neutral.

Volvo looks up to on-road trucks for growth

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After tasting success in the mining segments, Volvo Trucks India is shifting its focus once again to on-road segments.

Story & Photos by:

Ashish Bhatia

The new chief of the Goteborg-based Volvo Group, Martin Lundstedt, has set the ball rolling. The winds of change are upon the Swedish truck major, and the undercurrents of this change are being felt in India. After tasting success in the mining segments with the FMX range of premium heavy-duty deep mining tippers, Volvo Trucks India is shifting focus to on-road segments after what would seem like a long hiatus. It was in 1996, and after deciding to invest in India as the country embarked on an ambitious plan to build infrastructure, that Volvo unveiled the famed FH and FM range of on-road long-haulage trucks under the leadership of Ravi Uppal. It was the beginning of a revolution in the Indian trucking arena. High cost and premium positioning posed a limitation, but the modern trucks rolling out of Hoskote near Bangalore created much scope for aspiration. With the central government, and the minister of road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, emphasising time and again on building road infrastructure and no less than 100 kms of new roads everyday, it is quite logical of the Swedish company to shift focus once again to the on-road truck segments. A reason for this could also be the continued replacement demand in the Medium and Heavy (M&HCV) truck segment. The trend in the M&HCV segment is also indicating a preference for trucks that can carry more.

Keen to adopt new metrics to measure success in the Indian context, 95 per cent of Volvo’s sales currently are contributed by the mining trucks. These account for the company’s 60 per cent volume sales in Asia, which is more than what the Swedish company sells in Europe. Having once competed in the on-road trucking space, it may not be difficult for the company to find its way inside. Especially now that it has Eicher to look at as a group entity. Volvo, in comparison to Eicher, is a premium brand. Given its global positioning it will very likely stay that way. It would be therefore interesting to see how Volvo Trucks India finds a way to carve a pie of the heavy-duty truck market, which continues to be price sensitive and TCO oriented. Keen on being assured of profitability, the Indian operator aspires for a Volvo truck for certain, but not without a clear understanding of the difficulties he faces. Volvo, on its part, is counting on its technological prowess. It is counting on its I-Shift Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) to make a difference. Launched in 2015, the I-Shift AMT has come to be a familiar term in Volvo buses. For it to be popular in trucks, there’s work cut out.

Claimed to be shifting away from a region-bound strategy, which was inclusive of a multi-brand approach, Volvo Trucks in India, it is evident, is in for a considerable change. “At Volvo Trucks India, over the next two-to-three years we are looking at a positive growth as far as the Indian market is concerned. Despite mining solutions being our DNA, we want to establish ourselves as a serious transport solutions provider,” expressed Pierre-Jean Verge Salamon, President, Volvo India Pvt Ltd. Salamon stressed upon improving financial performance for the stakeholders. “The foundation for the ambitious strategy (to become the most desired transport solutions provider) will rest on four key pillars, customer success, building of trust amongst all stakeholders, and passion and adaptation to change,” Salamon stated. Salamon added that the Indian truck market is ranked twelfth globally. Claiming to have delivered 208,000 trucks in FY2015, he drew attention to the fact that 98 per cent of his company’s sales came from the FMX mining and construction trucks. Of these, most were delivered by the FMX440 8×4 I-Shift. At Excon 2015, the company unveiled two dump trucks (FM520 and FM480) based on the FMX platform with a 60-tonne capacity, reiterating once again, its emphasis on the mining segment.

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That is about to change. Focus is shifting to on-road trucks. Despite attaining product efficiencies, in the case of transportation product portfolio, the company has struggled to reach the apt price points. The offering of I-Shift tech may help as the company finds new in-roads into the on-road trucking segments. The need would be for the I-Shift tech to address the Indian truckers’ often conflicting needs. Averred G V Rao, Vice President – Product Strategy, Brand and Marketing, “The I-Shift on all our offerings (FH, FMX and FM range) by FY2017 will mark the next big leap we wish to achieve.” Found first on the FMX 440 19.5 cu. m. tipper, the I-Shift tech has tasted success in ‘rough’ and ‘hilly’ applications. A 12-speed electronically controlled splitter and range-change automated transmission, I-Shift is laced with an advanced software in the FMX range. It is optimised for mining operations and characterised by a fast gear changing system, featuring minimum interruption in torque delivery during gear change. The technology claimed to have both, high starting traction and high average speed, continuously monitors road gradient, vehicle speed, acceleration, torque, load, rolling and air resistance. According to Rao, it reduces the stress on driveline and tyres, and in-turn translates into lower maintenance and longer service life.


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Today no fewer than 80 per cent of Volvo’s FH trucks are equipped with I-Shift, making this AMT (automated mechanical transmission ) virtually a standard feature. When it was launched in 2001 in Europe, there were AMTs on the market already, based on manual gearboxes adapted to permit automatic gear-changing. They were not that reliable. In 2002, one year after I-Shift was launched, 14 per cent of all Volvo trucks sold in Europe were equipped with it. The second generation I-Shift was introduced in 2005. The third generation model came in 2009. What is being offered as of current is the fourth generation model. The penetration of I-Shift, said Rao, grew to 90 per cent by 2015. Keen to find in-roads into the on-road trucking segments, the emphasis on I-Shift could help Volvo Trucks India bring about a change in the way the on-road trucking scene in India is currently like. The financial year 2016-17 will be an important year for the Swedish company. It is the year the truck market is expected to turnaround. The signals of this are visible for the last few quarters. The Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicle (M&HCV) segment has done double digits. A lot is dependent on infrastructure development. The pace of its development.

Volvo Assembly tech

The truck assembly plant at Hoskote is spread across 122 acres. The layout is such that one line feeds into the other. It is based on the fish-bone concept according to Volvo sources. Producing multiple variants on the same line, the fish-bone concept is claimed to minimise efficiency losses and help find faults quickly. The head of the fish concept is that stage of the assembly where a fully-built truck rolls out. The bones of the fish make the sub-assembly lines that feed the sub-assemblies to the main line. There are two sub-assembly lines that feed to the main line. They contain multiple work stations, which carry out the task of building sub-assemblies. A few other sub-assemblies are a little away from the main assembly. They build crucial parts like the engine, which is fed to the main assembly line. Others execute the task of assembling the gearbox, weld the cab, and mount the superstructure and weld it. There’s also the paint shop. Annually 4000 trucks are made at Hoskote in a single shift operation. The operation can be scaled up to meet a rise in demand.

It takes two days to build a truck. As sub-assemblies feed to the main line, a truck is progressively assembled. A nine stage operation involves the riveting of the chassis members. The next stage involves routing of pneumatic and electrical cables. Brackets for assemblies like fuel tanks and air tanks are fitted at the next stage. At the fourth stage, the axles are mounted. Propeller shaft is also fitted. At stage five, the engine is married to the chassis. The cab is mounted at stage six. Various fluids are added at stage seven. Stage eight involves programming. Every chassis is claimed to have its own unique program, giving each truck an individual identity. The fully-built truck, which incorporates 28 per cent local content, is taken to the test track adjoining the assembly plant for a test run.

Given the volume the Hoskote plant turns out, the operations have been largely mechanised. Anticipating growth from focus on on-road segments, a gradual shift towards automation is likely. Costs will dictate the move. Said Helen Savmyr, Plant Head, Volvo Trucks India, that the aim to increase automation is to match Volvo Truck’s global plants, which are known to operate with minimal human intervention. An interesting bit of the production is a computerised process quality check where each truck is connected to a remote server in Sweden. The embedded software programs are checked. Various functions like lighting, accelerator, brake, gear shift are checked. A fault, if detected, is rectified. On the test track, trained drivers put the truck through its paces for 40 to 50 km. Before the truck leaves the plant, specially trained employees check it thoroughly. The axles are aligned with the help of laser guided alignment equipment. The Hoskote plant is ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 certified. It employs 140 people.

Spheros Motherson Africa bound for growth

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Post the acquisition of Spheros by Valeo, Spheros Motherson, the Indian joint venture with Motherson, is looking at Africa for growth.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

After applying export thrust in neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, Spheros Motherson Thermal Systems Ltd. (SMTL) is gearing for another round of growth internationally. This time, it is looking west, at Africa, and in-line with the rising focus of Indian commercial vehicle manufacturers on Africa. The African thrust of the company, which specialises in the manufacture and supply of commercial vehicle air-conditioning systems and some other HVAC solutions, will involve Ashok Leyland. Spheros Motherson thus would be supplying 100 units of its CC350 air-conditioner to Ashok Leyland buses that will make a debut in the Ivory Coast according to Cyril Xavier, Chief Operating Officer, SMTL. Considering the display Ashok Leyland put up at the Defexpo 2016, it does not come as a surprise that SMTL is supporting Ashok Leyland’s defence business arm and would supply 100 units of the CC350 model in the first quarter of FY2017.

African safari

Apart from Ashok Leyland, SMTL, which has been working closely with most Indian commercial manufacturers and bus body builders in the country, is set to support JBM’s Citylife bus venture. JBM has already received an order for 50 buses from the Noida Metro Rail Corporation. “We have been supporting JBM for their 12m buses that will be launched in the first quarter of FY2017. We will also extend our support with our AE350 model for their buses destined for the African markets,” revealed Xavier. Stressing upon the emergence of 16 to 18 per cent growth in the Indian bus market, Xavier mentioned that this was the right time to seek growth more than ever. Drawing attention to the efforts of the Central Government to encourage alternate fuel vehicles, Xavier said, “You are already aware that we have launched two new models, the Revo E and the Revo Global 400. These have been specially developed for electric and hybrid buses. We have supplied the Revo E to Volvo Buses to the two hybrid buses that found their way to the Navi Mumbai Transport Corporation recently. Both, the Revo E and Revo Global 400 are currently imported from Neubrandenburg (Germany) and Turkey respectively. The two models, explained Xavier, require special equipment to test and validate them. “For us it is the safety of the people that is of paramount importance,” he added.

Design changes

For the Revo E model, SMTL has made design changes in order to shave close to 50kg; ensure better flow and reduce refrigerant usage by 50 per cent. This would result in 30 per cent lower power consumption. Efforts to localise the Revo E and Revo Global 400 are on, and with an intention to bring the costs down. Localisation, opined Xavier, will also help to cater to the rise in demand. He added, “My team members are in Turkey to understand all that would be necessary to build the Revo E and Revo Global 400 from CKD kits locally.” Apart from the Revo series, the other products that SMTL supplies in India have been localised. Supplying to Volvo and Scania for their 14.5 m buses, Xavier is optimistic about growth. “If Scania is going to make 500 buses of which 250 are inter-city buses and the rest are city buses, we would be supplying the city buses with the Revo Global 400,” he added. These 250 Scania city buses are bound for Nagpur.

Post Valeo acquisition

The acquisition of Spheros by Valeo was completed on March 2016. Spheros Group is now a part of the France-based Valeo Group. Post the acquisition, Spheros, according to Xavier will get more room for growth. Valued at Euro 250 million compared to the valuation of the Valeo Group, which is Euro 12.6 billion, the global acquisition is expected to present the two companies an ability to strike synergies. Confident that the acquisition will be mutually beneficial for both, Xavier averred, “Valeo will be able to get access to Spheros’s strong thermal systems knowledge base. It would also help Spheros to grow, and for Valeo, which is largely into the passenger vehicle space, to expand its horizons. Dive deeper into the commercial vehicle domain.” Xavier averred that there are many possibilities post the acquisition. “Spheros could enter passenger vehicle air-conditioning; enter into areas like construction equipment, reefer trucks and locomotives as well,” he added. Spheros will remain an independent brand as both companies have agreed brand identity should not be a victim of the acquisition.

Expansion plans

Commanding close to 30 per cent market share in India, SMTL is doing business worth Rs.50 million per month. The plan to take this to Rs.70 million in the next one year. Having exhausted its capacity, rolling out 3000 bus air-conditioners from its Noida plant, SMTL is looking at increasing the number of shifts to two. Working towards an entry into the 6kW air-con market, which includes light commercial vehicles and vans like the Force Traveller, SMTL, stated Xavier, is also keen to enter the school bus and staff bus market. “Growth from these two segments is already showing up. We have received orders from South India for such air-cons. These are from tech firms and schools. Orders are also coming from these segments in other parts of the country,” beamed Xavier. An interesting part of the school bus market is the emergence of aftermarket demand for air-con retrofitment in school buses. SMTL has received an order for 20 units of its CC225 model for Tata Marcopolo Midi buses bought by the Shiv Nadar University in the NCR region. SMTL, informed Xavier, has not received the kind of demand they were expecting from state transport undertakings. He drew attention to the financial condition of such bodies. “State Transport Understakings are mostly dependent upon government grants and government priority has to be channeled rightly,” he added. After expanding its base in Karnataka where it commands 40 per cent of the market, SMTL is looking forward to establishing and strengthening its foothold in the Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar markets. The company has 40 dealers pan-India. Plans are on to take this to 50 in the next one year.

Need for clarity

The government of India might have allocated Rs.800 crores under the FAME scheme apart from the move to Bharat Stage VI emission norms. Pointed out Xavier, it is great to opt for new and better technology, but the government needs to chalk out clear policies. Bringing in new technologies is not a problem, sustainability is. The need is for an efficient supporting infrastructure. “Upgradation will happen as the bus air-con market moves to better quality refrigerants. The bus industry may be using R134 A refrigerant, which has an impact on environment. Though expensive, it may be worth moving over to R407, which is already being used in cars in US and has almost zero impact on the environment. It is all about phasing out and phasing in at the right time after all. When we talk of Asian markets, such technologies will take time to come. Policies and technology can’t go together. There is a need to decouple them to progress faster,” opined Xavier. He added that smart cities can be of great help for the industry as well as the economy. “When leapfrogging emission norms, an amount of planning is necessary. Policy paralysis has to be firmly dealt with. It is not beneficial for the economy, neither is it beneficial for the industry,” he concluded.

Rhenus Logistics favours transport palletisation

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Rhenus Logistics India is looking at palletisation of cargo beyond warehouses, and in transportation.

Story by:

Ashish Bhatia

Palletisation is at the heart of seamless connectivity between retailers, distributors, manufacturers, farmers, and transportation and logistics service providers across the spectrum. Faster turnaround time not only translates into operational cost benefits, it also helps to secure loads by way of unitisation. This in-turn ensures damage and pilferage free transit. Clearly, palletisation can make or break a deal. Given the sensitivity of logistics, the nucleus of an effective palletised supply chain is a humble little pallet. It is a piece of equipment that facilitates mechanical handling of stacked (palletised) goods for forklift trucks to quickly transport. Commanding high level of global acceptance and put to use by Global logistical giants, adoption of palletisation in India is claimed to be at a nascent stage. This, despite knowing the fact that handling pallet systems effectively can improve efficiencies and economies. Just a handful of logistics companies in India endorse palletisation. Even fewer look at deploying it beyond warehousing. Mumbai-based Rhenus Logistics India Pvt. Ltd. (RLIPL), a joint venture between Rhenus Group of Germany, and the Arya family from India, is looking at palletisation of cargo to transportation.

Palletisation in transportation

Rhenus India currently has 25000 pallet positions across its warehouses in India. In a bid to acquire new customers who could reap the benefits of this technology, the company is working towards deploying custom built curtain palletised trucks. According to Vivek Arya, Managing Director, RLIPL, the endeavour is largely dependent on the customer. “All our warehousing operations are palletised. Transportation in palletised form however is solely the discretion of the customer; it would impact his cost and bring about a major saving,” he added. Yet to turn into a volume-oriented business, testimony to RLIPL’s belief that palletised cargo transportation will pick up are the double decker curtain palletised trailers acquired by the company. Expressed Arya, “We partner with our customers closely not just at an operational level, but also at a tactical level. It is of prime importance therefore to understand the customers’ requirement and accordingly offer innovative, customised solutions to address their needs.” Designed for a quicker turnaround time, the curtain pallatised double-decker trailer trucks will be driven by a Tata LPS 4018 prime mover with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of 40-tonnes.

Payload requirement and operating conditions dictate palletisation

Rather than mention the investment towards procuring the curtain palletised trailers, or the number of such trailers procured, Arya stressed on how his company has worked upon the combination of palletised trailers and the prime mover. Even in terms of payload requirements, operating conditions and maintenance. The reason behind choosing a Tata prime mover was familiarity said Arya. Aware that palletisation is beneficial in terms of quick assembly, handling, sorting, storing and transporting of goods as a unit load, the trailers have been custom built to be able to carry a total capacity of 32 pallets. These would be distributed across 32 cages (1.2m x 1.2m x 1.6m) each. Placed in a 40-feet trailer, the sides of the trailer are covered with curtains made of Sioen brand of printable Acrylic lacquered fabric imported from Belgium. Claimed to be capable of carrying 24-tonnes, distributed across two decks, the company, according to Arya, has taken due care to meet customer requirements. Claimed Arya that a detailed study was carried out before closing in on the dimensions of the palletised trucks. “We studied customer trends, the type and movement of their products. We approached a few OEMs and fabricators to discuss the design. The design was finalised only after consulting a few engineering institutes and the Regional Transport Offices (RTO’s),” he averred. The dimension regulations set by the authorities had an influence on the design of the truck.

Pan-India roll out

Taking care that the palletised trailers have open sides to enable loading and unloading, Rhenus, Arya mentioned, has benefited considerably from the exercise. A good deal of time is saved. The pallets will be handled by fork-lifts, and thus do away with the need for manual labour. Claimed Arya, that a truck can be loaded or unloaded in 30 minutes flat! The palletised trailers are currently being used to transport petro-chemical products in packed form. They are being used by large Multi-National Companies (MNCs) across Western India. Encouraged by the use of palletised trucks by MNCs in western India, Rhenus is looking at a pan-India roll out. Said Arya, “Palletisation is not in vogue in India. It would grow once the advantages of unitisation of load are evident. One of the reasons could also be reverse logistics. These would have a direct bearing on the total cost. Pointing at GST as a crucial legislation for palletisation to strike a chord with Indian logistics companies, Arya expressed that GST would most likely standardise taxation rates across the country. “If this happens, corporations would move away from the practice of having warehouses in different states. They will instead embrace each state’s tax code, enabling them to manage their distribution and supply chain efficiently. Expected to bring process standardisation and lay the foundation for mechanisation and establishment of specifications for interfaces, Arya opined, “In Europe, there is a standard size defined for a Euro pallet which helps to enhance efficiency and save costs.” “India is expected to follow suit,” he concluded.

GoldSeal applies CV thrust

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Looking at growth, GoldSeal-Saargummi applies CV thrust.

Story by:

Ashish Bhatia

Bodyseals find use in automobiles as effective barriers to noise, water and air tightness apart from performance functions such as acoustic insulation and impact resistance. They also play a role in fire proofing. The high precision requirements call for excellence, turning the process of manufacturing automotive body seals into a niche business. Bodyseals are a domain of specialised manufacturers like GoldSeal, which was established in 1958 at Mumbai. The manufacturing infrastructure of the company comprises of plants at Daman and Sanand. The company also has a small supporting unit at Mumbai with fraction of a capacity of the two other plants. Supplying rubber sealing products to the auto industry since the pre-liberalisation era, it was a penchant for growth that saw GoldSeal ink a joint venture in 1997 with CQLT-Saargummi of Germany. In the same year, it also inked a joint venture with MGI Coutier Avon Automotive, USA. Both are claimed to be technical in nature. The MGI Coutier Avon Automotive venture enabled the company to enter into the field of advanced coolant, water and fuel conveying hose systems. With the winds of liberalisation gaining force at around the same time, the pact with the two companies presented GoldSeal an ability to cater to the needs of modern automobiles made by new, global automobile manufacturers. While a large chunk of what the company made was supplied to passenger vehicles, the company has come to establish itself as a supplier of sealing solutions to commercial vehicle manufacturers as well.

Bodyseals for modern automobiles

Particularly active in the supply of bodyseal, the GoldSeal-Saargummi joint venture caters to commercial vehicle manufacturers like Mahindra, Bajaj Auto, Force Motors and Tata Motors. Talks are currently on with Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles, Ashok Leyland, AMW and Atul Auto. Commercial vehicles, said Pilloo C. Aga, Director, GoldSeal, constitutes to between 20 and 25 per cent of GoldSeal-Saargummi’s business. The company, announced Urvaksh C Aga, Director, GoldSeal Engineering, is a single source supplier of truck cabin bodyseals to MAN Trucks India. Clocking a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 30 per cent in FY2014-15, the company is tapping into Saargummi’s technical prowess to provide world-class solutions to automotive manufacturers. The bodyseals that are supplied to commercial vehicles are made at the Daman plant primarily. The Mumbai plant at Bhandup has a small finishing operation dedicated to Mahindra.

Catering to Mahindra’s small commercial vehicles like the Bolero pick-up, GoldSeal-Saargummi according to Aga, has the OEMs satisfied. They are therefore refraining to seek partnerships elsewhere, she mentioned. “We haven’t got products that ensure spectacular groowth, we are instead in those that are relatively unaffected by market dynamics,” averred Urvaksh. Looking to grow by supplying appropriate bodysealing solutions to modern automobiles rather than bank on volume based products, the company has established itself as a strong leader in the western region. it is also looking beyond; it is preparing to venture into newer markets. GoldSeal-Saargummi commissioned the Sanand Greenfield plant in 2015. It was built in less than a year’s time, and at an investment of Rs. 60 crore. The plant has six extrusion lines. Phase one of the plant, currently operational, was built with an investment of Rs. 40 crore. Work on Phase 2 is on, and will entail an investment of Rs. 20 crore. Expected to be commissioned in the next three years, it will hike the capacity substantially. Stated Khursheed Cyrus Aga, Additional Director, Gold Seal Engineering, that the current financial year (FY2015-16) is a year of consolidation. It is a year that will call for sweating of the assets she added. She also drew attention to the need for frugal engineering, and how important it would be for businesses to align themselves with the need of the time. Focus, said Pilloo C. Aga, is on brand innovation. We hope to achieve it with the help of frugal engineering. Two per cent of GoldSeal’s turnover fuels the core of the company’s business strategy. Attention is clearly on delivering the requisite quality as new regions and entities come on board.

Quality conscious

If the finite element analysis out of Saargummi’s FEE database is used to carry out simulation tests, it also reflects on the attention to quality and accuracy, the company subjects its products to. Extensive validation and testing processes are carried out. Said Khursheed, that the company’s facilities are TS 16949 & ISO 14001 certified; are engineered to have controlled processes to deliver consistent and technically sound products. Irrespective of them finding use in the cabins of agricultural and earth moving equipment, medical equipment, and enclosures in industrial equipment. Every compound batch, averred Aga, is tested for Critical To Quality (CTQ) properties.

Boasting of sophisticated mixing equipment in addition to automatic weighing and direct feeding, the Sanand plant, spread over 9000 sq.m, boasts of sophisticated mixing equipment in addition to automatic weighing and direct feeding lines. Complete batch-to-batch traceability with heavy automation at Sanand has ensured 100 per cent repeat-ability. “A critical element when it comes to ensuring a consistent rubber compound is the one that ensures insertion extraction,” explained Darius .C Aga, Director, GoldSeal Engineering Products.

It would be clear by now, that the bodyseal products, sold under the marketing brand name of Vario Seal, Seal Tex, Vario Proof, Vario light, Vario section, Solid light and Endless GoldSeal, find use in automobiles of diverse nature, including commercial vehicles. They enjoy a wide range of application in commercial vehicles, and in particular as part of the windscreen seal, glass run seal, outer door seal, roof weather strip seal, waist belt seal (inner and outer), door seal (inner and outer), and tank strap among others.

Aiming to tap into newer territories and business areas like industrial applications (control panels, enclosures for machinery, generator enclosures, construction equipment), GoldSeal is hoping for FY2017 to bring in good growth. A good part of this growth is expected to come from commercial vehicles.