BorgWarner to produce Visctronic fans in India

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BorgWarner is expanding its Chennai facility to manufacture electronically-controlled variable speed Visctronic fan drives for Cvs.

Story & Photoes by:

Bhargav TS

BorgWarner Cooling Systems (India) Private Limited, a subsidiary of US-based BorgWarner Thermal Systems Inc, is expanding its Chennai facility to manufacture electronically-controlled variable speed Visctronic fan drives for commercial vehicles. The Chennai plant will be the fourth manufacturing location to produce Visctronics product technology after US, Europe and China. At present the Chennai plant manufactures viscous fans and fan drives for supply to commercial vehicles and engine manufacturers like Tata Motors, Tata Cummins, Ashok Leyland, Daimler, Mahindra & Mahindra, VECV and others.

BorgWarner chose to manufacture its technically advanced Visctronic fan drives by setting up a line at its Chennai facility because of the accelerating demand for more effective and efficient airflow solutions to deal with stringent emission regulations and higher specific engine outputs. “In order to serve the Indian market the Visctronic drive will be made here with 60-70 per cent local content. The plant will manufacture high volume actuators and other sub-systems. Only a few highly-engineered components and low-volume actuators will be imported. We will commence this operation from first quarter of 2017,” stated G Murali, Director & Plant Head, BorgWarner Cooling Systems (India). He added, “The new line and all the controls and electronics will be similar to those manufactured at the BorgWarner’s European and US facilities.” BorgWarner is making substantial investment for the new line to cater to domestic and specific export market requirements. Some customers, according to G Murali, have rolled out Visctronic fan drives in their trucks. There are others with whom discussions are on for migration to Visctronic from traditional Viscous fan drive technology.

Mirroring assembly

In an effort to employ the best practices that BorgWarner has been following globally at their Chennai plant, the company has brought in certain line-building capabilities and are integrating them into the pre-production planning of the Chennai plant. It has also built a ‘look alike (assembly) line’ by using scrap materials. This miniature line will help the operators to understand how the new line is going to be. Their suggestions are helping to build the actual line. The new line, once comissioned, will be able to meet the rising demand and serve other customers too. Much work has gone into the takt-time and equalisation techniques to maximise productivity.

Many advantages

The Visctronic fan drives have many advantages as they use specially calibrated software to communicate with the engine’s electronic control unit (ECU), constantly responding to the engine’s cooling needs. “Visctronic fan drive operates only when needed. It thus reduces the average fan speed and power consumption. When the engine requires more cooling, the fan drive will automatically engage to provide efficient air cooling at the right time. In this way, Visctronic fan drives deliver improved fuel economy, lower emissions and reduce NVH for increased driving comfort,” averred G Murali.

Apart from improving fuel economy, lowering emissions and NVH, visctronic fan drives, through precise airflow management, enable tighter control of engine temperature. they free up engine power so that the performance of the vehicle is enhanced. Smoother speed transition is made possible. Since a Visctronic fan drive is electronically controlled, vehicle or engine manufacturers have a lot of flexibility in terms of where they want to measure the temperature and how the air flow is to be modified or routed. The measurements are possible from zero to the maximum stipulated RPM of a given engine. Thermal shocks may thus be avoided since uniform gradients of temperature are possible. While the improved temperature control helps extend engine and component life, the self-contained unit is maintenance-free. The system incorporates input and output ports to receive and send signals from the ECU. Therefore the system allows for a possible fuel savings of up to 2.5 per cent.

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Controlled coolant pump

The major trends seen in thermal management, both globally and in India, are in the areas of air flow, coolant flow and electrification. We are adding new innovative products to each vertical with a focus on reducing fuel consumption and emissions in powertrain. In the coolant management systems, G Murali mentioned that the the company is currently working on variable flow coolant pump technology. This technology would soon commence production. Said G Murali, “Due to stringent emission norms that are in the making in India, OEMs are keen to understand how they could increase the efficiency of their engines and also use controlled coolant pump technologies. So we are currently talking to OEMs.” He added, “For select projects we have started working with international OEMs. Our airflow and coolant flow technologies increase engine efficiency for improved fuel economy, while reducing emissions to help satisfy BS IV emission standards.”

Eco-friendly products

Focus at BorgWarner is on eco-friendly products. The BorgWarner Morse Systems India Pvt. Ltd., another business vertical of the BorgWarner Group, manufactures products like engine timing systems, silent chains, roller and bushing chains, tensioners, sprockets, arms and guides. The company has been making inroads into the Indian market for sometime now, and has earned the respect of many OEMs in India. Emphasis as mentioned earlier is on eco-friendly products. BorgWarner Emission Systems, specialising in the emissions technology space, manufactures products for air management and emissions control in passenger vehicles, light trucks and various other types of commercial vehicles. In India it manufactures exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) coolers, tubes, valves and modules.

Apart from eco-friendly products and solutions, the various business verticals of BorgWarner are working towards enhancing the performance and increasing the fuel efficiency of engines and vehicles. BorgWarner is one of the first companies to bring the newest, and latest technology products to India. BorgWarner entered India in 2002 by establishing a plant at Chennai to manufacture products that were largely mechanical in nature. The manufacture of viscous fan drives and fans marks a distinct shift whereas the manufacture of visctronic fan drives points at a long and successful journey. As the CV industry evolves, and CVs modernise, become efficient, and safe, they owe their success to products like the visctronic fan drives. As hybridisation and electrification sets in, the manufacturer of visctronic fan drives is set to face new challenges. It is in view of the same that it is broadening its product portfolio to help OEMs to meet changing as well as increasingly stringent requirements. The company has come to offer solutions across the entire propulsion spectrum, from vehicles with IC engines to those that are hybrid and electric in nature.

Banking on cardan shafts for growth

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Specialising in the manufacture of cardan shafts, Dullabh Commercials is optimistic about growth.

Story by:

Ashish Bhatia

A cardan shaft is also termed as a propeller shaft. It finds application in various industries where there is a need to transmit power and torque generated by the engine some distance away to where it is applied. In an automobile, a cardan shaft is used to transmit the power generated by the engine to the wheels. The engine is quite often in the front, and the cardan shaft transports the torque to the rear wheels, or to all the wheels if it is a four-wheel drive design. Some four-wheelers may also possess two cardan shafts, each transferring torque from the engine to the respective axle. Commercial vehicles make good candidates for cardan shafts. Even construction equipment and tractors. Specialising in the manufacture of cardan shafts, Mumbai-based Dullabh Commercials is optimistic about growth with the advent of new CVs therefore. The confidence stems from the fact that there are not many cardan shaft manufacturers in India. According to Kishore Mistry, Proprieter of Dullabh Commercials, not only are there fewer cardan shaft manufacturers in India, the highly technical nature of the product makes it tough for new players to enter the field. An early entrant into the manufacture of cardan shafts, Dullabh Commercials was established in 1960. Over the five decades of its existence, the company, a family run enterprise, has grown to post a turnover of Rs.90 lakh. Apart from the OE market, the company also caters to the aftermarket and export markets. Other than cardan shafts, Dullabh Commercials also manufactures associated components like universal joints, tied rods and axle shafts.

Optimistic about growth

Making a modest beginning in 1960 by gauging the growth potential of the auto components sector, Dullabh Commercials decided to tap into products that would offer good returns. Components like universal joints and tie rods, which were associated to a cardan shaft, were identified. A decision to manufacture them was taken. States Kishore, “The big potential in cardan shafts and associated components like yoke could be identified as there were not many manufacturers of these parts then. It was decided that we should tap the potential.” Dullabh Commercials acquired land at Bhavnagar, Gujarat, and set up a forging unit in 1983. From 1960 to 1983, the company was operating out of a small setup at Mumbai. Most manufacturers at that time according to Kishore were turning to a US-based company Spicer for cardan shafts. Spicer entered India in 1979 by inking a technical and financial joint venture (Mahindra Spicer Ltd.) with Mahindra & Mahindra. In 1984, the company became a division of Mahinda & Mahindra. In 1995, it was transferred to a joint venture Mahindra inked with Sona Koyo, and came to be called as Mahindra Sona Limited. Today Mahindra Sona is one of the cardan shaft manufacturers in India.

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Back to Dullabh Commercials, and the demand for complete cardan shaft assemblies started pouring in as the production of associated components rose. The facility at Bhavnagar was expanded to begin the assembly of cardan shafts. The first cardan shaft rolled out in 1985, and was supplied to a Mumbai-based client. Having deployed a 1.5-tonne forging hammer recently (a half-tonne forging hammer was procured in 1983), the company employs 33 people at its plant. An SME, over 800 cardan shafts are manufactured per annum. Over 1000 units of associated components like universal joints and yokes are made per annum. Catering to AMW in the commercial vehicle space according to Kishore, the company, before Mahindra Sona was established, used to supply components to Mahindra & Mahindra. At a distinct advantage because of a captive forging unit (a new unit would cost much more today), Dullabh Commercials, avers Kishore, is laying an amount of thrust on the OE business. The same attention is being paid to the aftermarket and export business as well. The company, Kishore states, is looking at a growth of 10 per cent in the next three years. This fiscal, the company recorded a growth of five per cent by posting a turnover of Rs.90 lakh. In per centage terms, the OE business contributes 10 per cent; the rest is contributed by aftermarket and exports. To cater to the domestic aftermarket the company doesn’t feel the immediate need to appoint dealers or distributors expresses Raj Mistry, Development Manager, Dullabh Commercials. For exports, the company caters to markets like Mauritius, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Exports

Dullabh Commercials started exporting its products in 2005. European and African manufacturers were beginning to lose their confidence in Chinese manufacturers. They began turning their attention to the Indian suppliers. Dullabh Commercials was looking at an opportunity, and found the situation advantageous. It began exporting in earnest. Over 250 units of cardan shafts are exported on an average annually. The slowdown of 2009 saw the exports take a hit. There was an overall slowdown, and the production declined by 50 per cent. The situation has improved quite a bit, says Raj. He stresses upon good response being received from the Middle East markets of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The company is looking at a growth of five to 10 per cent in exports over the next three years. In Mauritius, it has appointed LC Parts and Accessories for the sales and marketing of its products. In Tanzania, it has appointed agents for supply to OEMs.

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Product development

Dullabh Commercials currently produces 36 variants of cardan shafts. It makes an equal variety of associated components. The fast rising vehicle count is calling for a significant rise in investment unlike earlier times. Earlier, says Kishore, only a few dies were needed. “The number of launches even in the commercial vehicle segment having gone up significantly, one has to be well equipped with multiple dies needing huge investment,” he mentions. Each die, according to Raj, costs up to Rs. one lakh. Each cardan shaft requires at least six to seven dies for different components it is made up of. He claims that an investment of Rs. six lakh is needed to procure specific dies to make one type of a cardan shaft assembly. A typical cardan shaft would have two flanges, a female sleeve yoke, a male yoke, and two crosses.

Custom projects

Acknowledging Dullabh Commercials’ expertise and knowledge, vehicle customisation specialists like DC Design have contracted them with work claims Raj. Adds Kishore, “It was our skill of welding that helped us to earn repeated orders. The welding is done such that it guarantees proper alignment of the shaft.” Kishore credits the Premiere 118NE’s coupling for the success of his company. “Subjected to tear and wear, the cardan shaft coupling of the 118NE failed, and was difficult to restore. This prompted us to do away with the mounting completely and fabricate a one-piece shaft. This shaft proved to be highly successful. It also established us as a serious player in the market,” he explains. He adds, “We started getting work from commercial vehicle manufacturers too.”

Future trends

With the industry leaning towards electrification of vehicles owing to a tighter regulatory environment, Dullabh Commercial is well aware of the trends. Its R&D team is already at a nascent stage of developing a technology that involves using light-weight components; composite drive especially shafts. “Composite drive shafts is one such growing phenomenon, mainly in export markets”, avers Raj. “A 50 per cent weight reduction loosely translates to a 50 per cent higher cost in such a composite cardan shaft which the company is looking at but only in the long term,” he states. The current range of cardan shafts that Dullabh commercials offers is capable of transferring torques from 250 Nm to 355000 Nm. With a keen attention towards new automotive developments, Dullabh Commercials, for now, is keen to tap growth opportunities and increase its share in the commercial vehicle segment.

FAME workshop calls for a collaborative effort

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The second FAME workshop at Delhi highlighted the need for electric and hybrid vehicles, made sustainable through a collaborative effort.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

Automotive Component Manufacturers Association (ACMA) and Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) joined hands with Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises to organise the second national workshop on FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles) at Delhi recently. Aiming to elucidate the roadmap for the auto fraternity to move towards electric mobility, the event saw various stakeholders of the industry discuss about the accomplishments and challenges faced by them. Touching upon the rising pollution levels in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, the workshop highlighted the work being done by the government proactively to ensure an improvement in the air quality. Emphasising the need for hybrid and electric vehicles to improve the air quality, the speakers at the workshop pointed out the challenge of high costs. In his speech, Girish Shankar, Secretary, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, expressed that over the next 10 years, the industry will witness disruptive changes. “There has to be a collaborative effort to make such (electric) technologies more affordable and create awareness simultaneously,” he mentioned. He opined that there is a need for serious planning on the part of OEMs to address system complexities.

A panel discussion as part of the workshop delved upon the building of a robust electric vehicle supply in the country. The many routes that the government is willing to implement to achieve the same was also highlighted upon during the panel discussion. The panelists called upon the automotive component manufacturers to come up with advanced products. They seemed to be of the opinion collectively that the auto industry should study foreign markets and their successful endeavours to arrive at advanced products. Expressed a panelist that there is a need for technology to move quickly towards a greener future. Senior general manager at Mahindra Reva, Pawan Sachdeva expressed that in China almost 50 per cent of the cost of green vehicles is accounted against the incentives given by the government.

An exhibition organised during the course of the workshop saw auto component manufacturers showcase their capabilities pertaining to electric mobility and highlight the opportunities for localisation. JBM Solaris displayed its low floor nine-metre ECOlife bus, making it clear once again that it intends to manufacture it locally. The Schaeffler Group displayed components that it manufactures, and which find use in electric axles and hybrid modules aimed at the Indian market. Green Fuel Energy showcased a Lithium-ion battery system that it has developed. It can be customised as per the requirement of the user.

Launched last year under the Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMP) to offer incentives to manufacturers who undertake the task of manufacturing electric and hybrid vehicles, FAME has been instrumental in garnering a positive opinion about such vehicles. This has led to an increase in the acceptance of hybrid and electric models in a manner similar to their rising acceptance in other parts of the world. Experts at the workshop expressed a need for an ecosystem that would fully support the development of a robust infrastructure. To ensure this, a syndicate, xEV One, has been formed. It comprises of ARAI, SIAM, Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, Mahindra and Mahindra, Ford India and Mahindra Reva. Drawing attention to the government allocation of Rs.795 crore over the last two financial years, FY16 and FY17, marking phase one, an industry expert claimed that the second phase would focus on four basic functions – pilot projects, demand creation, technological development and supporting charging infrastructure. Expressed Kavan Mukhtyar, Partner, PwC India, that partnership with research institutions and academia like ARAI and IIT can facilitate experimentation and access to technology.” “It is important to get the right business model and strategies since the adoption of electric vehicles is a challenge. Not just technically, but also economically,” he added. Stressing upon economic feasibility because of low volumes, Muthtyar mentioned, “If we can localise Lithium-ion cell manufacturing it can prove to be a real driving force for the industry to take it to the next level.” Sohinder Gill, Director, Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles, pointed out during his speech that there are certain challenges when it comes to lead acid batteries. “Their charge range goes down in propertion to their use,” he mentioned. Emphasising on the need to develop advanced products locally, Gill opined, “Neither the industry has turned up with better products, nor have we seen much progress in the financing of such vehicles.”

Under the FAME initiative, the total xEV sales are expected to reach a level of seven million units per annum by 2020. This, feel industry experts, would lead to a cummulative saving of about 9500 million litres of fuel and reduction of green house gases by nearly two million tonnes. Expressed a representative of the Department of Heavy Industries, that they are already in talks with oil companies, state governments and municipal corporations for the provision of charging infrastructure. The response has been positive, and standards would soon be set. Apart from setting up of the standards, over 25 hybrid buses are set to find their way to MMRDA in Mumbai. Five hybrid buses are set to find their way to Navi Mumbai. Over 25 fully electric buses are set to find their way to Himachal Pradesh. Another 50 (five-to-six seater) vehicles are set to find their way to HP government. These have been sanctioned by Department of Heavy Industries under various projects. There’s a long way to go yet, and this was aptly highlighted across various discussions during the workshop. A demand for tax reduction for zero-emission fleet also attracted attention. The workshop also highlighted the fact that the benefits from the states to support electric infrastructure are growing.

JK Tyre rolls out 10 millionth TBR

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JK Tyre has rolled out the 10 millionth Truck & Bus Radial (TBR) tyre from its Mysore plant; will invest Rs 100 crore to build a R&D centre at Mysore.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

Pioneering radial technology in India in 1977, JK Tyre has rolled out the 10 millionth TBR tyre from its plant at Mysore. Seeking growth organically as well as inorganically, the company, with 12 state-of-the-art modern production facilities in India and Mexico, and with a capacity exceeding 20 million tyres per annum, is set to integrate its research and development functions spread across different locations in the country at its Mysore plant. Enjoying a presence in 90 countries, the company is expecting the centre to be functional by October 2016, and will contain the most advanced equipment. Announced Dr. Raghupati Singhania, Chairman and Managing Director, JK Tyres and Industries, “The facility will house the most advanced equipment, that will be operated by highly experienced engineers and scientists with deep insight into material resources, structures, and design and aesthetics.” to be built with an investment of Rs.100 crore, the new centre will be managed by 200 employees in the initial phase. By the end of the next year the centre is expected to double, and will be spread across one-lakh sq. ft. area. Expressed Dr. Singhania, “Technology has always been the backbone of our growth. The consolidation (of R&D activities) will help us to maintain leadership in the tyre industry.”

Manufacturing a range of tyres that cater to diverse business segments, the roll out of 10 millionth TBR tyre from the Mysore plant marks a significant development for JK Tyre. One reason is the TBRs expected growth; the TBR tyre segment is pegged to surge past 50 per cent in the next few years. TBRs are also expected to be the growth drivers for the Indian tyre industry apart from passenger radials and the farm and LCV segments. The other reason is the (Vikrant Tyre) plant at Mysore, which was acquired by JK Tyre in 1996. The acquisition of Vikrant Tyre, a Government of Karnataka undertaking, formed the basis for company’s inorganic growth. In 2008, the company acquired Hulera Tornel in Mexico.

When JK Tyre took control of the Mysore plant it was sick. JK Tyre successfully turned it around in less than a year. it also safeguarded the interests of 2000 employees. “Till date, we have invested close to Rs.1200 crore at Mysore. The plant employs 13000 people from the state of Karnataka,” mentioned Dr. Singhania. Drawing attention towards cheap Chinese tyre imports, RV Deshpande, Minister for Large Scale and Medium Scale Industries and Infrastructure Development, Government of Karnataka, in his speech expressed, “China is dumping tyres at a price that is 40 to 50 per cent cheaper than Indian tyres. It is a problem that needs to be checked.” “It is affecting the competitiveness of the Indian tyre industry,” he added. Deshpande called for anti-dumping duty to be levied on Chinese tyre imports.

Gunning for growth

Setting up of its first tyre plant at Kankroli, Rajasthan, with an installed capacity of 0.50 million tyres per annum, JK Tyre ventured into the manufacture of truck radials in 1999. Investing in a capacity to build a whopping three and a half million TBRs, JK Tyre is gunning for growth. In fact, it has experienced strong growth. Hunger for more growth continues. A multi-fold growth has led to the setting up of 12 plants globally, including three in Mexico. Explained Dr. Singhania, “In April 2016, we forayed into the two-wheeler tyre segment with the Rs.2,195 crore acquisition of Cavendish Industries Ltd. tyre plant at Laksar, Haridwar. Entry into the high growth segment of two and three wheeler tyres has further strengthened our position in the Indian market. From a two-kilogram scooter tyre toa 3.7-tonne ultra large OTR tyre, we have a complete range of tyres to offer.”

JK Tyre and Industries completed the second phase of construction at Chennai for a pure radial facility in the last quarter. It has invested Rs.1430 crore towards the building of this facility. The plant, according to Dr. Singhania, rolls out 12 lakh TBRs and 45 lakh passenger car radials. The capacity can be scaled up to two million truck radials and 10 million passenger car radials. Once the undergoing expansion at the JK Tyre’s Mexican plants is over, the TBR capacity is expected to reach five million per year from the current three and half million units.

Expanding the horizon

In order to expand the horizon and reduce the carbon footprint, JK Tyre has been moving ahead with an objective to manufacture green tyres. These tyres would offer lower rolling resistance and thereby save fuel. Dr. Singhania is of the opinion that his company has achieved a total energy benchmark level of 10.9 gigajoules per tonne. ‘Carbon Footprint Verification process’ standards set up by the British Standard Institute. He averred, “At the process level, JK Tyre is constantly reducing tyre industry carbon footprint by reducing energy and water consumption, the critical resources used in the manufacture of tyre.” JK Tyre has created a fleet management programme. As part of the programme, close to 900 fleets are serviced by a team of dedicated professionals whose aim is to derive optimal value out of the tyres. JK Tyre, under the programme, also offers assistance to implement practices like fit-to-application, proper fitment procedures, correct inflation pressure, timely rotation and corrective actions for abnormal wear. In order to serve the customers better, the company has also invested in a dealer network that amounts to 4000 numbers across the country. The company has been setting up a chain of retail outlets. Both, JK Tyre Steel Wheels and JK Tyre Truck Wheels is striving to provide high end tyre care assistance. The two channels are also aiming at helping customers to get the most out of their tyres.

Vajra Rubber looks at CV industry for growth

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Supplying natural and synthetic rubber products to the automotive industry, Vajra Rubber Products (P) Limited is looking at CV industry for growth.

Story by:

Anusha B

Natural and synthetic rubber products find good use in commercial vehicles. Their use has been growing in-line with the advent of new technology in commercial vehicles. As a supplier of quality natural and synthetic rubber products, Vajra Rubber Products (P) Limited is looking at the CV industry to grow. Catering to a variety of industries including oil field, aerospace, carbon composite, mining, flow control, marine, railway and energy, and automotive, the Thrissur-based company, manufactures automotive components like moulded rubber products, rubber bellows, bushes, diaphragms, oil seals, montage rings, AF rings, O rings and engine mountings. To be precise, for the CV industry the company supplies axle bushing, bumper and bellows. Catering to clients like Scania and Tata Hendrickson among others, the parts supplied to the CV industry by the 30-year old company find use in suspension systems primarily. For example, the axle bushing that Vajra Rubber provides to Scania finds use in its truck suspension systems. According to Kannan P S, Director, Marketing, over 80 per cent of the automotive products made by the company find use in the CV segment. The other 20 per cent find use in other automobiles. The rising acceptance and demand for its products in the CV industry has the company looking at it for further growth. An ISO 9001: 2008, Q1 and TS 16949: 2009 certified company, Vajra Rubber Products is keen to increase its turnover from the current Rs. 50 crore to Rs. 75 to 80 crore by 2020.

Natural and synthetic rubber products

Of the natural rubber and synthetic rubber products that the company manufactures, demand for natural rubber products is higher, according to Kannan. Supplying natural rubber based components to its customer across the globe, the company also manufactures and supplies synthetic rubber products on demand. In its product portfolio, the ratio of natural to synthetic rubber is 80:20. Close to 90 per cent of the products made are exported, Kannan mentions. The rest find use in the domestic market. Offering end to end solution in the area of product design, prototyping and manufacture, the company has invested in a an in-house design facility. It has also invested in a chemical lab, rubber compounding facility, moulding and metal fabrication, CNC tool and component manufacturing facility. Other facilities include plastic injection, polyurethane moulding and carbon composites processing unit. The R&D centre supports production.

Export orientation

With 90 per cent of the company’s products exported, the focus of the company is on further increasing the export volume even as it looks at higher domestic thrust. According to Kannan, the company caters to international CV markets like USA, Australia, China and European countries. “We have been exporting our products to international OEMs. Since they are setting up operations in India, the supply chain continues uninterrupted. It also helps them to localise,” he added. Performing very well in the export markets, the hurdle the company has been facing in the domestic market is its location. According to Kannan, they are not close to any automotive cluster in India. “OEMs prefer to have their suppliers in the supplier park. They prefer them to be in their vicinity for hassle-free delivery. Not only do we find it difficult to deliver the products just-in-time, we also find it difficult to follow-up for payments,” he mentioned.

Unique formulations

Vajra Rubber Products takes pride in its knowledge of formulations. With hands-on experience for manufacturing axle bush from the drawing board stage, the production stages, according to Kannan, include concept design, its review, finite element analysis, prototyping, testing and mass production. Kannan mentioned, “We have joint venture partners in Russia and the USA. Bush knowledge is very important in this industry. The experts who advise us on the formulations have been serving this industry for more than 50 years. The tacit knowledge is transferred as technical inputs from them. These formulations can never be duplicated. We are unique among fellow players in this. As a reflection of this, our products are of superior quality and promise superior performance. The bus, that we offer, thus absorbs shocks, vibrations and disturbances, and contributes towards a smooth ride.”

Aftermarket

Vajra Rubber Products started its journey with an entry into the aftermarket 25 years ago serving passenger vehilce segment with ‘bush kits’. OEM business followed. Finding good amount of takers, the ‘bush kits’ found use in the reconditioning of automotive suspension systems. Ironically, the superior quality and long service life of the ‘bush kits’ soon saw the company struggling for growth in the aftermarket. “Buyers simply did not come back for a long time, such was the quality of ‘bush kits’ we supplied,” averred Kannan. Garage owners started losing business, and weren’t too happy either. A decision to withdraw from the aftermarket was taken. Plans are being drawn to enter the aftermarket again. This time around, the thrust would be through distributors. Stressing upon the focus to offer superior quality products, Kannan said that they are the only manufacturer in India to make rocket directional control unit called the ‘Flex Seal’. “India’s prestigious moon mission, the ‘Chandrayaan’ flew using our components,” he added. At its facility in Thrissur, the company has extensive product testing facilities. These include deflection test bench, shock test bench and acceleration test bench among others. To prove the ranking of the products some tests are also carried at a third party lab. Based on the customer’s requirement, the company is also capable of supplying customised products.

Challenges

One of the big challenges Vajra Rubber Products faces is the disposal of byproducts. It is a challenge most industries in this ares of work face. In pursuit of a solution to address this problem, the company has devised a way of scientific scrap disposal. “We have a proper way to dispose of the scrap. The rejections could be quantified as two to three per cent,” mentioned Kannan. He concluded, “Some industrial units which do rubber mats and other related rubber products buy our scrap. These are powdered and used for various applications.”

Suspended seats from Harita Seating Systems

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Harita Seating Systems has developed suspended seats for trucks and tractors.

Story by:

Bhargav TS

With an eye on the commercial vehicle and tractor market, Hosur-based Harita Seating Systems Ltd. (HSSL) has developed mechanical and pneumatic suspended driver seats for trucks and tractors. The development, in response to the rising demand for comfort and safety in trucks and tractors, is expected to enable the TVS Group company to find good number of takers, in the domestic as well as the export market. Specialising in the manufacture and supply of safe, ergonomic and reliable driver seats, and bus passenger seats, HSSL, it is clear, is keen to address the changing demand for seating solutions in CVs and tractors. It has been some time now that the CV industry has been facing acute shortage of drivers – good drivers. Operational costs are rising too. The situation has come to a level where drivers dictate the vehicle that they want to drive depending on the level of comfort it offers. With ergonomics and comfort assuming greater proportion among CV and tractor operators, the decision to develop and market suspended seats by Harita marks a significant move. In a fast urbanising environment, where infrastructure is rising, expectations are changing. Drivers, who have an important role to play, are demanding better comfort. Suspended seats, it looks like, could well provide the answer. According to A G Giridharan, President, HSSL, only a small portion in the Indian market is occupied by suspended seats. “These are imported. Sensing an opportunity we started working on both mechanical and air suspended seats for tractors and trucks. Both the vehicles operate in tough terrains unlike passenger vehicles,” mentioned Giridharan.

Need for suspended seats

Suspension in tractors is almost no existant making it necessary to have a suspended driver seat. In the case of a truck, the driver spends on an average 10 hours of the day behind the wheel. The need for comfort and safety is of paramount importance therefore. HSSL, according to Giridharan, has appointed a German consultant in Harita’s R&D centre with a rich experience in developing suspended truck seats for the European market. “Our team is working with him on this project and will come up with suspended seats for both Indian and global markets. We will be setting up a separate line in either of our plants to manufacture them,” Giridharan expressed. Catering to CV OEMs like Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, AMW, Mahindra and Scania, and tractor manufacturers like Tafe, John Deere, New Holland, Sonalika, Mahindra, Escorts and others, HSSL has a well equipped R&D centre at Hosur, which could play an important role in the development of suspended seats. The centre is equipped with virtual design capabilities and value-added infrastructure such as road condition data acquisition. It is also equipped with a servo hydraulic rig (for seats and seat components) and pressure-mapping system that helps acquire anthropological data. The seats, at the R&D centre, go through drop tests, lateral stability tests, slider endurance tests and ingress-egress tests.

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Bus seats

Established in 1986 as a joint venture with Grammer AG of Germany, HSSL enjoys a strong hold on the bus seat market. It is claimed to command a majority share of the long haul bus seat market. To enhance safety, the company has added a safety feature by integrating a three-point belt in every bus passenger seat. The seat meets the ECE norms, and are supplied prominently to those who export their buses. Though the safety code has not reached up to this level in India, a few of Harita’s customers buy seats for buses that transport foreign tourists. Aware of the rising number as well as the popularity of sleeper coaches, Giridharan expressed a need for seat design that supports easy accessibility and an ability to get in and get out quickly. Especially in the case of an emergency. “There should be roll-over protection. In order to meet the requirements and provide good comfort, we have modular products which can be used both for day and night journeys,” said Giridharan. “We are however waiting for clarity on the statutory requirements to start manufacturing them

for sleeper coaches,” he added.

Lighter, more comfortable seats

With one of the seating trends being light weighting without compromising comfort, HSSL is testing the commercial viability of using plastic pans and high-strength steel instead of traditional steel. A good deal of seat’s weight is of its frame and foam. HSSL, by using alternative materials, is making efforts to reduce the weight of the seats it manufactures according to Giridharan. HSSL, having a mother plant at Hosur and six plants across India at Pune, Jamshedpur, Dharwad, Chennai and Pantnagar, also manufactures two-wheeler seats through a joint venture. The JV with F S Fehrer Automotive GmbH of Germany, with facilities at Hosur, Chennai and Pune, manufactures micro cellular urethanes, polyurethane composites, foams for driver seats and passenger seats for buses.

Focusing on improving the supply chain efficiency through inter-plant coordination and horizontal deployment of lean and other improvement initiatives across all plants, HSSL registered sales of Rs.30,781.08 lakh in FY2015-16 as against Rs.27,375.54 lakh in FY2014-15. Achieving 10 per cent of its turnover from exports (consolidated turnover in FY2015-16 was Rs.637 crore), the company is hoping to further increase its market share in all the seating system areas that it is present in. There are risks associated, the entry of overseas competition and the entry of Indian bus body builders into seat manufacture for example. The good part is, HSSL has a good command over the tractor seat market. To maintain leadership position, the new product development activities the company has undertaken look like a right step in the right direction.

Pinnacle bags new orders

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Pithampur-based Pinnacle Industries is targeting an annual turnover of Rs.500 crore on the basis of orders it has bagged.

Story by:

Anusha B

Pinnacle Industries was established in 1996 at Pithampur on the outskirts of Indore. Specialising in the manufacture of automotive seating and interior systems, the company is targeting an annual turnover of Rs.500 crore by FY2019-20, marking a growth of 150 per cent approximately as compared to the turnover of Rs.200 crore recorded in FY2015-16. To fuel growth, the company is banking on new orders that it has bagged. Continuously investing in, and expanding its technology partnerships, the company, claiming to be India’s largest commercial vehicle, bus seating and interiors company, has a capacity to produce 10,00,000 seats annually at the Pithampur plant. The company has an engineering centre at Pune since 2012.

Technology and capacity infusion

Over the last several years the company has not only invested in, and has expanded its technology partnerships, it has also upgraded its manufacturing systems, product range to emerge as an entity that provides the best solutions. Over 90 per cent of the products that the company manufactures find application in the domestic market. The rest are exported to Europe and Africa. In order to address the needs of the clients, the manufacturing capacity of the plant is being expanded in areas like press shop, fabrication shop, etc. With the current capacity utilisation claimed be as high as 85-90 per cent, the company has been investing in robotic welding, vacuum forming, ABS parts trimming and a tool room to make complex tools and dies. Catering to CV manufacturers like Force Motors, Ashok Leyland, Mahindra, Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles, SML Isuzu among others, Pinnacle Industries is also planning to set up a new manufacturing project. Sudhir Mehta, Managing Director, Pinnacle Industries, did not reveal more about the new project. Instead, he stressed upon them increasing their involvement in product design and engineering among others. Focusing on manufacturing, testing and development, quality control, assembly and integration, and service and support, the company calls for design inputs from its global technology partner, Netherland-based VDL. The engineering centre of Pinnacle Industries is claimed to be equipped with a complete design capability.

Orders

Driving growth at Pinnacle Industries are new clients. Apart from retaining existing clients, the company has been successful in attracting new clients like Daimler and Scania. Stated Mehta, “We have received orders for staff, school, inter-state and inter-city bus products from Eicher Motors. We have initiated business with Daimler to produce push back luxury seats for its buses. From Scania we have bagged an order for truck cabin interiors.” “New orders have come for ABS parts for JBM, Daimler and Ashok Leyland vehicles. These developments have pushed us to expand our capacity and set up a new plant. We expect them to help us realise our dream to reach a turnover of Rs.500 crore by FY2019-20.”

The technology partnership with VDL has been helping the company to provide greater versatility in vehicle conversions by offering 360-degree custom design solutions based on client requirements. Pinnacle Industries also customises pre-owned vehicles and new vehicles. It is known to cater to the requirements of DC Design among others. Keen to become the leader in the special purpose vehicle segment that includes business vans, election campaign vans, ambulances, utility vans, stretcher vans and delivery vans, Pinnacle Industries is banking on the fact that the acceptance for new and evolving seating and interior technologies is growing.

New and evolving technologies

Pinnacle Industries is paying a good deal of attention to new and evolving seating technologies in the wake of rising demand. It is looking at mechanically suspended driver seats, air suspended driver seats, semi luxury seats with calf support and others. The company is leveraging these technologies to offer enhanced seating solutions to the commercial vehicle industry. “We are providing a one-stop solution to our clients. From design to SOP, we are providing them a most comprehensive set of vehicle interior products,” explained Mehta. If this would explain the investments Pinnacle Industries is indulging in, and in an effort to enhance its manufacturing prowess, increasing attention is also paid towards light weighting. This is in-line with the requirement of the clients. The company has began using aluminium in its products to reduce weight. Said Mehta, that they have achieved considerable weight reduction in seats with the use of aluminium. “A two-seater push-back seat now weighs 30 kg less. A driver seat weighs approximately 23 kg less. Apart from aluminium, we are looking at low thickness materials of high strength,” he added.

The company has employed technical inputs like pressure mapping, foam density, foam contour mapping and hardness to increase the ergonomics and comfort. Said Mehta, “We have invested in equipment to check seat comfort and ergonomics. The seats we design are light in weight and comply with the requirement of seat homologation as well as vehicle level test. The light weight construction of seats helps to reduce gross vehicle weight and elevate fuel efficiency.”

Customised solutions to aid growth

Customised seating solutions is one area that Pinnacle Industries is keen to tap. The company supplies customised push back seats of different sizes and Poly-Urethane (PU) profiles. Seats with fabric and rexin cover are offered. They could be had in multiple stitching patterns. Certain features have been added. three-point and two-point seat belts for example; gas spring operated calf support, flip down arm rests, three-point adjustable foot rest, provision of mobile charger, magazine pouch and bottle holder. “Our R&D set up includes 40 engineers engaged in the design and development of seating and interior solutions. We have a dedicated prototyping shop and a tool room equipped with VMCs, EDMs and wire cutting machines. For our Special Purpose Machine (SPM) requirement, we are providing concept design and inputs to our SPM suppliers. We recently inaugurated our R&D centre at Pune,” informed Mehta.

Competition in the space that Pinnacle Industries operates in, is growing. It is attracting global players that are keen to leverage their relations with global manufacturers. In such a scenario, the aggressive plans charted by Pinnacle Industries should see them in good

stead.