Faurecia to support Isuzu pick-ups

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Faurecia is setting up a new plant at Chennai, which will cater to Isuzu pick-ups.

Text & Photos:

Bhargav TS

Faurecia Interior Systems (FIS), a global leader in automotive interiors, is building its third plant at Chennai to manufacture instrument panels (IP), door panels (DP) and centre consoles (CC) at an investment of Rs.90 crore. The plant is expected to begin production in October 2016, and will supply IP, DP and CC for the Isuzu D-Max range of pick-ups apart from a multi-utility vehicle that will hit the Indian market in 2018. Expected to complement the two other facilities of the company in the same region, and which cater to the needs of Ford India, the new facility is also likely to serve many new vehicle platforms

Apart from a mandate from Isuzu Motors India, the Chennai facility should help FIS to drive other ambitious projects that it has undertaken. FIS has bagged an order from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to supply Instrument Panel (IP) for their Jeep model which is expected to be launched in India in the second quarter of 2017. FIS will also supply IP and CC for Renault’s forthcoming vehicle, which is expected to hit the road by 2017. For their existing customer Ford, the interior trim manufacturer will be manufacturing IP, DP and CC from 2017 for EcoSport MCA, domestic and North America. By the end of 2016, FIS will open a small assembly (sequencing) plant at Pune to supply IP and CC to FCA for the Jeep model mentioned above. The company will be setting up a state of the art paint shop too. To be built with technology inputs from Faurecia, the new paint shop will be used to produce soft painted, high gloss and matte finished interior parts. Expressed Vidyadhar Limaye, Director, FIS India, that the need for technology inputs in IP for recent orders bagged was sensed to meet the requirements, present and the future. “In order to meet the requirements we decided to set up a high-technology plant at Chennai. Spread over 8 acres, it will have a built-up area of 19,000 sq. m. The plant will have a broad range of technologies under one roof and the best-in-class machines for high and low tonnage injection moulding, negative thermoforming, closed mould foaming, weakening by milling and weakening by hot knife technology,” stated Limaye. FIS has invested Rs. 60 crore thus far in its facilities at Chennai. The new plant would hike the investment to Rs.150 crore.

Leveraging relations

Despite bagging orders from Isuzu and FCA, FIS has not let its attention deviate from the list of its existing clients. The Maraimalai Nagar plant of the company, operational since April 2013, has been serving Ford operations at Chennai as a dedicated sequencing facility. Out of the Maraimalai plant, Faurecia ships in-sequence micropits, door panels and consoles to the Ford compact SUV, the EcoSport, for domestic as well as export models. The Maraimalai plant has been certified by Ford as Q1 starting January 2015. Said Limaye, “We were able to get this certification from Ford because of the robust implementation of the Faurecia Excellence System (FES) which ensures efficient manufacturing operations. Ford gives Q1 certification to its suppliers based on certain parameters and criteria. It took us 21 months after the plant was commissioned to get the Q1 certification.” “When the new plant becomes operational, we plan to move all the equipment to the new facility to support the existing and upcoming business. The plant would thus have all the standard methodologies and global safety features,” he added.

Aiming at burgeoning SUV market

The gap between SUVs and pick-ups is fading. A look at the Renault Duster Oroch or the Chevrolet Trailblazer will highlight this fact. The Trailblazer shares the platform with the Colorado pick-up truck. The strategy to use a common platform to spring an SUV and a pick-up are on the rise. Aware of such developments as well as the rising preference for SUVs, Limaye averred that they are certain to meet such future demands. “Buyers who were keen to buy sedans are now keen to buy SUVs. Soft-touch instrument panels are gaining momentum. The outlook of customers is changing. That of the manufacturers is changing too. There is a shift taking place from basic variants to value-added and premium variants. We are gearing up to meet such and other demands,” he stated. FIS, in view of the developments happening around it, is exploring opportunities for value addition in various vehicle segments. It is also keen to create an opening in the market for itself. Opined Limaye, “We are confident to compete in the current system. Suitable investments have also been made. We are moving with the current trends where users are looking for comfort zone in the cabin space. Consumption of space by IP is proportionate to style. There are two ways that Tier 1 suppliers execute their programmes. As ‘Full Service Supplier (FSS)’ or as ‘Build to Print (BTP)’, based on which our involvement in the programme is decided.” “In FIS, we have a freedom to suggest and implement our global and local innovations and could suggest lateral inputs to automakers. However in BTP, we have only limited options and have to go according to the design standards given by the car maker,” he added. The R&D engineering centre of FIS in Pune is capable of serving all design requirements. The centre has an innovation cell, which is working on some cost-effective innovations that are expected to find a place in autos made by local automakers,” added Limaye. The R&D engineering centre at Pune provides vehicle manufacturers with design, development, testing and validation services. Capable of serving base, value and premium segments according to Limaye, Faurecia has come to map the preferences in each market it is present in. In India, for example, it is the base segment that works the most. In other countries it accounts for only a fraction of the sales. Trends like these, which differ from market to market, pose a big challenge for Faurecia. In India, they pose a big challenge for FIS. There is a direct influence on costs.

Kinematic Parts

To widen its appeal, FIS has forayed into kinematic parts like glove boxes, air vents, cup holders, and docking devices. The company supplies air vents to the Brazilian market from India. A dedicated facility for air vents and other kinematic parts is being set up by Faurecia at Pune with an investment of Rs.15 crore. “With growing preference of buyers for decorated and sophisticated car interiors, car makers are coming up with innovative and high-end interior solutions. FIS in such a situation looks to add decorative air-vents in its product portfolio considering many automakers are importing them. It can fetch us some good business in the growing market, which in a few years would be the third biggest in the world. The engineering center at Pune backs us with the technical know-how in this area,” said Limaye. He concluded, “We also have solutions for docking devices. These are currently on trial with our customers, and could be launched any time soon. We can cater to 100 per cent of such an additional business in the upcoming Pune facility.”

‘Lux’ from Ola

Ola has tied up with BMW to forward its premium aggregator cab offering, Ola Lux.

Story by: Ashish Bhatia

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Ola and BMW India have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The MoU makes BMW a category partner of Ola for its premium premium ‘Lux’ offering. Ola Lux is currently offered in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. It is made up of luxury cars, the minimum fare of which is Rs. 250 per km. A fare of Rs. 20 to Rs. 22 per km is charged thereafter. By associating with Ola, BMW is expected to leverage the opportunity to increase sales, and in the process satisfy aspiring customers who find the price tag of BMW cars discouraging. Expressed Frank Schloeder, President (act.), BMW Group India, that a need gap exists. “It is Ola’s scale of operations and exponential growth that compelled us to partner with them,” he added. According to Schloeder, the luxury segment constitutes a dismal one per cent in India in comparison to 10 per cent share globally. At five per cent China ranks second. Enabling BMW cars to be a part of Ola customer’s daily lives, Ola Lux, apart from extending professional chauffeur driven cars, offers features like ‘ride later’, ‘Ola Corporate’, and more. With driver details displayed upfront, the Ola Lux cars are equipped with SOS buttons, auto-connect fourth generation Wi-Fi, and are tracked live apart from being supported by an online payment medium called ‘Ola Money’.

With BMW by its side, Ola has come out with attractive proposals that would enable the cab aggregator to tap into what Pranay Jivrajka, Ola’s COO, terms as tremendous potential. With BMW, expressed Jivrajka, we have come up with attractive proposals that will enable the operators to enter the segment with ease. The association will thus offer Ola cab operators easy financing, after-sales support and assured buy-back for the car, he mentioned. With assured buy-back claimed to be a way of securing the cab operator’s investment, in a bid to enhance customer experience, certified BMW instructors will train drivers. The cars, made available at attractive price points, will have BMW Financial Services India offering 100 per cent finance for up to four years at low interest rates. Pre-and-post sales ownership will be backed by support that extends through out the vehicle life. The after-sales service packages are expected to reduce the cost of ownership. Packages like ‘BMW Service Inclusive plus and BMW Repair Inclusive’ will be valid for up to three years or 100,000 km. The transparent service package and extended warranty would cover maintenance cost, inspection and wear and tear. Those who engage Ola Lux, have to pay rupees three per minute of the ride time apart from Rs. 20 per km. Service tax is payable in addition to the ride fare. Toll and parking are charged in the customer invoice over and above the regular pricing.

PKC Group plans India foray

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Finland-based manufacturer of CV and locomotive electric systems and wiring, the PKC Group is foraying into India.

Story by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

A leading global supplier of electrical distribution systems and electronics for the transportation and industrial markets, Finland-based PKC Group is making a foray into India. It is evaluating the path that it should take to make a successful entry into the Indian market. Operating under two business verticals – wiring systems and electronics, the PKC Group, headquartered at Helsinki, is keen to tap the commercial vehicle and locomotive market in India. Serving commercial vehicle OEMs like Daimler, MAN, Scania and many others, the PKC Group posted a revenue of Euro 908 million in 2015. Also catering to locomotive manufacturers like Bombardier, the Group, according to Jyrki Keronen, President – APAC, is keen to increase its revenue as well as its reach in the Asia-Pacific region. He drew attention towards the Group employing 22,000 people the world over. The highest (55 per cent) number of people are in the USA, followed by Europe, South America and the Asia-Pacific region. This should provide some idea of the potential that remains untapped in the Asia-Pacific market. Said Sandeep Nigade, Business Development Director, India, PKC Wiring Systems Oy, that stress would primarily be on the commercial vehicle market in India. “The PKC Group caters to trucks and buses, light commercial vehicles, construction equipment, agriculture and foresty equipment, and engines. A number-one supplier of wiring systems to commercial vehicles in the USA, the Group is keen to leverage global relations for an Indian foray,” Sandeep added. He further mentioned that the Group’s foray into India is linked with the demand of its global customers to set up operations in India so that they can be served.

To serve locos too

Planning to invest Euro 20 to 30 million initially, the Group, according to Sandeep is also looking at foraying into the locomotive industry. “While the primary focus will be on the commercial vehicle industry to begin with, given the Group’s capabilities in the locomotive industry, it is quite logical to look at a foray into the Indian locomotive industry,” said Sandeep. He described the PKC Group as a growth-driven company. Planning to establish manufacturing operations within the next few years, the Group, in India, is looking at offering a complete range of products it supplies to the commercial vehicle industry. The commercial vehicle product portfolio comprises of electrical distribution systems, vehicle electronics, components, and wires and cables. Expressed Sandeep, “The Group takes pride in one engineering change per day over the life-cycle of a product platform. This essentially translates into the fact that the core competence of the Group lies in complexity management, process, data, systems and organisation.”

A global company

A look at the manufacturing operations of the PKC Group will reveal that they are spread quite evenly across continents. The electrical distribution systems are manufactured by the Group across its facilities in Brazil, China, Estonia, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, Russia and Serbia. They find use in commercial vehicles for supply of power and transfer of data; in truck and bus engines in particular. The Group’s manufacturing facilities in Germany and Mexico supply power switching and distribution systems and components to trucks and buses. It would be important to mention at this point in time, that the Group also supplies power switching and distribution systems to agriculture and construction equipment manufacturers. From its manufacturing facilities in Germany and Mexico, the PKC Group supplies power distribution centers, connectors, routing and retention aids, and sensor wires for application in trucks and buses. The manufacturing facility of the Group in Mexico offers insulated and non-insulated wires, multi-conductor cables, and battery cables.

Manufacturing & engineering services

Planning to manufacture wiring harness and provide engineering services in India, the PKC Group, according to Sandeep, is well aware of the domain changes that are taking place. Averred Sandeep, that the commercial vehicle industry will need a wiring harness manufacturing partner as complexity in the wiring harness will increase due to emission norms change. “More customisation and purpose built vehicles will find an opportunity,” he added. Investing one-per cent of its annual revenue into R&D, the PKC Group is hoping to achieve good growth in India. It is looking at offering wiring harnesses, terminals, connectors and power distribution centres in India with good attention to the increasing need for technology, demand for mass customisation and stricter standards. “Factors like these result in complexity of customer’s products and processes. This tranlates into an opportunity for us,” stated Sandeep. The strong domain expertise of PKC Group is highlighted by the fact that it delivers 11 million parts for 50,000 trucks annually. The Group, for a typical commercial vehicle platform, is known to supply 810 routings, 2,650 harnesses and 5,200 active part numbers.

The Indian foray

The PKC Group’s Indian foray, according to Sandeep could be through a Greenfield venture or through acquisition of an existing business. “We are evaluating both the routes and would come to a clear conclusion very soon,” expressed Sandeep. The Group is said to be in discussion with some players in India for an inorganic entry into India. The third possibility is to set up a joint venture. A look at the journey of the PKC Group, and it is evident, that its growth has been derived out of a mix of organic and inorganic routes as well as through joint ventures. The Group entered into a joint venture with Jiangsu Huakai Wire Harness Co. Ltd. (Huakai) last year. As part of the deal, Huakai transferred its business of developing and manufacturing electrical distribution systems for trucks, construction vehicles and buses in China to the JV. Key customers of the JV include Foton (and Beijing Foton Daimler Automotive), Kinglong and Iveco. In 2014, Huakai posted a revenue of Euro 43 million. Early this year, the PKC Group entered into an arrangement to acquire the wiring and controls business of Poland’s automotive seating manufacturer Groclin. The Groclin acquisition would also include its subsidiary Kabel-Technik-Polska (KTP) for Euro 50 million, and is subject to necessary clearances.

A major development during the last two years apart from the two joint ventures was the bagging of new business contracts amounting to Euro 30 million from two major global commercial vehicle manufacturers. Estimated to be effective by 2018, a major part of the development relates to the manufacture of high current fuse modules and associated EDS routing and retention shields for a light vehicle platform. This would provide economies of scale and strengthen the Group’s partnership with a key customer. The foray in India, based on the premise of further strengthening relationship with global clients, stems from the fact that the Indian commercial vehicle as well as the locomotive industry is changing. Mentioned Sandeep that local brands would need to adapt to international ways of operating in order to survive. He concluded, “We are looking at gaining 30 per cent market share in the next three years.”

FuelWatch

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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.