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Specialising in automotive seating systems, Adient is looking at addressing the seating needs of CV manufacturers.

Story by: Ashish Bhatia

Adient has begun work on a new facility at Pune. It will be the company’s technology centre, and complement the existing facility not very far from the new facility. Keen to address the seating needs of CV manufacturers in India, Adient is looking at the Pune technology centre to support its future endeavours, which under the term ‘Seats of Tommorrow’ point at trends like safety, electrification, light weighting, connectivity, urbanisation, shared ownership and shared rides, Internet of Things, smart materials, autonomous driving, individualisation and new shapes. Catering to Tata Motors and Mahindra and Mahindra, Adient is keeping a close tab on the developments in the CV industry in India with the view of providing smart and intelligent seating solutions. Having identified major mid-term trends that are expected to drive the change in the way seating is perceived in commercial vehicles, the company, according to Dr. Detlef Juerss, Vice-President, Engineering and Chief Technical Officer, is looking at level-three automation (partial automation), automotive electrification, fuel efficiency, shared mobility and customised interior solutions.

Expecting autonomy to scale up to level-five, Adient is looking at new service and maintenance business models to drive growth. Working on integrated safety seating systems for commercial vehicles, the company is also working on features like heating, cooling, controls, lights, and storage, which are prevalent in passenger vehicles. Offering seating solutions that range from standard to premium, Adient is paying particular attention to quality. Keen to exploit the ability of the Pune technology centre to prototype, the company is increasing its reach in India. Of the opinion that the market in India will witness a significant shift in terms of content and functionality, Dr. Juerss mentioned, “The tech centre will be the first of its kind and the largest such facility in India.” Eyeing full scale development, the technology centre, scheduled to go on stream in later 2018, will mark a significant upgrade in the technical abilities of the company. Being built over 20,000 sq. m. of the land parcel, the technology centre will work in close co-operation with other Adient centres the world over.

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Advantage India

Delving into Computer Aided Engineering (CAE), Computer Aided Design (CAD), automation, and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to conduct full-scale prototyping, testing and trimming, the technology centre at Pune will be also instrumental in complete product verification. This would be done in accordance with the global customer and regulatory standards. Expected to drive significant cost savings, Adient is investing USD 30 million to optimise its engineering footprint the world over. Present in 37 countries, the company wants to deliver global standard product development and innovation capabilities according to Dr. Juerss. “What makes the new tech facility crucial is that it will enable us to take full ownership of global projects besides accelerating product development cycle by eliminating the need to ship products overseas for testing,” expressed Dr. Juerss.

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An important part of the technology centre is claimed to be a just-in-time setup for complete seats and metals, hot and cold metal assembly processes, stamped parts, tubes, wires and fixtures. If a part of the space would be used to manufacture seating systems for OEM supply or to simulate a seating systems manufacturing line before it is installed at a manufacturing site is not clear. Said Dr. Juerss, “Full trimming capabilities will include CNC fabric cutting, lamination, SAB and leather sewing apart from fabric testing.” Said to act as a supply base for metal parts, plastics and foams, the technology centre will have CMM, Faro, scanning, and material testing equipment. It will also have a Servo Sled with BioRID, dummies and a high speed camera, a six-axis shaker with modal and vibration analysis, road durability testing setup, comfort lab, and an airbag testing setup.

Set to enhance Adient’s capability to provide a 100 per cent Design Verification Plan (DVP) for global and Indian OEMs, the technology centre is expected to significantly improve the lead time, and thus help the seating systems specialist to avail of cost benefits. At present, 35 to 80 per cent of the tests for Indian OEMs are claimed to be conducted at the company’s German, Japanese, and North America facilities. Developing next generation seating systems for commercial vehicles, the company has a team of 850 engineers in India. These engineers work in close co-operation with 150 engineers the company has outside of India. Together they address the company’s global programmes. Supplying complete seating solutions for commercial vehicles, Adient has 25 global programmes led by the Indian team. Operating nine assembly plants, and addressing the needs of over 11 customers in India, the company has thus far launched 60 programmes locally. Accessing Adient’s global technology reserves and experience, the Indian operations have come to cater to a diverse customer base in India.

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Seats of tomorrow

Betting big on ‘Seats of Tomorrow’, which Dr. Juerss referred to as seating systems of the future, Adient has started incorporating advanced functions in the products it is developing, albeit in co-operation with its clients. Looking 10 to 15 years ahead according to Richard Chung, Vice President, Innovation, the company is anticipating a demand for features like tray tables and storage components, driver seat comfort, and controls among others. Confident of such trends dominating the space, Adient is seeking new design solutions in seating. Taking into account the evolution of vehicle features, many of which would be driven by regulations, the company is looking at using alternate materials, material composition, metallurgy, and engineering for ‘seats of tomorrow’. Hopeful of the Indian market growing rapidly, Dr. Juerss stated, “A massive turnaround could happen with diverse mobility needs and electrification constituting the major trends driven by regulatory changes, and greater demand for light-weighting solutions. The Indian market will demand differentiation.”

Expected to play an important role in helping the company to address the demand for differentiation in the Indian market, the Pune technology centre, Adient is hoping, will help leverage projects outside of the auto industry. Formerly known as Tata Johnson Controls (TJC), a joint venture between the Tata Group and Johnson Controls, the company is seeing a big potential for growth in the CV industry. Renamed as Adient after being acquired by Johnson Controls in 2013, Adient, according to Dr. Juerss, commands 30 per cent of the automotive seating market in India. It has grown at the rate of nine-per cent year-on-year and is expected to grow at 11 per cent, which is higher than the industry average. With an order backlog of USD-three billion, the company is seeking an edge in cost, quality, execution and customer satisfaction. Manufacturing a staggering 25 million plus seating systems a year across 250 manufacturing facilities in 37 countries, Adient, under the ‘Seats of Tomorrow’ is looking at India significantly contributing to its global revenues. Said Murali Rajagopalan, Director and Country Manager, Adient India, “We are focusing on establishing a presence in the aftermarket too. The lightweight solutions that we will offer, will trigger the next big disruptive trend in commercial vehicles.”

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