Meritor India is banking on slipper suspension to compliment its existing product portfolio and tap growth.
Story by: Bhargav TS
Driver shortage in the CV industry is forcing a change. One of the factors is the rising preference for comfort. The trend could trace its roots to Europe where the emphasis on comfort is high. With rise in infrastructure, and implementation of GST, operating speeds are expected to increase. A CV that clocked 80,000 to 100,000 kms a year is expected to clock 150,000 to 175,000 kms a year. If this will call for higher efficiency, reliability and comfort, the slipper suspension from Meritor could address the need just right. Offering a weight advantage and low ownership cost, the slipper suspension that Meritor has introduced is the result of an extensive market study. Into the manufacture of CV axles and brakes, suspension systems make a logical extension for the company. It also offers the company an opportunity to grow faster.
Currently found in Brazil whose infrastructure and loading conditions are similar to that of India, the slipper suspension, according to Thimmaiah NP, Managing Director & CEO, Meritor India, has an advantage over the Bellcrank suspension Indian CVs are fitted with. States Thimmaiah, that India is the only market, which offers Bellcrank suspension. “There are over 20 joints with bushes and screws, which require lubrication in a Bellcrank suspension. For efficient functioning, they need regular lubrication. In the case of slipper suspension, there are only two links. These are easily operated and maintained,” he explains. Confident of the acceptance of slipper suspension, Meritor is planning to launch the same in the next three to four months. It will be manufactured at the company’s facility at Mysore.
Aimed at M&HCVs, the slipper suspension is being pitched by the company to CV OEMs. It was not easy initially, mentions Thimmaiah. OEMs were not showing much interest. A change in approach accompanied by the highlighting of the pain points associated with Bellcrank suspension drew attention to slipper suspension. A study done by fitting the suspension in customer vehicles revealed maintenace cost reduction from 15 to 20 paise per km to three to five paise per km. “With the slipper suspension, even after 60,000 km, tyre wear was found to be only 30 per cent. No parts were replaced,” explains Thimmaiah. “In the case of Bellcrank suspension, tyre replacement after 40,000 km was necessary,” he quips. Weighing 80 to 100 kg less than a Bellcrank suspension, the slipper suspension, which is just another type of leaf spring suspension, not only enhances the load carrying capacity of a truck, but also reduces downtime, maintenance, and parts replacement needs.
The first company to warm up to the slipper suspension is Ashok Leyland says Thimmaiah. VRL Logistics has also shown interest, he adds. With a constant change in the stiffness of the spring, which elevates driving comfort and avoids uneven load distribution, slipper suspension promises 180,000 km of tyre life. Opines Thimmaiah, that the vertical load is transferred to the springs. Braking and acceleration are taken care of by the torque rod. Signaling an advantage with greasing points reduced from 20 to two, the slipper suspension is completely localised. It will cost 10 per cent more than the Bellcrank suspension. The chassis and internal packaging will be different across fleet, and across OEMs. A need to match it with each OEM specification will be necessary.
Improving the maneouvrability of CVs, the slipper suspension has its leaves asymmetrically arranged according to Kishan Kumar Udupi, Senior Manager, Engineering. The asymmetrical arrangement helps to achieve optimal spacing between the axles. Laden and unladen ride comfort improves. “We have designed the drive axle spring with 10 per cent higher stiffness to ensure better traction and starting-ability. Having a provision to lift the tag axle with a unique central lifting device, that reduces wear and tear of parts, and increases fuel efficiency, the slipper suspension is packaged within the chassis frame. It provides an opportunity to lower the centre of gravity and improve vehicle dynamics,” explains Kishan Kumar.
Working on new platforms, Meritor, according to Thimmaiah, is closely following the changes the CV industry is going through. Carrying out activities and developments with the support of its R&D center, the company is also working with OEMs to increase the efficiency of the axles it offers. This should help them to meet the stringent regulations.
Quiet Ride gearing
As part of its endeavour to offer products that are light in weight and enhance the performance, Meritor CVS will also introduce ‘Quiet Ride’ gearing soon. Enjoying good acceptance in global markets, Quiet Ride gearing is applied to buses. Featuring an innovative gear tooth design, which ensures both the drive and coast side of the tooth are quiet, Quiet Ride gearing, made with advanced CNC gear cutting equipment with attention to precise cutting and excellent repeatability, promises low noise signature. Developed in India and supplied the world over, Quiet Ride gearing, mentions Thimmaiah, increases the cost by just one-per cent.
Exporting axles to Brazil, China, Europe and the US, and Quiet Ride gearing to Europe, China and the US, the company is encountering a change in CVs through gear ratios. Reveals Thimmaiah, that the gear ratio of BSVI CVs is different. “Engine speed is decreasing, and is shifting to the axle level,” he adds. Coming out with solutions where the gear ring is laser welded to eliminate churning noises, Meritor CVS, Thimmaiah expresses, is also focusing on off-highway and military applications. The company will soon unveil a backhoe loader axle as part of its strategy to participate in the backhoe and motor grader segments. In-line with the move, plans are being chalked out to localise certain designs. To support such endeavours, Meritor is upgrading its systems and processes. “We are progressing to Industry 4.0, and connected machines. We are upgrading our systems and processes. We are investing Rs.70 crore every year,” explains Thimmaiah.
Present in the aftermarket, Meritor is looking at good growth. Looking to profit from the decision of many operators to retain, and maintain the same truck and bus rather than replace it perhaps, the company is looking at increasing its aftermarket revenue. Close to 10 per cent revenue comes from the aftermarket. The axles and brakes that it manufactures find their way into the aftermarket. The supply of clutch and transmission has also begun. There are 120 retailers pan-India. Another 20 will be added at the end of this year. In the next five years, the company is planning to extend its suspension portfolio to the bus segment. Driving such endeavours is a quest for strong bottomline. Revenue, according to Thimmaiah, has doubled since 2012. “We expect the trend to continue for the next five years,” he concludes.