Wabco looks at growth from new solutions

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Wabco is looking at leveraging its technological prowess, and the acquisition of Mico Incorporated to grow more than the industry average.

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Anusha B & Bhargav TS

Wabco is known as a supplier of braking systems to CV manufacturers the world over. It is one of the few companies in the world, except Knorr Bremse, which specialise in this field. Not limiting itself to braking systems, the tier 1 supplier has also come to offer AMT technology and telematics solutions that tap into artificial intelligence to offer CV operators smart monitoring solutions, business execution tools through real time information and driver assistance systems among others. In India, the company, through its wholly owned subisdiary, is looking at leveraging its telematics solutions to offer a connected future to CV operators. The company plans to integrate telematics solutions in the vehicle and supply it as an OE offering. Wabco is already offering telematics solutions in the aftermarket. There are 3000 basic systems being offered. They are designed for track and trace, and perform a few other basic functions. Aware that telematics has a lot more to offer, the company is looking at leveraging its capabilities to carve out a unique standing among other telematics solutions providers. P Kaniappan, Managing Director, Wabco India Limited, opined, “Wabco’s specialisation is in mobilising vehicle intelligence. Our telematics solutions make it possible to communicate with the sensors in the system. Add to it, the service network we have invested in the world over. Our engineering prowess in vehicle dynamics will enable us to service the vehicle anywhere in the country. This will make it easier for a fleet operator and driver to stay connected with the authorised service centre.” “Our focus is not to sell the product, but to offer solutions that empower the fleet and driver,” he added.

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The share of electronics in CVs is growing. The future, it is clear, belongs to CAN-enabled vehicles. With CAN-bus making up the backbone of all the electronic systems that are employed in a CV, it is but inevitable for CVs to head towards a connected future. A connected future where onboard diagnotics and remote monitoring are a way of life to guarantee maximum uptime. Predictive maintenance through telematics will form a crucial link in CV operators quest for maximum uptime. Wabco, through its telematics solutions, is looking at playing at role in this area, and in other areas that will signal value for fleet operators and drivers. The telematics solutions that Wabco is looking at offering as an OE fit will include collection of crucial data for analysis. Data from the engine; data for other smart aggregrates like the gearbox as well. “Large amount of data is becoming available. If the CV makers want us to incorporate the analytic bit, we are open. We can engineer it such that it provides feedback to them in the form of a dashboard. With our telematics solutions, OEs can add value to their product,” said Kaniappan. “With our engineering prowess, and the ability to provide service across the country, we can take pride in positioning ourselves above other players in the field. It is no secret that predictive maintenance helps to identify issues before hand. The telematics system sends a trigger warning to the driver. It also flashes on the screen the nearest authorised service station so that the driver can reach it. In the development of such telematics solutions, integration is the most important element. It is also the differentiating element for us over competition,” he added. By offering its telematics solutions as OE fit, Wabco, in India, is keen to highlight the fact that it is not just offering a software intensive product, it is also offering a solution that is ‘complete’ and adds value.

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The telematics solutions that Wabco is keen to offer go beyond track and trace. They include fuel efficiency, fuel monitoring and time management. Time management, it is no secret, is crucial to a fleet operator. Even if one vehicle is idle or undergoing service, effective fleet utilisation is affected. Based on the number of trucks queuing up for servicing at the service centre, a trigger can be sent to the driver. This would help him to plan his visit accordingly, and even find out the time it will take to service the vehicle.

The electronic nature of telematics solutions Wabco is looking at, aligns well with the ABS and AMT solutions it is offering. These two are mechatronic in nature. Made mandatory on a certain class of CVs in India, including those that carry hazardous goods, ABS, it is acknowledged the world over, enhances safety. In India, the costs associated with ABS have been a deterrent for CV operators. For them, it is the most essential that matters largely. Awareness for ABS however has been rising lately, and it being made mandatory on certain class of CVs is making a difference. Operators are slowly coming to understand the benefits of ABS in terms of tyre life among others. According to Kaniappan, ABS, with the addition of few features like hill hold can offer greater value. The hill hold feature, he said, optimises the compressor and engine functions. Compressor need not run when not required. With electronic stability control in ABS, the roll back effect can be drastically reduced. This feature is expected to be made mandatory soon. Wabco is tasting good success with its AMT technology in India. “Two years ago, only three per cent of the population was using AMT. Today, AMT is finding greater acceptance. With engines electronically governed, the use of AMT is only set to increase,” announced Kaniappan. “We are ready with the AMT portfolio. We are working with most Indian OEMs, and want to make global products keeping India as a base. We plan to pass on the advantage to Indian customers,” he added.

Wabco has begun supplying disc brakes to the aftermarket. They are receiving a positive feedback. The bus operators have come to appreciate them especially. Plans, claim Wabco sources, are underway to provide the same to OEMs. Product localisation is progressing, and is expected to get over in the next 18 years. Once localised, the company will add more value to it. For AMT, the company has already setup a local assembly. For ABS solutions it offers, the company has achieved a localisation of over 90 per cent. Sensors continue to be imported. They are a highly critical element of ABS. Efforts to locally produce the sensors are on. The company hopes to achieve the desired result by April. Once achieved, ABS will be 100 per cent localised. About Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), Kaniappan expressed that it is too big a technology and involves a lot of modules that serve electronic needs ranging from basic to advanced. “We first need to bring the technology to India and see how it can be applied to Indian vehicles. Lowest level is autonomous braking, and is mandatory in many European countries. Whether Indian CVs need full braking is the question. Collision warning systems and autonomous braking could make for a system that is feasible in terms of costs for India. A mandate may be necessary. We are figuring out whether we can tap the mining segment to absorb this technology first,” he stated.

Wabco is contemplating if the two products – vacuum pumps and electronic suspension, it offers to passenger vehicles can be applied to ambulances in India. These two products are exported the world over. Apart from vacuum pumps and electronic suspension, the company also produces wiring harness for ABS to endorse the quality of the product. The wiring harness business could be leveraged for other applications. Wabco, said Kaniappan, has acquired Mico Incorporated. It is a global acquisition, and expected to provide Wabco access to the off-highway industry. The acquisition could increase its operational footprint. Mico Incorporated is a supplier of complete pneumatic and hydraulic brake control systems for off-hghway vehicles worldwide. In India, Wabco could leverage the relations of Mico Incorporated to enter into the hydraulics market. Wabco, according to Kaniappan, wants to grow faster than the industry average. It plans to do so by increasing its product reach. What better opportunity than to offer new, exciting solutions to CVs, passenger vehicles and off-highway equipments.

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Wabco bags Mahindra order

Wabco has bagged an order to supply vacuum pumps to Mahindra & Mahindra. A multi-year agreement, the vacuum pumps supplied by Wabco will find use in Mahindra’s major engine platforms, with series production expected to begin in late 2017. Compact and lightweight, the vacuum pumps sport a modular design and have ultra-low power consumption for braking as well as non-braking functions. Enabling better fuel economy and reduced emissions, the vacuum pumps are expected to find use in engines that will power a variety of vehicles including pickups. To deliver differentiated service to Mahindra, Wabco’s product application and world-class manufacturing will be implemented locally in India.

We help customers make CVs more comfortable and safe.

Article by: Team CV

Jacques Esculier, Chairman & CEO, Wabco Holdings Inc.

As part of the Prima T1 racing, what do you hope to derive?

I think that this truck racing event is a good way to promote the CV industry. It is a good way to bring before the public the achievements of this industry. It is a major pillar in the economic growth of the country. It is difficult to see a country flourish without an efficient transportation system. Participation in such an event also allows us to highlight breakthrough technologies that help commercial vehicles become more efficient during their operation. We are contributing largely to this by featuring a new ABS system that has been mandated by the government. The date of enforcement being April 1, 2015, for new trucks, and October 2015 for the existing trucks. I think it is a fantastic step forward. India has one per cent of the total commercial vehicles in the world. However eight per cent of the world’s fatalities occur in India. ABS is a major cornerstone to enhance safety. It is exactly the reason why it has been featuring on the trucks today.

Apart from scarcity of drivers, there is a need for skilled drivers who understand new technologies. How do you see India coming to have such drivers?

We want to make technology more accessible. We are helping our customers make CVs that are more comfortable and safe for the drivers. More than 50 per cent of accidents happen due to loss of control of the truck. 28 per cent fatalities out of 50 per cent accidents happen in India. Overall it is a fairly dangerous job, and it is very complicated too as it involves dealing with various complex machines. We are making it safer for the driver as we work with OEMs. Our technologies also make CVs more attractive for drivers. We will be making it more comfortable and easier to drive for the driver by providing AMT (Automated Manual Transmission), an electronic system which you can put on the top of your manual system. It is a breakthrough not only in India but across the world. Apart from saving five per cent fuel, it also saves the driver from regular shifting of gears. Saves the driver from effort and training. This allows him or her to concentrate better on the road. The electronically controlled air suspension that we offer, makes the vehicle more comfortable. It also saves fuel by optimising the way the load on the axles is distributed. For example, there are trucks today, which have double driving axles. We have one driving axle instead of two. When the truck starts we can transfer load on that particular axle by using this air suspension to distribute the load. This is the technology that we are bringing in along with driver assistance technologies. For commercial vehicles, we were the first supplier to bring these systems; the collision mitigation systems, lane departure system or the drowsiness warning system. Early in the morning on freeways, both collision mitigation system and drowsiness warning can be of much help. We sold over 1,00,000 units of our ‘Onguard’ collision mitigation systems. All those who have equipped their trucks with these systems in the US have already validated that they have seen more than 80 per cent avoidance of rear end collision, which is the biggest source of accidents.

Do you see any limitation in using these technologies in India? Issues like roads limiting the axle load carrying capacity?

You cannot compensate for the limitation unless you take out weight from the truck. We are also contributing to make trucks lighter. Though not in India, we have introduced a new material to reduce the weight of the compressor by 50 per cent, which can be up to 30 kg. We have innovated by designing the lightest air disc brakes so far in the world. As this industry will gradually adopt air disc brakes, we will certainly offer that innovation for making the truck lighter. I feel the government here is very committed towards improving the infrastructure, which will surely support the economic growth in the country.

But there is a trend that people want to go for bigger trucks that can have better payload capacity yet be as cost effective as a smaller truck?

If the infrastructure allows, it is better to have bigger, long haul trucks than smaller long haul ones as the former maximise weight and have better payload capacity. Around the hub you really don’t need those large trucks but for hub itself you can’t do without big long haul trucks.

Considering Europe’s well defined hub and spoke model, how do you see the same evolving in India, and how will that help a supplier to grow along with the OEMs?

Infrastructure of the industry itself is yet to mature in terms of having larger fleets. You need to have spokes (the network) in the hub and spoke model. You need to simplify what it takes to move from one region to another and not having to stop for paying taxes. This country will progressively mature and match with the other areas of the world, which have progressed in terms of infrastructure in the logic of optimising the transportation of goods and thereby the usage of commercial vehicles. We are here to provide all the support and technologies that will be required.

In India, you command a good share of the CV braking system market. ABS is also in. AMT however is yet to be addressed. How long will it take?

If you look at Europe, it is ahead of other markets in adapting technologies in commercial vehicles. Close to 80 per cent of the trucks in Europe use AMT. For years, the US market did not adapt to this technology. Around 3-4 years ago, the US market started adapting. It recognised the value of two things, fuel consumption and shortage of drivers. The two were making it very complicated to execute the work they had. By short cutting the training and eliminating the very difficult part of shifting gears, it has unleashed a lot of hope. The payback time of AMT is proving to be six months, which is a very short payback time. We respect the time a market takes to mature, and gain awareness. The first area where AMTs will penetrate well is in city buses. It is a very economical way of enhancing fuel consumption and makes it easier for the drivers. It will progressively gain space over what has been going on in Europe, US and Brazil. Indeed, AMT was invented by Wabco in 1986 for Mercedes-Benz. Another technology is the Electronically Controlled Air Suspension (ECAS) branded by the name of ‘Optiride’ that we are bringing into India. This is a highly adopted technology in Europe. We have an ECU that optimises pressure in the air bellows that are a part of the truck’s air suspension. The suspension is also load sensitive, and speed sensitive. As the truck gains speed, it can be lowered to ensure better aerodynamic efficiency, and save fuel. It also offers kneeling for buses to make them user friendly for disabled people.

You mentioned that AMT will be seen in buses first. What about automatics being claimed to be the best solutions for buses?

When compared to AMT, Automatic Transmissions (AT) are extremely heavy. We are replacing them in city buses. AMTs allow flexibility in the production of CVs because they just sit on the top of a manual transmission. So a manufacturer can decide whether his transmission will be manual or AMT. Economical in terms of acquisition, the cost of an AMT is incredibly low. It also consumes less fuel than automatics. One of our customers has saved 10 per cent fuel by using AMT in the city buses. AMT is largely dominating in Europe, which I think is the most advanced industry for commercial vehicles. I also think of it as a good point of reference. Wabco already works with customers like Volvo, Daimler and ZF transmission. We are also working with Fast Gear in China, which is the largest transmission manufacturer in the world, and with China National Heavy Duty Truck Group Co. Ltd. (CNHTC) which has its own transmission business.

Your AMT is already in the Indian market?

Our AMT is found on the Ashok Leyland Janbus, which is already plying in Kolkata.

Collision mitigation system will enhance the safety of CVs. For a cost sensitive market like India, what is your application road-map for such technologies?

Even though what we bring to China and India is an adaptation of what (technology) we have developed for US or European market, we respect the specific application of the market and we just can’t take the product off-the-shelf and sell it in various markets. We have been working hard to find a cost level and specifications that would be acceptable to India for collision mitigation system. It is not certainly desirable in the city traffic because here in India, you are always prone to a collision due to heavy traffic. So you may need a different kind of functionality depending upon the speed itself. This is the work that we are doing right now to provide the best optimised system that will benefit the Indian market.

How involved are the India operations in the development of such systems?

The ‘Optidrive’ system is modular in nature, and was developed specifically for the emerging markets. When you look at what we develop for Volvo and Daimler, it needs five years of development, and is extremely expensive and tailor made. They can amortise it as they produce huge amounts of gearboxes and they equip all of them with AMTs. So, the volume is high. You may not have such an application in a country like India where the volumes are a lot lower. The development costs are heavier and can’t be managed specifically for each gearbox by optimising and tailoring the design. So we came up with this idea of a modular system that shortened the adaption system and was less expensive. In-turn, it became accessible for Ashok Leyland and CNHTC in China. This design was built by Indians, Chinese and Germans. The software was developed in India and we have more than half of our total software developments being carried out at Chennai. The product development concept of Wabco is around two major pillars. One is in Germany. Historically Europeans have been offered new technologies that did not contain the concept of optimising the design. You want to be the number one in emerging markets, and it is India that is optimising technology. There’s not one new product that we develop in Germany, which is not reviewed by the Indians. The products we had designed long time ago are redesigned for India. More than 30 per cent of Wabco employees are in India, which is also the largest employer of Wabco work force. So, India is the centre piece of the entire strategy.

The transport minister has been pushing for alternate propulsion mediums. Scania has an ethanol bus running in India. There’s the BYD electric bus in Bangalore. Do you see scope for such technologies to reach a practical level?

We are accompanying this trend, and provide two things. One is an electric air compressor. If you stop the compression engine in a hybrid system, it will still compress the air. So we have an electrically powered compressor. The second fundamental thing is you have to manage your energy extremely efficiently. You have to figure out how you are going to absorb that energy without challenging the safety of the vehicle. We have invented EBS system in CVs and we have been developing the EBS system for manufacturers who are developing those hybrid systems or electrical systems. The hybrid concept is very attractive, and is the focus of most of the countries. However it is still very challenging in terms of pricing returns. It has to be subsidised, and if you don’t do it, it will be very complicated to have a financial equation that allows it to flourish. The problem is with batteries which need replacement. They are extremely expensive. So there is an upfront cost, then maintenance cost and operational cost which is heavy.