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Biswajyoti Mandal

Vice President and Head – Technology

Schaeffler India

2 Ratings

E-MOBILITY Encourage research on radical concepts which may not seem relevant for today

Jan 15, 2021

… mentions Biswajyoti Mandal, Vice President and Head – Technology, Schaeffler India, in his interview with Anvita Pillai. Schaeffler has been actively creating mobility for tomorrow with its high-precision components and systems for automotive applications, coupled with rolling & plain bearing solutions and asset management services for industrial applications. In this interview, he elaborates on where he envisions the EV sector to be, battery technologies, the COVID-shift, agenda for future and more. Excerpts…

India is trying to raise the bar as well as utilisation of EVs in the country. How is Schaeffler India currently involved in the journey? Where do you envision the EV sector to be, technology wise, in the coming year?

The technology trends for automobiles in India has reached a point where Electric Vehicles (EV) are making progress to co-exist along with internal combustion engine driven vehicles in the foreseeable future. In the earlier EV days it was believed that EVs may not require gear systems at all. With several real time experiments, the industry has now learnt that adding a transmission gear system in EVs adds value to the overall system efficiency and cost/ value benefits.

Considering the CAFÉ, FAME and BS VI norm adoption timelines, Schaeffler believes, that by 2030 as much as 10% of all newly produced cars could be using all-electric traction systems. In which case only 40% would exclusively be equipped with an internal combustion engine and 50% would have a hybrid powertrain. It is clear that two-wheeler and three-wheeler vehicles are quick to adopt to EV compared to light on-road vehicles. But there is a key difference, the way technology transformation is likely to happen. Two-wheeler and three-wheeler vehicles are migrating from ICE to EV, whereas for light on-road vehicles have an intermittent phase called hybridisation.

At Schaeffler we have developed Integrated Hybrid Modules for Mild, Fu,l- and even Plug-in Hybrid applications. We have already engaged with a few major OEMs in India as technology partners to develop optimised powertrain solutions in various platforms.

There is a long impending battle between hydrogen-powered cell and li-ion batteries for EVs. Which do you think will be the more preferred option both environmentally and economically? Why?

Industry in India are working hard towards getting EVs on-road. Let us understand the driving factor and some of the major roadblocks for making EVs viable.

When we analyse the megatrends related to mobility, it is clear that CO2 emission is the most important driving factor for E-mobility transformation. According to us in Schaeffler we believe that there is a difference in approach in terms of the emission goals in India and internationally. US, Canada, China, EU have long term CO2 emission goals for mobility in the range of below 99 gram / km. Whereas in India we are aiming to achieve the CO2 target according to CAFÉ-2 norms to 113 gram/Km by 2022. The difference in approach is the biggest hinderance in progressing towards the technological transformation. We need to have a long-term CO2 target in India and that is what is going to bring in the transformation.

There are other influencers as well to make EV a bigger success here:

  1. We currently have FAME II which is restricted to shared mobility as commercial vehicles. Hence not triggering mass adoption within private transportation. Moreover, other important limitation that FAME II is not linked to CAFÉ regulation but only applicable to EVs.

  2. On lithium-ion battery supply chain: 54% of lithium is available in the Lithium Triangle (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile), these countries have long term political and economic issues and China has only 9% of lithium reserves.

  3. Customers have anxiety about the Infrastructure and range related to EVS

  4. Price / cost has to be comparable with ICE vehicle

  5. As India market is unique, to have positive ROI on investment is still a challenge

Schaeffler AG has found many answers to questions like range extension, time duration to charge to battery, local availability and battery raw material etc with Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology. This will be beneficial for encouraging the adoption of Battery Electric Vehicle technology.

We are also excited to see the Government’s understanding of the importance of hydrogen fuel cell. In fact, recently a standard, AIS 157 is mandated for "safety requirement and type approval for hydrogen fuel cell vehicle" which is a step in the right direction. So, commercial vehicles and three-wheelers, which demands extended range will get addressed with the co-existence of hydrogen fuel cells.

I am happy to share that at Schaeffler we have developed break-through products and technology under Hydrogen fuel cell. And are continuing to make further investments for further maturity. Metallic by-polar plate, fuel-stack are some of the great examples that we are working with some of the global OEMs.

Having bearings that are lightweight, sturdy and wear-free is extremely crucial for EVs. Can you elaborate on some coating technology for bearings that can help achieve the mentioned factors?

Surface technology is considered to be one of the key technological pillars in manufacturing processes in industrialised countries. Schaeffler is a pioneer in developing the innovative coating solutions, which offer excellent protection against wear, reduces friction, improve tribological properties and provides longevity to the coated components and higher energy efficiency and sturdiness to the entire system.

Some of the most value-added coating solutions offered by Schaeffler are as follows:

  • Durotect-B coating: This coating safeguards components during emergency conditions of lubrication starvation and thereby improving running-in conditions. It also provides reduction in co-efficient of friction and protection against the wear. Durotect-B coated parts offer maximum safety against failure due to White etching crack phenomena, by acting as an effective barrier for the hydrogen entry and there-by improving reliability of parts and systems.

  • Triondur coating: The continuous increase in expectations of energy efficiency can be realised by adopting Triondur coated parts. This is considered to be, the most value-added coating solutions developed by Schaeffler. This coating enables parts to withstand against high level of tribological stresses and offers maximum benefit against reduction in friction and abrasive wear by developing a very thin layer of 1 to 2 µ coating thickness with the hardness level to the tune of 2000HV to 3000+ HV. This improves the durability of components and enhances the overall performance of the system and makes the system most versatile and robust.

    Since this coating system drastically reduces the friction and wear at contacting surfaces and improves the energy efficiency, in an indirect way, it also supports in reduction of CO2 emission to the level of 1 to 2 % and that is why it is also considered as environment-friendly coating system.

  • Sensotect coating: This sensory coating facilitates expansion of the functions of the components. This is a thin film sensor technology and is considered to be the intelligent coating system wherein the coated component becomes the sensor. Through this coating, a multilayer coating can be developed which consists of insulation layer as well as layer of the strain sensitive metals. By application of this coating, the components become sensors which enable us to measure the real time torque and force measurement precisely and continuously on two- dimensional and three-dimensional component geometries during the operation.

    Sensotect contributes to digitalisation and through its accuracy of real time measurement of important parameters, it also contributes towards the energy and power saving by optimising the design.

  • Insutect coating: This is the specialised coating developed by Schaeffler to provide protection against failure due to stray current. This mainly use in the electric locomotives and improve the overall reliability and safety of components and system.

    Surface technology is becoming increasingly important, not only for existing products but also for new types of products that are associated with energy system, electrical mobility and digitalisation. Due to the multifunctional characteristics of coated components these secure the function of the overall system through their robustness, durability and overall sturdiness.

Ensuring no downtime or shutdown of bearings is crucial for smooth running of industries, how is your company focusing on limiting downtime for your customers?

‘Zero down time’ has become the mantra for industrial or automotive machines. The important trends in machine and vehicle designing are:

  1. Components and systems are becoming more compact with high power to weight ratio

  2. Reduction in safety factor during designing phase

These may have a higher risk for unpredictive failure and impact increasing machine down time.

Through ‘Condition monitoring system’, we can monitor temperature, vibration, lubricants during the life cycle of the machine.

Consider an example of gearbox in operation- Due to unwanted contamination in lubricant in Gearbox or debris due to wear and tear, the gearbox is susceptible to fail without pre-alarm. We remotely can identify the infectivity of lubrication through condition monitoring system and a planned maintenance is done, hence avoiding a catastrophic failure.

With several years of research, Schaeffler has developed Condition monitoring products like ‘SMART-CHECK’ and ‘OPTIME’. These are comprehensive and automated condition monitoring system which is highly scalable IoT based solutions. It can easily integrate several hundred units in a single day.

‘OPTIME’ condition monitoring system, which we launched globally recently, can yield cost saving of around 50% compared to the monthly offline measurement made using handheld devices. It also provides better-quality monitoring than most wireless online Condition Monitoring Systems. Thanks to its complex, algorithm-based analytics.

Moreover, OPTIME can be used for a multitude of assets for which condition monitoring was previously not commercially viable, which makes it the first solution capable of providing an overview of machine states that is truly comprehensive and encompasses all subsystems and auxiliary assets. This is important, because the automated condition monitoring of all assets is fundamental to the reliable prevention of unplanned machine and plant shutdowns.

What has changed for your wing of management during the COVID period? How did you tackle this new, radical shift?

As a company, we were quick to realise that tackling this new shift and preparing for the future had to start with building long-term resilience and agility into the strategy and systems within which we operate. The very first step was to activate our crisis management team to act as the command centre for the crisis and manage decision making and communication with all stakeholders—employees, business partners, regulators, customers, to name a few.

Secondly, the current crisis has shown us all how important the role of digitalisation is and will continue to be. Digitisation implies agility and quick response to the unexpected, and so is a primary driver of resilience in this new era. It is in its early days yet, but there are clear lessons businesses should be taking note of already, listing below few of those:

  • Developing risk-management capabilities – A robust risk management process is a prerequisite in current times to anticipate and prepare for change and then, adapt to circumstances in the manner that provides the greatest chance of thriving in the long term.

  • In terms of planning a step ahead, we adopted new tools (to prepare for crises and manage risks) such as stress tests, scenario analysis and similar exercises, and we believe these are here to stay.

  • We also ensured that risk processes encouraged bottoms-up innovative thinking, thus empowering employees at all levels to own and manage risk within their scope of influence to respond more effectively.

  • Investing in human and social capital – Incorporating resilience and agility into the cultural fabric requires investment in human capital.

    • During the current pandemic, we have put the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees first and ensured effective communication to all stakeholders.

    • It is now clearer than ever that decisive and authentic leadership at every level is a defining characteristic of those organisations that are adapting more effectively to the current situation and planning for the future.

We want to continue in the direction that we have set for ourselves, by empowering leadership at every level in the organisation to be able to adapt the quickest in case of any crisis. Driving local innovation is now the agenda.

Driving local innovation is now the agenda of growth for the country. How are you devising your R&D capability to be in line with the agenda?

Schaeffler is a global technologically driven organisation, Innovation is always been the spine of product development at Schaeffler. In order to develop India specific products and solutions, we understand and believe that local R&D capability is the key. Aligning ourselves to that we have a short-term and long-term R&D strategy under a theme called ‘Local for Local’. And we are making investment and significant progress towards that. Some of the system development for India OEMs are conceptualized locally in India and being developed along with our customers. Another aspect is the ‘culture of innovation’ to encourage R&D engineers to take risks to execute ideas into products. We nurture innovation as a culture. We have generated many intellectual properties from both incremental and disruptive innovations by our local engineers. We have internal forums to assess and prioritise the ideas based on market relevance and convert them into a formal advanced development projects which finally are realised as products. We also encourage our engineers to research on radical concepts which may not always seem relevant for today but is important for the future.

What is your outlook on the manufacturing industry revival? Do you think in 2021 the manufacturing industry will catch up with a sustainable growth?

Manufacturers continue to rebound from a sales dip caused by the pandemic. While most organisations have recovered from the initial economic shock, they are still learning to operate in the new uncertain environment. Few of the notable changes in the approach being prioritising the current client base, creating a safe environment for employees, and designing contingency plans in the event of a second wave.

2021 holds great promise for a continued, at least partial recovery from the pandemic-influenced economic downturn of 2020. As industries reopen, pent-up demand has led to a quick rebound in some sectors. Of course, that recovery is not guaranteed to be complete or universal; some sectors, like hospitality and travel, will take years to recover. Manufacturing sectors built around those industries may take a correspondingly long time to rebound. Other factors – like the geopolitical realignments taking place around us will continue to shape manufacturing in 2021 which will lead to increased demand and help boost recovery.

The rise of tariffs, ongoing trade wars, global container crisis, and of course the decline of trade due to the coronavirus have all contributed to shifting expectations for industry supply chains. To mention a specific example, imports from China have dropped as trade wars and uncertainty led manufacturers to seek localisation in an attempt to better hedge against the fluctuations of changing import and export regulations. This in turn, will lead to fresh investments by companies (both from within India and outside) boosting ‘Make in India’.

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  • Biswajyoti Mandal, in his role, is responsible for evolving and maintaining technology solutions, bringing technology support to new products & services specific to upcoming technology on EV transmission & hydrogen fuel cell and driving local product innovation through local R&D capability, ensuring strong daily operations across automotive and industrial sectors. He has a rich experience of over 27 years in the industry. Before joining Schaeffler, Mandal was the Head – R&D, Farm Mechanization at Mahindra & Mahindra.

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