Spark Minda has a Research & Development centre in Chakan, Pune. How is the centre striving to strengthen and expand Minda Corporation’s presence as a complete system solutions provider for automotive systems?
Spark Minda Technical Centre (SMIT), at its core, acts as the flagship bearer of technology innovations in legacy as well as non-legacy areas of the Spark Minda group. SMIT harnesses radical technologies to develop innovative, sustainable growth products, affordable solutions and offers value-added products & services to a wide range of prominent automotive customers. It has taken progressive steps in a phased manner to proliferate a culture of creativity & innovation for the development of highly competitive products. SMIT was founded to propel Spark Minda Group towards attaining technology leadership in the automotive subsystems domain.
Minda Corporation, with Ansys, inaugurated the joint Centre of Excellence (CoE), SMIT, two years ago. How is the centre functioning in the current pandemic to create exemplary products and innovations? Could you cite some research innovations?
Simulation is a trend and a key enabler in the new era of product design and development. We are able to build strong skills in CAE, CFD and electromagnetic simulations. In our CoE, we can apply the power of virtual testing and simulation using these tools, which reduces considerable time in product development and improves the overall reliability of the product. We have multi-phased condensation simulation, motor design optimisation, complete virtual simulation in clusters testing etc, and some of the results came out well after applying such processes.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, several automotive industries are doing their bit in the country to fight the virus. What steps/measures has your company taken to help out?
Spark Minda, along with Spark Minda foundation, provided first-hand support to affected members of our group and families on war footing. Within weeks, it was extended to even announcing and conducting a free vaccination drive for all employees along with providing online medical support to employees’ families. Other initiatives undertaken are the Ration Distribution Drive, COVID-19 Care Center setup in Gurugram & Plasma Donation Drive across numerous locations and the distribution of Arogya Health Kit to the destitute people.
Can you highlight the emerging trends in the new generation technologies, like connected, autonomous, electrified mobility solutions?
The industry has aggressively shifted gears and set-forth to an ambitious new course, ‘CASE’ – a push towards Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric vehicles and mobility solutions. With such convergence, OEMs are working to reengineer their conventional platforms in a way that accommodates Electric Vehicle (EV) components, such as batteries, power electronics and motors. However, the industry’s transition from a vehicle-centric to a service-centric approach necessitates the development of new digital platforms. It is important to watch the dynamic response and trends of the industry, measure strengths & opportunities and then define a strategy. It is obvious that a customer-centric approach will help provide lots of data towards their expectations & roadmaps. Additionally, the end-user experience mapping is important to define the product scope and offering solutions to OEMs.
What do you think is truly needed to supplement & enhance the Aatmanirbhar Bharat & ‘Make in India’ initiatives in the auto component manufacturing sector?
From the outset, we must be clear with the end-goal and aspirations in a time bound manner. The industry seeks long-term planning in order to suitably invest & achieve the government’s ambition of Aatmanirbhar Bharat and ‘Make in India’. As an example, the BS-VI emission norms were welcomed very well in terms of the benefits to the environment. However, the learning is that the industry should have been taken into confidence well in advance for the entire value chain to prepare for the shift. This has eventually caused a huge financial impact to the industry and impacted the consumers, who ended up in a sticker-shock, due to the sudden increase in vehicle prices. We strongly believe that the development of the entire value chain (all tiers) is the key to any success that can be as much as a simple child part or an overall system solution.
Can you brief us on the initiatives in advanced automation and digitalisation technologies deployed in various manufacturing facilities of Spark Minda?
Spark Minda has established an excellent manufacturing engineering process and team in order to adopt the required automation for the products manufactured across our plants. Additionally, the team is working with various new age digital tools, smart machines, digital warehousing systems & automation that feature end-to-end integration, including inbound & outbound logistics, production, marketing and services.
COVID-19 has triggered the semi-conductor chip shortage. What impact does it have on the automotive production facility?
Global semiconductor shortage that began in the first quarter of 2021 has halted assembly lines around the world, as the long lead time for semiconductor components has slowed manufacturing and thus, reduced the expected revenue for FY 2021 by billions of dollars. While every auto maker is affected by this issue, most players have dealt with it by raising costs and the careful allocation by semiconductor vendors.
Some vendors are asking for a huge lead time in deliveries, thereby pushing tier 1s to look for alternate solutions. Frankly saying, today’s solutions business is ad hoc and rests entirely on the negotiations with vendors on supplies. A permanent solution can be achieved by introducing collective parts in the future (meaning multiple components meeting the same specification) which will have better flexibility of manufacturing. All of this can lead to an overall reduction in production numbers and an increase of non-production days, for some cases.
How are Indian automotive manufacturers coping to this challenge?
It is extremely challenging for OEMs and tier 1s to find a solution. Overall, the agility in change management is the key to overcome such consequences with the help of substitutes, although empathy towards the reliability requirements in automotive and a thorough product testing in labs & on the roads will be important before implementing an alternative. Some solutions, like accelerated testing methods, simulations etc, can help reduce the lead time for such consequential alterations. In most cases, though, OEMs understand such issues and support the tier 1s with the negotiation with semiconductor vendors or introduce alternate parts within a short span of time.