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MOBILITY TRENDS Meeting customer requirements to the fullest

Jan 17, 2022

From a digital perspective, ZF India is on the path of Industry 4.0 at different levels in different plants. When it comes to the major technologies, they have the highest end of machining centres. They focus on going local and contribute to the Indian auto-component industry for its growth. On a recent visit to its Chakan plant in Pune, EM magazine had a tour of their shop floor, learnt of their technologies, expansion plans and more.

A leading supplier of technology solutions and services in India, ZF is very influential in determining the mobility trends in the country. Being into auto-components, ZF India manufactures powertrains as well as chassis. With 18 manufacturing locations in India, EM magazine recently visited its headquarters in Chakan, Pune. Being focused more on the assembly activity, the Pune plant’s DNA is to buy material, assemble it and pass on the end-products to the customer.

Product lines

The plant in Pune has five product lines in total, predominantly into chassis components. It manufacturers V-link, torque rod, shock absorbers (dampers) in commercial vehicles. In 2021, the plant also started Automated Manual Transmission (AMT); In fact, they have already assembled and dispatched five AMTs.

When we entered the shop floor, we were shown the damper and were further told that the plant is coming up with a second version of cabin shock absorber in 2023. What’s more, the shop floor has a kaizen corner, where a ‘ZF Production System’ is followed, that is lean manufacturing. Furthermore, this plant also happens to be the first one to bring the Dual Mass Flywheel (DMF) to the Indian market, which was part of the shop floor. The DMF helps with the storage of energy in the passenger car and helps with reduction of vibration that passes through the vehicle.

Technologies at ZF India

When it comes to the major technologies, ZF India has the highest end of machining centres, wherein they have 4-axis, 5-axis machines and the latest technology as far as gear cutting is concerned. Suresh KV, President – Region India, ZF India, said, “If we look at the Pune plant, one will see that we have the machining activities from castings whereas when it comes to shock absorbers, we have more of an assembly. Last but not the least, we have the best end-of-the-line testing in everything to ensure that the product is meeting all the specifications, both with ZF and also meeting customer requirements.

KV further explained that when it comes to any industrialisation, they start by ensuring that they transfer the same processes that they have in other locations. “The basis is a very strong process engineering. Of course, the process engineering is dovetailed with our requirements in the product range, because the product calls for certain characteristics and if those characteristics have to be met, then any processes can’t meet them – the process has to be in line with the product specification and we do not compromise on those processes,” he cited. KV continued that when it comes to processes, it is also important that they select equipment that is capable of delivering those processes.

Market share

ZF India’s market share varies from product to product. When it comes to transmissions, for example, if one takes the nine-speeds transmissions, the company’s market share would be in the range of approximately 40-50%. But if we take the total six-speed inclusive, then they are in a single digit market share. It all depends on how the company wants to segment the market.

ZF is not a player in the six-speed market. It did have the six-speed technology but for them it is now the technology of the past, so they introduced the nine-speed in the market, which they have a high level of market share in. If one takes the chassis components into consideration, they are also of a particular design, in which they are above 90% market share.

Shock absorbers have been primarily brought in to focus on the export requirement. From that perspective, the company has not really done a lot as far as the marketing of those products for the local customers is concerned. As and when ZF India’s capacities increase and new models get introduced, one will see that they will start increasing their market share locally. When it comes to their industrial components, considering the renewable energy, the market share is close to 70-80%. The company wants to focus on its Indian business to ensure that they are able to meet or beat the customer expectations and increase their market share.

A significant step for ZF India has been the acquisition of TRW. With the Wabco acquisition (which has a reputation as a multinational that is able to succeed in the Indian market), it will lead to ZF India adopting flexible principals to ensure that ZF is able to increase/penetrate more into the Indian market.

Where the Indian auto-component industry is today

KV is of the opinion that with Aatmanirbhar Bharat and ‘Make in India’, the government has realised that the auto-component industry is an important factor. This can be explained by the PLI scheme, where they created one chapter only for auto-components. Plus, the auto-component industry was also forced to do as much localisation as possible to be less dependent on other regions. So, there is a very strong realisation that the auto-components industry is an important part of the entire value chain.

ZF India is contributing to the overall growth of the auto-component industry by industrialising more and more products. “ZF will see how we can meet the local Indian OEM and global requirements by a healthy combination of our organisations or through our JV partners, so that we can make the best of both worlds,” KV revealed, “We are also setting up a new plant in Oragadam, Chennai, that will have a big chunk of exports built into it.”

Relooking at the manufacturing footprint

Going back to product and process, ZF India’s products are capable of meeting the highest requirements. “When it comes to processes, the manufacturing footprint is important,” KV put across, “Our 18 manufacturing locations are spread across the entire region, but we do not produce all products in all manufacturing facilities. However, there are opportunities available.”

For example, the company has a facility in Wabco in Jamshedpur. KV mentioned, “That could become our hub for supporting Tata Motors, wherein we will be able to minimise our logistics costs if we are able to increase our manufacturing activities in Jamshedpur. We will be capitalising on these 18 manufacturing plants to make them capable of delivering more & more products to the customers and make sure that we are close to them when it comes to the major products. This will be our endeavour in the next two to three years – to relook at the footprint, to ensure that we are more adjacent to the customers so that we are flexible enough to meet their requirements.”

Increasing after-market presence

ZF’s after-market continues to offer the ranges for the Asian and local customers, when it comes to even the Korean or Japanese manufacturers. They launched a product called ‘Go Local’ three to four years ago, wherein it says that they cannot be entirely dependent on importing and delivering into the after-market area. “We should have our own manufacturing capabilities,” informed KV, “When I say our own, it doesn’t have to mean a ZF manufacturing location – we develop local sources to deliver products, and hence, utilise them to ensure that we are able to compete with the local competitors.”

ZF India has 60+ distributors in the region and now with Wabco, it will have more of them. Also, they have various workshop programmes to increase the awareness about ZF products. The company will also have service capabilities in the four corners of the region. “In short, what I would like to say is ‘go local & create as many manufacturing capabilities in the region as possible to meet the customers’ demands,” mentioned KV, “Secondly, we focus on increasing the awareness of ZF products, the capabilities & the technological advantages that people have. And lastly, we want to make sure that we have enough service centres so that we can meet customer requirements in a timely manner.”

Expansion plans

A €200 million investment over the next five years with the intention to expand the Chakan plant has been planned. This €200 million investment is across all the entities of the company. ZF’s Oragadam plant will have a combination of the current product lines that are being expanded because of the export requirements and also new product lines coming in. In its Chakan plant, there is an expansion of the shock absorber line and chassis components line. “We also have big tech centre in Hyderabad, which is growing in double digit percentages,” KV signed off.

Image Gallery

  • ZF Ecotronic Mid Truck Transmission

  • ZF Pune‘s transmission production

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