New vistas open for automotive testing

The three-day Automotive Testing Expo, held at the Chennai Trade Centre, saw a wide variety of visitors from the industry as well throngs of engineering students from colleges in the city.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 14 Mar 2012 Views icon2952 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
New vistas open for automotive testing
The three-day Automotive Testing Expo, held at the Chennai Trade Centre, saw a wide variety of visitors from the industry as well throngs of engineering students from colleges in the city. The highlight of the fair that saw many big names take part including ARAI, Horiba, AVL Gmbh and Robert Bosch Engineering Services, to name a few, was the sheer display of equipment to test all aspects of automotive technology.

On display were equipment and software (so crucial to every machine and application) for engine and emission testing to occupant protection as well as vehicle aerodynamics. This was the second edition of the Expo, the first of which was held at Hyderabad in 2010.

It is, of course, well known that India’s automotive sector is booming. Apart from cars, the strides that have been made in commercial vehicles and two-wheelers are significant. India’s auto sector is also keen to make a mark for itself overseas but to do so means having the wherewithal to test vehicles and components that meet with the standards that exist in the developed automotive markets. And this is where an event like the Expo makes a key contribution.

Ahead of the Expo, the biggest news was perhaps the order bagged by Horiba of Japan to supply equipment to NATRiP, which even saw the Japanese company’s president and CEO visit India. While NATRiP remains a driver of the testing and R&D business, the fact is that individual OEMs are keen to do their own in-house testing and research. Maruti Suzuki is setting up an R&D facility at Rohtak while companies like Mahindra & Mahindra continue to give this area high priority.

Like all products, costs and applications are what matters to the end-of-the line user or the automotive OEM. Autocar Professional spoke to some of the key participants to find out why they were participating and what their hopes were from this Expo.

Among the big names was AVL of Austria which has a close and enduring relationship with the Indian auto sector. The company had on display a duo of products that have been designed in Austria and made in India, a blend of what engineering talent across borders can do. We met many members of the team including board member, AVL List, Friedrich B Radke, whose presence here was a clear indication, if one was needed, of how important the Indian market is to the company (see accompanying story with the AVL team).

The sophistication of the equipment needed for simulation, testing and validation which includes equally sophisticated software as well means accurate technical knowledge and applications are important. That explains why apart from the Expo, there were many technology workshops held through the day in which engineers and application specialists from the participating companies spoke about how their products could be used. These included the likes of Honeywell, ANSYS, Horiba as well as the UK-based tripartite alliance of TRL, Olympus and Xcitex which had on display a turnkey solution for crash testing and occupant safety. This company, part of a clutch of UK companies taking part in the Expo, derives its uniqueness from the fact that the companies have pooled their expertise together even as they remain separate entities. This was their first time at the Expo.

Robert Bosch Engineering & Services, a first-time participant, aimed at making visitors aware of what it has to offer in terms of independent embedded testing services. While these services have so far been captive within the Bosch Group, the company now wants to offer these services to other players as long as they do not clash with automotive embedded services.

Maha-AIP of Germany, a more recent player in India, had displays that described the Automotive Drive Robot, a product that has been recently launched in Germany and which it hopes will interest players in the emerging automotive markets in time to come. The robot replaces a human being and is capable of driving a wide variety of driving cycles across several tests. The company’s main business, though, is emission chassis dynos and it counts Bosch as one of its clients.

For the Japanese player Horiba, one new product was the fuel flow meter that can be used for any engine and test bed and is important for the development of IC engines, and a real-time sulphur analysis measurement product.

And then was JashPrecison Tools, an Indore-based company that makes and exports precision surface equipment, T-slotted floor/bed plates, fixtures and tooling aids for a variety of automotive and non-automotive uses. These are cast-iron test beds of a variety of sizes for many applications.

Brian Duffy, the global engineering application manager for Honeywell, said the Expo gave his company, a great opportunity to be better known in a growing Indian market. He told Autocar Professional that the quality of leads that he got were better than those in US and Europe.

Dr K Nande, an academic-turned-business person at ANSYS Software, said that one of the insights he got from the Expo was the fact that people are thinking long-term on research. However, one other player who requested anonymity said the days and time could have been better given that there was a public holiday (referring toHoli on March 8) and this would have affected attendance.

One very visible aspect of the Expo was the sheer number of students who turned up as well as young automotive engineers (which the event organisers have acknowledged). This isn’t surprising given that Chennai is an automotive hub and home to many engineering colleges. Here then was young talent that the industry may do well to educate, nurture and tap.

Dominic Cundy, managing director, UKIP Media and Events, the main organiser for the show, said that the response has been fantastic. “The crowd has been a mix of trade participants and eager students. We are already looking forward to the next edition in 2014.”



What are the new products that you have showcased?

Peter Domjan, Group product manager, AVL List: The AVL fuel meter compact and AVL fuel conditioning compact are both being launched here and are for use in testing purposes for small petrol engines and diesel and up to heavy duty applications. It has our own in-built AVL sensor and it has control stability of 0.5 degree and two pumps of 240 and 540 litres.

There is also the optional AVL chiller unit so that if the customer has no cold water, he has to supply 30 litres of water and run the entire product. It makes the fuel conditioning device fully independent from the cooling water and temperature, thus ensuring that it can be used in a harsh environment.

Who are you targeting with this product?

Domjan: This product has been developed for basic R&D as well as production and endurance test runs. So this is different from our more advanced products. This product is not only targeted at India but even China where we have sold five units of fuel meter to Cummins there. We also sell them as stand-alone products but if you buy both, you get a price advantage. Overall, it costs about 16,000 euros. Dr Friedrich B Radke, board member: We are also looking at Brazil and maybe Russia, and have got some interest from the US.

Rajat Kumar Dhar, GM — Project: Apart from products and test beds, we have also done a turnkey solution for Daimler which is setting up a R&D centre in India. The focus is on unmanned operations, energy conservation and efficiency. We design supply and execute the entire facility and have done it for Suzuki, Tata-Fiat, their R&D centre as well, Tata Hitachi, and Ashok Leyland in Pantnagar and the tractor testing centre at Budhni.

Amit Sharma, senior manager — Projects: For NATRiP, we have done some work as well that comprises HBSC fire system, compressed air and a cooling water system and are able to give the customer what he wants. Earlier they bought it from other companies and they faced some problems.

How do you view India?

Radke: It takes time in India but we have to be patient.

Are your products expensive?

Radke: Our products are aimed at catering to Indian needs as we have been, in the past, driven by western companies whose requirements are naturally different. We don’t have temperatures of up to 40deg in Europe and so to make these products, we needed Indian engineers so that we can get the Indian knowhow and methodology. In the US, you have to calibrate for temperatures in the region of 18deg. So a joint Austria-India team came together for these compact products and we are making them in India. As far as price goes, our products fit the market and we want to make applications for Indian needs. It took about a year each for both products.

Who are your Indian customers?

Radke: We cannot reveal names. Yes, we have worked with the Mahindra Scorpio but we do work with all OEMs.

What are the challenges that India faces?

Radke: I was in Shanghai and see that China is far ahead of India; decisions are taken faster there. So India has to move fast — there’s no time to waste — but having said that, this fair has been better organised than a fair I saw in China. India has invested in infrastructure such as roads and airports and this needs to be faster.

How do you handle your manpower requirements?

Dhar/Sharma: We have a skills centre and what you see here is out there as well. Our customers come there to see what we do. It is like a classroom, there are exams and evaluation and we are doing our best to manage the skills issue. When we get graduate engineering trainees (GREs), they are freshers who do not have any knowledge about applications so they can get training and exposure in our training centre. We have 450 trained engineers in India.



Tell us about Honeywell’s involvement here?

We are here for the second time. We were at the Hyderabad show two years ago and used reps. Now, we have our own booth. We are part of the Sensing and Control group at Honeywell.

We have taken part in the North American testing expo and have participated in Europe as well. An estimated 10-20 percent of our turnover comes from the automotive testing and we believe that we are not getting our fair share of the business in India.

What are the reasons for that?

We are not new in India but need to be more exposed in India. Honeywell is known more for torque testing and shows like these are great for us to be known. Thanks to our acquisitions of companies like Senstech and Lebow (which is known here), there’s much more to Honeywell than its historical products.

Just like we do in Europe, we have pressure, load and vibration products here. We make sensors that are used in all these sectors and this enables the automotive guys to monitor the testing they do for such functions.

Who are your Indian clients?

Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland are some of our clients as is component supplier Brakes India. We want to basically replicate the success we have had in places like North America right here in India. As global application manager, my aim is to make our products and their applications more known. We have to show the potential client how to use them.

What questions have you been asked at this Expo?

Most questions have centeredaround the applications. Products are important, no doubt, but it is much more than that. You must know what your testing needs are and what are you trying to accomplish. It is engineering-type sales and mostly, we have engineers who know a lot about the application than about our products. Our forte is to understand thoroughly the application needs as well.

What are your India targets?

Let me put it this way. We want to up our marketshare and we want to double what we are doing. Our goal is that 10-20 percent of revenue should be automotive. From my colleagues and people here, I am getting requests to go to their locations to talk and that is a good sign.

Having said that, I have to say that like in the US, there is also a sort of consolidation in test labs happening here and the core expertise being located in one place.

What is India’s potential?

Our focus is on what we know we should be getting and we want to take that up. At the moment, it is less than five percent of revenue and we can double it.

What new products are you displaying here?

We have the displayed our TMS product line which is basically a wireless telemetry product and we have a new version here. It is used for engine dynamo testing and has advanced sensors. We are bringing it here. We want our growth to be based on new products like this. The Testing & Measurement business of Honeywell is much more than just torque based and so we want to tell our potential clients that we have a lot of products including our historical ones.

What about the slowdown in Detroit? Is that why you are here?

Actually, Detroit is picking up and a lot is happening there.

What about China?

China is big for Honeywell and could be bigger. We are also focusing on other verticals there such as oil and gas out there.

In India, transportation is important. In India, Honeywell has reps here in the three automotive hubs. Our design engineering is in Bangalore and we have, indeed, made quite an investment in India.




What are you displaying at this fair?

This is ANSYS’ first time. We have had very productive interactions here and I am happy with the organisation of this event. The new product we are introducing here is ANSYS 14.0. We make engineering simulation software. This technology helps our customers and developers make and simulate their own products. Moreover, for testing, globally testing has come at the very end of the product cycle but increasingly, there is a realisation among the big OEMs that simulation is important and needs to be upfront, and testing should be for validation. So testing is necessary and if you have some problems, we have products that can help you save time and costs in product development from start to finish. That is what we offer from a business point of view.

How are you marketing ANSYS 14.0?

We are doing a whole numbers of webinars, 17, all over the country and are running last month and this. Last year, we did physical on- site demos but that wasn’t very effective and so we have moved to a webinar model.

Who are your customers?

Large automakers are our clients and we have the major domestic and international players. In the last four to five years, the domestic market has gone up as has our presence in these companies.

What is ANSYS’ set-up in India?

In India, we have a development centre at Pune, a sales office in Bangalore and also offices in Kolkata, Bangalore and Pune and likely going forward, here in Chennai. Globally, we are a Nasdaq-listed company and our headquarters is at Pittsburgh, US.

What’s your vision going forward?

We are not in traditional testing. But because testing has to be close to validation, we want to help you accelerate to testing. If you take the case of the Nano, there are instances that things did not pan out earlier so if you do simulation a lot earlier, you can save a lot of money.

What about NATRiP?

We have no formal engagement with them at the moment but want to be involved with them. But through our customers, through SIAM and ARAI, we wish to work closely with them. We are also involved with the SAE Baja and Supra races where we give students our software to use and receive feedback.

What are the challenges here and how well are you known?

ANSYS is part of standard engineering curriculum, at the IITs, for example. It is quite well known but not if you are a generic person, the name won’t resonate very well. The name ANSYS is well known among people who use the products and they vouch for the reliability and the results they get by using our software.

What is your association with Formula One?

We provide simulation software for the Red Bull team. They use it to simulate how their front wing and rear wing work. They also use it for their aerodynamics, brake cooling and exhaust systems. It's very challenging to work with an F1 team.

What are your targets for the coming year?

We are aiming at double-digit growth and achieving it is very possible. I cannot get into specific numbers. The automotive sector is very key for us even as we also target oil and gas and aerospace, to mention but a few sectors where our software is used.




What is your association with the NATRiP project?

NATRiP is a project we’ve been associated with for two years now. We are supplying equipment to three centres — Pune, Chennai and Delhi. Out of the equipment we supply to them, one of them, the multi-axis shaker tables, is new technology. These are being used world-wide, but the first such equipment is going to be used at the NATRiP.

There is civil work still to be done there. That is causing the delay. We’re already dispatching equipment. We have them coming from USA, China and the Netherlands.

It’s not only our equipment, we manage the entire project. So we are integrating our equipment with third-party equipment too.

What equipment you have supplied to the NATRiP?

We supplied equipment that takes care of fatigue and durability testing. This includes what we call the 4-Poster test system, the multi-axis shake (MAS) table and climatic chambers.

The 4-poster is based on hydraulic test actuators that are used to assess NVH and can prove structural, chassis and suspension designs. The MAS table is based on the hexapod configuration, which essentially provides six degrees of freedom.

Any component is subject to vibration. For instance, the rubber mounts for the engine can be tested separately on this rig. Usually, you’d attach accelerometers on these rubber mounts, drive the car on the field and analyse the gathered data back in the lab. This MAS table can simulate those readings and it saves you the cost of running the car out in the real world. Basically, this brings the road to the lab. Even the entire engine can be placed on this MAS table and simulation work can be carried out.

We also simulate it under certain climatic conditions. The fatigue can’t occur in the kind of climate that is outside. So we make the car undergo temperatures that are very high and very low. Our climatic chambers simulate temperatures of around -45deg C to 80deg C.

A lot of durability damage is caused because of the sun. So we also simulate the sun and try to find the damage it causes, particularly to the rubber components. That is another part of the climatic chambers.

What is the value of the NATRiP order?

The exact numbers aren’t available with me, but you could say it’s around Rs 100 crore. That’s a ball-park figure.

Tell us a bit about Moog’s association with Formula One?

Earlier last year, Ferrari deployed a next-generation driving simulator at its headquarters in Maranello, Italy. Developed by Moog, the system includes a driving simulator featuring a customised motion control solution with combined motion mechanism, control loading system, a complete software package, top platform and a dedicated operator workstation.




What are you displaying here?

We are displaying capabilities that we have, not only in India but in the world. This includes testing, validation, CAD, CAE and the entire gamut of activities that take place prior to production, including concept finding and benchmarking.

IDIADA is there where R&D comes into the picture. We give the E9 certificate which is important if you want to sell a vehicle in Europe.

What is the E-born shown here at the Expo all about?

This is a concept car and an electric vehicle. We wish to showcase that it goes through the entire development cycle and every part is designed and executed by our Spanish team. It showcases our capabilities and an OEM guy can see this and know what we do.

Tell us about IDIADA in India.

We are 120-people strong in India. The India operations do all the activity that is done at HQ in Spain, in fact it is the only country outside Spain to do so. India has companies that do not have the expertise we have but have ambitions to export to Europe and the US which is a different ballgame. Since we are Euro-centric, we are well-versed in the regulations that apply. We give them the expertise they require. For example, if there is something wrong with the brakes of a particular vehicle, we can assess the problem and suggest solutions. A company seeking to enter a country with, say, X vehicle may give us 10 cars and tell us to test them in a -40deg environment. So we advise the customer before he takes a commercial decision.

You have been closely associated with NATriP?

We were invited by the government in 2006 to design the seven test centres of the project. We have designed the proving grounds. We are now asking the government to involve us in the operations phase of the project because it is complicated. The project is getting delayed and there's equipment lying around but the civil work remains unfinished. Seeing the lack of capabilities has made us want to contribute to the implementation phase as well.

Who do you work with in India?

We work with Maruti, Mahindra and many other companies.

What is IDIADA’s involvement in China?

We are in China and IDIADA is in every field but we are smaller there than we are in India. China is a growth area but India is key.

What are your expectations from a show like this?

We did not take part in the Delhi Auto Expo because you get the riff-raff coming too. This is a strictly business meeting and that is what we want. IDIADA did not take part in the first edition of the show and so this is our first time here. A show like this works for us as we get to meet our target audience.




What are you showing here?

We’re not displaying any equipment, but we’re talking about our airbag testing systems, body block system and head impact test system.

How has the response been?

The response has been great. We’ve got good enquiries. But the show has been organised at an odd time. Tuesday to Thursday is very odd I think. It is also very short. Another week would be better.

What is your association with the NATRiP project?

We are providing our seatbelt test system and head impact test systems. The order from them was made two years ago; we’ve delivered the equipment to the Chennai facility, but it hasn’t been installed yet. The civil work there is yet to be completed. We didn’t expect this. But if the situation in India is such, we have to be patient.

You’ve been in China too, how was that experience?

We’ve been present in China for six years now. They are a big market for us at present. They are also slow, but not as slow as India. We’ve learnt our lessons there.

Where do you manufacture your goods?

Manufacturing takes place in our 30-year-old facility near Cologne in Germany.

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