Scaling up its local operations, Hella India Lighting (HILL), the Indian automotive lighting arm of the €6 billion Hella Group of Germany, has recently invested an undisclosed amount at its manufacturing plant in Derabassi, near Chandigarh. The production facility is now modernised boosting the company’s LED lamp manufacturing capabilities for Indian as well as global customers.
Talking to Autocar Professional, Ramashankar Pandey, managing director, HILL, says: “We have invested heavily in the modernisation of our production plant. We have set up a sophisticated facility, which is like a plant within a plant. It’s an environment-controlled facility with new equipment from Germany that we have installed for boosting our LED manufacturing capabilities.”
According to the senior company official, this is part of a well-designed growth strategy that involves leapfrogging in terms of technology development and production capabilities in India. “The plant is at par with Hella’s other state-of-the-art plants around the world for the special OE segment. An all-new production area and assembly line was inaugurated by the global head of special OE division early this year,” he adds.
The newly built production setup will primarily enable the company, which was formerly known as JMA Industries, to develop technologically superior products for its OE customers.
It is understood that HILL’s focus OE customers in India are commercial vehicle manufacturers like Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland and many others. The company plans to introduce new technologies in the area of LED signalling, projector front lighting solutions, LED signature lamp technologies and DRLs (daytime running lamps) under its special OE business unit.
Detailing this, Pandey elaborates: “The new setup offers unique capability of modular product platform thus ensuring mass customisation through its flexible manufacturing cells. This is ensured by an innovative approach of moulding, metalising, gluing and flexible assembly processes suitable for Indian customers. This would provide us extremely cost-effective solutions to special OEM category facing the challenging task of offering a high number of variants targeting specific needs of smaller customer groups, and still keeping the development cost within their respective program budgets.”
Efficient lighting reduces road accidents
The lighting arm of Hella is understood to be one of the primary drivers in spreading awareness about the ill-effects of inefficient lighting technologies used by some Indian vehicle manufacturers. According to the company, inefficient lighting technologies are among the core reasons behind road accidents.
“The company, based on its own indigenous research and studies, has discovered that one of the important aspects nearly missed in India while understanding the causes behind road deaths involving CVs is the recognition of moving traffic and objects on the road. Many accidents on Indian roads are a result of poor lighting and visibility. Many studies have attested to the importance of having sufficient and good quality front lighting and signalling systems in road vehicles to avoid accidents at night. Huge investments in research have made the lighting in modern vehicles more innovative, effective and efficient than ever,” highlights Pandey.
At the helm of a campaign to turn around these factors (involving the practice of inefficient automotive lamps contributing to road accidents), the company, after collaborating with major Indian OEMs and the aftermarket players, has for the first time introduced a basket of maintenance-free signalling lamps for the CV industry in India.
Providing details on this front, Pandey reveals that “all efforts by the R&D engineers resulted into the local manufacturing of a designed-to-cost, fully sealed LED lamp technology. These first-of-its-kind full rear combination lamps for trucks were introduced in India by HILL. Although we are pioneers in providing these solutions to the CV industry, it was not easy for Hella to convince the customers to invest into better signalling technologies for the safety of others on the road.
"However, what we see now is that after years of hard work, the ‘LEDfication’ of signalling lamps (across the CV segments) has become an irreversible trend on Indian roads. So while this will ensure safety (to a reasonable extent), these solutions also present a strong value proposition for fleet customers as these offer zero maintenance costs,” affirms Pandey.
The company has also come up multiple solutions that help in avoiding frequent bulb change and the maintenance of rear combination and other signalling lamps fitted on most Indian trucks. According to a company document, the cost of ownership of these new innovative lighting technologies over their lifetime is lower than that of the bulb-based lamps; thanks to factors such as 80 percent lower power consumption and being a maintenance-free solution.
“After the successful launch of five-year-warranty product range, this year saw a completely new product platform of LED lamps launched by Hella with more economical advantages for OEMs targeting the mid-segment. In contrast to bulb-based lamps, an LED lights up instantly and provides extra braking distance,” adds Pandey.
Turning around the business
With innovative lighting technologies as its backbone, the company is now successfully turning around its operations into a profit-making business case.
Disclosing HILL’s performance for the past financial year, Pandey says, “A strong focus on safety products has resulted in business success for Hella India Lighting. The company achieved a double-digit growth over its previous year’s sales figure of Rs 120 crore. Of this, more than 12 percent came from exports while the aftermarket and special OE business contributed equally to its top line.”
The Special OE (SOE) division of Hella in India is represented by Hella India Lighting and it caters mainly to the commercial vehicle segment, farm equipment including tractors and construction equipment as well.
Lighting up the two-wheeler market
On February 28, 2015, Autocar Professional broke the news about HILL’s plan of venturing into the two-wheeler lighting space, which currently has established players like Lumax, Rinder (now acquired by the UNO Minda Group), Varroc Group and others. The company is now closer to realising its plan.
Divulging details in this context, Pandey says, “As the company is preparing to make a foray into the two-wheeler lighting segment, it expects a significant business contribution in FY2017-18. Due to a very high proportion of road accidents involving motorcycles, Hella foresees that safer lighting standards will improve the visibility of two-wheelers. The company is geared to take advantage of the same with the speedy introduction of its lighting solutions towards improved safety for them.”
Pandey foresees that technologies such as DRLs, auto levelling devices, fog lamps, and LED signalling devices have vast potential in India, and HILL is prepared to collaborate with vehicle manufacturers to bring them to India. Over to you, automakers.