Dr Arun Jaura: “The dynamics of the automotive industry will completely change and we have to be prepared for that."

by Mayank Dhingra 12 May 2020

On May 11, India’s leading B2B automotive title, Autocar Professional hosted a special webinar, on the occasion of the National Technology Day in India, inviting industry stalwarts and think tanks to bring forth their experience and knowledge to a curious online audience. 

The subject for the webinar – "Pushing the Technology Envelope" – was unanimously chosen keeping in mind India Auto Inc’s collective effort on successfully accomplishing the arduous task of transitioning from BS IV to BS VI in a record three-year timeframe. 

The panelists included:

  • Dr Arun Jaura, managing director, Michelin India Technology Centre
  • Dr Ravi Damodaran, CTO, Greaves Cotton
  • F Rodriguez, Engineering Head, TataMotors
  • Meenakshi Sundaram, CTO, Amalgamations

While Covid-19 pandemic might have overshadowed developments in the world right now, April 1 was the landmark day when all vehicle segments in India switched over to confirm to the stringent BS VI emission norms – a feat made possible by the relentless hard work and diligence of engineers, researchers and production workers across automotive suppliers, technology providers and vehicle manufacturers. 

An industry veteran, having worked in Ford Motor Company in Detroit to being the former COO of Mahindra & Mahindra and then the former head of Eaton’s India Technology Centre, Dr Arun Jaura, the managing director of Michelin India Technical Centre, started off the webinar with his detailed presentation. 

Dr Jaura talked about the new normal initiated by the Covid-19 pandemic and how the industry is going to manage the entire situation in the coming future. He mentioned that the traditional ways of working are going to change dramatically, and the need for safety and avoiding proximity among people are going to bring a phenomenal and unprecedented shift towards technology. 

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event that we are facing right now. Covid-19 will completely change the dynamics of the industry and we have to be prepared for that,” Dr Jaura said.

The engineering professional who has five global patents to his credit shared that India is at the cutting edge of many new technologies including BS VI and coming up with frugal engineering solutions.

Shedding light on the trends in the tyre industry, Dr Jaura mentioned that a tyre is one of the most important components of a vehicle. “It is also something that is generally fit and forgotten about,” he said.

Outlook and trends in global tyre industry
Dr Jaura quoted from a Smithers long-term report – ‘The Future of the Global Tires to 2024’ – that the global tyre industry is poised for growth from being placed at US$ 239 billion in revenues in 2019 to US$ 280 million by 2024, projecting a CAGR of  3.2 percent.

The report also mentions that the tyre industry is expected to grow in volume and value terms with applications like two-wheelers, high-performance vehicles and off-the-road tyres leading the market. However, to be able to do so, the industry will also need to adapt to the host of challenges across a complex matrix of tyre types, material inputs and end-use cases.

Explaining the construction of a tyre, Dr Jaura said that a regular tyre comprises over 210 components including carbon black, silicon and oils. “It is such a dynamic component which has to manage torque and heat generated due to rotational motion. The physics of the tyre is very difficult to model whether it is predicting the life of a tyre, how it is going to behave and many other parameters.”

“Simulation is allowing people to create a digital twin and aid engineering in a big way,” he said. Even as the global tyre industry has a promising future lying ahead of it, the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has brought a huge impact on the automotive, airline, travel and tourism industries, all of which determine its growth. As a result, contrary to the aforementioned pre-Covid-19 growth statistics, Dr Jaura also mentioned data from a recent report from the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries (ANRPC), which has brought a downward revision to the global production and consumption of natural rubber – the core raw material in a tyre.

According to the ANRPC report there will be a 2.33 percent reduction in the global production of natural rubber to 13.433 million tonnes in 2020, which has seen a 679,000 tonnes lower compared to the outlook presented last month when it stood at 14.112 million tonnes.

He explained that the buying power has already gone down due to the Covid-19 pandemic and is expected to remain so for the next 18-24 months. Surface mobility will go down due to the work-from-home regime and while two-wheeler sales will rebound fastest, public transport and passenger vehicles will take some time to revive. Need for last-mile connectivity, however, is bound to grow. 

“This is a transition which would lead to a lot of cost-model change. Companies are saving and rethinking their capital outflow with all investments being put on hold at the moment,” Dr Jaura remarked.

Furthermore, with a reduction in oil prices, the ANRPC report also suggests a decrease in raw material prices in the near-term, but which might not last long due to recovery in some forms of mobility. 

With fuel efficiency and lower emissions being the present-day hallmarks of the global automotive industry, Dr Jaura mentioned that the environmental impact of tyres is a crucial aspect and going forward, there is going to be a focus on sustainability with development of modern transportation technologies including autonomous driving.

A digital transformation
Dr Jaura highlighted how the Covid-19 has created a digital transformation with virtual engineering and simulation playing a key role. Simulation can help companies such as logistics players determine their tyre changing schedules and thus, plan ahead in terms of off-loading, arranging finance and alternative service for customers – in a nutshell, offer the ability to do efficient planning.

Moreover, companies would now be looking at merging the online business with offline and do a lot of contactless business. He mentioned that there are services and digital offerings which can allow to pool cargo between different clients to bring out the best system efficiency, while also making the transportation cost-effective for everybody. 

“The future of value-creation model is a real challenge. There is going to be a lot of contactless business and businesses with integrated digitalisation options are going to benefit most and be able to survive this tectonic shift,” he explained.

 At the consumer front, Dr Jaura mentioned that connected and smart tyres are already a reality in developed markets, and the same could soon be there in India as well. 

“Consumer dynamics are changing fast. Tyre buyers will increasingly want to know the cost per kilometre of a tyre and we could leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and data analytics in tyre technology,” Dr Jaura added.

While companies have been using these technologies for engineering their products, it’s time these technologies be taken directly to customers. 

“It’s not just about pushing the technology, but it’s about how much we can think out-of-the-box to enhance the penetration of technology, which  matters most for the consumer,” he said.

Giving his advice to budding engineers, Dr Jaura said, “What is important is to be a solid engineer who can understand and apply a concept / principal. As you progress through your education, do projects which are multi-domain and multi-functional, where one can interact with different concepts and make systems talk to each other”

“Gone are the days of being a pure mechanical engineer. Today’s engineering is intertwined with multiple domains and one should be able to cross-deploy knowledge and the engineering know-how.” Dr Jaura concluded with the advice to keep consumer demand in mind, “It is not just about pushing the technology envelope but also enhance technology penetration to meet the consumer demand.”

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