Diversified supplier of automotive parts, Minda Industries has recently developed a map-reading lamp for one of the Toyota vehicles in India. The product, developed by the company’s Lighting Division, consists of two lamps with optimised optics as the light needs to fall in a particular pattern and ensure the fine print of a map is readable. The company is also working on developing LED tail lamps for an undisclosed Indian OEM. Vishnu Johri, President, Minda Industries (Lighting Division) told this magazine that the unit consists of two LED clusters comprising a total of about 28 LEDs. The company is already supplying LED HMSLs (high mounted stop lights) to Tata Motors and Daihatsu in Indonesia, Johri said. In addition, the company has recently secured a contract from another OEM to develop LED tail lamps, and this project is presently in the design phase. Johri believes the industry will gradually make a significant shift towards LEDs, and the company is already working on developing the technology further.
The company operates two facilities of the Lighting Division in Manesar and Pune. The Manesar plant supplies 90 % of its products to Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL), while the remaining production is exported to various markets in the ASEAN region. In some time though, these exports will get transitioned to the company’s new facility in Indonesia. The Manesar plant has a high level of automation and most procedures such as gluing, pressing and moulding are almost entirely automated. In order to increase the rate further, the company has ordered for a turn-table mechanism machine. This machine will assemble HMSLs and will enable the company to save the manpower of about 10 people.
Apart from MSIL, the company is presently supplying headlamps and tail lamps to Volkswagen for the Polo and Vento models. The company is also trying to increase its automation level to improve efficiency and quality. One challenge faced by companies while making small lamps is that it consists of many small parts, manufacturing of which is a labour-intensive process. Minda is trying to automate this process to the maximum possible extent in order to make the production more efficient. Processes that could be automated include pick and place and the fitment of bulbs into the holders.
Another aspect the company is actively working on is identifying the right suppliers. Johri told us that while earlier there were just a couple of trustworthy sources, presently they are much more in number. This has been achieved by close cooperation between Minda’s engineers and the suppliers and through close understanding of the right balance between technology and cost. In addition, most of the product development is done in India with cooperation from customers. This allows the company to deliver a good response level, which is a key to the success of any product development partnership.
Johri also talked about the concept of concurrent engineering being followed by Minda Lighting. In case of an overseas customer, the company positions key members of its development team at the customer’s facility or in close vicinity. For such customers, communication is of great importance. The overall process needs to be quick to turnaround despite factors such as time difference or geographical distance. Also, for a clear understanding of technical matters, virtual communication isn’t always the best platform. Any misunderstanding during the design phases can have large effects on the entire project during later phases.
A key reason for Minda Lighting’s success has been its ability to make investments in the right area at the right time. We were told that there has been a shift in the technology for off-road vehicles off late as they’ve moved from conventional lamps to newer technologies. Majority of this change has taken place in the last 2-3 years. Minda was able to allocate the right resources in time at its design centre and as a result the company presently commands about 50 % of the market share in this segment. Investments too are mapped every year on three parameters – expansion, technology and skill development. Based on the results and further requirements, the company makes further investments in these areas.
In general, global consulting firms and industry bodies have suggested that Indian suppliers do not invest adequately in R&D. Minda Group though invests about three percent of its revenue in R&D, which is an acceptable figure by global standards too. An example for this is the headlamp-levelling motors, which are presently imported or assembled in India. Minda Lighting however has developed such a motor locally and patented its design. The product is already being supplied to the headlamp suppliers of Tata Motors. Region-wise, India and ASEAN region will continue to be the major markets for the division in the medium-term. The future growth for Minda Lighting will be driven by its focus on development of cost-effective technologies, Johri informed.
ASHISH GULATI is Country Head, Telit Wireless Solutions India
The concept of connected devices is all set to explode, and there will be a revolution in coming times. The goal is to achieve human-to-human, human-to-machine and machine-to-machine interactions that enhance all our activities and enrich our lives. Enter the age of “Internet of Things,” where sensors, computers and devices are connected in a self-managing ecosystem.
The number of connected devices is rapidly increasing and expected to increase by 30 % in 2015. As per a study by Gartner, the number of connected devices is expected to reach 4.9 bn by 2020. The connected car is already a reality. In all vehicles, wireless connectivity is rapidly expanding right from luxury to high-volume mid-market models, and this changing landscape of connectivity would build a new set of specifications for the cars of future.
With an increasing need for digital content within a vehicle, it has emphasised the need for the latest infotainment systems and simultaneously created wide opportunities for application developers and graphics designers. According to a recent report from McKinsey, prominent increase in vehicle connectivity that is transforming the automotive sector could boost the value of the global market for connectivity components and services to € 170 bn by 2020, more than five times higher than today’s € 30 bn.
The car of today is already packed with electronics and, in fact, has the highest density of electronic components as compared to other consumer machines. A plethora of technologies powers the car today and these technologies fall into three domains: safety & security, infotainment & telematics, and powertrain/ fuel economy.
Infotainment and telematics are addressed by technologies that enable smart traffic management, positioning & location-based services, car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communication and in the future, perhaps autonomous driving. The powertrain/ fuel economy domain is addressed by technologies in engine control, shift-by-wire, stop/start, engine downsizing, vehicle electrification and street predictability.
Internet of Cars
The internet of cars becomes a full platform within the internet of everything. Safety and security as well as infotainment and telematics are richly enhanced with the benefit of connectivity and data transfer. In today’s time, safety without doubt is a serious concern for car users. The technology within the cars, when connected together, can help each other to be safer. Armed with smart sensors to detect the environment around the car, connectivity to be online, and satellite positioning to establish relative location, cars can inform about traffic and road conditions, as well as other concerns ahead.
Taking safety and security as a top priority, an innovative example of telematics in India is in the state of Kerala. A taxi service, She-Taxi, has been launched in collaboration with Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and Kerala State Women's Development Corporation to help women reach their desired destinations safely. She-Taxi has been designed and integrated with web-mobile based convergent technologies, which will monitor and track the activities of the passenger as well as the cab driver. She-Taxis are well equipped with several safety features that are a combination of both technology as well as general features. Safety alert switches for drivers near the seat, passenger safety alert switches at the back side, drivers safety systems on their mobile phone, safety alert receivers at control stations, GPS-based tracking system, controlling over speed, rash driving, sudden brake, sudden turn, remote engine off, theft protection are all an extension and part of telematics, which are playing a role in making taxi services in India safer.
According to Frost & Sullivan’s Commercial Vehicle Telematics Market Outlook, the telematics market in India is expected to reach 1.3 mn units by 2021. Apart from this infrastructure development will be critical to the development and innovation in the telematics market. Government policies on the installation of telematics devices in CVs will help in the growth of the telematics market in India.
Currently, 2G/2.5G-based modules have dominated the Indian telematics market, but with the launch of 3G and 4G networks, a shift towards 3G and 4G based modules is expected over the coming years.
Telematics applications can automatically execute emergency assistance calls in the time of accidents. Vehicle maintenance, the preventive route to car safety, is already being greatly enhanced. Remote diagnosis of the vehicle and data logging can keep track of and highlight the need for running repairs of the vehicle. Telematics also enables anti-theft features as a stolen car can be tracked and its whereabouts reported to the authorities. On a macro level, the internet of cars can enable intelligent traffic forecast and management through a unified communication network for vehicles that is leading to safer roads, less congestion and lower emissions caused by cars stuck in traffic jams. Such technologies are creating an integrated approach by bringing car safety to a whole new level.
With GPS technology in car navigation, the capability to receive signals from multiple satellite systems and to collect information has improved accuracy and response time in determining vehicle position, and this has expanded the utility of this function beyond basic navigation to safety-related applications.
The Indian telematics market is exhibiting growth as the consumers are becoming more cautious about their safety, while driving. Moreover, automobile companies are collaborating with telematics-module manufacturing companies to develop in-built telematics systems during the production process itself. Added to this, the low-cost telematics solutions are encouraging the end-users as they are able to afford this technology and also enjoy the services being provided by this technology.
The Internet-ready vehicle brings with it host of security concerns related to the data it will generate. Like the smartphone platform, the new technology cars are also facing critical issues related to business model, standardisation, etc. The absence of a certified body or an agency for standardisation and regulations of telematics industry is the biggest challenge faced by this sector. Regardless of certain core challenges like adoption of technology, developing countries have a massive potential to leverage and reap benefits of road safety and also improvements in economic efficiency.