JBM Auto unveiled its new plant in Sanand, Gujarat in June this year, aimed at supplying to Ford's plant in the vicinity. Set-up with an investment of Rs 200 cr, this plant will manufacture vehicle pillars, dashboard assemblies and other sub-assemblies. In light of this investment and to learn of the progress the company is making on its bus project, we caught up with Nishant Arya, Executive Director, JBM Group.
SANAND PLANT – LESSER KNOWN FACTS
The Sanand plant is an important link in JBM's component business as the parts it's supplying to Ford will be used on vehicles intended for local as well as export markets, including Europe and the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) regions. Arya told us that the new plant manufactures products, which require a higher level of engineering than basic parts. These include dashboard assemblies, underbody parts and many high-level sub-assemblies (HLSS).
Another important yet little known fact about this plant is the implementation of transfer press line (TPL). Arya told us that JBM is one of the few automotive companies globally to have used this manufacturing technology. TPL typically involves automating the process to the maximum, while reducing human intervention to the minimum in favour of high quality demanded by advanced engineering products. This technology, although expensive, has helped JBM achieve higher quality along with the benefits of higher production rate and better space utilisation. Referring to the focus of the TPL technology, Arya pointed us towards the quality, cost, delivery, development and management (QCDDM) concept, which he said is the aim of the plant and the company.
The company has also set-up a new skill development centre in Sanand, its third after similar centres in Faridabad and Chennai. These centres absorb non-skilled people and provide adequate training and tools to make people employable. Naturally, this not only helps JBM but also the industry and is something that is increasingly becoming important for the automotive sector.
BUS PROJECT UPDATE
JBM's ambitious Rs 500 cr bus project is aimed at a niche and premium market. Arya informed us that the bus business has started-off well and the order book has crossed 200 units, with more numbers in the pipeline. Key customers for the company are state transport undertakings (STU), schools and airports.
Arya expects this space to become more competitive in the coming times and hence the company is already working on expanding its product portfolio. In line with this, the company will soon launch a diesel bus to complement its earlier launched CNG model. The diesel model, in addition to a different powertrain, will also feature new comfort and safety features to add value proposition, said Arya. These would include rear view cameras, which would keep a track of the cabin and improve safety in general. There would also be stop buttons in the cabin to notify the driver in case of any undesirable incident/ issue. Arya told us that while these features would improve overall safety, they have been included keeping women safety in mind.
For the diesel bus, JBM will make use of a Cummins engine, details of which Arya didn't share. However, he told us that the bus will create a new segment and hence establish a benchmark for the segment. In terms of fuel-efficiency this bus will be slightly better than the CNG model, he added.
In order to maintain pace with smart mobility and upcoming smart cities, JBM's new buses will be adaptable to individual customer requirements such as ticketing machines, GPS and smart cards. This will enable customers to use these features at any point of the bus lifecycle instead of getting a special modification made.
In terms of technology, JBM surely has made a significant progress in the recent past and is doing well in expanding its model range. The addition of a diesel bus to the earlier CNG model will expand the company's geographic potential within the country. All of the 200 buses ordered in the JNNURM scheme last year will be delivered in 2015, said Arya. With more orders to be announced soon, Arya expects the bus business to account for a large part of the company's growth in the coming financial year.
Text: Arpit Mahendra