Developing Products That Offer Market Differentiation

Shopfloor MAN Trucks Products Market Differentiation
Developing Products That Offer Market Differentiation

MAN Trucks India Pvt Ltd (MTIPL) started operations in India in 2006 as a joint venture and in 2012 the company became a 100 % subsidiary of MAN Truck & Bus AG (Germany). The company manufactures heavy MAN CLA trucks for the Indian market and exports vehicles to Asia, Africa, CIS and the SAARC countries. We recently had the opportunity to visit the Pithampur production unit of the company to understand the truck-making business of MAN in India and also gain perspective about its future roadmap. Joerg Mommertz, Chairman & Managing Director, MAN Trucks India Pvt Ltd, showed us around the plant and explained the production process.

OVERVIEW

MAN trucks’ products range from chassis to tippers for the construction industry and semitrailer tractors for long haul transport. By acquiring full ownership, MAN Truck & Bus India has now taken sole responsibility for the production and sale of the trucks both within and outside India. The current installed capacity at the Pithampur plant is 9,000 vehicles per year. The current range of products include BS III and BS IV models of tractor heads, rigid body truck, tippers for on road and mining applications, besides special application vehicles like RMC, batch plant, fire engine, garbage compactor, etc. The products are in the 16 to 49 tonne range for various applications.

The product range manufactured in this plant include tippers for off-road & construction, haulage for regular & over dimensional cargo, and special application trucks such as fire tenders, garbage compactors, concrete mixers, boom pumps, tip trailers and bulkers. The product range for India is developed at MAN Trucks R&D centre in Pune. MTIPL also exports the trucks made in India to African and Asian markets. Currently, MAN Trucks has a network of 65 touch points in India and one each in Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. The company has sold over 27,000 trucks since it started its India operations in 2006.

PRODUCTION PROCESS

The MAN plant at Pithampur has state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities including modern machine shop, in-house assembly of axle, engine, cabin and complete vehicle. These are fully supported with in-house testing facilities. The axles & engines are assembled and mated depending upon the model, its variant and intended application. The vehicle assembly line involves the mounting of the powertrain with the chassis and then with the cabin. At each station the job is done with quality checks before moving to the next point in the line.

The facility is built with a capacity to manufacture 24,000 units annually. There are three major units within the facility – the engine and axle manufacturing facility; the vehicle assembly line consisting of the chassis assembly, trim line and vehicle testing facility; and the export unit, which is called the Truck in Box unit (TiB), where trucks are packed in knocked down condition and exported to markets like South Africa, Malaysia and Indonesia.

With regard to engines, currently the trucks are fitted with the MAN 08 Series of diesel engines, which are manufactured at the Pithampur facility. It currently offers 220 hp and 300 hp engines based on the products and market requirement. There are plans to introduce common rail BS III and BS IV engines in the near future. The manufacturing facility, certified to TS 16949:2000 standard, has been built as per MAN’s global standards and systems.

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

A differentiating factor for the Pithampur plant is the Truck in Box (TiB) unit. Here vehicles for exports are put in boxes and shipped to the respective markets. TiB is the MAN concept for CKD (completely knocked down) or SKD (semi knocked down) vehicles, which is the disassembling process of a vehicle in order to ship it to another site for final assembly.

The aggregate shop is the place where various activities related to components like machining, assembly, manufacturing, alignment, painting and testing takes place. Components primarily include engine and axles. There are 27 CNC machines at the machine centre ranging from three to seven axles. The aggregate shop also houses an advanced engine testing lab, where each and every engine is tested fully in a 32 min cycle. All engines are tested for critical parameters including power, emissions and fuel efficiency.

The vehicle assembly division has three sections. These include the chassis assembly, the testing section and the trim assembly. The chassis assembly has 14 stations with the marriage of the engine and chassis happening at the 11th section. Testing includes pre-series, cabin testing and harness testing.

The Pithampur plant currently offers 220 hp and 300 hp engines based on product and market requirements

THE MAN ‘CLA EVO’ RANGE

We had an opportunity to witness the production of the CLA Evo range of trucks from MAN, which has a lot at stake in terms of quality benchmarks and market expectations.

The new CLA Evo series trucks are powered by MAN’s proven D-0836, turbo charged, inter-cooled engine, which produce a maximum power between 250 and 300 hp. Mated to six- and nine-speed gearboxes, the trucks are adapted for specific operational purposes. The electronically-controlled common rail system has been adopted to make the engine score high on reliability and fuel efficiency, besides being more environmentally-friendly.

The crawler gear fitted in long haul trucks helps the engine run within the optimal rpm range, thereby reducing fuel consumption. A strong rigid front axle, hypoid rear axles provide superior traction & gradeability, and improved reliability. The tippers feature MAN’s planetary rear axle with hub reduction, which provides high ground clearance and has proven its effectiveness in varying conditions. The inter axle and differential lock imparts superior traction.

MAN has worked heavily on driver comfort for this range. The driver environment offers superior ergonomics, visibility and control. The objective is to provide drivers high levels of comfort for significantly reduced fatigue and enhanced safety. The aerodynamic cabin with heat and sound dampeners and an optional AC helps maximise man and machine performance.

The vehicle assembly line involves the mounting of the powertrain with the chassis; at each station the job is done with quality checks before moving on

QUALITY CONTROL

To ensure high quality of vehicles, modern high tech equipment and assembly processes are adopted in MTIPL’s manufacturing facility. This includes support to suppliers to avoid contingencies and bottlenecks during the value chain.

MAN Trucks India’s R&D centre is located at Tathawade in Pune. The company has a full-fledged team working on all aspects of products – from feature upgrades to technology introductions. The gamut of activities includes development and implementation from both market demand as well as regulatory requirement perspectives. The work ranges from concept to design to prototyping to validation, before handing over to the plant for serial production.

The introduction of the New CLA Evo range with BS IV engines has been one of the most recent instances of the work done by the R&D team. MAN Trucks India is currently working on various initiatives, such as introduction of the BS IV bus chassis, CNG variant for export markets and a new deep mining tipper for both domestic & export markets. A key activity is to introduce the BS VI engine for domestic market in April 2020 as per the Government of India’s mandate.

Testing and validation includes simulations and field trials to ensure all components, systems and the complete vehicle undergo extensive checks and corrections.

MTIPL recently undertook the MAN Expedition for over 9,000 kms to generate awareness about its products

THE WAY AHEAD

MAN Trucks believes that the heavy commercial segment is its forte in India and the steady investments coming from the parent company is a testimony to that end. However, the light commercial vehicle market is a tough domain to operate in. It is important to ensure cost-competitiveness. The company believes that launching a product based on European technology will not deliver the desired results and customised solutions are a must.

Instead, working closely with vendors, assessing ground-level requirements and providing a robust aftersales service is expected to yield success in a market like India. The change of regulation with greater emphasis on safety and cleaner emissions will help the company, but it still has to consider the cost position and decide whether it can be competitive with these trucks in this market.

TEXT & PHOTO: Anwesh Koley