Gurgaon-based JBM Group has had an exciting journey in the Indian automotive industry. Having started operations as a component manufacturer in the mid-80s through a joint venture with Maruti Suzuki India, JBM has continued to diversify into different products and solutions through these years, carving a unique position for itself in the market. It was also one of the quickest in the country to identify the electric mobility potential.
JBM Auto has put in place robust in-house engineering and manufacturing capabilities and was successful in meeting the fast-changing customer requirements. The company infused regular investments in vertically integrated infrastructure and boasts of a well-equipped tool room for customised OEM requirements. This enabled the company to gain a better understanding of how the OEM space operated.
FORAY INTO BUSES
The group’s bus division is called JBM Auto Limited. The company developed its first low-floor buses in a record time of 30 months, with the help of 300 engineers. The buses had rear-view camera, stop-start buttons, roof metal, independent suspension for a jerk-free ride and risk-free breaking mechanism. The company had forayed into the electric bus segment in 2013, and the move panned out to be the turning point as it gained ground in the e-mobility space.
The decision to enter the EV space was a conscious one, as JBM saw manufacturers, service providers and technological solution providers focus on a product-specific approach, rather than a module, which addressed the entre e-mobility ecosystem. The company felt the need to fill this vacuum and decided to offer its expertise as a component maker in the nascent yet buoyant e-mobility space.
Nishant Arya, Executive Director, JBM Group said its ecosystem approach distinguishes JBM from other players. “We are an electric mobility ecosystem service provider, and not merely an OEM manufacturing e-buses. Customers need to be made aware of the nuances of the electric vehicle space as the market knowledge is quite less. The plan is to educate and empower the masses through our green mobility products”.
The company is working towards developing solutions in-house for the complete vehicle, batteries, charging technology and the operating patterns. JBM has been customising its solutions for each city it operates or plans to operate in, owing to the different demographics and geographical requirements of each city.
Many OEMs are of the opinion that the way towards full electrification is via hybrid technology development. However, Arya has a different take. “We are not focusing on hybrids at all. Our focus is solely on pure electric vehicles with an aim to achieve 100 % electrification and zero emissions. Hence, JBM’s target is not only electric, but zero emission vehicles. In zero emission vehicles, electric is the most promising technology on offer today. Through electric vehicles, we have the potential to make a long-term impact on the society, and public transportation would be the first to benefit from this technology. This is the mode of transport, which enables us to connect with the masses and generate awareness about zero emissions.”
In order to gain global perspective, Arya created a new team of Japanese experts and started developing products independently. JBM’s focus on value additions helped grow its profitability
by 50 %.
Earlier, JBM had started its public transport journey by launching the Citylife CNG and Citylife diesel buses at the Auto Expo 2016. This bus complied with the government’s Urban Bus Specification 2 (UBS 2) standards. It has some unique features like folding wheelchair ramp for specially-abled passengers, mobile charging points for passenger convenience and security cameras inside the bus.
After the success and increasing demand for the Citylife series, JBM launched the Eco-Life all-electric bus at the Auto Expo 2018. This is a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV), which is expected to save around 959 equivalent tons of CO2 and 350,000 l of diesel over 10 years of operation. The Eco-Life has a corrosion resistant monocoque structure to ensure maximum strength and minimum weight, matching European standards for safety in case of front/ side collision and rollover accidents. It’s an integral product, where the body and chassis are not separate. The bus comes with cantilever seats that provide extra leg room for passengers and increased storage space underneath for belongings.
JBM’s joint venture with Europe’s largest electric bus manufacturer Solaris is a testimony of its commitment to this segment, said Arya. Solaris has been manufacturing electric buses over the last 17 years and has supplied over 16,000 buses in 500 cities across 52 countries. While JBM has been leveraging its experience, it is not copying Solaris’ technology entirely, as the Indian market presents different challenges as compared to the European markets.
The bus comes in as a just-in-time solution addressing the country’s growing environmental concerns, said Arya. JBM’s focus is to be a one-stop solution provider in the electric vehicle segment by providing a complete ecosystem solution for e-mobility. Through its in-house R&D centres, JBM Solaris offers an entire range of activities right from design, development, engineering, prototyping to testing and validation.
The company has introduced multiple new features like fast charging, in order to negate the need to carry dead weight. “We want to reduce the battery size and plan to carry maximum number of passengers,” Arya said. Eco-life uses advanced li-ion batteries, which have a longer life as compared to lead acid batteries and are also safer. The battery has been placed on the roof of the bus to avoid water-clogging and electrocution.
Speaking about the newly-launched product, Arya said the bus is a significant evolution from how public transportation operates in India. It has a range of 150-200 km during 10-15 hr of city operations, subject to traffic conditions. The lithium batteries are chargeable through pantograph as well as plug-in charging system. Aiming to offer a flexible e-mobility solution, the electric bus technology is adaptable to the city bus operations depending on demographic and geographic conditions. JBM currently operates two plants – one in Faridabad, Haryana and the other at Kosi Kalan, Uttar Pradesh – with a combined installed capacity to manufacture 2,000 buses annually.
BEST PRODUCTION PRACTICES
On the company’s success mantra, Arya said that its vast experience working with global majors combined with the group’s domestic expertise has enabled it to imbibe best global practices, including JIT, Pokayoke, Kanban, Lean Manufacturing and Kaizen. The company has combined the best practices and has evolved its own unique system to address concerns and rectify errors without any lag in production.
These practises not only enable the company to maintain its equipment and ensure they are as good as new, but also ensure that its systems continue to carry out minor modifications to continuously improve processes, eliminate waste, enable better interface with upstream and downstream handling.
The government’s mandate on electric mobility offers JBM a great opportunity to penetrate into the Indian electric-bus market. Arya said the company is working with multiple customers as well as with many smart cities. With a comprehensive strategy to boot, the future augurs well for JBM Auto.
TEXT: Anwesh Koley
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay/ JBM