ZF sets up tech centre in Hyderabad, to pursue progress in digital space
ZF Friedrichshafen AG has commissioned a technology centre in Hyderabad, mainly to pursue progress in the digital space. It will invest Euro 15 million over the next 5 years. Spanning 100,000 sq. ft., the technology centre will help the tier 1 automotive supplier to foster high-end innovations to bring advanced technology to India and to localise strategic business activities including research, design and development for global market initiatives. The centre will also look at leveraging academic research communities from India. To be dedicated to electronics, embedded software and mechanical engineering, the centre will support ZF’s global development teams, enabling the company to accelerate local product development, according to Mamatha Chamarthi, Chief Digital Officer of ZF. It will become a pillar of innovation for the company.
Present in India since 1982 through joint ventures until it set up its own subsidiary in India in 2007, ZF has manufacturing footprints in Pune and Comibatore.
Leveraging frugal engineering
Aiming to leverage the frugal engineering abilities India is known for through the technology centre, Chamarthi said that they are creating a low-cost model of its nine-speed transmission that is offered to commercial vehicle OEMs in India. Announcing that the technology centre will play a crucial role in carrying out safe routing as part of ZF’s 3 mainstays – see, think and act, ZF CEO Dr. Stefan Sommer, said, “The safe routing of technologies, as we expect significant change in automobiles, comes under the think part.”
Dedicated to electronics, embedded software and mechanical engineering, the technology centre in Hyderabad will support ZF’s global development teams, enabling it to accelerate local product development and to support ZF’s non-automotive operations and customers in India as well. Looking at harnessing the skill set present in India to develop
world-class technology solutions for ZF across the globe, in addition to accelerating local product development, the technology centre, said Chamarthi, would provide employment to 2500 individuals by 2020.
“Our focus when it comes to digitisation is on our products. We are looking at many things; transmissions in CVs for example can be connected and monitored to help with remote diagnostics, and move forward to prognostics and maintenance,” she added.
Stating that they are looking at different business models like not charging for the entire transmission at once, and charging only a quarter of it, Chamarthi said, “We are looking not just at technology but also at how it can help us come up with different business policies. Not just to support organic growth but to support new revenue models that contribute to growth.”
Premium, cost effective
With all 5 divisions of the ZF Group represented in the Indian market, and having local production companies that manufacture parts for diverse vehicle applications, it is not tough to understand and acknowledge ZF’s intention to increase its footprint in India. “The motivation for the technology centre came from the company’s digitisation strategy. There is a huge need in software capacity and expertise to serve the digital future of our products. With software as the main point, the centre in Hyderabad will support all our technology centres in the world. It will also help us to stay closer to our customers by leveraging new software and intelligence of our think, act and see strategy,” Sommer said.
The centre will also help the group support customers to achieve ambitious fuel efficiency targets the government has set, and to have the right technology from the cost and performance perspective.
A brainchild of Charmathi, who comes from the TRW side of the business, the technology centre has a lot riding on it. While she is keen to replicate ‘M-city’ in Hyderabad in association with the Telangana Government, according to Sommer, ZF is looking at being balanced and modular. “ZF has traditionally been stronger in the high cost market. The TRW acquisition gives us an opportunity to push our case for cost efficient technology. TRW has excellent cost position when it comes to its products, and has premium technology and quality. We have learned a lot from TRW, and the strategy is to have market share in performance as well as cost effective areas of the business,” Sommer said.
ZF and auto megatrends
ZF has identified 3 megatrends in automobiles. It has added safety to these 3 megatrends to arrive at zero accidents level. Said Sommer, “We feel that safety is an important element. Autonomous driving, as a megatrend, is a challenge. It is life spent in different ways for the end customer. For us, the need is to comply with occupant safety. If autonomous driving will bring value, we need to rethink the safety systems to be more flexible.”
The engineers at ZF are looking at having airbags outside the vehicle to absorb impact energy and not let it reach the vehicle inside. Such technologies, it is clear, would call for sensors that not only let the vehicle to drive itself in traffic, but also to avoid crashes. The ‘extra safe’ technology ZF has developed is to prevent collisions. Electric gadgets are used to drive the tech, including a smart device. Vehicle position is automatically transmitted to the cloud to make a truly connected environment. With existing automobiles expected to be on the road for quite some time, to arrive at zero-accident autonomous environment, the use of smart device may make for faster progress according to Sommer. “Safety as a third megatrend has us investing in it in the form of technologies and solutions,” he said.
ZF is also investing in efficiency enhancing technologies that help to save fuel; in technologies that look at alternate fuels, hybrids and electrics. ZF is also looking at contrast-driven technology for vehicle to manoeuvre itself at low speeds in a garage or a yard. “As autonomous vehicles emerge, especially in CVs, the repercussions would translate into main-frame jobs going away. The good part is, manual intelligence will be needed until technology matures. The exciting part of digitisation in auto is not just the product, but the
entire supply chain automation, manufacture, virtual product development, virtual global R&D, and industry 4.0,” Charmathi said.
Stating that their components reflect their skill sets, and they are largely mechanical, she said, “There is a gradual move to mechatronics happening. From mechatronics we are slowly moving to adaptive intelligence. A fundamental challenge for us is to perform engineering activities outside a country that has always been proud of it. The capability seen in India led to the establishment of the tech centre in Hyderabad. The need is now to deliver. The demand is already there.”
Global engineering strategy
ZF is putting in place a global engineering strategy. The strategy is being aligned to the talent available. “In India, the talent is about new age technology. The commissioning of the tech centre in Hyderabad in 8 months was made possible because of innovation and agile processes,” Charmathi added. ZF is keen to leverage the problem solving mindset and the analytical nature of Indian talent to gather data and process it into intelligence that can be fed to make an actuator work. ZF, for CVs, apart from supplying axles, transmissions, etc., is offering Openmatics. It is a smart telematics platform that enables remote monitoring of trucks. ZF initially provided the hardware, but has now begun doing the software part too. This involves visualisation of data. Openmatics, she said, has grown into a Euro 100 million business.
At CES 2017, ZF showcased 2 specific technologies – Block chain and Extra safe. Extra safe is not about every individual subscribing to it. It is about incorporating intelligence in the components of CVs that ZF builds. It would be app.-based. It would be about connecting and sharing the geo position. The cloud-based algorithm receives the data and processes it such that it can be applied to different situations. Multiple such applications can be done, adding a concrete dimension to digitisation.
Through the tech centre in Hyderabad, ZF is expected to look at building a predictive maintenance platform credibility. It could be made available to all the components ZF offers. ZF is partnering with GE for data monetisation by sharing best business practices according to Charmathi. ZF is keen to get into that space too. It is exploring, without getting away from its position as a mechatronics intelligence company. ZF is keen to venture into the space, and understand what Google is doing as Google ventures into the auto space and tries to understand what companies like ZF are doing. ZF is setting up a centre in Silicon Valley with Plug and Play as a partner.
Mamatha Chamarthi, Chief Digital Officer, ZF.
Dr Stefan Sommer, CEO, ZF.
K T Rama Rao, Minister for IT, MA & UD, Industries & Commerce, Government of Telangana, and Dr. Stefan Sommer, CEO, ZF Friedrichshafen AG inaugurated the technology centre at Hyderabad.