ZF sets up tech cen­tre in Hy­der­abad, to pur­sue progress in dig­i­tal space

Auto components India - - CONTENTS - Story by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

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.

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