Va­leo Mother­son is look­ing at reefer trucks, EV bus mar­ket for growth

Auto components India - - SPECIAL REPORT - Story by: Anirudh Ra­heja

Chang­ing its iden­tity from Spheros Mother­son to Va­leo Mother­son post the global ac­qui­si­tion of Spheros by Va­leo, the bus air-con­di­tion­ing spe­cial­ist is look­ing at reefer truck mar­ket. The com­pany is also work­ing on air-con for elec­tric buses. It is a part of the com­plete trans­for­ma­tion the com­pany is sub­ject­ing to. Va­leo Mother­son Ther­mal Com­mer­cial Ve­hi­cles Ltd, (VMTI), from be­ing a 100% bus air-con­di­tion­ing so­lu­tions sup­plier, is shift­ing gears to ex­pand to other ar­eas of com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle air­con­di­tion­ing.

The prime tar­get is reefer trucks. To get a firm foot­ing in the reefer truck mar­ket in In­dia, which is es­ti­mated to touch 60,000 units, VMTI, ac­cord­ing to Cyril Xavier, Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer, is lever­ag­ing the ac­qui­si­tion of Trans­frig, a spe­cial­ist in trans­port re­frig­er­a­tion equip­ment and ser­vices from South Africa.

Cyril said, “Va­leo ac­quired Trans­frig in Oc­to­ber 2017. The com­pany spe­cialises in trans­port re­frig­er­a­tion equip­ment and ser­vices. We are bank­ing on its tech­no­log­i­cal prow­ess and knowhow to boost our trans­for­ma­tion. We will carry out a mar­ket seed­ing ac­tiv­ity by the sec­ond half of 2018 with 3 key vari­ants for truck re­frig­er­a­tion.”

The 3 key vari­ants that VMTI is plan­ning to in­tro­duce, in­clude a model that would be pow­ered by the truck en­gine it­self. The sec­ond prod­uct will be pow­ered by a slave en­gine, and the third prod­uct will com­prise of pipes to deep freeze the truck via Eu­tec­tic sys­tem for trans­port­ing frozen food, meat and choco­lates, ice creams, and more. A per­for­mance study us­ing a 12 and 24 ft. con­tainer is sched­uled and would pave the way for VMTI to en­ter the reefer truck mar­ket. Clock­ing a rev­enue of Rs 1 bil­lion in FY2017-18, VMTI, grow­ing with a CAGR of 16%, is keen to see its rev­enues dou­ble by 2020. Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a strong growth with the sale of 5000 mini and midi-bus air-cons on the back of the 14% growth clocked by the re­spec­tive seg­ments (they come un­der LCVs), VMTI is also work­ing to­wards in­creas­ing its share of af­ter­mar­ket busi­ness.

“From the cur­rent ra­tio of 60:40 for OEM and af­ter­mar­ket, we are keen to in­crease our af­ter­mar­ket busi­ness to achieve a 50:50 ra­tio,” he said. Con­duct­ing a value stream map­ping ex­er­cise at its 30,000 sq. ft. fa­cil­ity at Noida, VMTI, to keep up with the pace of growth in bus air-con and reefer truck air-con de­mand, is draw­ing plans to ex­pand. Ac­cord­ing to Cyril, the com­pany will shift to big­ger premises in 2019. 201 The new premise is ex­pected to aid a the com­pany to dou­ble and an triple the size of

man­u­fac­ture. man­ufa

To en­sure uun­in­ter­rupted ggrowth, VMTI is aalso in­vest­ing in emem­ploy­ees. Terming them aas the strength of the com­pa­com­pany, Cyril averred, “The new fa­cil­i­fa­cil­ity will meet Va­leo pro­duc­tion, health­hea and safety norms.” Devel­oDevel­op­ing 14 air-con sys­tems for ap­pap­pli­ca­tion across 3 bus seg­mentsseg­ments, VMTI cur­rently man­u­fac­tures aair-cons in the 6 kW and 47 kW ran­grange.

The bus air-con mar­ket in FY201718 was es­ti­mat­edes­ti­mate to be 20,000 units. In the cur­rentcur fis­cal, the

mar­ket is ex­pected to grow by 16% at 23200 units. Con­fi­dent of gain­ing more ground in bus air-cons even as it looks at reefer trucks, VMTI is pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to qual­ity and sup­port. Of the firm opin­ion that sup­port is what helps to re­tain a cus­tomer, he said that they have equipped the pro­duc­tion lines with screens that pro­vide assem­bly in­struc­tions as part of poka-yoke to avoid assem­bly er­rors. “It is im­pos­si­ble for the hu­man be­ing to re­mem­ber all in­struc­tions in a flex­i­ble line on the same shop floor. The screens that pro­vide in­struc­tions are help­ing us to elim­i­nate er­rors even be­fore they could crop up,” he said.

In­dian re­quire­ments

In­tro­duc­ing an up­graded ver­sion of its bus air-con model, CC350, in In­dia with alu­minium evap­o­ra­tor and con­denser coils in­stead of cop­per to elim­i­nate chances of pre­ma­ture fail­ure, VMTI is pay­ing close at­ten­tion to mar­ket re­quire­ments in In­dia. It wants to of­fer the best and the most re­li­able so­lu­tions. The re­place­ment of cop­per coils with alu­minium ones (in­clud­ing the in­clu­sion of a mul­ti­flow alu­minium con­denser) has re­sulted in less mov­ing parts (in the CC350), ac­cord­ing to Cyril.

The 33 kW sys­tem is not suf­fer­ing from any leak­age is­sues as per the feed­back re­ceived. The use of alu­minium has also re­sulted in less use of re­frig­er­ant by up to 50%. Re­frig­er­ant re­cov­ery is 100%, and the weight of the sys­tem has also gone down by 30 kgs. Hav­ing sup­plied 90 units of CC355 bus air-con sys­tem (up­graded ver­sion of CC350) to TSRTC through Mahin­dra, VMTI is in dis­cus­sion with var­i­ous trans­port bod­ies to sup­ply the same. These in­clude APSRTC, MSRTC and GSRTC. The CC355 is ex­pected to re­plen­ish or go into the new buses that will add to the fleet. Many trans­port or­gan­i­sa­tions, are ex­pand­ing their fleet, he said. Stat­ing that the gen­eral prac­tice in In­dia is to con­vert a low horse­power chas­sis to an air-con­di­tioned bus, Xavier ex­pressed that this ne­ces­si­tates the mas­ter­ing of art to de­ploy the com­pres­sor and power packs (slave en­gines to run the air­con). Sourc­ing Mit­subishi en­gines through a group com­pany for the job, VMTI pays par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to how the slave en­gine and the

com­pres­sor are mounted. The brack­ets nec­es­sary to mount the slave en­gine and the com­pres­sor are made lo­cally and were adapted for In­dian ap­pli­ca­tion. By do­ing this, the com­pany could save some costs. Of the opin­ion that it is es­sen­tial to ad­dress cus­tomer re­quire­ments if one were to grow faster in In­dia, Cyril said, “To gain the con­fi­dence of our cus­tomers, we have been con­duct­ing prod­uct per­for­mance test­ing in front of them. If it is a 25kW air-con, it has to be proven.” In­tro­duc­ing a test rig for air-con test­ing in 2015 with an in­vest­ment of Ru­pees one and a half mil­lion, which cer­ti­fies and au­then­ti­cates ev­ery air­con­di­tioner that rolls out, VMTI has been able keep the OEMs happy. “Since we con­duct tests in front of them, the OEMs are happy,” he said.

Align­ing with Va­leo’s cul­ture of spend­ing close to 12% of OE sales on in­no­va­tion, VMTI is ex­pand­ing its engi­neer­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties in In­dia. This is be­ing done in-line with the plan to sup­port Va­leo’s en­deav­ours in other mar­kets across the globe. “Ear­lier there was only 1 de­signer. Now, there is a team of 8 peo­ple that spe­cialise in dif­fer­ent fields like fab­ri­ca­tion, ma­chin­ing, me­chan­i­cal, elec­tri­cal, ap­pli­ca­tion, etc.,” in­formed Cyril. “That is how growth will come,” he opined. Cater­ing to bus cus­tomers that are spread across the coun­try, and thus amount to di­verse ge­ogra­phies, VMTI is ex­pand­ing its sup­port net­work. Stat­ing that a bus whose ten­der has been floated in Mum­bai trav­els to Rat­na­giri, and would re­quire sup­port through­out the route, Cyril men­tioned, “We have 37 deal­ers across In­dia, and are work­ing to dou­ble them by 2020.”

De­scrib­ing a bus as a sen­si­tive prod­uct that de­mands in­stant de­ci­sions to keep it run­ning, and to keep the trav­ellers happy, he said that cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion is of ut­most im­por­tance ir­re­spec­tive of the na­ture or cost of the prod­ucts in­volved. “In view of this, we train our peo­ple ev­ery quar­ter in ev­ery re­gion. We con­duct cus­tomer meets. Our sales and ser­vice per­sons ad­dress their prob­lems,” he added.


Work­ing to in­tro­duce Con­trolled Area Net­work (CAN)-based air-con sys­tems with the view that they will self- di­ag­nose and col­late data as the bus plies with a cer­tain count of peo­ple and their lug­gage, Cyril men­tioned that they are al­ready re­ceiv­ing in­quires for CANbased sys­tems. “A lot of money is be­ing spent on soft­ware,” he re­vealed. Of the opin­ion that CAN-based sys­tems will be­come manda­tory in In­dia in the next 1-2 years, Cyril ex­plained, “We are look­ing at of­fer­ing CAN-based air-con sys­tems as stan­dard. The soft­ware-in­ten­sive na­ture of the prod­uct will re­quire patch up­dates from time to time. To col­lect and an­a­lyse data in real time, we will have to ded­i­cate a per­son or a team of peo­ple.”

Re­ceiv­ing in­quires for elec­tric bus air-con­di­tion­ers as elec­tro­moblity picks up, VMTI is cur­rently im­port­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cle air­con­di­tion­ers. Of the view that ground sup­port with ded­i­cated sec­tions is nec­es­sary to ad­dress the needs of elec­tric ve­hi­cle air-con­di­tion­ers, the com­pany is look­ing at lo­cal assem­bly and man­u­fac­ture of elec­tric ve­hi­cle air-con­di­tion­ers as their num­ber grows. Cer­tain global mod­els like Revo E Global have al­ready been adapted for In­dia.

Work is on to de­velop an air-con for a 7-me­ter elec­tric bus that will be launched by this year end. “We use R134a re­frig­er­ant for con­ven­tional air-con­di­tion­ers. With elec­tric ve­hi­cle air-cons, we could pro­vide R407 re­frig­er­ant. The abil­ity of this re­frig­er­ant to cool is very high. The ef­fi­ciency is higher too. Much how­ever de­pends on the suc­cess of elec­tric buses; the im­ple­men­ta­tion of fund al­lo­ca­tion,” Cyril signed off.

Va­leo Mother­son will soon move to a new lo­ca­tion from the cur­rent lo­ca­tion at Noida

Cyril Xavier, COO, Va­leo Mother­son

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