Harita Fehrer pro­vides seat­ing so­lu­tions with new tech­nolo­gies

Auto components India - - COVER STORY - Story by: Bhar­gav TS

Harita Fehrer Lim­ited, a 51:49 joint ven­ture be­tween Harita Seat­ing Sys­tems Lim­ited, and F S Fehrer Au­to­mo­tive GmbH, Ger­many, pro­vides com­plete seat­ing so­lu­tions for au­to­mo­tive ap­pli­ca­tions. It is bank­ing on new tech­nolo­gies like Foam in Place (FIP) and spray skin to make the seats more com­fort­able and to meet grow­ing de­mand from the ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tures. Fehrer is a tier-2 man­u­fac­turer and sup­plier of pas­sen­ger car seats in Europe.

Harita Fehrer man­u­fac­tures two-wheeler seats, mi­cro­cel­lu­lar ure­thanes, polyurethane com­pos­ites, and foam­ing for pas­sen­ger car seats. Cur­rently, the JV com­pany has 4 fa­cil­i­ties each in Ho­sur, Chennai, Mysore and Pune. Now, to meet the grow­ing de­mand from the north­ern re­gion, the seat man­u­fac­turer is set­ting up a new man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity at Bhi­wadi, Ra­jasthan.

A G Girid­ha­ran, Pres­i­dent, Harita Fehrer Lim­ited, told Auto

Com­po­nentsIn­dia that, “The cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions have in­creased over the years and Harita Fehrer has es­tab­lished it­self as a com­plete so­lu­tion provider in meet­ing this de­mand. Ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers are look­ing for new tech­nol­ogy seats, to pro­vide bet­ter com­fort, aes­thet­ics and safety. There­fore, we at Harita Fehrer worked on var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies and came up with FIP and spray skin tech­nolo­gies to man­u­fac­ture two-wheeler seats.”

Foam in place

As the ve­hi­cles are be­com­ing

slim­mer and thin­ner, the seat man­u­fac­tur­ers are also work­ing on thin seats. There­fore, Harita Fehrer has started us­ing high re­silience foam. To add more com­fort dur­ing long rides, rel­a­tive move­ments will be hap­pen­ing with the hu­man body, vinyl up­hol­stery and the foam. When the 3 lay­ers in­ter­act, the amount of fric­tion gen­er­ated is more and dis­si­pates more heat. This gives dis­com­fort to the riders. So to ad­dress this pain points, Harita has come up with 2 tech­nolo­gies. The com­pany is try­ing to elim­i­nate 1 layer to re­duce fric­tion and en­hance rider com­fort. In the FIP tech­nol­ogy, the seats will have only 2 lay­ers, the foam and the vinyl up­hol­stery. This is done by bond­ing the foam and the up­hol­stery skin to­gether by a vac­uum foam process. It also in­creases the ve­hi­cle aes­thet­ics by 4X and of­fers greater level of de­sign free­dom to the OEMs.

Girid­ha­ran said, in FIP tech­nol­ogy, the sys­tem im­proves the over­all prod­uct qual­ity of the moulded assem­bly by keep­ing all com­po­nents in the mould dur­ing foam­ing. FIP also helps in mak­ing a thin­ner pro­file and cre­ate more space for the rest of the ve­hi­cle. The tech­nol­ogy of­fers good con­tour, pre­vents ox­i­da­tion and wa­ter seep­age in foam pads. When used on a scooter, there will be larger space below the seat. If the seat is thick, the space for stor­age comes down. Thin seat pro­vides the same com­fort and flex­i­bil­ity and in­creases the space. For the bikes, the thin sil­hou­ette gives a sleeker look. FIP also al­lows to have more con­tour or a more com­pli­cated part ge­om­e­try, he said.

Spray skin

There are a lot of new tech­nolo­gies ar­riv­ing at the In­dian mar­ket. An­other tech­nol­ogy is the spray skin seats, which are now be­ing used by KTM. It cre­ates the polyurethane skin, by spray­ing it in­side the mould, in­stead of mak­ing the vinyl skin. “Now, we have that tech­nol­ogy in In­dia and we of­fer it to var­i­ous OEMs,” he said. In the spray skin tech­nol­ogy, the PU is sprayed into the mould to form a skin and the reg­u­lar foam is made af­ter that. There­fore in a sin­gle op­er­a­tion the com­plete seat is made and the post op­er­a­tion is elim­i­nated.

Speak­ing about the de­vel­op­ments made in the re­cently launched TVS Radeon, Girid­ha­ran said that the process is more based on the chem­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. He also stated that new com­muter seat is much bet­ter than its com­peti­tors in the mar­ket. The firm has in­vested sep­a­rately for polyurethane skin at its Ho­sur fa­cil­ity.

Scooter & mo­tor­cy­cle seats

Point­ing out the ma­jor dif­fer­ences be­tween the scooter and mo­tor­cy­cle seats, the Pres­i­dent said, “It is a com­bi­na­tion of dif­fer­ent fac­tors. The front seat of a scooter is ex­pected to be like a sofa. Whereas, a front seat in a rac­ing bike, for ex­am­ple, TVS Apache, should be more fit­ting and pro­vid­ing more sup­port to the body for cor­ner­ing. The seat should be firmer so that the rider does not sink in, but is com­fort­able as the pres­sure is dis­trib­uted more uni­formly. On the other hand, the softer seat in the scooter al­lows the body to sink in a bit more and takes off the load. The 2 re­quire­ments are dif­fer­ent. It is the foam that we use dif­fer­ently and we play with the prop­er­ties of it.”

For the aero­dy­nam­ics of a ve­hi­cle, the top layer of the seat is very im­por­tant. For this, the seat­ing com­pany uses Polyvinyl chlo­ride (PVC) skin which is pop­u­larly re­ferred to as rexin. They come up with dif­fer­ent block­ing cloth layer, dif­fer­ent thick­ness of vinyl and dif­fer­ent colours and tex­ture. This adds up to the aes­thet­ics of the ve­hi­cle. “We work with OEMs and give them op­tions, like 2 dif­fer­ent colours stitched with a third colour and a

lot more. It is de­cided by the OEMs to de­cide on what suits bet­ter for their cus­tomers. The shape is some­thing that OEMs de­ter­mine, we can just add value by adding aes­thet­ics,” Girid­ha­ran said.

OE ac­ces­sories

In the premium seg­ment vinyl will be re­placed with polyurethane skin. Harita Fehrer is work­ing with all the OEMs for OE fixed ac­ces­sories. Nowa­days, com­pa­nies de­cide on their ac­ces­sories dur­ing the prod­uct plan­ning stage it­self. Here, the seat­ing firm can add em­broi­dery, dif­fer­ent colours, logo and pro­vide it to the OEMs. If the end cus­tomer adds a seat cover over the OE fit­ted seat, the cus­tomers will be los­ing the ad­van­tages pro­vided by the seat maker. Point­ing out an ex­am­ple, Girid­ha­ran said, “We make a seat that re­duces the am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture. If the am­bi­ent is at 37 de­gree, the seats will be at 32 de­gree. If the end cus­tomer uses an ex­tra cover, the ac­tual ad­van­tage pro­vided by us is lost and heat is re­tained. I do not wit­ness such changes in the premium seg­ments and the ex­tra cover is not used by those cus­tomers,” he added.

Pa­per hon­ey­comb com­pos­ite

The R&D team of Harita Fehrer is work­ing on polyurethane-based com­pos­ites for light weight­ing in pas­sen­ger cars and com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles. The firm re­cently in­tro­duced pa­per hon­ey­comb com­pos­ite (PHC) where the PHC is sand­wiched be­tween glass fi­bre and PU, on which struc­tural polyurethane is sprayed. It is com­pressed in a mould to bring it to the de­sired shape. This gives good struc­tural strength. This has the ap­pli­ca­tion in reg­u­lar pas­sen­ger car roof, bon­net par­cel shelf and some in­te­rior parts. The firm has in­vested for the pa­per hon­ey­comb fa­cil­ity at its Chennai plant.

“Fehrer has also made a smart car roof of this ma­te­rial. By re­duc­ing weight on top of the ve­hi­cle, it brings down the en­tire ve­hi­cle’s cen­tre of grav­ity by a few cm and in­creases ve­hi­cle sta­bil­ity. The ben­e­fit is that we have the fun­da­men­tal ma­te­rial to process the polyurethane and we have strong steels that help us,” Girid­ha­ran said.

Adding more about the new prod­uct’s ap­pli­ca­tion as a car roof, the Pres­i­dent said, “It is not welded, but glued. That is how it re­duces the weight. The steel from the roof is re­moved as it is equally strong. Only the top panel of steel is re­duced, still there is a weight re­duc­tion of more than 60%.” He said, many OEMs use it even in SUVs. Glob­ally, it is also used in hatch­back and it has not yet en­tered the In­dian mar­ket.

“The weight re­duc­tion is go­ing to re­duce the cost in other ways. With the BSVI com­ing in, the en­tire ve­hi­cle weight has to come down and ev­ery­body will be look­ing at this op­tion. If you look into the EVs, we can re­duce the ve­hi­cle weight with this and in­crease the equiv­a­lent weight of the bat­tery that in­creases the range. With the emerg­ing sce­nario, we should not be look­ing at a part for weight re­duc­tion but should look at the over­all sce­nario,” he ex­plained.

He said cost would come down with lots of lo­cal­i­sa­tion. Harita Fehrer has lo­calised 100% for the twowheeler and pas­sen­ger car seats it man­u­fac­tures.

New fa­cil­ity in Bhi­wadi

Speak­ing about the new plant, Girid­ha­ran said, “We are set­ting up the fa­cil­ity with an in­vest­ment of Rs 12 crore in the plant and ma­chin­ery. The ini­tial ca­pac­ity will be around 5 lakh seats per an­num, and we can in­crease the ca­pac­ity when re­quired. As of now, it is for the two-wheeler seats and we also have the ca­pa­bil­ity to make seats for the pas­sen­ger cars also.” It is un­der­stood that the com­pany has bagged some new or­ders from the NCR re­gion and it is one of the rea­sons to set up the plant there.

With TVS Group be­ing its big­gest cus­tomer, Harita Fehrer also sup­plies seats for Royal En­field, Yamaha, BMW Mo­tor­rad, United Mo­tors and EV man­u­fac­tur­ers like Ather En­ergy and Ok­i­nawa. Be­ing a lead­ing man­u­fac­turer of seat­ing sys­tems in In­dia, Harita spe­cialises in man­u­fac­tur­ing and sup­ply­ing of seats for com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles, two-wheel­ers and pas­sen­ger cars.

Harita Fehrer’s Ho­sur fa­cil­ity

Two-wheeler seat made out of FIP tech­nol­ogy

A G Girid­ha­ran, Pres­i­dent, Harita Fehrer Lim­ited

PHC re­duces the weight by more than 60% with­out com­pro­mis­ing on the strenght

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