Home Cover Story Increasing addressing ability of products at AMW

Increasing addressing ability of products at AMW

Increasing addressing ability of products at AMW

Offering among the lowest
in terms of cost of operation by increasing the addressing ability is what is
driving the AMW R&D to achieve good agility


Asia Motor Works (AMW) is a
young commercial vehicle manufacturer. Apart from trucks in the medium and
heavy-duty range, the company also manufactures auto components at its modern
facility at Bhuj in the state of Gujarat. To enhance its ability to address a
wider range of the market, the company launched low cost tippers at the fag end
of 2012. A few months before the launch of low cost tippers, the company also
launched cowl version of its trucks. The idea behind the introduction of cowl
version was to better address the requirements of the customers. The feedback
for cowl version may have come from the marketing arm of AMW, the promise was
however fulfilled by the company’s research and development wing. From a small
set-up headed by P Dhanasekaran at the plant set up in 2002, the R&D at AMW
has come to employ a team of 200 engineers (in two shifts) at its new facility
in Navi Mumbai. Some 1.6 km from this facility is a proto shop and a validation
facility. The proto shop and validation facility conduct tests of new, emerging

Compared to the R&D of a
passenger car maker, this R&D is no different. It has engineers pouring
over designs using customised versions of Unigraphics and Catia, the task of
integration the most critical to arrive at a truck that best addresses the need
of its buyer, and operator.

Averred Mr Sham Ponkshe,
Executive Vice President (R&D), AMW, during an interaction with APF, “Flow
at the R&D of a commercial vehicle manufacturer is similar to that at the
R&D of a passenger car manufacturer.” “What drives the R&D at a commercial
vehicle manufacturer is the needs of the customer. The vital parameters being
volume estimation, investment costs estimation and return on investment,” he
added. In what could be of critical importance to the success of a truck is the
total cost of ownership. Drawing attention to the fact that the lifecycle of a
truck platform is more than 15 years unlike that of a passenger car platform,
which could be as less as 4 or 5 years, Mr Ponkshe explained that as R&D
they have to look at resale value of the product; ownership pattern, which
could mean a change of owner after four years; application variety, and

asset management. If these
parameters aim at increasing the addressing ability of the company’s product
range, they also reflect on the R&D’s task to introduce different body
lengths, different variations like the cowl version, monitoring new programs,
and interacting with customers to understand their views about the product that
they are using.

Having come to offer 30
product varieties, AMW, said Mr Ponkshe, in terms of asset management, designs
frames in-house, and would be launching their own cabin soon. The company also
makes the cowl version in-house. If the main components like the frame bear the
influence of the R&D, other critical components like engine, transmission,
axles and braking system also bear the influence of the R&D even if they
are sourced from tier suppliers. The R&D also influences critical areas
like reliability and NVH, service-ability (oil change intervals, etc),
features, and more. Factors that have a definite bearing on the operating costs
of the truck. Interestingly, AMW R&D designs vital product aggregates like
axles, braking system in-house to ensure cost effectiveness and flexibility in
terms of application.

Work on the bus platform may
have been temporarily halted due to the current market slump, work on it at the
R&D level continues. If this

presents some idea of how a
commercial vehicle R&D functions, the establishment of Centres of
Excellence (COEs), according to Mr Ponkshe, has helped his organisation to
improve platform architecture and the ability to integrate.

Quipped Mr Ponkshe, “COEs are
the verticals, and vehicle platforms are the horizontals.” Establishment of
COEs was followed by matrix organisation, and led to formal program management,
all of which enhanced the agility of the R&D. Gate-based program system was
brought in, and has helped towards reducing design outsourcing. With plans to
enter the light commercial vehicle domain afoot, factors like fuel economy and
emissions, that affect the image of the company and its products, find favour
with R&D. “The move to BS4 will ensure that all trucks have electronic fuel
management system. This will lead to better efficiency as well as higher
horsepower,” opined Mr Ponkshe. Optimistic that the change to BS4 emission
norms will help commercial vehicle manufacturers to offer better features on
their products, Mr Ponkshe stated that the R&D also impacts the
profitability of the organisation in terms of product range, reliability,
technology, etc. Very lean is how Mr Ponskhe described the R&D set up at
AMW, which is currently developing a 37-tonne platform.

AMW R&D is also working
on a new generation truck platform with a new cabin that would offer better
NVH, and will come with a sleeper cabin version too. Available with a RHD and
LHD configuration, this truck platform would have engine with electronic fuel
management and higher power to weight ratio. This truck platform will also see
AMW building the cabin in-house (the current cabin is sourced fully built from
FAW, China). Influenced by the Bertone styled truck the company displayed at
2012 Auto Expo, the new generation truck will mark a new level of achievement
for AMW and its R&D. The new generation truck will also drive home a few
facts that Mr Ponkshe has come to believe in. One of it is that it is not
necessarily costly to make major parts of a vehicle in-house. It not only helps
to control quality, but presents the organisation with more agility. In that
direction, the company already makes tipper super structures, trailers and
transit mixers in-house. The components arm of AMW supports the commercial
vehicle manufacturing business division with wheels. As an entity independent
from the commercial vehicle manufacturing business, the auto components
business also makes sheet metal panels that find use in the Tata Nano. Also,
forged auto components as mentioned earlier. Having worked at Tata Motors, and
Mahindra (Navistar) before moving to AMW, Mr Ponkshe continues to drive his
R&D team to build trucks that offer the lowest cost of operation.  

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