AxleTech’s Tailormade Solutions for Success

AxleTech, a premier provider of off-highway and specialty vehicle powertrain systems and components to OEMs across the world, is seeing increasing scope for its products and solutions for heavy equipment applied in India’s mega infra projects. Amit Verma, Director (India/South East/Asia Pacific), AxleTech, shares the company’s growth plans amidst the many challenges.

What is your view of the Indian market for drivetrain solutions and components used in heavy-duty vehicles (off-highway and specialty)?

Amit Verma
When compared to USA and Europe, and even to South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand etc., India is relatively not a major market for heavy-duty off highway and specialty machinery. This could be because regulations, including safety, and reliability are not the primary drivers of equipment performance. However, going forward, with mega projects in the offing, the market for heavy equipment like All Terrain Cranes, Rough Terrain Cranes, Truck Cranes etc. that use drivetrains and component solutions, is going to increase exponentially.

How are the Indian and South-east Asian markets different from your other world markets and the challenges therefrom?

AxleTech offers solutions which are not run of the mill and which are not available as standard catalogue products. All our driveline solutions including axles, independent suspensions, transfer cases, and even components such as gears, brakes etc. are tailormade, designed and developed to suit precise applications and required performance.

As regards India and South East Asia vis a vis the Western market, from the technology point of view, the East follows the West and there is no question of reinventing the wheel. There could be fine-tuning of the solutions to suit the Indian/South Asian requirements, but from a broader perspective, the basic principle remains the same.

The big difference between India and West is of course price and availability of surplus manpower both at the low and semi-skilled levels. Poor safety and reliability regulations as non-focus areas of the Indian Government makes any introduction of the new or state-of-the-art technology unviable or a near impossible mission. For example, at a construction site in Germany, building a 16-lane expressway, the labor available/required is 12 persons per 10km, compared to 105 persons or more per 10km in India, and this would directly subside the requirement of technically advanced equipment

What is the demand for your drivetrain solutions from OEMs and aftermarket consumption in India?

AxleTech was established in India in 2012 with a registered and sales office in New Delhi. Our plant in Pune started operations in 2015. Our products are being shipped to India from overseas since 1999 for use in Defense Vehicles (Logistical, Tactical, Specialist, Mine Protected, Heavy Mobility and Heavy Duty Transporters including Armored Personnel Carriers), and in commercial vehicles such as Fork Lifts, Reach Stackers, Container Handlers, Port Equipment, Rough Terrain Cranes, Truck Cranes, Ground Support equipment, low floor buses etc.

At the Pune plant, we are manufacturing products for both the Military and Commercial markets. There are 4 different families of products, including brakes, and as many as 24 items. Our major OEM customers are defense vehicle contractors, crane manufacturers, material handling equipment manufacturers and ground support equipment makers.

As the market moves to a more efficient and safer market, with high performance solutions, we see demand for our products by OEMs growing. We are developing India-specific products for Construction and Material Handling OEMs and have set up a complete aftermarket segment (AFM) to supply spares. Competition is higher in AFM but so is the market size and potential.

What are the technical features of AxleTech powertrain systems that enhance ease of operation, ergonomics, durability and reliability?

AxleTech products have set a benchmark for other industry leaders in quality, safety and reliability. This is evident from the fact that end-users the world over are willing to pay more for a machine fitted with AxleTech axles.

Axle

Our worldwide service network and round-the-clock spare parts availability add more value to the total cost incurred by the end users. In India, AxleTech has more than 75% market share in the construction and material handling market, and the share is increasing every year as the market is growing and looking for solutions that are easily accessible, cost-effective, and do not compromise on quality.

Key advantages of AxleTech products are superior power to weight ratio, and they can come with a variety of reduction ratios. Our planetary wheel ends and multiple brake options are also available depending on the application requirement. Our engineering center in Bangalore undertakes designing, developing and implementing solutions for the Indian market as well as for offshore applications.

How are AxleTech products helping OEMs improve productivity and fuel efficiency?

With AxleTech solutions, OEMs are able to improve total Gross Vehicle Weight, which directly impacts fuel consumption not only at the time of operations but also during non-operating movements of the machine, thereby increasing overall efficiency of the equipment. AxleTech’s patented XTL wheel end technology is proven to dramatically reduce tire operating costs by reducing tire wear for container handlers during operations. The XTL dual tire wheel end allows independent rotation of wheels during a turn, thereby minimizing tire scrub, which is the main cause of tire wear. Axles with the XTL wheel end utilize 80% of the same components as current AxleTech axles, extend drive axle tire life up to three times, and extend steer axle tire life up to 1.5 times.

Please elaborate on AxleTech’s electric drivetrain systems.

Electric Mobility solution can be divided into two categories: Generation (Battery Management System, Invertor, Range Extender etc); and Propulsion (Motor, Axle, VCU and Integration). AxleTech deals with Propulsion.

AL AwardAshok Leyland Award to AxleTech: People from Left Mr. R.Sivanesan: Sr Vice President (Quality, Sourcing, Supply Chain, Ashok Leyland), Mr. Amandeep Singh (Head Defense Business, Ashok Leyland), Mr. Dheeraj Hinduja (Chairman of Ashok Leyland), Mr Amit Verma ( Director of India/South East/Asia Pacific, AxleTech, Mr. Rajendran. P (Manager Sourcing, Ashok Leyland).

Electrification in Off Highway is an important R&D activity for Material Handling OEMs and their Driveline Supply Chain. AxleTech is also investing in electrification. Its AFE series of electric powertrains offer a complete integrated package of axles with motor /invertor and VCU. The company not only provides the E Axles but also helps in integrating the axle with the propulsion. In other words, in between the wheels, everything is electric.

How do you ensure price compatibility in the cost-conscious Indian market?

AxleTech is the first company in the world to industrialize high variety, specialty, non-catalogue, non-standard off highway axles in India, thus growing the market in a most cost-effective manner. Our localization is as high as 85%, which means that we are not dependent on heavy and costly imported kits used in the manufacturing of our special products.

What recent R&D at AxleTech has led to improved quality and lifecycle of its products?

R&D is the biggest component on our investment budget. We have dedicated R&D teams at our locations in Troy (Michigan), Saint Etienne (France) and in Bangalore (India). We have continued to focus on trajectory to reduce the dead weight of our axles, while increasing load ratings and thereby increasing power to weight ratio. One example is by using aluminum alloy instead of steel, though weight is not a major criterion in commercial vehicles in India. But for defense vehicles it is a critical component since vehicles need to pass through bridges and is also important for vehicles which are amphibious in application.

What are your plans for expanding reach to the neighboring markets?

We are already present in most of the SAARC nations through our network of distributors and service partners. Our products are being sold and serviced via OEMS and our agents. We see opportunity in the neighbouring markets for expanding our aftermarket operations and increasing distribution.

Our manufacturing facility at Pune started export of axles and brakes a year ago to North America, Europe and China. As stated earlier, AxleTech is the first global company to start industrializing specialty off highway axles and has been attracting global OEMs to cherry pick the most cost-effective solutions from a lower cost (if not the best cost) country.

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