Volvo First, on the Fast Track of Road Technology!

Volvo First, on the Fast Track of Road Technology!
In an Interview with Rajini Shankar, Patrick Olney, President, VOLVO Construction Equipment’s Road Machinery Business Line, headquartered in the US, paves the way to understand the role of a technology and value-driven company, in building universally usable, hi-tech road machinery.

Tell us in brief about the tough road to success of Volvo Construction Equipment since its early years.
Less than 15 years ago, Volvo Construction Equipment was a niche player in the industry, manufacturing and selling almost exclusively articulated haulers and wheel loaders, both designed in Sweden. Since then the company has gone through a wave of important strategic acquisitions, among others, Champion Motor Graders and the heavy equipment division of Samsung, in the late nineties.

After extensive engineering work, the complete range of products in the company’s portfolio, was re-branded Volvo and the company could then offer a wide range of products to its customers.

Volvo CE also developed a backhoe loader in-house, which was launched in the market, in 2002.

A lot of work was done in building a strong dealer network in Europe; and in the rest of the world, progress is still being made in this area.

A broad range of ‘soft products’, was developed–and is being further expanded, ultimately transforming the company from a niche player, into a full line and broad, service organization.

The road development business was acquired from Ingersoll Rand in April 2007, adding further opportunities for growth.

What were the corporate objectives behind acquiring the road machinery from Ingersoll Rand in April 2007?
Road products were an excellent complement to the product portfolio that Volvo CE had, at the time of acquisition. It allowed us to further expand the product offering to our customers and provided substantial opportunities for cross-selling to contractors, who were already using Volvo excavators, articulated haulers or wheel loaders, and were in the road development business. The acquired business also had a channel to market in North America, which would provide access to a new customer base, for the existing Volvo equipment. At the same time, IR was not active in markets where Volvo CE already had an extended dealer network.

Tell us about the distinctive features of your re-branded Compaction equipment and asphalt machinery.
When we talk about re-branding, it is not just the color change that made road machinery a Volvo product.

While our products offer three distinctive benefits to a customer–high reliability, low operating cost and high residual value–the support system that Volvo offers in terms ofour dealer network, parts and service, as well as the deep understanding of what impacts our customers’ business, are some of the distinctive features.

Volvo First, on the Fast Track of Road Technology!

How do you compare your products and technology with your counterparts in India? Is your technology cost-effective for the Indian economy and easily usable on Indian roads, especially in rural sectors?
Volvo Construction equipment is known for its innovative and high value product offering. Being a global player in construction equipment, the products that we offer to our customers in India are of concurrent technology compared to what is available in any other developed market. Having said that we leverage this technology in such a way, that they are very adaptable and hence effortlessly meet the local needs, from National Highways to the Rural Road segments. Our existing machine population in India, combined with our leadership position in some of our compaction products, is a testimony of how well our products are accepted across all road-building segments in India.

What is the main motive behind signing the prestigious MoU with VTU? Why Karnataka, and not any other state in India?
Volvo First, on the Fast Track of Road Technology!
The lack of knowledge in latest technology and expertise in building good quality roads at optimum cost, is keenly felt in the industry. This is why RASTA was established, to bridge the knowledge gap in the road building industry.

A sincere and concrete effort in this direction, is the recent signing of an MoU of VOLVO with VTU (Visvesvaraya Technological University) Karnataka, to make RASTA (Resource Center for Asphalt and Soil Training Academy), of VOLVO India, as an extension of VTU.

The courses offered by RASTA, in collaboration with VTU, are Post Graduate Certificate in Highway Engineering , PG Diploma, M Tech, and PhD in Road Technology.

This is a sure step towards intelligent analysis and management of failures in highway construction.

The main objective of RASTA, is to disseminate knowledge in the emerging area of Highway Engineering and Technology.

This is achieved, through various training programs as per the university guidelines. The most important thing in these training programs, is to have hands-on experience, in addition to classroom training.

The infrastructure at RASTA in terms of Highway Engineering Labs for Soil, Aggregate and Bitumen, the two test tracks where the participants are given the opportunity to operate road machinery, helps in enhancing their knowledge and technical skills, so that they become more practical engineers.

There is no other University which has Edusat facility for distance education. RASTA also has training programs for final year engineering students, through distance education related to Road Technology.

Should any other university wish to create a similar infrastructure in future, we are open to sign a similar MoU.

Lastly, how do you bridge the gap between the highly qualified and trained civil engineers, and the men on the bridge, since the construction industry is largely unskilled-labour driven, and also an unorganized one?
The technological advances made on our road equipment are such that they are getting more and more easier to use, without the need for extensive training, for achieving excellence in quality, in the final job.

VOLVO is a company that has certainly come a long way, since its inception, and each milestone is a commendable corporate achievement, in road technology.
NBMCW November 2008
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