Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Cover Story June 2023

Interaction – Dinakar B, Volvo Trucks India

Next Generation of Volvo Trucks- redefining Safety, Efficiency, and Drivability

Volvo Trucks is one of the largest heavy-duty truck brands in the world. It has a comprehensive network of service and parts centres in India with site support provided at the remotest of locations, considered to be the benchmark in the tough off-road industry. In an exclusive interview to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES, DINAKAR B, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, VOLVO TRUCKS INDIA, VE COMMERCIAL VEHICLES LTD., gives an overview on the mining equipment industry, innovations and cutting edge technologies featured in his company’s products, aftermarket services and a lot more.

Give a brief overview of the mining industry, market dynamics, latest trends and the sector challenges.

Mining industry is one of the core industries in the economy that contributes to ~2.5% of GDP. Mining sector witnessed a strong growth in FY23 with an impressive 6% YoY as per the IIP estimates. This has come largely due to a significant output in Coal & Lignite followed by Iron ore and also improved activity in other minerals like Limestone, Bauxite, Zinc etc. Growth trend in Mining will continue in the upcoming years with Govt. introducing favorable policy reforms to drive towards Self-reliance i.e. Atmanirbhar economy.

Some of the key policy initiatives and interventions like commercial coal mining and encouraging private companies i.e. MDOs (Mine Developer Cum Operators) for faster operationalization of coal mines will drive more positive changes in the Industry. Few trends in the recent years point towards utilization of efficient mining technology, leveraging digital tools and making optimum usage of the available resources especially manpower to drive higher productivity. Also we see the focus of Govt. of India on decarbonization and proposing steps towards sustainable mining practices. There are a few challenges which need to be addressed like shortage in manpower, rising fuel costs, land acquisition and related statutory concerns to achieve maximum and sustainable output.

Tell us of your various product offerings, applications, and their demand in the Mining segment. Any new products launched or enhancements to the existing product line, detail us on the same.

We have a comprehensive range of solutions for various applications in open cast mining operations like overburden removal, mineral transportation and ancillary applications. These transport solutions are designed to deliver superior value proposition through higher productivity at optimum efficiency delivering lowest cost per ton/cu.m while keeping safety as paramount focus.

All our product offerings for Mining are based on the most rugged FMX platform with a proven 13 ltr Volvo engine and the most advanced I-shift automated manual transmission. For overburden removal in Coal, Iron ore, Chromite, Bauxite, Manganese etc. we offer flagship product FMX 460 8×4 20.3 cu.m solution. For long-term and tougher assignments, we offer new off-road solution FMX 500 8×4 off-road dump truck with 25.2 cu.m SAE heap volume capacity. This truck features most innovative safety enhancements including Volvo’s patented dynamic steering system that elevates steering to a whole new dimension which enables comfortable operations even in tough mining conditions.

Volvo FMX 460 8×4 with 33 cu.m coal body is a proven and well-established solution for coal transportation from mine pit to surface and we currently have a presence across all the subsidiaries of Coal India Ltd.

We believe in continuous improvements and with this approach, we have further improved the technology in our next generation of Volvo Trucks introduced in Feb’23 to further enhance Safety, Efficiency and Driver comfort. 

New generation D13 engine

With the new generation of Euro 6, we have improved overall efficiency through patented wave-shaped piston bowl which optimizes fuel injection, new injectors, cylinder head, connecting rod, lighter engine block, updated engine software ECM 4.0 etc. which altogether help improve the fuel efficiency further.

New I-shift gearbox

With the upgraded gearbox, AMT- G, gear shifting speed improves by 30% to get a smoother shift without loss of power and torque between shifts, the software updates give improved torque accuracy and engine speed control.

In addition to this the Change Direction feature enables the driver to select reverse gear while driving forward at lower vehicle speed and start reversing without letting the foot off the accelerator pedal or holding the brake. The same can be done for moving from reverse to forward direction.

Improved EATS

Also upgradation in the Exhaust After Treatment System (EATS) with new design urea pump which has a greater precision and higher urea carrying capacity, serviceable filters, insulated DPF covers etc. help reduce emissions over a longer duty cycle.

Detail us about the cutting edge technology in your machines in terms of telematics?

Connected solutions are gaining higher acceptance in the industry as customers today prefer to have all the data right at their fingertips which will enable them to manage their operations more effectively. We introduced the smart interface for digitalized services, “Volvo Connect” with which Customers can monitor various parameters of the trucks viz. engine hours, fuel consumption, engine and transmission health condition etc just with one login-one view. Volvo Connect saves time and gives a clear understanding of the important things that matter. This helps to prepare, plan and continuously improve and thereby enhance fleet Uptime, Efficiency and Productivity to the next level.

Factors such as safety, operator comfort, ease of operations are crucial in mining equipment. What are the steps undertaken by you for providing the same.

Safety is synonymous with Volvo and since inception we design our products with safety as our core value. Volvo Trucks comes with industry leading safety features like crash tested cabin, electronic braking system, engine brakes, hill start assist, high ground clearance for mining operations etc.. Additional features like auto fire suppression system, rear view camera, driver fatigue monitoring etc. are also provided based on our customers’ needs. With the new range of trucks, we have further focused on improving visibility for drivers – cabin designed with slimmer & upright A-pillars which results in to 10% more direct visibility. In addition to these, we have incorporated new features like updated downhill cruise control that help to maintain speed as slow as 4 kmph and Volvo Dynamic Steering which helps in better directional stability, easier maneuvering and comfortable driving reducing the risk of accidents.

Training or skilling programs undertaken by your company to ensure maximum productivity.

Training is of utmost importance and a pre-requisite to drive a Volvo Truck. We started the driver training centre way back in 1998 even before the first truck was rolled out of the factory. It’s a state of the art driving test track and so far we trained over 1.45 lakh drivers. We also conduct refresher training programs based on the training needs through our own driver trainers in every region.

To what extent are aftermarket services a strategic differentiator?

Our trucks operate in the tough mining environment and clock 20+ hrs. every day and in the mining industry, higher productivity at optimal cost over the lifetime is necessary. To support our trucks and facilitate smoother operations for our customers, we established our support network closer to their operations and introduced on-site support which is another first in the industry. We have a strong service network in India with close to 180 touch points and through the site support mechanism, we provide our skilled technicians to support round the clock operations and also keep the spare parts as well as special tools. This enables to maintain superior fleet uptime and optimize the costs. 

We have launched yet again an industry first concept of “Uptime Centers” through which we monitor the fleet from respective regional pockets as well as a central command center in Bangalore. We have 12 uptime centers across India and a central uptime center in Bangalore through which the entire gamut of solutions like Volvo Service Planning, Remote Diagnostics, Predictive Maintenance as well as Volvo Action Service support to deliver superior fleet uptime for customers.

Further enhancing our focus on digitalization of services, we introduced 3 new uptime services to ensure our trucks are always up and running.

Fuel Efficiency Services:

Through Fuel Efficiency services we monitor a gamut of vital parameters which influence fuel efficiency and generate insightful reports for our customers in terms of evaluating each driver specific performance and provide them with a prescription for each driver to identify the areas of improvement and work together to upskill them.
Fleet Assist Services:

This service connects all equipment in a mine digitally and offers optimized and real-time route prediction. This helps in reducing idle time and thereby lowers operational expenses.

Uptime care:

Uptime Care is an all-inclusive portal that integrates different services and functions and gives a combined report including trip summary, vehicle-wise repair status, fleet uptime at fingertips at one place.

Your strategy to play in a price sensitive market.

As mentioned earlier, our approach is to drive progress by delivering superior value proposition for our customers through our transport solutions. Therefore we target to work closely with progressive customers where Productivity, Uptime, Fuel efficiency and Safety are the key value pillars.

Tell us about your manufacturing facilities

The Volvo Group trucks manufacturing facility at Hoskote, Bangalore started its operations in 1998, becoming the first European Commercial Vehicle manufacturer in India. The state-of-art facility has main assembly line that complies with the global Volvo production quality process and also a test track for testing and validation of each and every truck rolled out. Our manufacturing facility also has a parts distribution center, Remanufacturing facility, Competence development center as well as Driver Training Center.

Future outlook for the mining industry and from a company perspective

Mining industry outlook is very encouraging given the reforms and policy changes taken up by the government such as opening of commercial mining of coal, 100% FDI, revenue sharing model for auction of coal blocks etc. Considering the ambition taken by our govt to reach a $5 trillion economy, the demand for power and other infrastructure requirement will also go up which will definitely result into a need for larger capacity and highly efficient trucks. We are highly focused on Mining segment in India and we would like to utilize this opportunity fully by offering the most suitable transport solutions to all the mining transport needs and thus drive progress for the industry along with our customers.

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