Mr Jinendra Munot - Chairman, Varsha Forgings Limited and Joint MD of ZF Steering Gear (I) Ltd - has played a pivotal role in establishing VFL's Chassis and Suspension division. Excerpts from an eInterview...
What was the reason for honing on Torque Rods and V-links?
Varsha Forgings Ltd is a leading manufacturer of precision automotive components since 1986. We at VFL wanted as forward integration to expand business by using forging parts as inputs. Thus the Chassis and Suspension Division was established in 2007 with plants located in Aurangabad and Pune.
VFL has successfully designed, tested and validated Torque or Radius Rods and V-Links or A-Links for applications like bogie suspensions in trucks and trailers, as well as air and independent suspensions in city buses and coaches. The idea was to make VFL a major preferred supplier for this commodity in domestic segment and also expand its wing globally.
What were the challenges?
Development of Torque Rod and V-Link is a challenge by itself these being safety critical parts and engineering and design has to play major emphasis for taking in to account the vehicle GVW, load condition, application, factor of safety, etc. Designer has to consider geographical as well as usage conditions of the vehicle to arrive at right combination of torque rod and V-link.
The Engineering Department has to simulate the exact field conditions of usage of vehicle to design and manufacture testing equipment and test rigs for validations. Part supplier partners should also be aware of product use/application so as to develop the
parts and it's testing in line with
VFL engineering team responded to these challenges admirably and was instrumental in designing the torque rod and V-link as per the OEM's expectation and received validation and approval.
What were the R&D and other costs involved?
VFL installed facilities of Bricks Cad, Delcam, Catia and Unigrphics as modern design tools and software for development of torque rods and V-links. VFL developed test rigs for optimum design, which satisfies the OEM's specific load conditions of pull out, buckling test and hit to obstacle test. The ball joint assembly used in the torque rod assembly also tested at supplier end for various load testing for stiffness in axial and radial direction besides conical Cardanic stiffness test.
As a customer centric organisation, VFL always works for continuous improvement (Kaizen) as Vision, and will always strive to meet customer expectation for new product development.
Some of the OEMs are looking for adjustable radius rod design than the conventional fixed one (using hot crimping technology), so VFL has developed the infrastructure to manufacture adjustable torque rods. The expertise developed in manufacturing of torque rods and V-links and feedback from OEMs will further enhance confidence for adoption of newer technology like use of polyurethane bushes.
What are the other initiatives you are working on in the area of import substitution?
VFL will always think to bring in new technology, which not only offers quality and superior product but also offer comparative cost advantages. Torque rod or straight rod is such an example wherein OEM not only found import substitute with cost advantages but also reduced their inventory cost of import parts.
VFL works very closely with OEMs to explore the latest technology available for steering linkages and suspension parts to develop a basket of auto parts as substitute. The company has received award from SME Chamber of India, Mumbai, in the Technological Innovation category in the year 2014.
What are the advantages Pune offers for an automotive supplier?
Pune is Hub of Automobile domain in India. The Chakan corridor near Pune is an important cluster in western India with companies like General Motors, Volkswagen, Skoda, Mahindra and Mahindra, Tata Motors, Mercedes Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar Cars, Fiat and Force Motors having assembly plants in the area. Nashik has a major base of Mahindra and Mahindra with a SUV assembly unit and an engine assembly unit. Aurangabad with Audi, Skoda and Volkswagen also forms part of the western cluster. The proliferation of automobile manufacturing units and component suppliers that populate the landscape of outer Pune, particularly Pimpri-Chinchwad, Chakan and Talegaon areas, has increasingly earned it the sobriquet of being the 'Detroit of India' and it continues to elicit interest and attract investments despite challenges from the newer auto hubs dotting outer Chennai and Gurgaon near Delhi. Today, the Pune automobile landscape includes the 'Who's Who' of Indian and increasingly international automobile majors.
The easy availability of skilled manpower is the prime reason for the rapid development of the auto sector in Pune. As automobile companies grow, it is but natural that auto component industry flourishes in Pune. There is a steady availability of a 4-lakh+strong qualified manpower here. In fact, Pune was the first to have manufacturing clusters with one being auto and the other being white goods. There has been funding from the State government and units have been encouraged to increase capacity and upgrade technology.
USP of Pune would continue to "attract the best talent from all parts of India and all parts of the world, thanks to its salubrious climate, fabulous education facilities and superb cosmopolitan cultural scene. All these factors lead to more and more companies investing in Pune providing vital support to growing Tier 1and 2 suppliers.
Technology innovation in torque rod and V-link
How a Pune-based forgings company discerned an opportunity in manufacturing of a crucial import substitute for commercial vehicles and filled up a vital gap in the domestic supply chain.
Load carrying capacity and safety are paramount parameters for any commercial vehicle. As always, believers in better technology 'through import only', OEMs import critical parts like torque rods and V-links from established vendors from Germany, USA or China. While this addresses the concern for quality, any imported component adds to the cost of the final product, something that manufacturers are increasingly looking at seriously in quest of cost cutting without compromising quality.
The Chassis and Suspension Division of Pune-based Varsha Forgings Ltd (VFL), a leading manufacturer of precision automotive components since 1986, sensed the opportunity in designing and manufacturing import substitutes by challenging the status quo, through the painstaking process of overcoming technological limits by bringing about a revolution in automotive engineering. VFL established its Chassis and Suspension Division in 2007 with plants located in Aurangabad and Pune. The company has successfully designed, tested and validated 'torque' or 'radius' rods and V-links or A-links for applications like bogie suspensions in trucks, tippers, dumpers and trailers, as well as air and independent suspensions in city buses and coaches.
Earlier, the technology used was to weld the eye end to the tube. However, subject to the heavy load conditions these torque rods often failed. To overcome this problem, VFL developed a technology indigenously with hot crimping 7-groove design to impart strength for torque rods and validated the same from Man Trucks India Pvt Ltd. The product was also approved by ARAI, the nodal auto component approval agency in India. VFL secured a patent for the 7-groove technology from Government of India in 2012-13. Daimler India Commercial Vehicles Ltd, who was importing torque rods and V-links approached VFL for development of same for their regular as well as upcoming new platform Thunderbolt for rigid construction vehicles .VFL responded to this positively and products
are running successfully under validation test.
VFL has continuously engaged in improving product quality through innovation. The subsequent 7-groove design by VFL improved the strength of torque rod and arrested the field failures due to excessive loading by customer above the limits specified. Besides this, the torque rods and V-links developed by the company for optimum design satisfies the specific load conditions of pull out, buckling test and hit to obstacle tests.
The ball joint assembly used in the torque rod assembly is also tested for various load tests as spring characteristic phenomenon in axial, radial and conical cardanic stiffness test. Products developed by VFL (Chassis and Suspension Division) go through various stringent tests (at facilities developed by VFL) similar to what vehicles undergo in the field and prove durability and strength. In addition the company carries out wear tests, fatigue tests, and functional tests, and test rubber bearings to exhaustion.
VFL has developed the torque rod and V-link indigenously as per OEM requirements with competitive cost advantages. This not only saves cost per product for commercial vehicle manufacturers but also saves valuable foreign exchange for the country.
The expertise developed in manufacturing of torque rod and V-links will further enhance confidence for adoption of newer technologies like the use of polyurethane bushes. After extensive testing and with OEM approval the same will be implemented. In order to have ball joint adjustment, VFL
has also developed an adjustable torque rod.
Engineers at VFL have mastered the combination of precision engineering, component durability, and lightweight options - all to
bring the operation enhanced movement. The company can provide a complete solution for all the
needs of commercial vehicle manufacturers in the form of torque rods and V-links - an important suspension interface.