Trucking with an 'X' factor

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Automotive

Trucking with an 'X' factor

The lockdown gave us the chance to take a step back from our daily operations and take a fresh look at our core functions. We have taken the opportunity to improve efficiencies in our business processes and have started our operations in a safe, sustainable manner. One of the most important lessons was that we need to build more self-reliant supply chains as we continue to work towards achieving higher localization levels. Moving on, we will continue to focus on providing safer and more modernized trucks, ensuring industry-leading fuel efficiency, safety, comfort and reliability," highlights Muthu Maruthachalam.C, Vice President - Supplier Management & Logistics, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles Pvt. Ltd. (DICV).

How was the year 2020 in a nutshell? What are the biggest learnings that Covid-19 taught us?

The worst is behind us. We continue to make DICV even more resilient and have used the crisis as an opportunity to emerge even stronger. For us, it was important that during the crisis, we had full transparency with our suppliers during the pandemic. We also focused on strategic inventory placing; this allowed us to have a more flexible supply chain despite the uncertainties. It was also crucial to understand the end-to-end supply chain up to Tier 'n' and identify potential risk (if any) & hence work on the mitigation plan.

What were the innovations that took the shape at DICV during the last year?

We transitioned to BSVI and were able to ramp-up our operations smoothly. Our prime focus during this time was to continue our journey towards process improvements, Digitalization, Transparency etc. As part of this, we implemented SAP - Warehouse Management, which helps us to improve our warehousing operations and also improves the accuracy of inventory apart from creating transparency. We also created lot of engagement platforms with our supplier partners like 'Partner connect' and 'Supplier spotlight'. Partner connect is a platform where we share our performance in the market, our expectations, understand the perspective of our supplier partners & hence improve our collaboration further. DICV Supplier Spotlight is a strategic engagement platform with selected partners to discuss long-term business strategies.

Kindly enlighten us on BharatBenz 'BSafe Express' and how is it going to address India's cold chain infrastructure challenge going ahead?

The biggest challenge faced by the government is seamless and safe transportation of vaccines via an adequate number of advanced reefer trucks. One of the most critical challenges is to ensure that the vaccines are maintained at the exact correct temperature for the entire journey. Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) is committed to supporting our government's plan to ensure timely and secure transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine to India's population. DICV has been a steady partner of India's self-reliant journey and further in line with our endeavors to support the government, we have launched 'BSafe Express', a specialized reefer truck for safe transportation of vaccines. The combination of a strong, reliable chassis with a lightweight, insulated reefer and state-of-the-art connectivity device makes BaratBenz's 'BSafe Express' the perfect solution to India's cold-chain infrastructure challenge. Unique feature of our Reefer containers is that it can assemble locally in maximum 96 hours. One can easily unpack and assemble it conveniently. With this truck, we can deliver vaccines in perfect condition to even the most remote destinations, bringing hope of a return to normalcy to over 1.3 billion people.

During the last year, companies survived majorly on trusted partnerships between dealers and distributors and vice versa. What's your take on this? What were the measures that DICV take to ascertain that your partners also progress in tough times or otherwise?

We work with over 400 suppliers and are in a position to optimize their capacity and our capacity. It is a win-win situation. And by doing what we do - which is believe in our suppliers - we have access to the entire knowledge of India. Our collaborative approach, transparency has helped us tide this pandemic together. We learnt to look at supply chain as E2E Value chain starting from raw material. We realized that our focus has to be also on the tier 'n' suppliers for a smooth business operation.

What are the German best practices that DICV has brought into the Indian market?

As part of the global powerhouse of Daimler Truck, DICV has full access to Daimler's vast array of state-of-the-art technologies. This means that we are able to cater to emerging new business opportunities in a very fast and focused manner, as evidenced by our quick localization and roll-out of an all-new, BSVI-compliant portfolio earlier this year.

How can companies move towards sustainable pastures? What is DICV's strategy towards the same?

The transport transformation requires sophisticated vehicle technology with the quality, reliability and durability that commercial vehicle customers expect. In addition, it requires economic efficiency and the necessary infrastructure: Customers must be able to earn money with CO2-neutral vehicles and, of course, be able to charge them and use them in everyday transport without complications. Vehicle technology, economy, and infrastructure - all three factors must be present in order for a market for CO2-neutral vehicles to emerge.

Please share with us your strategy, 'Make in India, Make for the World'. 

DICV serves not only the growing domestic demand but also more than 60 export destinations across the globe including markets in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Since the start of its export operation in 2013, DICV has exported more than 32,000 trucks and 3,500 buses. In October 2020, DICV reached important milestone with over 35,000 commercial vehicles and 150 million parts exported. We also added Malaysia as a new CKD market. DICV is the only Daimler location worldwide that produces engines, transmissions, trucks and buses at the same site under four brands - BharatBenz, FUSO, Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner. By shipping more and more Indian-made products to an increasing number of overseas markets, DICV is helping India become an international manufacturing hub.

Were there any challenges faced in terms of inbound supply chain during COVID? How did you manage them?

The lockdown gave us the chance to take a step back from our daily operations and take a fresh look at our core functions. We have taken the opportunity to improve efficiencies in our business processes and have started our operations in a safe, sustainable manner. At DICV, localization has been a high priority since the introduction of our vehicles in 2012. We currently source around 80-90% of our parts locally and hence were resilient in the current situation. One of the most important lessons was that we need to build more self-reliant supply chains as we continue to work towards achieving higher localization levels. Going forward, supply chains will need to turn digital with more usage of Robotics, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and other technologies that will help make them more resilient. Moving on, we will continue to focus on providing safer and more modernized trucks, ensuring industry-leading fuel efficiency, safety, comfort and reliability. We will also further increase our focus on digitalization for our customers.

We would like to know more about DICV's warehouse modernization journey. 

Our warehouse plays an important role in supply management and logistics. It already handles more than one million transactions a year - that is about 2 transactions every single minute and aims to improve its efficiency further by adapting modern measures. The kitting concept and internal sequencing operation has brought positive results in the way we feed parts from warehouse to the line. It actually helped a lot in handling BSVI ramp-up and complexity seamlessly. The upgraded WMS will also enable tracking of parts in the warehouse until the bin level including pre-defined storage locations, storage levels and optimize the material flow using advanced put-away and picking techniques.

How do you foresee the economy to move from here on? 

We strongly believe the challenges we are seeing lately are short to medium term challenges and India offers a huge potential for growth as economic revival happens and CV market matures in its dynamics, efficiency, and business models. One reason we are so confident about this is India's size. There is a strong correlation between a country's population and the number of trucks sold. Compared to other economies like the US and Germany, India has far fewer trucks per person. So, there is clear room for the market to grow.

What are the latest and upcoming products that we can look forward to? How are they slated to enhance the transportation infrastructure of the country?

BharatBenz is known for offering solutions to the dynamic needs of customers and society. BharatBenz just recently introduced eight new models including the BSafe Express (Intelligent Reefer for vaccine transport), 1917R, 4228R Tanker, 1015R+, 42T M-Cab, and 2828 Construction vehicle. The two new BharatBenz buses to hit the road soon are the wide-body 1017 variant with a seating capacity of up to 50, and the 1624 chassis available with a parabolic suspension. Additionally, we also introduced the BSafe Pack, a range of features available across the entire portfolio that will enhance safety for drivers and passengers. BharatBenz vehicles are characterized by top-most safety, high performance, fuel efficiency, excellent reliability, and low maintenance cost. The new portfolio is DICV's solutions that help our customers to excel in their businesses and benefit the society.

What are your future plans for the Indian market?

DICV is a long-term partner in driving India's economic growth and automotive expertise. DICV is the only facility across Daimler producing four brands - BharatBenz, FUSO, Mercedes-Benz, and Freightliner. We have seen overwhelming demand for BharatBenz, and we are absolutely prepared to benefit from this recovery and continue to grow profitably in this market. With the new generation of BharatBenz portfolio, we are looking to move away from the traditional tonnage classification. Instead, we will focus on creating 'the best truck for every need', customizing vehicles for use applications that target specific sectors.