Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Interaction - Dinakar B, Sr VP - Sales, Marketing And Aftermarket,VOLVO Trucks India, VE Commercial Vehicles



Product enhancement is a continuous process for us to meet the growing demands from customers




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 supports provided at the remotest of locations, considered to be the benchmark in the tough off-road industry. In an exclusive interview DINAKAR B, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT - SALES, MARKETING AND AFTERMARKET, VOLVO TRUCKS INDIA, VE COMMERCIAL VEHICLES LTD. speaks to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES about the overview of the mining equipment industry, technological innovations featured, aftermarket services and a lot more.





Give a brief overview of the mining equipment industry and the sector challenges.


The mining equipment industry in India in mainly concentrated around the coal sector due to the sheer magnitude of mining that is being carried out. Other major mines include iron ore, limestone, bauxite, zinc etc… Majority of mines are surface. Underground mining is carried out only for precious minerals or deep seated ores.


The common mining equipment used are excavators, haulers, dozers, graders, drills and water sprinklers. The size of these equipment varies with the size of the mine or contract. However, haulage equipment account for the biggest fleet and also the highest cost in mining operations.


Over the years in coal mining segment, the over burden removal works are outsourced and we play a major role in bring down the cost of operations with our most suitable transport solutions. Of course, the choice of the equipment also plays a role: huge mines require larger capacity and smaller mines can work with smaller equipment.


The challenges in the mining sector are plenty and keep changing over times. Gestation period of mines come under pressure due to delay in awarding the mines, obtaining statutory permits, land acquisition… and related ambiguity pose a challenge to volume planning in the mining equipment industry. There are also seasonal disruptions like rains, which lead to sudden dip in demand.


However the premium trucks industry has been consistent and hovering around 1500 units a year. Having said this, continuous operations without disruptions is key to the cost efficiencies maintained in coal over burden removal outsourced projects. Due to on going challenges on account of pandemic, we see a major challenge in keeping the skilled drivers at sites. Also, rising fuel costs weigh heavy on the costs.


The ongoing pandemic may impact the industry in the short to medium term but the overall outlook for the year is positive.



What has been the impact of COVID-19 on your business and what are strategies to overcome this sluggish market and expand market share?


As you are aware, Majority of our business comes from Coal mining and Coal being considered essential mineral, mining operations are ongoing across various sites with minimal disruptions. In addition to our focus in Coal Mining, we also have good presence in Iron ore, Bauxite, Chromite, Manganese etc. and we are the market leaders with 80%+ market share in the mining premium tipper segment of 400+hp class.. Demand for premium trucks is anticipated to be on an upswing with Govt. of India driving much needed reforms in this sector like opening up commercial coal mining, amendments to MMDR act to streamline process enhance mining sector contribution to overall GDP.


We could quickly able to adopt ourselves to new ways of working – the digital way – Introduced the new and Industry bench mark service thru’ Uptime Centers, redefined our spare parts logistics and stocking patterns, of course all this while strictly following safety protocols by our technicians at the sites etc. to ensure higher levels of fleet uptime. Apart from mining we are also working closely in Road construction segment, Irrigation and long haul movement. These segments were impacted due to this pandemic but we continued to evaluate and create new opportunities for ourselves by being closer to customers virtually and providing them the right transport solutions.



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


We have a comprehensive range of solutions for each stage of open cast mining operations like overburden removal, mineral transportation within the site as well as on-road long distance hauling of material etc. All our offerings in India are based on the proven 13 ltr Volvo engine and the most advanced I-shift automated manual transmission. We offer the most rugged and efficient flagship model FMX 4608x4 20.3 cu.m solution for overburden application, FMX460 8x4 I-shift 33 cubic meter coal body for coal haulage from mine pit to surface. We are also exploring customized tractor trailer solution for transportation of coal to the railway side for surface hauling. Additionally, we worked and delivered auxiliary solutions to support the mining project execution to improve the overall site efficiencies and added certain products to our portfolio like water sprinklers & tree trans-planters.


We provide application specific transport solutions in the segments like Road Construction, Irrigation, Quarry, Granite, Express Cargo & Heavy haulage like Over-dimensional cargo etc. For construction & Infra segments we offer FM 420 8x4 tipper and for applications like Quarrying & Granite, we offer FMX 460 8x4 tipper. For the long haul segment we offer FM 420 4x2 Tractor and for heavy consignments movement / over dimensional cargo, we offer FM 460 6x4 puller.


Product enhancement is a continuous process for us to meet the growing demands from customers and as a premium brand we drive innovation both in our hard and soft product offerings. We introduce these solutions with an objective to maximize profitability for our customers over the entire lifecycle.



Detail us about the cutting edge technology used in your machines. What are the USPs of your products vis-à-vis competition?


Driving progress is what we stand for and over the 20 years of our presence in India, we have been introducing a range of innovative high performance trucks. Higher productivity at optimum efficiency delivering lowest cost per ton/cu.m are some of our strong key focused areas. The driveline in our mining trucks with our engines give excellent torque at low revs and an extremely wide max torque range when coupled with I-shift automated transmission which ensures every gear change is perfectly timed and electronically controlled which results in higher performance even in the tough mining conditions without compromising on fuel economy. I-shift also allows driver to focus on the road and with air-conditioned ergonomically designed cabin, the driver productivity is far superior. Features which enable consistent performance and safety include Electronic braking system, Volvo Engine braking, hill start assist, traction control system.


Dynafleet is the intelligent fleet-management system which captures the data from the truck on a real time basis. Vital statistics of the truck is monitored and transmitted to a central Uptime center. These centers keep track of the truck’s health which will enable minimum unplanned downtime. Predictive maintenance monitors the some of the critical components to enable proactive planning and timely repairs. Driving behavior is also tracked and customized driver training is provided. Being our Customers best business partner, we constantly strive to keep the fleet up and running delivering consistent, efficient and high performance.



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. We have introduced industry leading safety features like crash tested cabin (as per stringent and toughest Swedish norms), electronic braking system, engine brakes, high ground clearance for mining operations etc. Additional features like auto fire suppression system, rear view camera, driver fatigue monitoring etc. are provided as optional fitments based on our customer’s needs. We also understand that driving for long hours in tough Indian mining condition is not an easy task and with the features like air suspended seats, climate controlled cabin and also I-shift automated transmission will enhance driver productivity as well as safety. As explained earlier, through our advanced fleet management solution Dynafleet, driving pattern of drivers can be continuously monitored and also the truck operating conditions which helps in improving driver competency. This means improved truck utilization, minimal idling hours and most importantly better fuel efficiency.



To what extent are aftermarket services a strategic differentiator?


In fact, our success in mining segment is majorly due to the unmatched product services we deliver at site, in addition to superior quality of the product and reliability. We offer customized aftermarket solutions for our customers directly and this has been one of our core strengths. Our trucks in the harsh mining environment clock 20+ hrs every day and in the mining industry, high productivity at optimal cost over the lifetime is necessary. We have a strong service network in India with around 180 touch points through which we deliver services to our customers even in remote mining sites.


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. The entire gamut of solutions through these Uptime Centers like Volvo Service Planning, Remote Diagnostics, Predictive Maintenance and Dynafleet as well as Volvo Action Service will support us to deliver superior fleet uptime for customers.




Your strategy to play in a price sensitive market.


We are players in very niche segment where productivity and efficiency matter most. Uptime of the vehicle plays crucial role in getting these two factors as per desired targets. Hence, the product performance and a comprehensive Aftermarket support mechanism has ensured these two factors due to which we remain market leaders and command premium. In mining, customers are willing to pay a premium, provided it delivers profitability over the life cycle. Therefore our main focus area is to deliver the right solution which ensures life time profitability. We operate in the segments where investment in Volvo Trucks makes business sense for our customers.



Emerging trends in the equipment finance and rentals in mining equipment. To what extent is consumer behavior influenced by cost.


We currently do not operate in the rental space but as the quantum of work increases and the duration of the projects go up, customers are currently preferring to own the equipment rather than taking it on rent. Operating lease is an attractive model which has found quite a few takes in the market. So we think innovative financing solutions are the need of the hour to suit diverse customer profiles.



What sort of support or policy changes from the government would you like to propel growth?


In the past one year major reforms undertaken by the govt. has changed the complete mining scenario. Majority of minerals mined in India are Coal and Iron ore. We have seen plethora of reforms announced in the coal sector like opening up of coal for commercial mining without end use restrictions, National coal index, Impetus for domestic coal to replace imports under Atmanirbhar scheme, putting up coal blocks for auctioning. This should open up new opportunities going forward. Even in the Iron ore sector, measures were taken in order to maintain continuity of mines where the leases were getting expired on 31st March ’20. Seamless transfer of permits ensured that there would be minimum disruption while ownership of mines changed during auctioning.


Recent developments pertaining to interchange ability of tractor-trailers will enhance the fleet utilization as well as efficiency levels. Also we are positive about the Ministry considering to introduce regulations pertaining to Road trains which will further improve efficiencies and optimize the overall logistics costs.




Future outlook for the mining industry and from a company perspective


Mining industry outlook is very encouraging considering 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. 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 higher volumes of Trucks deployment. Higher volumes will increase the need for higher capacity and higher efficient trucks. Despite the impetus given to renewable energy, it is undeniable that thermal energy will be the major contributor to the energy basket of India. Import of coal will also get reduced by higher production in domestic coal which will also improve the mining project execution. We being highly focused in mining segment, we would like to utilize this opportunity fully. We are also working on offering the most suitable transport solutions to all transport needs in mining segment like coal transportation, mine road maintenance trucks, tree transplantation etc with an endeavor to continuously drive progress in the industry together with our customers.