Tenneco Inc. is a $8.6-billion global company that designs, manufactures and distributes clean air and ride performance products and solutions. Its diversified markets include light vehicle, commercial truck, off-highway equipment and the aftermarket. Tenneco India has been developing customised solutions for the local customers to achieve their clean air and ride performance objectives.
SagarHemade, Managing Director and Pankaj Kapoor, Deputy Managing Director, Tenneco Automotive India Pvt Ltd, spoke to T Murrali of AutoParts Asia on the emission challenges, and the solutions that the company offers to the automotive industry. Edited excerpts:.
Q: What are your offerings to the Indian OEMs to mitigate fuel economy concerns?
Hemade: Tenneco can mitigate some of the fuel economy concerns faced by our customers. To start with we have heat retention strategies; our products are developed in such a way that the loss or dissipation of the heat generated by the engine is minimised. This warms up the catalyst elements inside our products, helps to improve the conversion performance much earlier, and reduces the PGM (platinum group metal) content. The second technology we use is flow dynamics; the way we treat gas flow, we can cover maximum uniformity index on the face of the catalyst elements. This improves efficiency as they can perform at a much lower temperature. All these strategies help in reducing the heat generation requirements from the engine, aiding fuel economy.
Q: Will this offset the issues relating to engine back pressure?
Hemade: Yes, we make sure that we stay within the back pressure targets at all times as all the software and controls of the engine are calibrated on the back pressure. The fuel economy may not be same with or without after-treatment. For after-treatment you put in blockages in the system; we are trying to reduce the substrates or blockages that go in. On the face of a larger substrate the back pressure is reduced. The less exhaust temperature you have for a catalyst reaction, the bigger are the substrates you need. We try to retain the heat in the system, so thermal management is extremely critical. We also have to ensure the distribution of urea in the exhaust is homogeneous. The more you distribute properly, the better will you be able to use the surface of the catalyst, so you can reduce the size of the substrate.
Q: Do you find it difficult to design the exhaust system for tippers and tractors as the length is less?
Hemade: There are challenges, given the tight space-claims in these typical applications. The US or European designs will not fit here for want of space. We have to develop designs that can be packaged in the available space and try to minimise the length of the catalyst elements without compromising on the performance requirements including conversion, fuel economy, and heat retention. We also have a modular design concept where we can pick up bits and pieces of different designs and package it in the given space-claim. We have certain design guidelines and deliverables when it comes to the uniformity index, emissions, back pressure, flow dynamics and heat retention. None of our designs get passed through the concept reviews before the mandatory deliverables are met.
Q: In India we have adverse driving conditions especially in mines where the tippers work; ground clearance is a key. So are you in a unique situation in India?
Hemade: Yes, we are, but these issues are all a part of our initial design FMEAs. We carry them out them along with our customers and take up all the challenges with solutions addressing the DFM and DFA problems. This includes not only our products but the complete system.
Q: Has Tenneco got any role in weight reduction?
Hemade: If you see what is happening overall in the automotive industry you find a couple of things – regulation is driving change, fuel efficiency and emissions play a big part. Then there are others like shared mobility that is driving the industry. We definitely contribute to this big time. On emissions, our clean air business is helping customers succeed by providing solutions that help to meet the new regulations. On fuel economy there is a penalty for after-treatment on the vehicle; we do our engineering processes and simulations in such a way as to minimise the fuel penalty as much as possible by optimising thermal management and flow. The challenge today is to use thinner welds on both light vehicles and CVs.
In case of European OEMs, the box design was used as in the US. For India we have changed it to a cigar design, which helps to maintain ground clearance and reduce cost. On the shock absorber side we have redesigned the complete front strut model – a lean design with huge cost reductions for the customer. That is one of the reasons why we have a big market share in shock absorbers.
Q: With BS-IV coming to India, there are challenges faced by the CV operators in terms of managing aqueous urea solutions or AdBlue. Is Tenneco working on some other solvents?
Hemade: We have worked with customers to provide the entire system for India-specific applications. We have made changes in the system based on our experience with customers in the field. Some of the issues are taken care of by the BS-IV regulatory authority themselves. For urea we have early detection of AdBlue (called DEF-Diesel Exhaust Fluid-in the US) quality with our software and controls. Regarding driver awareness Tenneco has been conducting training for our customers and their dealers to tackle and mitigate problems with the use of analytics and diagnostics. SCR and urea technologies are new so it might take some time to set in with customers and their drivers.
Q: Is there a way for customers in India and similar economies to overcome certain difficulties on this?
Hemade: For alternative technologies – yes; we are working in our engineering and core science functions on future technologies for NOX reduction.
Q: After BS-IV, BS-VI is another challenge. You need to have SCR, DPF and others. How do you see these emerging challenges since it is necessary to reduce CO-2, also in tune with Euro-6?
Hemade: The CO-2 regulations for India come in 2018, preceding Euro-6, in line with the Paris Accord that India has signed. Our Euro-6 products have been running in Europe for several years now. Our job is to apply those technologies here and make them India-specific. The challenge is not on technology but the timing required for the application of solutions at effective costs. In two and a half years, everything will have to be done first-time right – there is no scope for a second chance. Customers are very serious about it. Though the date has been fixed as 2020, people want to be ready six months earlier to avoid the situation that cropped up in BS-IV. That is the challenge.
Q: One is time, second the BS-VI fuel quality / availability and third is the packaging. How are you going to optimise the architecture considering all parameters?
Hemade: We have the technologies to meet the challenges. As far as packaging is concerned we have technologies where we take a filter and have a SCR coating on the filter itself. So the filter serves a dual purpose, it traps and oxidises the soot so the SCR down-stream can be of a smaller size or volume. These are already running in Europe, it is only a question of duplicating it here. Other challenges would be on after-treatment integration as all these technologies involve a lot of electronics, software and controls that need to be integrated with the engine controls. All these modules have their own controllers or ECUs and they need to be integrated with one another. There has to be effective hand-shaking between software platforms. That is a big challenge and the third one is the on-board diagnostics – OBD regulations for BS-IV. A typical document for BS-IV could be 75 pages while for BS-VI it would be around 1,500 pages, as so many OBD peripherals get enforced by the regulations. Larger OEMs have software / control / OBD departments to handle this.
Q: This is one of the reasons for the growth of the sensors market by nearly 300-400 percent. Since their thermal characteristics are very high, there is a big risk when you package sensors together. Is there a safe way to do that?
Hemade: Nowadays we have virtual sensors where you can map the entire system at all speed load points to create a look-up table of all the temperatures, using a physical sensor. You can use the look-up table as a virtual sensor in real-life applications. This is how you can use technology to reduce dependence on physical sensors. There are also unique challenges in the Asian market; we have faced that in our China applications, where some customers would remove the sensor, put in a resistor and try to fudge the controls. So Tenneco has been aiding and assisting OEMs in developing virtual sensor technologies; we have already launched one of the virtual sensors in one of our BS-IV applications in India where we have got rid of a urea quality sensor and use our proprietary software and control technology to detect urea quality.
Q: Is there a way for sensors to communicate without wiring?
Hemade: I can’t answer that; we are just integrating the sensors from the suppliers into our system. We are not sensor experts.
Q: For the AdBlue tank is there any issue with the pumps, from the aftermarket perspective?
Hemade: We have seen urea quality issues especially of contamination by sand. Our pump designs have been changed to make sure they are robust and last longer. Our filter modules are designed such that they are easily accessible and replaceable on the vehicle itself. These are all exclusive to the Asia market where challenges are more.
Q: Were the pumps integrated to the tank earlier?
Hemade: We don’t have a design where the pump is inside the urea tank. The reason for this is that a lot of sediment accumulation occurs in the urea tank.
Q: What are the initiatives taken to reduce the cost of manufacturing for Tenneco in India; many companies have combined digitalisation with the IoT; what’s your experience?
Hemade: In any manufacturing we have to eliminate waste. We have dedicated teams on the shopfloor to identify and remove waste. The key competency that Tenneco has to be successful in the Indian market is that we are highly customer focused. We have high- performance teams led by good technological leadership which results in operational excellence. We have a business system that brings all these elements together to cater to our customers and grow in the market.
Globally, we are working on the ‘focused factory’ (factory within factory) concept where there are empowered people within each area to deliver set parameters. We now have an internet tool called ‘SharePoint,’ a social media tool that is India-specific, where people can collaborate seamlessly and share information. This helps to speed up things and make it more efficient. In the shop floor we have put production control systems where everybody can visibly see the performance of the cell. Instead of looking at problems at the end of the shift, you can see it as it happens and take corrective action immediately.
Q: Are you working on new methodologies to optimise your supply chain?
Kapoor: Yes, absolutely. That is the key to deliver the best cost to the customer. Earlier, logistics was taken care of by logistic personnel but today logistics is run by packaging engineers. At most places we have returnable packaging, instead of disposable, which brings down cost and is environmental friendly. We are constantly trying to optimise the yield of the packaging – how many parts are going on each trolley and how we can improve the packaging density of a truck. Also, the efficiency of logistics is important; we have GPS on all the trucks going to customers to optimise the route taken
Q: Is there a case study on India operations for Tenneco HQ; something from here that has been deployed across other plants?
Kapoor: In India, we have various tools to benchmark cost of manufacturing, logistics, optimisation of design and other activities. Since all these are integrated, we make sure that benchmarking takes place at the design stage itself. Before we go in for tooling we make sure the manufacturing cost is optimal to cover tools, processes, etc. When we execute production we use tools like focus-factory, waste elimination, productivity improvement – all the best practices available – to ensure costs are minimised. Our Bhawal plant is an example of lean manufacturing; it can be used as a benchmark globally, in all aspects. There are definitely many takeaways from India. Ultimately, what the customer wants is good quality with timely delivery at minimum cost. In Tenneco there is a lot of sharing ofbest practices; it keeps on happening across all the plants.
Q: What is the role played by the India technical centre of Tenneco?
Hemade: Our technical centre comprises all the test facilities and requirements for developing BS-IV and BS-VI systems. We have just commissioned it. This centre has the same competencies and capability that our tech centres all over the world have. It is designed to take other European and US workloads; we can take up any EPA-2018 or Euro-6D programme. So far international testing has not started as we have sufficient local loads, but it is very much possible to do it here.
On the engineering side we do a lot of simulation for our North American and European projects. We have also started building prototypes for requirements in the US as here it is faster with lower lead times. We also have a software centre in Bangalore with a small team working on global embedded software requirements; they work on both the clean air and ride performance. Our tech centre in Hosur is a centre of excellence for lean design of shock absorbers.
Q: What are the new technologies for the Indian customers from the ride performance division?
Kapoor: On the ride performance, the technology is of the multi-tuneable valve that we launched about four years ago; we have compressed the tuning so that it is more durable. In this we have launched more than 20 platforms in the last four years. The technology is much better, so customers who had gone in for standard valves have now moved on to multi-tuneable ones.
The next one is frequency damping technology which is based on the customers’ preference of hard or soft tuning. Once set, you cannot change the tuning during the life of the vehicle. For example, a German customer may want a hard ride while a Japanese one may prefer a soft one. On the highway you need a hard ride, to feel you are in control of the vehicle, but in the city you will go in for a soft ride so as to manoeuvre very easily. We are going to launch this technology soon with one customer in India.
Q: Can you elaborate a bit on the technology?
Kapoor: It is totally automatic and the valves create the required frequency; it is tuned for that. That is why it’s called frequency dependent damping for which you don’t need any electronics or sensors. This is an innovative technology where you don’t add too much cost. Of course it cannot match the performance of an electronic shock absorber where the response is very fast; tuning changes take place in one-tenth of a second. Above that is the shock dual mode where driver will have a button for operation. Then there is the semi-active shock absorber called mono-intelligence system, and going above the higher ranges is the fully active suspension. Semi and fully active shock absorbers are used in high-end cars in India as well as globally. In India, because of cost constraints, we need to focus on these types of technologies. There are some more advanced technologies we are working on that are electronic but within the absorber.
Hemande: The value proposition we give to the customer has also changed with weight reduction of primary importance. Earlier, the strut module was partly designed by us and partly by the customer. What we are proposing to the customer now is that we take full responsibility for the entire module so that we can optimise the system in terms of weight and cost; we have been very successful with three customers on this. This helps us design our own brackets, stamping parts, rubber parts and even springs, to make sure the weight is optimised.
Q: The world is moving towards autonomous cars where EVs will be more suitable; the horizon is near and visible now. Has Tenneco a line of business to handle this?
Hemade: Our projection is that the EV population will not be more than three percent. Cars won’t be totally electrical; it will be more of a hybrid, semi-hybrid or micro-hybrid variety. So the IC engine is there to stay for a long time – this is what our detailed studies reflect. When it moves to electrical with autonomous, is where our value addition will increase as demand for our shock absorbers go up; we see big scope for electronic suspensions.