Over the next 20 years, the number of vehicles on the roads in the world’s emerging markets is going to increase dramatically. India is just one example. Provided overall growth in the economy continues at a rate of between 7.5% and 9%, the targets laid out in the second phase of the government’s Automotive Mission Plan (AMP) are not considered unrealistic. This could see passenger vehicle sales in the country increase from 2.6 million units in 2014-15 to anywhere between 9.4 million and 13.4 million units in 2026.
Growth like this will bring with it a whole set of new challenges, including further congestion, increased pollution, and a greater need for stringent safety measures. These challenges will change the rules of the game for all automotive segments, not least the trucking and freight sector.
Practices such as overloading, for example, will become unacceptable. That’s the view of Per Ericson, Chief Executive of Edscha Trailer Systems (Edscha TS). Since 1969, the company has specialised in the development and manufacture of roof and canopy cover systems for trailers, designed to help the heavy-duty vehicle (HDV) segment maximise efficiencies and comply with tightening regulations. These include curtain slider systems, tarpaulin roofs, and sliding bow roofs. The company also performs a high degree of customisation on its products, depending on factors such as what type of loading will be used to move goods onto a vehicle.
Acquired in 2005 by VBG Group AB in Sweden, the company’s strategy has been to target and grow with emerging markets like India, which over the coming years will see its infrastructure become far more sophisticated. Ericson identifies four areas in which he believes suppliers to the HDV segment will play an increased role – load optimisation, safety, fuel consumption and efficiency. “These are our corner stones,” he says. “We believe that our product concept will have a positive impact in a market like India where these corner stones will have to be considered with the development of complex infrastructures in the future.”
Flexibility is a must
Along with more cars on the road, skyrocketing vehicle sales in emerging markets like India will be accompanied by increased production; indeed, some are predicting that India will become the world’s third largest car manufacturing location by 2020, with an annual output of of seven million units.
Ericson says that in order for emerging markets to cope with increasingly complex logistics and supply chains, more flexible loading solutions will be required. “Trucks will need to be able to load and unload in varying situations,” he explains. “This will give owners higher flexibility in terms of the types of customers they can service.”
Steel container solutions, which can only be loaded onto a trailer from behind, and significantly reduce available payload on account of their weight, will not prove adequate. Instead, Ericson predicts wider adoption of the more versatile solutions offered by Edscha TS, such as sliding curtain bodies. Designed correctly, these can allow forklift trucks to load from the side, cranes to load from the top, and still allow for easy rear-loading.
This, says Ericson, will help to keep logistics operations smooth as ports and loading docks become busier, and delivery times become increasingly critical along the supply chain. The challenge will be to further develop the speed at which covers and roofs can be removed and replaced, whilst ensuring the process remains safe.
“Payload is another important area that our systems will continue to try to optimise,” he continues. “By optimising the upper body construction, payloads can be increased by up to 20%. This also improves fuel efficiency, which makes cost savings possible, and also helps with respect to the environmental situation.”
The industry wide trend for lightweighting plays well for suppliers like Edscha TS, as its products have the potential to provide the solution. This, says Ericson, will further become the case with the electrification of powertrains: “That’s going to have a positive effect on our solutions and products, as weight optimisation will become even more important.”
Ericson predicts that the development of frames used in Edscha products will see increased use of high-strength steels in the frames. Reinforced steel-plastic hybrid materials and advanced technical textiles will also have a role to play. Further load optimisation, he adds, will be made possible with the addition of sensors on its roof products that will allow for the continuous monitoring of body and load conditions.
The Edscha TS lightweighting strategy, on which the company works closely in its home country with major German body builders, sees continuous development: “You always have to transport more with less,” says Ericson. “Today, no other competitor can meet our weight level.”
Education, education, education
The challenges are numerous, but emerging markets present an added difficulty – one that Ericson refers to as “the biggest challenge of them all”. With the situation set to transform so rapidly, and with emerging markets lacking the same industry experience as their Western counterparts, the onus will fall on Edscha TS to convince potential customers that its products have a role to play in meeting efficiency targets. In some cases, says Ericson, even the concept of efficiency improvements, and their growing importance, is something that will need to be explained.
“We will have to be able to communicate well, and convey the message that there are substantial savings to be made by implementing a more efficient transport concept,” he says. “There will be considerable uncertainty, due to the fact that this is a new way of thinking which demands investment. But there is also the possibility for those who implement concepts like ours early to save a lot of money.”