JK Tyres is a name that resonates with everyone in the Indian industry. Even at motorsport events, JK Tyre has been at the pinnacle of the sport. Last year, we caught up with the senior management to have a quick chat on their latest tyre technology called JK Treel. This technology basically lets a truck driver know about the individual tyre pressure in the truck. It will also direct them to the nearest authorised tyre centre and helps keep a track on the vehicle moment as well. However, since then we have heard precious little from JK Tyre about their developments except for the humanitarian angle during this ongoing pandemic. To make up for this lost time and to know what JK has been up to, we had a quick call with VK Mishra, the technical director at JK Tyre and Industries Ltd. Here are the excerpts.
VK Mishra (VM): This has gone out in a very big way. See the point is that the, you have to let the fleet owners understand the benefit and that you have to demonstrate. And the benefits are huge, like in one of the large fleet where we have a very massive penetration of TREEL technology, they have saved not only just fuel, there was a benefit in terms of timely alertness, saving your tyres, timely alertness on pressure, speed, location etc.
There was one case where the transporter got an alert about the tyre temperature shooting up in one of his vehicles. He asked the driver to stop, check the problem with the tyre. He found out that the brakes were heating up, causing trouble. This helped the fleet owner and the driver to save time and rectify the problem. These benefits have been experienced by the fleet owners and are being adopted in a big way.
VM: We have been buying equipment for testing. For long time we have been testing and there are two types of tests- objective and subjective.
Objective test is the one where all the data is through the instrument. They tell you everything about noise, vibration etc., about the vehicle and it is converted into data.
Subjective test is the one which is done by expert drivers. The expert driver gives his rating – there is a rating chart. Subjective testing continues to be a very important part of the approval.
While we do the objective test, we also do a subjective test with our expert drivers. We give cognizance to subjective feedback as much or more than objective. In terms of objective test, there was still a situation where the driver was driving with all the instrumentation installed in the vehicle. The steering robot eliminates the need for a driver. It’s an autonomous type of drive, eliminating any possible human intervention which could influence the performance of your instrument.
That is why it is called a steering robot because it is installed in place of a steering. It is a completely robotic instrumented steering. The data that comes out is extremely clean and error-free. There is no human intervention. Obviously, there is a guy sitting but that control is with the robot. He is sitting in case of any eventuality. This is a very expensive piece of equipment but very useful.
We have been doing tests all over the world; it is only a matter of how quickly can you equip yourself with the current trends. We put a NVH NFI chamber in our Centre of Excellence in Mysore- that of course we are first to do so. For all NVH evaluation, this is the last word in validation as far as the NVH is concerned.
What you can do is that you can take your own car/truck inside this chamber. There are wheels which are very high precision, mounted underground. There is a small arc on the surface, so it is almost like driving a vehicle on a road. So if you understand it would be like the road is moving. So you can measure all kind proof characteristics like noise, vibration etc., through this chamber. The only test it for tyres because of our work, but we have been approached by many to test other products. For example, AC vibrations when installed indoors. This is the case in that chamber if you even drop a pin, you can capture that vibration.
If you have a very good validation capability before you submit your product then your chances of getting your tyre approved is very good.
VM: Yes, we have developed it already and have put a lot of tyres in the market to get the feedback. There has been excellent feedback so far. We test these tyres by pushing nails through them and driving for long distances and there hasn’t been a drop in pressure. We are looking forward to taking it ahead to all kinds of vehicles, particularly like two and three-wheelers and primarily cars. So this is an interesting concept.
We were the first to buy a skid trailer. It is an equipment that we have bought from Europe. It is currently in test track in Indore. This is for physical verification of various tests, which otherwise we were doing in labs. Now we can do that same thing on tracks and generate data of products. Besides that, you can also do wet grip and dry grip tests, which we don’t have to facilities for in India. We were sending tyres to Europe, China and Spain etc., for tests. Now we have got this equipment and we are developing a surface to align with the European and the ISO specifications. This will become internationally acceptable.
India is also going into labelling, there also the wet grip test will be very important. So we procured this equipment and these are for very advanced testing facilities called skid trailer. I would also want to talk about the virtual proving ground. This is something that is completely out of the world. We have a centre of excellence in IIT Madras which is a joint venture with us and IIT Madras. It has been active for 14 years, which is the longest industry-academia partnership. There we have set up a virtual proving ground. There is a car parked in a very big room. It is the stationary car which is completely instrumented, linked to a control system and on the wall you can create a test track. You can put any test track in the world and drive the car like you are actually going to drive it in the real world. Expert drivers sit in the car, and drive it like the real world to generate the test data.
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