Brembo brake’s advanced braking system has delighted drivers of performance cars. It maintains the same standards in India.
by jayashree kini mendes
Over the last few decades, braking systems have changed considerably. But Brembo thinks that another big change is coming. The manufacturer of advanced lightweight brakes already makes calipers in more than 100 colours globally. Imagine that! For years, Brembo Brake calipers were a badge of honour for high-performance cars and bikes. Few corporations have the influence in motorsport as Brembo does.
In the world of automotive design, high-fashion brake calipers will soon be the frontier, as big, low-profile tyres and open-faced wheels grow more common. And Brembo wants to get there first.
In India, Brembo recently completed 10 years, and the company is on a new high. Luca Bottazzi, MD, Brembo Brake India, says, “We have seen phenomenal growth, much beyond our expectations. In the last seven years, our CAGR has grown by 17% and today we command a 50% market share in India alone.”
To understand Brembo Brake India, it helps to understand the global company first. Brembo is driven by innovation. A significant part of its turnover is spent in innovation, which also includes materials, design, etc. Sudhir Nirantar, executive director & CEO, Brembo Brake India, says, “In India, we make braking systems for two-wheelers only. Our customers encompass the entire gamut of two-wheeler manufacturers, most of who make high-performance bikes. Considering that most OEMs already have preferred suppliers, we decided to adopt the Keiretsu approach of dealing with our partners, and prefer to set up plants close to our customers.”
Considering the precision and high-performance, the Indian team is always happy when their customers seek them out. “To keep pace with growth, we have been expanding our facilities significantly. A decade ago, we had a total manpower strength of 250~300 here; today that number has crossed 1,100. Along the way, we have received customer accolades for quality, delivery, new product development, who recognise our contributions,” adds Nirantar.
In keeping with plans, the company is setting up a new plant, and third, in Chennai. The idea is to be available to customers who have plants in the vicinity. “Nirantar says, “The Chakan plant will continue to be the mother plant where we machine the components, assemble the pieces and build the complete braking system. This involves joining of calipers & master cylinder, ABS modulator with brake hoses and filling of brake oil under the vacuum and is ready to use. The Manesar plant was set up in 2006 and its purpose of staying close to our Japanese customers is fulfilled. While the entire assembly happens at the Chakan plant, at the Manesar plant we only attach the hoses, fill the oil and make it ready for assembly.”
The Chennai facility is expected to commence operations by October 2018. If all goes according to plan, Brembo might even export brake systems. All products supplied under the Bybre brand are 100% localised at its production plant in Chakan. The company manufactures calipers and master cylinders, and discs (for front and rear wheels) for two-wheelers. The Chakan plant currently has an annual installed capacity of 3.5 million sets (one set comprises of one caliper and one master cylinder) and 2.5 million units for making discs (single disc). Under phase three of the expansion drive, it plans to increase the present capacities to four million units (sets of calipers and master cylinders) and three million units (of discs) this year.
The leader and innovator of brake disc technology introduced Bybre (it is a synthesis of By Brembo) in India in 2010, specifically dedicated to bikes and scooters under 600cc. The Bybre products, however, are developed based on the Italian engineering and design concepts.
Today, the company is preparing to see gains from the upcoming safety norms on mandatory fitment of the combined braking systems (CBS) on two-wheelers up to 125cc and anti-lock braking systems (ABS) on all two-wheelers bigger than 125cc. Bottazzi says, “Our strategy in the long term is to be ahead of the market and bring in new technologies even before automotive makers can anticipate it. We are soon coming up with new lines for bleeding of disc brake system integrated with ABS, which is the latest technology in the market, to test these new systems.”
The company has been in the business of ABS integration in India since 2011. The latest lines are more modern in terms of traceability and testing that it intends to perform on the final product. “As far as the CBS is concerned, it’s a new product. The product was designed three years ago and a patent was filed by Brembo. We will be launching mass production of the CBS actuator from June. The testing here is challenging because it needs simulate the performance of the CBS actuator, both for rear as well as the front system,” adds Bottazzi.
The Chakan plant is unlike any other automotive plant in the region. For starters, one would have expected to see oil or viscous fluid across the floor or machinery. The plant is clean and one finds every component arranged tidily on racks before it can go in assembly. The disc brake system is an assembly product and parts are manufactured separately through different procedures.
Considering the number of variants available with each two-wheeler manufacturer, Brembo has a large portfolio of products. The company has imported most of the CNC machinery from Japan, while automation-assisted processes form an inherent part in the pretreatment area. Brembo cannot afford to have failure rates and each component and the final assembly product is tested for durability, safety, structural integrity, robustness, and performance characteristics.
Nirantar says, “The assembly line has built-in quality checks. The technology and the design of the test grids is the same as the one at our parent plant in Italy. In order to leave no room for errors, we have deployed robots and high-precision and high-capability presses, again imported from Japan.”
Built by design
There’s a certain element of architectural design in the way Brembo makes its intricately shaped calipers. Not only do they save weight, but also help bring down cost. Bottazzi says, “The basic material for our caliper and master cylinder is aluminium. We get the design from Italy and, going forward, you are likely to see more innovations coming from us. We are still exploring possibilities of reducing the friction area, but that’s a different science by itself. There is a consideration to come up with new grades that offer better performance for a given application over the current ones. That’s why every 2-4 years we are able bring into market a new grade of friction, which is then dedicated or reserved for use by us.”
If you are not much familiar with brakes, the caliper is the clamp that closes on a plate-like disc to slow a wheel’s rotation, and with it the vehicle. Friction between the caliper and disc make brakes very hot. Brembo built its reputation with materials and designs that can survive and dissipate the heat so the brakes keep working, even when you use them hard.
The Indian team at Brembo Brake believe that even though one may not pay much attention to the design, performance as well as aesthetics matter. Disc designs are, therefore, discussed with the customer and the functional requirement are kept in mind while delivering a new product and also taking care of styling. The Indian arm is also environment-conscience. The company operates green and has done much in the way of reducing water consumption, recovering a major part of waste materials for reuse, among other things.
It is unfortunate that after Brembo’s top positioning in European and US championships, the company has not been able to make a dent in the Indian four-wheeler market. “Unfortunately in India, these cars are not manufactured or sold in large numbers, so it doesn’t make sense. For example, certain Mercedes Benz cars will have Brembo brakes, but they are few and far between. The cars sold in India are are different from the cars found abroad. But, internationally, we have received much acclaim for our work and that is what we want to achieve in India,” says Nirantar.