Nishant Arya, executive director, JBM group, has shown astute foresight and executed well thought-out plans for the group and the future
Necessity is the mother of invention. The stress is even greater today than ever before. Never before in the history of mankind has so many external changes occurred as they are happening today. Across the board, be it in the way we communicate or work or travel, there is very little familiarity to what has been intimate for so long. Though technology is the culprit that has altered much, there could have been no escape.
Around the world, while the new-age technologies are fascinating a large number of people, there are some who are shying away or daunted. Unable to catch up or fathom these, will, sadly, mean losing out on modern ways of business or interactions. But that could be a remote possibility for Nishant Arya, executive director, JBM Group, or his team at the company.
For one, under Arya, the Group has been highly proactive in adopting engineering science and novel methods of business and manufacturing. It has also been a leader in auto components and systems for more than three decades. But there was little intention to continue remaining a supplier. It stepped into the shoes of an OEM with panache and quickly diversified its portfolio anticipating years ago that vehicles will not remain what they were.
The future is electric
For some time now, the JBM Group is in the news for its electric bus. It recently ran a trial run of the electric bus ECO-LIFE, a JBM Solaris Electric Vehicles joint venture. ECO-LIFE, a zero emission vehicle, will save around 1000 equivalent tonnes of carbon dioxide and 350,000 litres of diesel over 10 years of operation.
Then there are its international tie-ups – now a common leaning among large auto component makers – not to forget its path-breaking EV charging infrastructure and solar energy generation projects.
Some of the above steps helps the company buffer the impact it must be feeling from an auto sector that is reeling with sluggish sales.
Arya says, “As an organisation, we have always looked at the whole EV ecosystem. There are multiple layers within this and we have had our eye on EVs for some time now.”
Recently, the company also bagged orders for 300 buses from Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Limited (DIMTS), Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport Corporation (NMMTC) and two airline companies. It expects to executed it before March 2020.
Early this year, it announced the acquisition of German-based Linde-Wiemann (L+W), a company that specialises in proprietary technologies in areas such as hot forming, tubular assemblies and usage of alternate materials like aluminium resulting in light-weighting in auto systems. The acquisition gives JBM access to L+W’s 17 manufacturing plants across eight countries and its over 2,300 people.
More such examples abound. But none of these would have been made possible if Arya did not have the penchant for technology combined with innovation and foresight.
Hear it in the man’s own words:
Could you give us a holistic view of what to expect in the electric vehicle segment?
Besides the focus on products and resources within the ecosystem. the enabler in our case is the electric bus and overall we have a capacity to manufacture 2000 buses already.
Then we focus on charging and battery technology, vehicle life and the complete intelligent transformation system, and now are building those machines. Within the bus, we focus on a longer life and TCO model and here we look at the lifecycle of the product, the battery life and the charging efficiency.
Robotic lines at one of the plants.
JBM Auto has earned a reputation for vertical engineering design. Besides, you have your own engineering and design centres. Can you tell us a little more about it?
I believe there are three key aspects to any sound business. Most of them are focused on looking at design, and here what matters is design to cost, design to functionality and design to manufacturing. Other than the technology, I even have design elements that would make any end customer ecstatic. But if one is mainly looking at design, then considering design to cost is a functionality and in the long run looks performance and the lifecycle of the product. Moreover, once design to cost is set, then it should be a product that can also be manufactured quickly and within cost here too.
What are some of the rules laid out for your suppliers? You have manufacturing locations across the globe, how do you look at components sourcing?
In our supplier base, we have 10 comprehensive pillars of excellence and they factor in everything that must be considered for a world-class product. These range from technology to TCO to performance to manufacturing base to global deployment. Then other elements that must be considered are safety, new technologies, waste management, and financial equilibrium.
When you look at global tie ups and acquisitions, what have you gained from them and what do you look at when you tie up with companies overseas?
JBM carries with it a philosophy that is built into its DNA. There are few classifications that one must consider before taking on a global partner.
So technology is a business model that we do not compromise on. There are three things that are core to our philosophy, and only when they fit well, do we move ahead with partnerships – technology, innovation, and the right kind of people confident enough to carry off a job.
I believe you also wanted to know how well they are entrenched into our ecosystem. They may be strategic or competitive and may have tie-ups with others in terms of partnerships or acquisitions. What matters is their past record in terms of bringing up key stakeholders. By the last, I mean other kind of anchors, such as suppliers, vendors, etc. In all this, what matters is the kind of corporate governance norms that are at the heart of any relationship.
Certain factors for us are non-negotiable. Such as the organisation should have a strong corporate governance and be ahead of the curve in manufacturing technologies. Cross cultural integration with respect to how are they positioned because of their ability to perform in different countries in a similar way, and understand the local nuances. So, we try and evaluate any particular organisation through alliance, a joint venture or acquisition.
As a group, we have a presence in 12 countries as a manufacturer and service provider, while we export to nearly 25 countries across the world. So, we are comfortable in all those markets and new markets that are aligned with our group requirements.
The joint ventures that we have globally have helped us immensely in bringing novel manufacturing processes and technologies to India.
Within the Group, we have developed a ‘Well to Wheel’ concept that not only aids in driving business across our verticals, but also propels our initiatives towards sustainability and green manufacturing. Our multiple businesses are strategically synergised towards creating a seamless solution from generation to consumption of clean energy.
What are some of the innovative products to have come from your company in the last decade or so?
Some time ago, I created a new team of Japanese expats and started developing products on our own. We saw a substantial increase in our profitability, and allowed us to focus on value additions. We are the first company in the country to manufacture skin panels for auto OEMs. What helped us was our strength of know-how and technology for precision and aesthetical aspects.
Then we are also a leader in lightweighting of vehicles. We have optimised that to a large extent and use certain materials that helps reduce the cost of vehicles, thus resulting into better cash holding.
What are some of the backend technologies and automation you use at your plants in India?
We have very high level of artificial intelligence technology that we are developing in-house. The plants use more than 2000 robots in operations in different places that allow us to maintain safety and quality and most of the equipment and machines are built in-house by our strong engineering and design team.