Automotive Test Systems (ATS), a company established in 2004, offers wide-range of services in Product Validation, Structural Testing, Data Acquisition and Analysis, Vehicle Handling and Performance evaluation, NVH and Powertrain testing. Its DNA lies in all kinds of critical, multifaceted data acquisition and failure analysis. Over the years ATS has become popular among clients spread across various sectors like automotive industry, defence, railways and renewable energy. In a chat with T Murrali of AutoParts Asia, S Ramanathan, Managing Director, ATS, said, “We plan to go global in offering our services and systems.” Edited excerpts:
Q: What are the latest offerings from ATS for the Indian automotive Industry?
Ramanathan: One area that we have started looking at is the speech quality inside the car and the emergency calls (e-calls), offering support to customers. For example, you are connecting your mobile phone with Bluetooth; sometimes the quality of the connection is not good, people keep talking and accidents happen. In Europe, they have strict regulations on speech quality and emergency calls – if accidents happen – automatic calls to the police, family or hospital; all these are taken care of. We have now introduced this kind of testing facility in ATS; we have just bought that facility in collaboration with HEAD Acoustics GmbH, Germany, which is the market leader in this. They participate in this in a very big way, and we are going to work with the leading Indian OEMs to improve speech quality in vehicles. We are also going to work with the handset manufacturers as it has to work on both sides, the vehicle side and the handset side. In a vehicle, if somebody is speaking from the rear seat or someone from the front, it should be clear and not jumbled.
We are also launching new data loggers for vehicle testing and ADAS development from our own brand, Peiseler, which would be useful for all kinds of homologation testing like brake testing, acceleration test, fuel consumption test, handling tests and similar certification tests.
We have tied up with EMIC from Japan, offering vibration shakers for two applications – component testing in the labs and NVH measurement.
Q: I believe you already have a tie-up with a German company for similar products?
Ramanathan: Not for vibration shakers but measurement systems and accelerometers; we had for sensors, noise and vibration measurement systems etc., but electro dynamic shaker itself was missing from the portfolio. Now the spectrum is complete. We like to offer turnkey solutions for most of the areas we work in.
On the ADAS side we are introducing many products on autonomous driving and validation; a complete portfolio for development and testing of autonomous vehicles.
Q: But autonomous vehicles are far away from reality, especially in India and what is the need for ATS to introduce these testing systems now?
Ramanathan: Yes, it is a little bit far away. Let’s say it is like a technology demonstration at the moment in India. But there are Indian companies that work for their foreign counterparts, some leading OEMs, who would like to go abroad and this will be then necessary; it is a major requirement, even for the Chinese market.
Q: You have been collaborating with global companies or representing them here. So has ATS now got the complete spectrum for automotive testing?
Ramanathan: We have quite a bit. We work on component test rigs, powertrain, simulation, vehicle dynamics, NVH, HVAC, active and passive safety. We are pretty much covering this whole sector. This is one part; the other part is that our engineering services capability is increasing on the technical centre side which we have at Amrita Automotive Research & Technical Centre (AARTC), a state-of-the-art Tech-Centre established in Coimbatore. It is our most prestigious offering to the industry. Here we have added the BS-VI facility this year for testing.
Q: Can you tell us about the new facility at AARTC?
Ramanathan: We have bought some emission systems, new dynamometers etc. from Horiba, AVL. SAJ , KS etc.. We are now ready to do testing for BS-VI; customers are coming in for that. On the engineering side a lot of outdoor testing for fuel consumption and onboard emission works are being done. This is a hotcake in the Indian market at present as much demand has been generated. It is helping us do a good deal of work in this field.
Q: Would you replicate a similar set-up elsewhere, like in Gurgaon or anywhere in NCR? Would it be worth it?
Ramanathan: It would be very expensive. The next set-up we do will be on e-mobility; we might go to Chennai for that. Not yet decided. Probably a component test lab in Pune, later this year.
Q: What kind of test facilities would you have?
Ramanathan: Battery and motor testing. That will be the next step. We are already in discussions on that; probably next year we will set it up. We are looking at the market, how much business would come from this area. In Europe, it’s a hot business; it will certainly catch up well in India. We are talking to our customers to ascertain the likely business potential and what would be the right time to invest money on this. We are already selling systems in these areas for lab measurement and on-road measurement, validating measurements on e-vehicles. We are getting some projects on this front.
Q: From 2023 India will go for RDE and how is ATS gearing up to support those kinds of requirements?
Ramanathan: We are still discussing it. We will be offering engineering services on that side as well as buying equipment for onboard measurements like real drive emission measurement, PEMS. At the moment people are discussing about how convenient it is to carry PEMS in the car and other connected issues on the data we are getting. These could be different for each test.
We are trying to help customers on the engineering side by simulating road conditions, traffic, different drivers etc., in the laboratory so that on the development cycle of an engine itself we are able to test for real drive emissions. That’s the kind of support we are giving on the engineering side. When I know the band I can digitise whatever is necessary; we can record the actions of the driver in the lab. These inputs are fed to the engine, vehicle characteristics are put in with the simulation package and all the required tests are carried out. In real drive emissions, climatic conditions play an important part; you might get different results if the same test is done in the morning, afternoon or evening. This could be optimised in the laboratory.
Q: Would you be looking at offering a comprehensive solution virtually or carry out development work so that companies could save time?
Ramanathan: We are not doing much of development work at the moment; we are only supporting customers with testing services and giving them data. We have partner companies that are doing development work but we are not doing that per se at ATS. We help in establishing facilities for customers where they can do their own tests and development. Our associates are working directly with Indian OEMs, offering different solutions in NVH, powertrain and other areas. Each of them have their own engineering facility in Europe, UK or Germany, like for example ALTRAN is a very big group, which offers passive safety development in Europe; they are offering services to the Indian customers here.
Q: What is next for ATS?
Ramanathan: I would like to go global in offering services and systems. We have our own company in Germany, Pieseler that we bought last year. So now we have our own brand and have developed a number of sensors and systems which we are going to offer globally through brand Pieseler.
Pieseler is quite an old company that has been offering sensors to the automotive industry worldwide for ABS and brake testing. We are improving the product line by adding state-of-the-art data loggers, fuel flow meters and various sensors.
Q: Would you replicate this elsewhere in the world?
Ramanathan: Manufacturing is going on in Germany. From there we will supply the solutions globally through representations. We will be establishing our own distribution network.
Q: Would you be looking at acquiring other companies as you got hold of Pieseler?
Ramanathan: If there are opportunities, yes. It has to be in sync with our business, that is very important.
Q: In the entire spectrum of testing you hold the majority space. What are the adjacent areas you would be looking at for consolidation, either through tie-up or acquisition?
Ramanathan: Probably a good test facility that could give us superior engineering backup in terms of development. For example, suspension improvement or certain areas of vehicle handling which would help us offer solutions to customers. We would like to collaborate with such companies either through a joint venture or acquisition.