Text: Bhargav TS
The Hosur-based Harita Seating Systems Ltd (HSSL), a TVS group company, is developing mechanical and pneumatic suspended seats for truck and tractor drivers. The improvement of automotive seating system, particularly for the driver, has been a priority interest since many years as professional drivers spend most of their time there and feel more fatigue than passengers. Seating comfort is influenced by the static and dynamic characteristics of a seat system. For the occupant’s comfort and health, seats should be designed by considering sitting postures. It is in this background that HSSL started working on developing air suspended (pneumatic) seats for the truck and tractor drivers. It is planning to market them very soon.
“Today in the Indian market only a small portion is occupied by suspended seats and they are imported. We sensed an opportunity here and started working on both mechanical and air suspended seats for tractors and trucks. Tractors and trucks operate in tough terrains unlike passenger cars. On an average, a truck is driven for 10 hours a day. For tractors there is no suspension for the vehicle itself. So it is very essential to make the drivers more comfortable with good suspended seats. For this we have appointed a German consultant in Harita’s R&D centre. He has rich experience in developing suspended truck seats for the European market. Our team is working with him on this project and will come up with the suspended seats for both Indian and global markets. We will be setting up a separate line in any of our plants to manufacture them,” A G Giridharan, President, HSSL, told Auto Components India.
Harita’s R&D centre in Hosur is equipped with virtual design capabilities and has value-added infrastructure such as road condition data acquisition, servo hydraulic rig (for seats as well as components), and pressure-mapping system that factors in anthropological data. The seats also go through drop tests, lateral stability tests, slider endurance tests and ingress-egress tests.
Seats in buses
HSSL has a wide range of seats for the long haul buses, which offer more comfort to the passengers. The company has added a safety feature by integrating a three-point belt in every passenger seat. Developed by Harita, the new seat meets the ECE norms. The company is supplying these seats to the manufacturers who export their buses. Though the safety code has not reached up to this level in India, a few of Harita’s customers buy these seats for buses that transport mainly the foreign tourists.
About the safety aspects of the sleeper buses that ply on the Indian roads, Giridharan said their seats have to be easily accessible and the passengers should be able to get in and get out faster during emergencies. There should also be the roll- over protection. “In order to meet all these requirements and give more comfort, we have modular products which can be used both for day and night journeys. But we are waiting for clarity on the statutory requirements to start manufacturing them for the sleeper buses,” he said.
For light-weighting of the seats Harita is testing the commercial viability of using plastic pans and high-strength steel instead of traditional steel. For the seats, the larger part of the weight is from the frame and foam. By using alternative materials we can reduce weight of the seats considerably,” Giridharan said.
HSSL’s clientele includes Ashok Leyland, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, John Deere, M&M, Mercedes-Benz Buses, AMW, New Holland, TAFE, Tata Motors Marcopolo Ltd and Tata Motors. It has 6 plants in India, including the mother plant in Hosur, The other plants are in Pune, Jamshedpur, Dharwad, Chennai and Pantnagar. Chennai and Patnagar are recently commissioned facilities. The Pantnagar facility manufactures the entire range of seats for trucks, buses and tractors, and the Chennai for trucks and buses.
Harita caters to the two-wheeler market also and its big customers are TVS Motor Company and Royal Enfield. The two-wheeler seats are manufactured at Harita-Fehrer, a 51:49 joint venture of Harita Seating and F S Fehrer Automotive GmbH of Germany. Fehrer is a Tier-2 manufacturer and supplier of passenger car seats in Europe. Harita-Fehrer will also manufacture two-wheeler seats, micro cellular urethanes, polyurethane composites, foaming for driver seats and passenger seats for buses. The JV has 3 facilities each in Hosur, Chennai and Pune.
“We are developing a range of technologies for two-wheelers for which seats are part of the external styling. It should not look bulky at the same time it should be very comfortable. So we have developed a new chemistry of the foam, which can provide better comfort and reduce thickness and weight. By providing highly advanced products we have got export order from a German two-wheeler major. We have introduced the heating element in the export variant,” Giridharan said.
The company was established in 1986 as a joint venture with Grammer AG of Germany. The joint venture was terminated in 2002 and it was renamed Harita Seating Systems. The company has grown continuously and in 2015-16 recorded a consolidated turnover of Rs 637 crore. About 10% of its turnover was from exports and HSSL hopes to increase business on all fronts. ACI