Text & Photos: T Murrali 

The outlet will offer wheel-care services to all kinds of vehicles including buses and trucks

Puducherry based Manatec Electronics has taken yet another initiative to offer wheel related services to passenger and  commercial vehicles. The company has set up ‘‘Easy Drive’’ in the Tindivanam – Puducherry NH 66, at Pattanur village in Tamil Nadu, about 5 km before the Puducherry border.


The outlet is located about 30 km from Tindivanam – a junction connecting the Chennai – Kanyakumari Grand Southern Trunk road, and on the other side connecting a few places that include Cuddalore, Panruti, Chidambaram, Neyveli and Chennai (through

East Coast road) via Puducherry. The movement of private buses and trucks here is quite high. ‘Easy Drive’ has two bays and can accommodate vehicles with a maximum length of about 16metres. About 10,000 sq ft of shed is constructed on a 30,000 sq ft plot, with about 35% of the covered area designated for wheel related services and the rest for training.


Speaking to Auto Components India, the Chairman of the company, R Mananathan said the compelling reason to locate this at Pattanur village is that it is the preferred choice of truckers to rest, despite a truck bay provided by the Puducherry state. In addition, most of the workshops for these kinds of vehicles are situated here. According to local sources, more than 30 MHCVs and a little over 10 buses pass through this highway every hour.

“Leave alone the indicators, the outlets have been getting at least six trucks for wheel alignment, balancing and tyre rotation since the outlet was operating from last April,” says the Managing Director of the company Mananathan Kalaiichelvan. The objective of setting up ‘Easy Drive’ is on three counts – firstly to offer wheel related services to commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles, secondly, to train customers’ and Manatec’s own employees and thirdly, to validate products that are designed and developed by the company.



IMG_0747Elaborating the intent, Kalaiichelvan said the fleet operators’ awareness on the cost of ownership has been on the rise and they resort to tyre care to contain the related cost, which is the second largest after fuel expenses. Though commercial vehicle OEMs
have been insisting on their authorised service centres to modernise wheel related services as it directly benefits the end-user, he opines that only about 3% of the dealers have really caught up with this trend. However, the drive is coming from the end-users
or the fleet owners themselves as their profitability is eroding with the continuous increase of diesel prices. Wrong alignment of wheels leads to tyres, especially radials, wearing off at 15,000 km as against the stipulated life of 60,000 km. In order to maintain the life and mileage of tyres it is necessary that they are rotated every 5,000km and aligned correctly.

Sharing his experience, the Director of the company S Vijayaraghavan says that in a few trucking hubs including Namakkal and Sankagiri, quite a few fleet operators have invested on tyre care machines, considering the benefits. The concept is growing as the
OEMs are supporting this initiative. Unlike passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles are serviced in the laden state despite OEMs recommending the wheels be aligned in an unladen condition. However, there are practical difficulties since these vehicles are seldom in an unladen state. Mananathan says, “The specifications are given by the OEMs for the unladen condition, while the vehicles, especially MHCVs, are always loaded with cargo. Therefore, these vehicles can be serviced in loaded condition. The difference between the parameters of loaded and unloaded conditions are managed within the tolerance specified by the
OEMs. However, the LCVs are generally aligned under unloaded condition.” To facilitate attending on buses that
are generally free only during nights, ‘Easy Drive’ operates from 8.30 am till 3 am the next day. This outlet is owned
and operated by Manatec while future expansion will be through the franchise model, states Kalaiichelvan. Plans are on to have at least 5 centres, especially for CVs in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring states, before the end of the current fiscal. It already has three centres for passenger vehicles in Puducherry, Coimbatore and Bangalore.



Mananathan says, “The main objective of the training centre is to train our customers’ technicians since wheel-alignment
is one subject that definitely requires grooming. Though the computer does many things, unless a trained technician handles it, it is not possible to bring the best out of the machine. Presently, we are looking at training our own engineers and customers’ technicians. The next step is skill development.”


Kalaiichelvan explains that under the skill development programme ‘Easy Drive’ will assist in placement of technicians for its customers. Towards this, it is setting up a technical training centre – ‘Easy Drive’ Automotive Service Training Academy. A special curriculum in vehicle care management, mainly focussing on wheel related services, is being developed. The academy will offer 6 independent courses and a Master Technician course. While the independent course will take up in-depth training in trades like wheel-alignment, tyre balancing etc, the Master Technician course will transform an individual into an expert in all wheel related services for all kinds of vehicles. It will help him become an entrepreneur. The five-week Master Technician course will be offered for a fee of Rs 18,000, he added. Manatec is present in categories like tyre care, pollution checks, and lifts, gas chargers for air-conditioners, tyre inflators and headlamp aligners. A recent addition is the Jumbo 9000, a new-generation wheel aligner, which dominates the latest commissioned ‘Easy Drive’ outlet. It is capable of offering wheel alignment services up to five axles and trailers featuring more than eight axles. The machine is capable of handling wheels up to 26 inches in diameter.

IMG_0721On future development Kalaiichelvan reveals that, “we are working on a new technology for passenger cars that will be totally touch-free. Today we have technologies that call for fixing some gadgets onto the wheels.” The company hopes to display the prototype at Automechanika, Frankfurt. The company is also planning to extend its 3D technology, currently for passenger vehicles, to CVs. This will help reduce service time by about 40%, which will immensely benefit this vehicle segment.


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