Ashutosh Mohan Shirodkar is the Executive Director & Country Business Group Leader – Safety & Industrial Business Group for India Region at 3M India. Beginning his role as the Vice President of Industrial Adhesives & Tapes Division in 2005, he rose the ranks to the current level in 2020. He is a part of the company’s Region Management Operating Committee, and responsible for managing all aspects of organisational development & direction, including planning, strategy & policy.
What is your outlook for the automotive aftermarket in India?
The year 2022 looks promising for the Indian automotive industry with expectations of volumes to reach pre-pandemic levels; in some cases, they are already at the pre-pandemic levels. The Omicron variant of COVID has been a concern for many automakers as the market demand and load gets affected; however, most of the market is seeing a quick bounce back.
Large-scale digitisation, the rapid growth of the economy, and learnings from the past two years are expected to come in handy as demand continues to remain resilient – notably in the passenger vehicle segment. In addition, several automobile manufacturers are embracing new technologies, especially in the electric mobility category, which is expected to result in numerous launches in both four- and two-wheeler categories in 2022.
Also, there has been an increased demand for used cars as customers looked for more affordable means of personal transport during the pandemic. Setting up scrap centres and enhanced inspection and certification facilities will result in the withdrawal of vehicles that are not roadworthy, thereby adding to market demand.
We are also witnessing increased awareness among car and bike owners in terms of vehicle maintenance, beautification and enhancement.
How do you see this evolution helping your company?
Customer feedback has consistently driven our company to further advance technologies in bringing new offerings to the automotive aftermarket in India. We act with agility to fulfil market demand. We are not just focused on delivering product solutions, but we also measure performance like a customer.
While we have over 10,000 products in India across different sectors, we firmly believe that innovation for the local market is a critical need, and we have always endeavoured to deliver not only as a growth enabler but also to serve the tenets of our customer-first culture.
Can you tell us in a nutshell about the products recently launched by 3M India?
In the recent past, we have launched two major breakthrough products – in the area of vehicle exterior protection & enrichment and collision repair.
Our ceramic coating is a generation step ahead in terms of the technology used in coatings. Having tested it extensively, we take pride in offering a five-year warranty for this treatment.
We have launched a Performance Spray Gun (PSG) for body-shops and painters. It has a replaceable nozzle and paint liner that reduces solvent consumption by up to 70% and clean-up time by up to 50%. This is the first-ever spray gun launched in the Indian market that has a detachable and disposable atomising head that integrates with a multi-benefit paint preparation system. The new PSG has higher transfer efficiency of up to 78% vis-à-vis other players in the market, delivers enhanced comfort to painters as it is lightweight and thus improves the cycle time of the paint booth.
In addition, we also have a Total Noise Vibration Harshness Management for vehicles (3M Integrated Acoustic Barrier ), and a range of Thermal Matt mounts used in catalytic converters for BS-VI applications with localised R&D, testing and manufacturing capabilities.
What about solutions to optimise HVAC performance?
One of the many solutions that prioritise our customers’ health and comfort is our AC evaporator cleaner & AC disinfectant range. This helps improve the experience when inside the car and enhances the air quality they breathe. It has a foaming action that soaks the dirt and microorganisms and eliminates them. It can be used with ease to remove dust and dirt from the air conditioner. The snorkel that comes with the product helps gain easy access to the AC ducts and provides a deep and quick cleaning for the car air conditioner.
With sustainability moving to the centre stage, what kind of solutions do you have to support OEMs achieve this goal?
Both globally and in India, 3M has a significant commitment towards sustainability. Overall, vehicle gross weight reduction and fuel efficiency improvements are areas where we leverage our technology platforms related to noise vibration and emissions, paint replacement solutions, bonding solutions to replace fastenings, etc.
Our research and development not only envisage sustainable products but also ensure that we deliver a package that reduces the health hazards that the Body & Paint technicians face, while using these products. Some such offerings in the automotive aftermarket area are Paint Preparation Systems, Precision Spray Gun, Dust Free DSS & Cubitron II Abrasives.
3M Precision Spray Gun and the Paint Preparation System reduce cleaning solvent consumption. This, in turn, reduces health hazards caused by exposure of paint technicians to solvents.
The Dust Free Dry Sanding System is a combination of extractor machine, tools, abrasives, and accessories designed to extract the dust generated when preparing panels for refinish jobs. The multi-hole abrasives work in tandem with high-efficiency dust extractors to accumulate the sanding dust, reduce the dust exposure levels of technicians in the body shop & aid in the safe disposal of waste.
The new Precision Shaped Grains developed by 3M has a long life compared to conventional grains. This can reduce the number of abrasive discs used in a body shop, eventually reducing the quantum of process waste generated.
Can you tell us about the solutions that help OEMs improve fuel economy?
3M offers different solutions to help OEMs achieve improved fuel economy through its range of fuel system cleaners and additives.
Over a period of time, our vehicle’s internal combustion engine is susceptible to carbon soot deposits at various portions of the fuel system leading to decreased engine performance. 3M Diesel Fuel System cleaner clears these deposits to enhance combustion, improving engine performance. While it enhances engine responsiveness, pick up and fuel efficiency and reduces noise, it also reduces smoke and harmful emissions.
The convenient delivery mechanism allows treatment within 30 minutes for an on-road vehicle without opening the engine. Overall, it reduces smoke emissions up to 50% and improves mileage up to 7%. It is suitable for all CRDi engines and older generation diesel engines.
3M Engine Oil Additive also enhances the engine performance leading to improved fuel efficiency. It is designed to reduce the friction of critical engine parts for both petrol and diesel engines. Recommended for vehicles up to 50,000 km, the oil additives contain chemical compounds that remove contaminants and lubricate moving parts in an engine. By working more freely, moving parts operate with greater efficiency and less wear and tear, potentially extending the life of internal combustion engines.
What is the update on the retail chain in the aftermarket?
We leverage multiple go to market models in the retail network in India to cater to the needs & demands of both vehicle owners and business entities.
Speaking about vehicles owners, we have optimised channels to reach them both through the digital and offline retail models. We have a strong presence on the e-commerce portal for the DIY (Do It Yourself) solutions from our aftermarket range. On the offline models, we have our standalone 3M Car Care Franchise stores providing car care services and products. In addition, we have a strong presence in the multi-brand car accessories stores for the DIY range.
On the other hand, the B2B retail segment is critical for our business model to reach out to the long tail accounts. Collision repair being one of the core portfolios, we have a strong presence across the auto refinish paint counters in India, catering to the needs of many small-format multi-brand body-shops & vehicle service centres.
Can you update on manufacturing operations in India?
‘Make in India’ and ‘Make for India’ have been cornerstones of our strategy for auto aftermarket for more than 20 years.
Over the past two decades, we have implemented many ‘manufacturing location change’ projects in India to improve our customers’ lead times and service time. Leveraging our global technology platforms and manufacturing know-how, we have been manufacturing rubbing compounds, body fillers, anti-corrosion coatings, car wash products & also converting tapes and abrasives across multiple manufacturing locations in India.
On the other hand, developing ‘New to 3M’ products based on deep insights of Indian customers has been a forte of the Automotive Aftermarket division at 3M India. The cross-functional teams across R&D, business, manufacturing and supply chain have launched many products and services such as the Germ Kleen range, AC Evaporator & Cleaner, Car Wash range, 2-wheeler maintenance range & DIY Auto Specialty range.
3M has pioneered sustainable manufacturing with a good share of Industry 4.0 in its plants. Our products for the automotive sector comply with the mandates of Restriction of Hazardous Substances, as per global automotive guidelines, and pioneers in minimal water usage, sound waste management principles, and highly reduced carbon footprint.
What are the products planned to support EVs?
For automotive electrification, some of the key technologies of focus include thermal insulation and management, cushioning solutions for batteries, battery management solutions, fire prohibitive and retardant solutions and others. Expert teams led by R&D and product development are testing to provide specific solutions for India.
What kind of solution do you have to eliminate volatile organic compounds the OEMs and suppliers use?
3M range of acrylic foam tape and blackout tapes are already low VOC products, and we are in the process of introducing the same at OEMs.