Frugal Engineering

The internal know-how of manufacturing helps Hinduja Tech have a better understanding of the various aspects of costs. What’s more, the company even identifies suppliers who can meet price points.

“A frugal paradigm.”

“Minimum viable specifications.”

“Changing the status quo.”

That’s what Faiz Ahmad and Vijay Malik are talking about.  Ahmad is the senior vice president and global business head-Engineering of Hinduja Tech (hindujatech.com) and Malik is the vice president of Business Development.

Hinduja Tech?

No, I’d never heard of it, either.

But I suspect that this may be an engineering services company that we hear more about in the time to come.

I met up with them at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars.  Outside the conference center they had a Datsun redi-GO parked.

I’d never heard of that, either.

The redi-GO is on sale in India.

Datsun describes the vehicle, which was introduced to the Indian market in mid-April: “The Datsun redi-GO, the first urban-cross in the Indian market, combines the roominess, best in class ground clearance (185 mm) and sheer fun of a crossover and blends that with zippy driving and fuel efficiency of an affordable compact hatchback.”

What’s interesting is that the people at Hinduja Tech were engaged in developing that car.  Working to a price.  Designing each part (well, 95 percent new parts, Ahmad said).  Performing feasibility.  Providing testing support.  And more.

All of this to produce a car that has a U.S.-related price in the $4,000 vicinity.

To be sure, this is the sort of price that one needs for a market like India.  But what’s interesting to note is how they set about to do the development.

While, Ahmed says, the usual engineering services company generally works on projects where the definitions and the specifications already exist, at Hinduja Tech they endeavor to participate at the very start of the process, helping codify the specs.  He cites a simple example, the door seal.  If it is said that it has to operate when it is -40°C, they would ask whether -20°C might not be appropriate, thereby providing the opportunity to save money.

(He admits that there is a market-specificity to their approach.  Chances are a small urban vehicle isn’t going to go rolling to the glacial area in the eastern part of India.)

There are other areas on the car more visible where they’ve made changes.  For example, the door trim panel.  Generally, the map pockets on the front doors are completely plastic.  But for the redi-GO the back surface of the pocket is not plastic but the door inner.  Ahmed says that because people are used to full plastic, that’s the way the part is generally designed.  “But is it a requirement?” he asks.  And he points to the fact that there is material savings as a result of removing the not necessary—for that specific car—plastic.

Hinduja Tech is part of a larger organization that is 100 years old and that includes four commercial vehicle manufacturers.  Malik says that the internal know-how of manufacturing helps them have a better understanding of the various aspects of costs.  What’s more, the company even identifies suppliers who can meet price points.

An example of frugal engineering: Someone from a seat manufacturer checked out the redi-GO at MBS.  He said that the seats in the vehicle were rather basic and that his company could make the whole set for about $800.

Hinduja Tech is having them done, they say, for $100.

So how do they define “frugal engineering”?

“What is the minimum specification that can satisfy your customers?”

Consider: By looking at each and every part and taking that into account, it may be—or evidentially is—possible that by taking cost out of parts that are engineered to a minimum, customer-facing/important parts and systems can be supplemented and enhanced.  I’m not talking about $4,000 cars here.  But $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 cars that could conceivably end up with content that’s typically found in vehicles much more expensive.