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India And The Gear Industry Today

India And The Gear  Industry Today

Whither art thou. Is India going to make any ripples in the Gear Manufacturing Industry & cater to the needs of India nay Bharat and the World? The cold war-like situation between the Western Nations on one side & one Asian country on the other side gives some indication of the precarious nature which can impact the global economy with devastating effects.
Many acknowledge that maintaining superiority in the market is a dream of every Industry. Strategies & tactics are applied or imposed on, either the company or the Nation in which the Industry is based.

This leads to a demand-supply tug-of-war & economics worked out and doled to consumers on a no-choice basis, based on the situation manipulated by various factors.
There is always a need to moderate & ensure that Demand & Supply chains are within reasonable margins of operability based on Ethical Business Practices.
There are many modes in which an Industry operates with respect to the environment that is glaringly visible to outsiders and that which is not so apparent (The Iceberg analogy).
Let us take the example of the microelectronic components required in the automotive sector a few months back. It triggered a choke in the supply chain leading to extended delivery schedules of passenger cars.

The result was that some consumers approached alternate sources for their needs. This is a disruptive practice that can impact the Industry in a hard way.
Some time back (around the late Nineties) the purchasing power of the Indian middle class for affordable units on one hand and the hunger for their dream machines led every passenger car manufacturer to set up shop in India. Ones who understood the dynamics, adapted to the situation.

The assistance of Local entities and partnering with them to source components locally enabled them to optimise costs and thereby affordability to pitch in their marketing strategy.
The boom in business has seen an inflow of more entities. I guess this did help the Indian Gear manufacturing Industry also to stake a claim on this business. Partnerships were fostered for Tie-ups with the Principals abroad.

Coming to the situation today, there is a clarion call from the GOI stipulating the need for Self-Reliance. Dependence on external sources while being acknowledged on the principle of mutually beneficial partnerships can be limited to the core competence of the principal. This would leverage inclusive business partnerships with both concerns on a win-win footing.
The Indian Government is taking a lead with regard to the reduction in Carbon footprint and newer platforms to address are already in the pipeline. The idea of harvesting NRES, though promulgated a few decades ago, did not take off as planned.

The reasons could be multifaceted, starting from viability, generation of internal resources, efficient packaging of the business model, end user pliability and public policy. If we take the example of Wind Turbines, the business model has not provided succour to the parties involved.

In the initial stages, encouragement was given to the Industry in the form of subsidy, and the business proposition was beneficial to an extent. As time passed by and the vagaries of nature played their role, the users were besieged with maintenance problems.

The sufferer was inevitably the Gearbox – as it is the only entity having Metal-to-Metal contact. The cost overruns and the Timelines for bringing back to operational mode, not to mention the penalty clause, made many firms walk out of the Contract.

The gear industry has to consider this aspect when dealing in this sector. Is it the reason that there are a few players in this line of business as far as Gearboxes are concerned?
The current day situation is lightening up the transportation sector. It is public knowledge that the Indian Government is going full steam to improve the lives of Indians by providing reliable and safe transportation systems the Vande Bharat Train for example which has kick-started the revolution which the world is watching.

There may be other kinds too which will pick up speed anytime and need to be carefully followed through by everyone for whom Business matters. Don’t forget – the Early Bird gets the Worm.
The other area that the Gear Industry can look forward to is EV transportation – Passenger Buses & Cars. The Journey has begun, and some parties have already pitched in, there may be a time when it may not suffice to meet the demand of the Market.

Being in its nascent stage, further developments; especially on the Gearboxes can pave the way for enhanced business, profitability and of course After market business potential. The concept of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” has been seeded, and the Gear Industry in India has given it a thought.

The end users who are sceptical of the domestic players need to be brought onto the discussion table Iron out the concerns and take them on board with proper justification and confidence-building measures.

GOI has been very assertive in its vision for the same, which can be taken in two phases by the Gear Manufacturers viz: Atmavalokan (looking inward) related to capability & capacity on one hand & Establishing the facility catering to the development & ensuring the commitment to its fruition.
Gear manufacturers, across the world, have focussed primarily on their niche portfolios and the customer reach they have. Likewise, Indian Gear Manufacturers followed the same principle by taking a leaf out of their overseas counterparts.

The exercise has yielded positive results to a large extent and Companies have set up strong foundations in their respective areas of interest, ensuring continuous business potential.
Another aspect that needs attention is the foray into new pastures related to the Gear field by Indian Gear Manufacturers.

At the same time, new technologies to speed up manufacturing, high purity and homogenous metallurgy meeting ISO 6336-5 ME quality need to be explored considering stringent regimes of operation need to be consolidated. Technology Process has to be written and reviewed for establishment and if required a course correction to be implemented.

For this, there is no other way than to develop prototypes & experiment with them to learn from them & develop further. The environment of operation needs to be carefully simulated to match the exact operational environment with detailed evaluation & analysis.

Hitherto closed avenues for strategic requirements (e.g.: Defence & Aerospace) are also opening out. There is a stigma associated with respect to this domain. End users following the policy or certain stipulations emanating from elsewhere require thorough review and necessarily amend such needs.

Certain stipulations in the design and manufacture of critical Gearboxes can be simplified, which require industries & end users to take the support & guidance of experts in the field. One reason that I overheard from a Gear manufacturer is the business volume and the repeat order.

One point of concern observed is the reluctance of Gear manufacturers to expand their business horizons from their current core strengths. It could be due to the facility constraints on one hand or a possible impact on the current manufacturing line. A company I know & have been following since the mid-nineties till date has an exhaustive set-up and had to shift its manufacturing base from a location in the city to another location on the outskirts of the same city that has more manufacturing area.

The company has done excellently well and reorganised its facility by adapting the manufacturing set-up to the flow of operations.
Another learning from this company is that it did not stop on its facility enhancement. Rather it continued installing new & latest state-of-the-art machinery well in advance, rather than wait for the need to arise.

A strategic sector in India depends on – out-of-country sources for the needs of Spares. Incidentally owing to a crisis, the source of the equipment disappeared one fine day leaving a huge gap.
The same if not remedied on time would have created a crisis of sorts. Luckily an Indian Company came forward and has bridged the gap. There is great learning from this small example, in which we may take out a leaf.

Knowledge of Gears alone may not suffice when speaking in the context of the system integration – The Big Picture.

Almost the entire gamut of mechanical engineering coupled with Metallurgy, Rotordynamics, and strength of materials juxtapose one another to give a consistently performing machine.

This does not end here- knowledge of the Prime Mover & the Driven equipment provides a better understanding & facilitates making the best Gearbox.

Expertise: There are a few experts in the Gear Industry or they do not advertise themselves for some reason best known to them.

Unfortunately, Time is not on anyone’s side & thereby it may be lost due to improper mentoring or the availability of the right mentee.

This could be one reason why indiscriminate dependence on software tools without diligent discrimination and application of thought may have impacted the development of the Gear Design to an extent.

The migration of young Engineers to the IT field and Finance after their Engineering graduation has made some impact and hopefully, in the days to come, there will be something coming that augurs well for the Gear Industry.

Better late than never, maybe policy directives or attractive packages would woo capable youngsters into the Gear Industry & enable them to pursue this field. Not to mention, there must be a passion and zeal to go forward. The learning never stops and who knows, someone may discover better ways to transmit the required motive force with better efficiency. Lastly, talent needs to be identified along with the patient passion in an individual. The next step would be to nurture the individual and develop a growth plan both in terms of technical expertise & a good financial package.

The Author
Mantravadi Ramakrishna is a Gear professional with rich experience in the field of Power Gears encompassing a period of around 36 years. He is also a member of ASME since September 2010. He established In-house Gear design and development @ BHEL Hyderabad for a wide variety of Gears including – Oil & Gas; Industrial Application & strategic sectors. Trained at Flender Graffenstaden France in the year 1993. The last position he held is General Manager @ BHEL

About The Author