Machine tools sector to achieve efficiency with smart systems

With advances in the tooling and machining, significance of precision is increasing day-by-day. This creates a craving need for smart technologies and automated systems.
Machine tools sector to achieve efficiency with smart systems
With advances in the tooling and machining, significance of precision is increasing day-by-day. This creates a craving need for smart technologies and automated systems. Machine tools being one of the prime sector catering to almost all industries will see a promising future, if the systems are efficiently managed. This article discuss current scenario of machine tools sector and how new technology will play a pivotal role.
India currently stands at 17th in production and 12th in consumption of machine tools, according to an IBEF report. The machine tools industry has dropped its position globally from being 10th biggest consumer of machine tools and the 13th biggest producer in 2017. Overall domestic industry slowdown affected machine tools due to lack of capacities to produce export-friendly products. 
The sector’s significant industry body, the Indian Machine Tool Manufacturers' Association (IMTMA) has revealed that the Indian machine tool production was Rs 7,300 crore during 2017-18, growing at 25 per cent from Rs 5,803 crore during 2016-17. 
Indian machine tool industry
The Indian machine tool industry has around 1000 units in the production of machine tools, accessories / attachments, subsystems, and parts. Of these, around 25 are in the large scale sector which accounts for about 70 per cent of the turnover and the rest belong to the MSME sector of the industry. The large players, who are more organised, cater to India’s heavy and medium industries while the small-scale sector caters to the demands of ancillary and other units.
Machine tools have witnessed high demand from diverse sectors including automobiles, defence, medical and aerospace. Automotive sector is the primary demand driver for the sector and the rising number of global car makers establishing their manufacturing bases in India has led to an increase in demand for machine tools. 
Capacity creation in sectors such as infrastructure, power, mining, oil and gas, refinery, steel, automotive and consumer durables is driving demand in the engineering sector and thereby machine tools. Rising demand for electrical and construction equipment is also a prominent driver of the sector.
Heavy engineering segment churns out basic machinery for all major industries and determines competitiveness in other sectors such as automobiles, heavy electrical and defence. Nearly 200 machine tool manufacturers are operational in the organised sector along with 400 small-scale units. Production of machine tools grew 25.7 per cent year-on-year to Rs 7,293 crore (US$ 1.13 billion) in 2017-18, while exports reached Rs 355 crore (US$ 55.08 million). The production was forcasted to increase to Rs 9,000 crore (US$ 1.40 billion) in 2018-19 but it crippled to meet the forcast and worsening more in 2019.
Recent trends
Rising competition is driving domestic players to focus on improving their capabilities, become more quality conscious and upgrade their technology, in line with global requirements. Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on R & D. In order to enhance competitiveness, the Department of Heavy Industry has approved four Centres of Excellence in textile machinery, machine tools, welding technology and smart pumps. 
Precision in the sector invites more need for technologies like IoT and Industry 4.0, AI, and automation. Such technologies cuts down labour, simultaneously requires varied skillset to understand process and workflows to bring efficiency to the process. Many companies are collaborating with institutions for developing skilled manpower.  Companies are engaging Institutes to train students and manpower using simulated and AR interfaces, enhancing their skills. 
Automotive trends
The engine technology has to be changed sooner or later. So, there will be re-tooling with associate demand for machinery and at the same time, light weighting needs do prevail. Irrespective of the timeline, the re-design must lead to lower weight. These opportunities will be to look at in the coming time. “As for the actual technology of BS VI in India, what is happening is that the tolerances that are required in the engine components are getting tightened,” states Som Kapoor, Partner, Ernst & Young. 
“It’s one of the ways to get better fuel efficiency. Essentially, the machines have to be better and steadier, and the tools that you need for cutting, grinding, etc. have to be different and better,” adds Kapoor.
He also believes that the upgrade needed will be in the quality of the machines, the demand for new machines to serve various sectors such as space and defence, along with changes that are required to meet the BS VI emission norms are potential prospects.
Automation and Industry 4.0
he standardisation of multiple products on a single platform is possible. The advanced CAM technology is being used for multi-axis, multi-spindle, and multi-turret machines. Moreover, the software is increasingly being used for automation of manufacturing and engineering processes. Considering the larger picture, India has more small and medium businesses in machine tool industry. Experts in the industry believe that a step-by-step upgradation approach will be more rewarding. “Adoption of automated technology in the machine tools is evident in organised large players, while small players are still struggling for their survival. One of the big reasons to this is lack of capital and cash flow. In the current market, small players are struggling to maintain rolling capital, due to which there is no room for adopting new technology and such investments for expansion,” explains Raghvendra Rao, Senior Vice President, Frost and Sullivan India. 
“There is a need to conduct a detailed study of the business process and architecture. This helps to identify, which process can be automated seamlessly, without affecting the rolling capital,” expresses Rao.
Though, Rao predicts that the machine tool industry will see adoption of such advanced technologies sooner or later, it will be a gradual process. 
Gowtham Sivabalan, Director at Frost & Sullivan, suggests, “In order to reach global level medium and small level sector should have a backup or support from aided finances. This will help them to carry out much needed machinery and technology upgrades. Additionally, advanced technology like automation and IoT will require big volumes for better return on investments (ROIs).”
Sivabalan adds, “Harnessing advanced technology and intelligent systems also identifies run time of the machine and can save on the power consumption when the machine is idle. Such simple automation can be used by small players too. Due to lack of knowledge, a simple automation and control solution can save power instead highly investing on an energy-efficient machine.”
In a nutshell, the machine tool industry should not merely rely over domestic consumption and should aim at extending their boundaries on a global level. Many Indian industries have been exporting to the regions such as Africa, South America and even European nations. In order to leverage global export market, capacities can be increased with automation and smart technologies. Global certification will be a boon to such business. More and more companies have shown interest in obtaining certification in this decade which indicates focus 
on quality.
The machines have to be better and steadier, and the tools that you need for cutting, grinding, etc. have to be different and better.
Som Kapoor, Partner, Ernst & Young.
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