Wendt India provides total grinding and honing solution: Rajesh Khanna

In this interview with Rakesh Rao, Rajesh Khanna, Executive Director and CEO, Wendt India, explains why Indian machine tool industry needs to focus on high-end precision machines, and how process automation & additive manufacturing are reshaping machine tools industry
Wendt India provides total grinding and honing solution: Rajesh Khanna
Bangalore

Wendt India Limited (WIL) is a leading manufacturer of super-abrasive grinding wheels/tools (diamond and cubic boron nitride or CBN), special purpose grinding machines, honing machines, and accessories. Wendt India - a joint venture company between Wendt GmbH (part of 3M) and Carborundum Universal Limited (CUMI) of Murugappa Group - offers functionally superior products & services for grinding and machining ‘hard-to-process materials’.

Wendt India has successfully completed 37 years of its operations, serving the customers globally with the most comprehensive range of super abrasive products, range of grinding and honing machines and precision components. While in the domestic market it has been maintaining its leading position, in exports front, it has established its presence in more than 35 countries.

Wendt India offers high precision high performance and specialised import substitute machines. This range consists of CNC rotary surface grinding machines, CNC cylindrical grinding machines, wheel profiling & dressing machines, honing machines, guide roll/TC rings grinding machine, notch tool grinder, notch milling machine, special purpose grinding machines, fine grinding machine, and single pass honing machine. Most of WIL machines are tooled up with high precision diamond wheels/tools which compliments the grinding application. Wendt India offers a ‘complete grinding & honing solution’ with commitment on total cost of ownership (TCO) for our customers, says Rajesh Khanna, Executive Director and CEO, Wendt (India) Ltd.

WIL services the Indian machine tool industry, especially the precision grinding machine manufacturers by partnering with them to help improve their offerings to Indian customers in terms of better cost per component & providing the most optimum grinding solutions. Wendt also manufactures honing machines in collaboration with Delapena of UK. WIL practically caters to all major industry segments such as automotive, steel, cutting tools, engineering, ceramics, refractory, defence, aerospace, construction, and infrastructure to name a few. 

In this interview with Rakesh Rao, Rajesh Khanna elaborates on why Indian machine tool industry needs to focus on high-end precision machines, and how process automation & additive manufacturing are reshaping machine tools industry.


How do you see the performance of the machine tools and accessories industry in India? Has COVID 19 put brakes on the growth trajectory of the industry?
The slowdown of the global auto industry has affected the machine tool industry severely, hitting hard by their drop in sales, resulting in corresponding reduction in usage of tools and accessories, and related capex freeze.

The machine tool industry is currently unable to attract foreign investments in critical areas of manufacturing, technology and is starved of the technology upgradation/absorption and capacity creation. This has apparently widened the gap between demand and supply with regards to the precision machine tools. This means the continuance of Indian market demand is being fulfilled by imports.

For the machine tool industry, there is an urgent need for upgrading technology & enhancing product range, reliability, and process capability to stay competitive in both domestic as well as global markets. Further, the high-end CNC machines have become a necessity today, holding promises for substantial growth in the near future. The National Manufacturing Policy announced by the Government last year is expected to generate huge opportunity for CNC machines going forward. Hence, shifting focus from making conventional machines to CNC machine by the Indian manufacturers will help the industry to grow faster. 

However, the machine tool industry needs to focus on embedding IT in high-end flexible precision machines and be Industry 4.0 compliant thereby addressing high potential in sectors such as defence, aerospace, power and energy. This segment requires the appropriate software tools for design, analysis, simulation, and construction of the machines with exotic materials.

The COVID-19 situation has put brakes on the growth trajectory of the industry, especially more pronounced on the auto components industry and MSME sector in the Tier-2 and Tier-3 industrial regions of India. However, there are few pockets of opportunities for the precision and the allied industry segments during these testing times.

How did your company react to COVID 19 (which led to lockdown)? How are you preparing for Unlock 1.0?
We at Wendt India Limited have been extremely proactive in doing all that we can to safeguard our employees and their families from the spread of COVID-19. Our preparation started early in the month of March, by forming ‘COVID 19 Action Team’ and ‘COVID 19 Crises Response Team’ led by departmental heads to drive the overall initiatives and crisis management plans.

We have issued an SOP (standard operating procedures) for resuming work during COVID 19 Unlock 1.0. Guidelines have been released for employees working from home and working at the factory, with precautions ensuring safe commute and social distancing while at work. Employees are being constantly made aware via online communications and are being advised to maintain social distancing at all the places, sanitizing themselves frequently and using PPE during all activities that are being carried out while they are in company premises.

Some of the activities are listed down below for reference:
  • Cross Functional Teams have been formed to take care of various emergencies and individual telephone calls were made to both Permanent and Temporary employees to ascertain their and their family's health condition, to check whether anyone is quarantined within their neighbourhood, locality and so on
  • Sanitisation is done regularly for the entire plant, machinery along with the vehicles entering our plant. Special care is given to sanitise restrooms and canteens. 
  • Periodic thermal screening and sanitising at the main entry gate along with self-health declaration forms
  • Employees can make Punch In & Out using Face Readers only
  • Smoking zone, fitness centre area is temporarily closed till further instructions
  • Online session by doctors on COVID 19 awareness and precautions to be taken for the employees and their families

The automotive industry - one of the leading users of machine tools and accessories - has been going through a difficult phase in 2019 and 2020. Is this forcing Indian machine tools industry to look for other unexplored areas for business? Also, please share your company’s experience in this regard.
Automotive and machine tool sectors have a symbiotic relationship. The growth of the automotive sector drives the demand for machine tools since automotive is one of its biggest consumers. 

The auto sector has already undergone considerable slowdown over the last 12-18 months due to structural changes beginning with the Goods and Services Tax (GST), shift to shared mobility, axle-load reforms, the Bharat Stage IV (BS IV) to Bharat Stage VI (BS VI) transition, liquidity crunch and so on. The COVID 19 lockdown has had a multiplier effect – the industry has almost been at a complete standstill since March 24. A prolonged truncation of consumer demand due to the lockdown is seen significantly affecting auto manufacturers (OEMs) revenues and cash flows.

Although it’s true that the automotive industry is going through a difficult phase, but this situation also has a silver lining. It provides an opportunity for Indian machine tools industry to offer import substitutes for high precision machines with substantially lesser total cost of ownership. 

The Indian machine tools industry will certainly be looking to tap unexplored areas for business in industries like defence, aerospace, steel and medical. Traditionally, most of the defence and aerospace applications are being taken care of by imported precision machines. These are the areas where Indian manufacturers can contribute to building the economy of the nation as a part of the Make in India initiative by offering precision machines and save substantial foreign exchange for the country. There are two other industries which are poised to grow in future, the electronics industry and the medical industry. Considering the geopolitical situation across the globe, there is a bright chance of these industries taking roots in India. 

We have been strongly focusing on the following:
  • Building import substitute machines competing with global companies on global tenders in aerospace, defence, and railway industries in the field of precision grinding and honing. We have met the requirements of these industries and have supplied our machines to Indian Railways - eg, DLW (Diesel Locomotive Works) - and aerospace - HAL, Engine Division & Helicopter Division.
  • Building roll grinding and reprofiling-dressing machines for the Indian steel industry, again an import substitution.

Will COVID 19 pandemic lead to rise in demand for automation and digitalization?
Data being the new oil. Over the last few years, India has travelled the path of rapid automation & digitalization. The current COVID 19 crisis has served to accelerate automation and digitalization efforts manifolds, in many areas and has made it more relevant. The Government’s fast-tracking efforts on projects, aggressive drive on indigenisation & localisation, and joint steps taken by Indian public sector undertakings & private sectors has today made the digital transformation more significant.  

Moving forward, automation and IT tools are expected to play a major role in a typical manufacturing and production environment. For example, companies want to have the real-time visibility & tracking of products/manufacturing activities in the shop floor to know the production flow and how the machines & processes are performing. Companies have embraced this current slowdown as an opportunity to get employees upskilled on digital marketing. The use of IT & technology, to compliment traditional way of reaching out to customers in a much cost-effective manner, will enhance the customer experience. As a result, the rise in demand for automation and digitalization is certainly bound to further rise in the post COVID 19 market.

What are some of the emerging trends in the machine tools and accessories industry?
Process automation & additive manufacturing are the major trends reshaping the machine tools and accessories industry. Globally, process automation is largely being adopted to achieve better productivity, quality, consistency, and precision in lesser time. Further, the additive manufacturing which describes the technologies used to build 3D printed objects has brought dynamic changes across multiple industries. Additionally, the concept of hybrid machining is an emerging trend which is taking roots.

Industry 4.0 is a collective term for the new technologies that are significantly changing the manufacturing landscape. In recent past, Industry 4.0 has evolved rapidly from a distant, esoteric concept to something companies now believe is real and tangible. 

Indian machine tools industry is ready for adoption of new technologies such as automation, robotics, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0 to name a few. There is no doubt that the industry needs to adopt these technologies sooner or later as this would substantially reduce costs, improve productivity, quality, flexibility, and consistency.

How your company is preparing for the emerging trends in the industry?
We, at Wendt India, continuously watch and evaluate mega trends that are shaping up globally. As part of our growth strategy, we focus on emerging industry segments and address the high potential growth areas of the future, thereby building capabilities to seize those opportunities. We have been deeply focusing on process automation by offering in-process gauging for pre/post operations and making use of robotics for automatic loading and unloading of components. We have also been working on offering additive manufacturing machines and services.

The Government recently unveiled Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (before that it had launched Make in India). Are you seeing the impact of these schemes on the ground?
Make in India initiative introduced by the Government of India has identified automobiles, auto-components, biotechnology, defence, railways, and textiles sector for development. Machine tool industry will be the key enabler in this journey as these industries have been the main users of machine tools.

As a part of the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the government announced six different measures to help the MSME sector in the country during these tough times. This will benefit Indian auto component makers in multiple ways, help resume business and fortify the supply chain. Furthermore, this will also help companies ramp up their businesses and reduce automaker's reliance on other countries for components. Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) loans to MSMEs and robust FDI inflows have been offering good momentum for the industries in India.

While it may take some time to see the impact of these schemes on a larger scale, these schemes can offer opportunities for Indian machine tools manufacturers to provide import substitute solutions.

What are your growth plans? 
From a growth perspective for machine tools, Wendt India Limited will continue to focus on providing import substitution for the machines for precision applications in grinding, honing and surface finishing of components. Special focus will be on offering indigenous models of precision machines such as carbide insert grinding machines, CNC creep feed grinding machines, multi-spindle honing machines, single pass honing machines, double disc/fine grinding machines, as most of these are currently being imported. These machines are tooled up with our customised diamond and CBN grinding wheels, making them the most cost-effective proposition.
 
The focus industries for these machines will be steel, aerospace and medical industries.  As a part of our growth plan, our focus is to up with automat and offer products and services related to additive manufacturing. In specific product ranges, we are going to focus on serving the entire global market like the steel industry and insert grinding industry.

Being a total grinding and honing solution provider, innovation is a continual practice for both product and process at Wendt India. Almost all of our products are customised to fulfil the customer’s changing requirements. We have in the recent past, introduced some of the high-end grinding & honing machines incorporating innovative features and we intend to do so in the future as well.

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