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"The processes involving abrasives are still considered as an unskilled job in many industries, whereas the field of abrasive application is truly ‘engineering’," says Ashok Kocheril, Chief Executive Officer, Suhner India

Image: Suhner

Interview “Abrasive application is truly ‘engineering’”

Sep 1, 2016

…says Ashok Kocheril, Chief Executive Officer, Suhner India, in this interaction with Maria Jerin. He discusses recent advancements in the manufacturing industry and his company’s business potential for the Indian market. Excerpts...

What are the recent advancements witnessed in the manufacturing industry today? What are the key factors that are accounting for growth?

The recent advancement of 3D printing has brought down the prototyping timelines dramatically. Companies, particularly for products where structural demands are minimal, are seriously pursuing 3D printing as a viable manufacturing technology. The cost of 3D printing has been coming down significantly and this could turn out to be a disruptive technology. The use of robots in conventional manufacturing space is another advancement that has been in vogue recently. Whilst these advancements have been on the anvil, there is a growing demand for transportation, particularly in India, where the GDP is growing at 7.4%. Also, the ‘Make in India’ program is gaining some traction and the manufacturing sector is seeing buoyancy.

Out of Suhner’s various business units, which ones do you think have a major potential in India?

We see great potential in both the abrasive and automation division. The processes involving abrasives are still considered as an unskilled job in many industries, whereas the field of abrasive application is truly ‘engineering’. We conduct customer education programmes in several locations to bring them up-to-date on the contemporary practices, as well as industry-specific solutions developed in our Abrasive Academy in Switzerland. In the machining space, where our automation division is operating, the cost per component can be reduced by using large volume special purpose machines. We are seeing a healthy traction in this domain and we expect higher business volumes.

As per the recent global reports, the automotive segment accounts for the largest market share in the abrasive market. What is your take on this?

It is a given fact that automotive segment has major share for abrasives. In this domain, we deliver high-quality surface finish in various metals (ferrous and non-ferrous) as well as non-metals such as composites. As more and more marquee automobiles are being produced in India, the need for exacting finishes is on the increase. The local brands also try and emulate the global marquee brands, thereby, taking the abrasive technology in the industry one notch up.

Your company has launched a new series of products used with robots. Can you elaborate on this?

We witness customer’s requirements from the automation and abrasives angle. In many companies, the manufacturing lines are set-up first to do the machining operations (where our automation spindles are used) and then a deburring station to remove the burrs using abrasives. We have developed a series of tools that can work with robots, so that the robot station is able to complete all operations, including the abrasive related ones, in one go. We have addressed several perennial issues of the industry, related to deburring, in doing so. We also successfully developed robot solutions for polishing of various aircraft components, to the very exacting standards of the aerospace industry. We believe that the robot-based solutions will become widely used in India in the next 2 to 5 years.

How do you strategise your company’s business model keeping in mind the price sensitive Indian market for SMEs?

Price-sensitive is not the right term to describe the SME phenomenon. In reality, the SMEs are concerned with the cost per piece and, therefore, the ROI. So, we focus on the cost per component to the customer and also highlight the hidden cost of using poor quality tools and spindles.

How do you see your company’s growth in the near future? What are your future plans for the Indian market?

In the Indian market, we intent to grow our abrasive, automation and transmission divisions. The use of robot solution is bound to increase in India, and when that happens, we are ready for the market. In the transmission division, we expect to bring in the flocked shafts that are used in the power seats and the sunroofs of automobiles, to the Indian market.

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