Can you brief us on your new position at FAG Bearings India? Moving ahead, what would be your business strategy to achieve competitive excellence?
Within Schaeffler Group in India, we have three legal entities-INA, FAG and LuK. With the new role, I am inheriting FAG Bearings, which has a strong presence in the automotive and industrial sectors- and has been present in the country for more than 50 years.
We have in place an organisation structure wherein our customers in either of these sectors, be it industrial or automotive, can receive complete set of Schaeffler solutions from a single point of contact. We call it ‘One face to the customer’. Through this approach, we are able to deliver superior value to our customers from any of the three brands- INA, FAG or LuK. As India is aggressively embracing green wind energy and is modernising it’s railways, we find new and exciting opportunities opening up. Our focus is to leverage our capabilities globally and in India, and offer that to our customers seamlessly. These are all part of our customer-centric approach under our strategy ‘Mobility for Tomorrow’.
Can you tell us more about the ‘Mobility for tomorrow’ strategy?
Recognising global mega trends like climate change, urbanisation, globalisation and digitalisation, we have adopted the strategy of ‘Mobility for tomorrow’ that addresses these trends. This strategy has four focus areas – eco-friendly drives, urban mobility, inter-urban mobility and energy chain. Through these focus areas, we are able to address both current and future needs of the industrial and automotive sectors.
Industry 4.0, connected and intelligent manufacturing, offers many possibilities for innovation and improvement, such as predictive maintenance. How is your company’s approach towards this?
When you have a bearing in a power plant or in a machine tool, it is experiencing loads, vibration and temperature variations. All these can be interpreted and converted into useful knowledge as to what is going on in the application.
We have products, for example, Smart Check, that when connected to these bearings interpret the data and convert into useful information to provide inputs for predictive maintenance. It can predict when a bearing might fail for the user to intervene timely and avoid costly downtimes. We have many such applications in India already. Recently, in one of the steel mills in India, we have taken the maintenance responsibility of complete roll shop. Such condition monitoring and service models are extending our reach and providing new solutions to our customers. In future, we will be seeing such applications increasingly. We are jointly working with companies like DMG Mori on demonstrating smart machining centres under Industry 4.0 concept.
Bearings also save energy by reducing friction and the associated energy losses. What are FAG Bearings’ developments on this regard?
We produce a whole range of roller bearings and linear bearings whose main function is to reduce friction. Few years ago, we introduced X life bearings, which are primarily developed to deliver even superior performance than the bearings we have been producing so far. We produce this under the Gen C bearing range. These are high performance, low friction and low noise bearings going into motorcycle, electric motors, washing machine and so on. These typically provide 3 to 9% friction reduction than the standard range of bearings and are producing in high volumes in our modern Savli and Maneja plants.
Amidst the challenges faced by the manufacturing industry lie many opportunities that are largely led by technological advancements. What is your take on this?
Recently, the global trade has been going down and this might pose new challenges for the export-oriented countries. India is more of a consumption-based economy and we have a huge local market that provides tremendous opportunities. Our focus is to strengthen our capabilities and align our organisation towards evolving customer needs. In near term, we are focusing on these main areas—high volume business including Gen C bearings, highly-engineered and specialised bearings for sectors like wind energy, railways and steel industry and finally services including condition monitoring.
Do you see your future growth more as acquisitions, or internally developing new technologies?
I think both—If you look at the history of Schaeffler group, some of the brands we have in our portfolio came as acquisition. But at the same time, we have a very strong history of organic growth through development of new products, new solutions, investing in plants and other capabilities to grow our business.
With constant pervasive changes in technology & market requirements, how can organisations design/plan the change management process and product development strategies?
India is a unique and complex market where customers are demanding solutions that are highly engineered, effective and efficient but low in initial cost. So, there is a lot of learning to be done. We have strong engineering development centres in India where we engineer products that can meet such sort of competing requirements from the customer. Taking the example of two wheelers, India is primarily a small engine size two wheeler market (upto the range of 200 cc) compared to the rest of the world. We have set-up a global engineering and development hub in India for these products not just for the Indian market, but also for global needs.
How is Schaeffler positioned today to cater to the future growth opportunities available in India?
Mobility sector—railways (freight, passenger and metro) and automotive industry (two wheelers, passenger cars, commercial vehicles and tractors) is growing fast. We see big potential in aerospace industry with the way air travel is increasing in India. Infrastructure and manufacturing growth is driving growth in sectors like wind energy, raw materials (mining, steel, etc) and power transmissions. These are the focus sectors for us, we are improving our product engineering capabilities and establishing new manufacturing capacities in India to support these growing needs. We are very keen on improving our capabilities here and working closely with customers.
Going ahead, what are your plans for India, in terms of expansion, manufacturing activities, etc?
We would continue to improve our ‘One face to the customer’ approach to deliver true Schaeffler experience to our customers. We have plans to invest in building further capabilities in the country and expect to invest between Rs 750 to 1,000 crores in next five years. This investment will go towards building new manufacturing and product development capabilities. We remain bullish on the opportunities and believe India can become future engine of world growth.