Established in 1996, Seco Tools India is an export oriented unit (EOU) supplying state-of-the-art tooling solutions to the global market. The company’s facility in Pune manufactures metal cutting tools, which include inserts and carriers. What makes it a must visit to the facilities is the fact that the company provides a high-level of sophistication to its employees in terms of transparent workspace and collaborative atmosphere, which is no less when compared to a Google campus! With a total strength of 500 employees, the office premise is certainly an eye catcher amidst the cliché world of manufacturing units in the country.
The company provides comprehensive metal cutting solutions for milling, turning, holemaking and tooling systems. Under the leadership of Andreas Fritz, former Vice President—Asia Pacific, who has now moved into a new role of Vice President—Sales, West Europe, Seco Tools, the Asian headquarters was shifted to Pune and huge investments were made in the production of tools & inserts, R&D and the facility. Fritz opined that the facility incorporates high-level automation for the production of inserts and tools. “This is one of the largest production units globally catering to various industry segments including automotive and aerospace. We focus more on adding values to the design and process capabilities, rather than just production,” he further shared.
The facility at Pune supplies mostly to the global distribution centre and the company has two separate manufacturing process divisions for the inserts and insert carriers (tools). “This is an export oriented unit (EOU). With that, a sufficient capacity is created for local and Asia-Pacific customers for customised requirements,” stated Atul Mohkhedkar, Senior General Manager — Tools Production, Seco Tools India.
He further stated that the USP of the manufacturing unit is its compliance and quality levels. “With respect to quality, we are a leading player in the tooling industry as per customers’ feedback. We are also enhancing the process capability that is the base of our manufacturing unit. As a result, we are successfully moving ahead with this strategy,” he remarked. Detailing on the entire manufacturing processes from raw material to dispatch, Mohkhedkar added, “In the tooling division, the raw material used is steel blanks that is also called semi-finished input. We do hard machining of it, which gives us a better dimensional stability. Once we complete the 5-axis machining, the product goes for the secondary operation, if required. Otherwise, it goes for the surface treatment followed by laser marking and assembly packing respectively. For surface coating, depending on the product group, the process is categorised into two ways—nickel coating and blackodising. In general, all the rotating tools are nickel-coated and all stationary tools are blackodised at our end.”
When asked about the inserts division, Prashanth B K, Senior General Manager—Insert Production, Seco Tools India, explained that the division sources raw materials in two different forms—powder and blanks. “For insert manufacturing process, powder is a raw material, which follows the sequence of pressing, sintering, hardening, precision ground and surface coating. In surface coating, we carry out CVD and PVD coating depending on the requirements. There are also some additional processes like blasting and edge honing to improve the surface property of inserts. Overall, we have inspection-related equipment to control the process,” he noted.
Enhancing throughput with automation
The shopfloors of the facility is lined-up with latest automation technologies and German-made machine tools like Hermle and DMG Mori. Speaking more on the automation practices deployed at shopfloors, Mohkhedkar briefed that the machines are interfaced with 6-axis robot with specialised & customised automation based on the products. “This provides high-level productivity and in turn optimum machine utilisation. We move on with the concept of process capability. The infrastructure we are creating is the basic foundation for it,” he averred.
As far as the insert division is concerned, Prashanth opined that selective automation is incorporated primarily to maintain the quality effectiveness. “We implement manual operations that do not affect the quality levels. Else, it is automated where we are required to maintain precision and accuracy standards. We are in line with the future automation requirements and will have more automation over the period of time. So, we believe that automation and manual operations will go hand-in-hand,” he opined.
Lean management practices
In order to achieve manufacturing excellence and maintain better utilisation of resources, certain practices like Lean management, TPM & TQM are followed on shopfloors. Commenting on this, Mohkhedkar noted that all these practices are a loss reduction technique that drives manufacturing units towards excellence. “However, within our group, we have designed a programme called PU (Production Unit) transformation that is deployed across all units globally. It is a customised programme for us instead of lean or TPM practices. We have done substantial level of savings out of it and enhanced productivity after this programme as well,” he said.
Adding further on the programme, Prashanth highlighted that there are competent & trained people who drive PU transformation and the company has a methodology of life2 process wherein it involves everyone from the group to frame the objective and, thereafter, deploy it involving each one of them. Mohkhedkar pointed out that Life2 is an integral management that involves everybody and focuses on a common goal. “PU transformation tells us what to improve, whereas life2 deals with how to improve by involving team members so that they own this improvement and the sustenance is automatically taken care of,” he added.
Skill development initiatives
It goes without saying that a basic competency level and healthy mind-set of employees drives an organisation to innovate and sustain in the current competitive environment. Aligning to this, Mohkhedkar pointed out that product knowledge, process knowledge and motivation are always maintained at high level in the company. “We measure the motivation level of employees. For this, we do a SEMP (Seco Empowerment) survey, where every employee is expected to give a feedback on various aspects of the company’s work environment & culture. When it comes to specific technical training, we have training programmes conducted by machine manufacturers or tooling experts. We have many industry experts for tooling and we continue giving them training for competence development,” he said.
As per Prashanth, the company also encourages job rotation within the facility. “We measure the skill levels by means of matrix so that they get to know what they have acquired over a period of time. The ratio of women to men employed in the facility is around 8% to 10% and has been increasing gradually. Now, the company has taken the drive for increased gender diversity,” he noted.
Industrial safety & green initiatives
Safety has indeed been a priority for the company. In fact, since the past seven years, there has been no loss-time accident reported across the shopfloor. The practices and awareness level inculcated to the employees includes safety as the most important component. Highlighting the green initiatives within the organisation, Prashanth mentioned that the company is taking care of energy management. “We take care of the chemicals that are used in operations. The rules that are applicable in our Sweden plant is applicable in India too. We are also taking care of electricity conservation and raw material usage in the plant. We have substantially reduced the usage of the diesel set that has brought down the emission level of CO2 and we are improving our solar capability,” he mentioned.
Speaking on the waste management processes in the facility, he further stated that the scrap generated during the processes in the facility is recycled. “We have water conservation facilities wherein we recycle the water used for processes. Around 50% of water is recycled and we have rainwater harvesting facility too,” he added.
The company has plans to add new machines into the setup. “The infrastructure of our site is such that we can put in more machines & equipment, as required, depending on the market scenario. This will lead to an increase in our production capability & capacity for the existing product range,” concluded Mohkhedkar.