Headquartered at Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, ELGi Equipments Limited is one of the leading air compressor manufacturing companies that offer over 400 compressed air systems — from large centrifugal compressors to the world’s smallest screw compressors. ELGi is also one of the five companies in the world to design and manufacture proprietary oil-free air-ends. The company receives half of its revenue from the overseas market and 60% of its international revenue from Europe and America.
With a legacy of manufacturing air compressors since 1960, the company offers a complete range of compressed air solutions from oil-flooded and oil-free electric powered screw compressors, diesel powered portable screw compressors, oil-flooded and oil-free reciprocating compressors and centrifugal compressors, to dryers, up and downstream accessories. Emphasising the quality levels within the organisation, Anvar Jay Varadaraj, Senior Manager – Marketing and Corporate Communications, ELGi Equipments, shares, “Our products are used in USA and Europe mainly for critical applications that demonstrate our quality standards.”
Achieving global competency
With a business across 70 countries and a direct presence in 18 countries with manufacturing units in India, Italy and USA, the manufacturing giant has around 200 distributors worldwide, operating with a total strength of 1500 employees. ELGi’s manufacturing facility in India is divided into two divisions set up amidst a thick greenery ecosystem in Kodangipalayam Village, located at a distance of 30 km from Coimbatore— the air compressor plant and foundry division.
Highlighting the company’s objective of producing worldclass compressors, KSR Murthy, Director – Technology and Operations, ELGi Equipments, notes that the company doesn’t manufacture in mass. As a result, Murthy believes that flexibility in operation is one of the key factors to be followed. “We have implemented automation that suits to flexibility by combining traditional & modern technologies. In the upcoming months, we will be completely using robots for processes like welding in the area of pressure vessels wherein consistent quality in weld strength is the requirement,” he adds.
Spread across an area of 4 lakh sq ft, the foundry has a built-up space of one lakh sq ft. The foundry was built with the aim to supply world class castings suitable for ELGi compressors. The production capacity at the foundry is 9000 metric tons per year and the average weight of the castings ranges from 30 to 3200 kilograms. It produces high precision grey and SG iron castings using the most advanced and environment-friendly processes. Highlighting the sustainable and environment-friendly approach followed in the foundry, KV Rao, DGM – Foundry, ELGi Equipments, says, “We recycle the used foundry sand in a highly optimised manner in order to achieve a zero waste management. The foundry is designed in such a way that the ambience is conducive to foundry type of working conditions. Efforts are continuously made to contain pollution (air, noise, heat.. ) beyond statutory norms. Due to in-built automation in production lines and systems adopted from ELGi group, the 4 year old foundry is able to evolve as world class foundry in all respects.”
Air compressor plant
ELGi operates four factories in the world with the same high quality standards using its own air-ends. Over 15000 air-ends and 40000 piston compressors are produced in a year. The plant at Kodangipalayam village stands out in such a way that the scrapyard is maintained in the front of the facility premises. “The STP and ETP are beside the compound wall that demonstrate the company’s priority towards quality and commitment to society. Similarly, the internal structure of the plant is designed to enable a single line of flow wherein the component enters at one end and leaves at the other,” comments Arun Prasad, GM – Aircenter and Foundry, ELGi Equipments.
The air compressor plant is divided into three sections based on operations — Housing-machining (VMC/HMC), rotor production-milling and compressor assembly. The facility is equipped with advanced, high-precision rotor grinding machines, turning centres and CNC horizontal & vertical machining centres. The in-house rotor manufacturing facility with ELGI made profile milling and grinding machines, provides the company with unrivalled advantage over competition. “We have general purpose machines for processes like drilling, milling, turning, etc and also special purpose machines to manufacture complex rotor profiles that are quite unique. Most of the machines are imported in order to achieve high-accuracy levels less than the range of 10 microns tolerance,” opines Prasad.
Highlighting the company’s in-house manufacturing capabilities was Prasad, who shares, “If we want to be competitive in the market, we have to bring down our manufacturing costs. We can maintain the costs only by reducing the manufacturing cost of the products in-house. That’s why we started our own machine building unit. Secondly, this has helped us to protect our own patented design. As such, the level of indigenousness in most of our end products is 100%.”
Quality and reliability standards
The company’s products bear the hallmark of quality and reliability. Every manufactured component and product passes through stringent quality audits and is tested to ensure performance and reliability. “Our manufacturing test rooms are atmospheric-controlled. Our products are built compliant to multiple international standards,” says Murthy.
In terms of the aspiration of the workers, he opines that the values they have inculcated into the employees are one of the key factors for the company’s success graph. “We want the factory workers in India to be respected equal to the workers in the US and Europe, not only in technical skill sets but also in behavioural capabilities. Thus, our training focuses on improving their technical knowledge & soft skills that would make them not just better workers, but also better human beings, thereby, making them self-sustainable to manage and think on their own,” he adds.
Speaking on the safety and green initiatives, he further says, “We are a safe factory and all safety standards are practiced here. However, we need to work further on this. The green initiative is one of the programmes that is continuously conducted here. We are going up for the second level of energy audit to define our plant as the greenest factory. Also, we have plans to set-up solar plant inside factory premises as a step towards reducing the carbon footprint.”
The manufacturing unit is supported by the R&D division that leads the ELGi innovation programme, a CADD unit with advanced design capabilities, an integrated machine shop and a metrology laboratory. “We spend 3% of our revenue in R&D operations and a bulk of our R&D centre is located in India. Our major focus is to make energy-efficient compressors to address the lifecycle cost from the end-users’ perspective. If you consider the lifecycle of the compressor, which is typically about 10 years’ time, the maintenance and energy is about 75% of the cost of ownership and thus reliability and energy consumption are critical,” says Varadaraj.
IoT in action
Today, the most innovative manufacturing businesses are often the ones taking advantage of the new wave of industry transforming technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT). ELGi is no exception to this. Shedding light on the IoT initiatives, Prasad avers, “The entire factory is connected with an IoT technology for energy management. We monitor the machine’s entire functionality to get a knowhow on its processes and utilisation. This helps us in optimising load distribution including our own compressors. So, it is a mix of technology as well as the requirement. We have so far implemented IoT with energy as the point of monitoring, but slowly, we are getting it for the entire process.”
Air Audit program
ELGi has recently announced the outcome of its successful partnership with Indian Texpreneurs Federation (ITF), one of the largest textile groups in South India. The company’s air audit program helped ITF member companies to reduce average compressed air energy costs by upto 43%. An Air Audit is a review of an operation’s use of compressed air. The audit evaluates both the generation and distribution of compressed air. It assesses a compressed air system and identifies areas of inefficiency with corresponding cost savings, if rectified.
Air Alert is a free of cost sim-based data transmission service that will monitor a compressor’s critical parameters to ensure optimum energy consumption and compressor failure prevention. On Air Alert, Varadaraj opines, “Air Alert will complement our energy program with ITF. Specifically, an Air Alert equipped customer can be rest assured that changes in their energy consumption post an air audit will be detected by ELGi’s Air Alert service and reported immediately for rectification.”
The way forward…
The company has adopted a two-pronged growth agenda to maintain its leadership position in India and to rapidly increase its footprint across other geographies. The organic growth strategy is being deployed in markets similar to India, and the inorganic growth through acquisition is being pursued to establish quick significant presence in developed markets like Europe and the US. “ELGi has identified Australia, Europe and the US, besides India, as strategic markets to focus on,” concludes Varadaraj.