With huge investment in vehicle manufacturing facilities being made in a rapidly developing market such as India, OEMs cannot afford any downtime in any production process. “Prevention is better than cure,” commented Marcus Glaser-Gallion, board Member of the Voith Industrial Services, on a recent visit to India.
“Premature equipment failure happens when adequate care is not given to the equipment in use. Preventive maintenance is the key and for this we provide predictive maintenance. As part of these exercises, we keep a constant vigil on fault exposure,” explained Glaser-Gallion.
Using various techniques such as tomography, ultrasonic, CPK analysis, part analysis and root cause analysis , Voith specialists are able to predict potential faults before the failure occurs, the company says. Pune-based Sudhir Gurtoo, managing director of India operations, discusses some of the global vehicle manufacturers operating in India, who have successfully employed Voith’s services. “I should point out we are not equipment manufacturers, but we align with them to assist their customers (auto OEMs) to manage the value chain. As partners, we handle almost every single process in automotive plants,” explains Gurtoo.
Voith partners several global equipment suppliers – particularly in India. Grobe of Germany, for instance, uses Voith services for any work in power train plants around the world. “Our target is to help every single auto OEM to improve their operational efficiency, primarily by reducing or eliminating downtime through various maintenance activities. Since we have hands-on experience, we know the ins and outs. At present, we are running more than 60 paint shops throughout the world and understand that there is scope for some improvement here through our benchmark process,” said Glaser-Gallion.
Cost increases vs efficiency
As global economics puts pressure on all manufacturing businesses it raises a question: Does the process of Voith working in tandem with an equipment supplier increase the operational cost to auto OEMs? “In some cases OEMs do maintenance themselves,” replies Glaser-Gallion. “However, this can be a difficult operation as it’s not a core focus area for the OEMs. On the other hand, Voith is a professional maintenance company with clear focus and experience; the right tools and processes. Because of this, operational efficiency can be improved, which is a cost advantage. Secondly, flexibility whereby we can offer regional packages and help OEMs to shift to different sites.”
Voith can provide a wide range of services. It has two areas to its business: assembly and powertrain. The company has a presence in 70 assembly plants across the globe and 30-plus powertrain plants, and provides engineering, design and manufacturing line services. Voith will also link different equipment with a production line as well as run and maintain the line. All this requires the efficient use of energy and ensuring less downtime on the highly automated assembly lines.
Gurtoo comments that India is a “real challenge”. “OEMs are hiring manpower on their [pay] rolls. But the global trend is to outsource more for a variety of reasons. One, possible reason is to avoid labour issues; second, long term cost saving. India definitely is moving in that direction,” he says.
Outsourcing is a tricky issue for top management of OEMs as regular employees may feel threatened and worry about their future. Gurtoo concedes that this is a challenge. “Yes, there is bound to be some resistance somewhere. This is where top management is tested. If it is progressive and not short-sighted, it migrates faster and embraces the outsourcing route. Others will follow when the time comes. There is no other option but just to fall in line. It’s just a question of time,” points out Gurtoo.
Fortunately Voith’s reputation precedes it and has helped lessen resistance. When it comes to the question of acceptance, Voith scores on its brand image, vast experience and, above all, reliability. “We go as partners, gain the trust of customers. That’s the key,” claims Gurtoo. Skill shortages in terms of robotic, mechanical and electrical technicians is another serious problem for the OEMs, says Voith. Although the OEMs do have technical personnel, in some areas they lack experience and need training. This is a concern as levels of automation are rising in India.
“India is an attractive market for us,” concedes Glaser- Gallion. Every single auto OEM operating in India has a global presence and this is an advantage for Voith due to its association with them outside India as well. Training Indian personnel and positioning them across the globe is a bright prospect Voith is aiming at. Glaser-Gallion highlights the demand for programmers and project engineers from India, in Europe and elsewhere. “This is happening now. We have Indian expertise in maintenance services in the automotive sector. This welcome transition from the Indian field to the European field has a huge upside.”
Saving energy is critical. Voith, according to Gurtoo, has the resources to service this specific need. “We can talk to the customer on how to reduce energy consumption without losing quality work. In paint shops, energy consumption is always high. But this can be controlled and we have done plant energy audits for two automotive plants,” adds Gurtoo. It is expected annual energy audits for the automotive segment will become mandatory.