Henkel India | Innovation Based On Total Cost Of Ownership, Not Product

Henkel India | Innovation Based On Total Cost Of Ownership, Not Product

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In November 2012, Henkel, a leading player in the laundry & home care, beauty care and adhesive technologies wrote a new strategy through 2016.  Buoyed by the financial achievements of the previous four years, the company announced a "Vision 20-10-10" – € 20 bn in sales, € 10 bn sales in emerging markets and 10 % earnings per share.

India has been a strong contributor to Henkel's global growth, and the market promises to play a predominant role in the future growth of the company as well. A key growth driver for Henkel Adhesive Technologies India, the fully-owned subsidiary of Henkel, is the proposed new plant in Kurkumbh, near Pune. Scheduled to start production by early 2017, this would be India's largest adhesives plant attracting an investment of € 30 mn.

We recently caught up with Manish Dave, Country Manager, Automotive & Metals, India, Henkel Adhesive Technologies India to understand the company's focus on innovation for the automotive industry in India, and how it is developing solutions to address specific demands of the market.

Apart from Henkel Adhesive Technologies, the company has another legal entity in India – Henkel Anand India – a joint venture between Henkel KGaA and Anand Automotive Systems with technical license from Sunrise MSI Corporation Japan. Henkel Anand India manufactures and supplies adhesives, sealants and NVH products to automotive OEMs in India.

FOCUS ON INNOVATION

At Henkel, innovation is central to achieving global leadership in technology and brand. Innovation at Henkel is based on total cost of ownership (TCO), and not cost per product, said Dave. The company strives for an innovation rate of roughly 33 %. The innovation centre in Pune, set-up in late 2013, is growing at a rapid pace and is one of the five global innovation centres for Henkel, the others being Sao Paulo (Brazil), Seoul (South Korea), Shanghai (China) and Dusseldorf (Germany).

While economic conditions in many global markets aren't promising currently, India continues to be assuring. A self-developed market, as Dave pointed out, Henkel sees a clear uptake in India going forward. Apart from the corporate level targets for end-2016, the company in India has also set defined targets in its drive to achieve leadership in the market. This obviously would call for sustained investment in business, innovation and manufacturing in the long-run, and Dave confirmed Henkel's committed to that.

The Pune innovation centre, in fact, is already one of the strategic centres for Henkel globally, both for metals and automotive. On the metal side, the Pune centre has taken the leadership role. Recently, the company has developed a chrome-free technology for steel coils. On the automotive front, the company has made strong investments on NVH. Vehicle structure, fit & finish, safety and comfort are some of the other areas the innovation centre focuses on. Dave talked about the Ford EcoSport as an example. The successful compact SUV has used a lot of NVH solutions from Henkel. These, he said, have now become a benchmark, and are being used by other SUV makers as well.

NEW SOLUTIONS ON NVH

Controlling NVH in a small car has never been an easy task for manufacturers. So, what is Henkel's strategy? Dave agreed NVH in a small car is the biggest challenge. It is further complicated by the fact that the small car buyer is also the most cost conscious, often deterring OEMs from making expensive changes. In recent times, the company has developed many new solutions that have addressed this concern. The entire NVH solutions package, including high-damping foam (HDF), baffle, tapes, and liquid applied sound deadener (LASD) is available in India today. These are products that are traditionally applied in an interior cavity of the vehicle for structural reinforcement. Let us look at some of these in details:

Liquid Applied Sound Deadener (LASD): Small cars mostly use bitumen pads. Bitumen pads are solvent-borne, whose use has pretty much been stopped everywhere else, but there are examples of that being used in India. LASD significantly reduces the structure-borne noise generated by the engine and wheels during the drive and it absorbs vibrational resonance. LASD helps save up to 30 % weight. While most OEMs globally apply LASD through a robot, the size, cost consciousness and volume doesn't justify a fully automatic, robotic application in India, noted Dave. Henkel is looking at a semi-automatic process for India.

High-Damping Foam (HDF): HDF is a unique acoustic damping material specifically developed for the automotive and transport industries. Its development traces back to a vehicle that needed a solution to be introduced to its door. Dave didn't disclose much on the vehicle citing non-disclosure agreements with OEMs. HDF is a good alternative that offers improved acoustic comfort as well as aids overall lightweighting of the vehicle. The challenge though is the increased cost, optimisation of which is currently being done at the Pune centre.

Joining mixed metals offer an interesting challenge. Henkel has developed a solution for composites – a matrix resin that is polyurethane-based. The composite matrix resin fulfils the performance criteria of the matrix in terms of physical properties, processability as well as static and dynamic behaviour in a composite part, noted a company release. For example, a composite leaf spring offers OEMs an alternative that is up to 65 % lighter than steel versions. These can also be used to substitute longitudinal and transversal steel leaf springs into full-suspension concepts for passenger cars and lightweight commercial vehicles, said the release.

ROUND UP

Henkel is working on a multitude of innovations, including one that could lead to the replacement of stitching on foams or seats, for instance. "We believe at some point, we can replace this with adhesives," said Dave. Meanwhile, the demand for time and weight saving solutions are high, and Henkel is making significant investments in Pune to find answers to these challenges. Dave is confident, and come 2016, the company will deliver on this, he concluded.

Text: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah