JBM Group, the Gurgaon-based sheet metal to renewable conglomerate, is in the process of building capabilities to develop its own technology and products over the next couple of years. There is strong focus on three key aspects – technology, innovation and people – factors Nishant Arya, Executive Director, JBM Group believes are important to keep the company ahead of competition in the domains it operates in.
Arya has little doubt that any growth in the future would be driven by capabilities the group builds around the areas of technology and engineering. In the area of stamping, the group has installed a 2,500 tonne transfer press, which requires installation space less than one-third of what a normal press line would require. It also produces twice the amount of components opposed to the conventional presses. This has given the group an edge in terms of capacity and knowledge.
Better quality is a result of the high level of automation the group companies engage in various processes such as presses, assembly and welding. An interesting case of unique engineering feat is the differential plating technology. Arya explained, "The fuel tank in a car is catered through a fuel filler. The plating done on the inside and outside of the fuel filler is the same globally. However, the requirement for the filler inside and outside is different, and hence we have developed a differential zinc nickel chrome plating mechanism that is applied outside and inside the filler." This has ensured a longer life of the fuel filler. In certain cases, the plating cost could be higher but through this process Arya said they have been able to optimise it better.
Tailor Welded Blanks (TWB) is another key technology that the group is relying on. The largest manufacturer of TWBs in India today, JBM is able to optimise the utilisation of steel better, thanks to its joint venture with steel giant, ArcelorMittal. With increasing demands for efficient and lighter vehicles and components, TWBs play a significant role as it helps offer the right amount of steel in the required area and normal quantity in general areas. The door handle is one such area that requires stronger steel as it's used extensively under varied forces. In addition, laser welding too has helped optimise the product better.
Lightweighting as a philosophy is also being brought about by the use of various grades of steel, including high strength steel, mild steel, and stainless steel, among many others. Similarly, the company is also evaluating the use of plastics. Plastic fuel tanks, for example, were used by some players, but the experiment wasn't too prudent, forcing them to return to metal fuel tanks. "Plastic fuel tanks continue to have some unresolved issues. It's a Catch-22 situation as it remains to be seen what processes we can use to combat those problems," he said.
For the future, the group is eyeing strategic areas such as body-in-white, sheet metal, suspension, exhaust systems, chassis, tooling and truck cabins as potential volume drivers. In the exhaust area particularly, Arya believes the SCR and EGR technologies will be at the forefront in India. He said, "Emissions would play a key role in the times to come as the market readies itself to adopt newer norms and we're looking at making ourselves equipped to perform well at that time."
BUSINESS IN GENERAL
The current state of economy in general and the auto industry in particular, has meant tough times for the $ 1.2 bn group. As a turnaround measure, the group is looking at ways of optimising costs and offering value-added engineering. Arya clarified that there hasn't been any decision to stop investments, but said he is approaching the situation with a lot of caution. He was hopeful nonetheless: "We're seeing this challenging time as a phase, which occurs in every industry. We expect a stronger second half this financial year," he said.
"In the last five years, our CAGR has been close to 30 %. We're looking at making some acquisitions, but having said that we'd look at the acquisition route only if there's a strategic fit, as it was in the case of Tesco GO," Arya said. The group is yet to finalise its plans for the next five years, but it is looking at repeating its performance of the last five years.
Text: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah