Economic pressures notwithstanding, the Indian automotive industry continues to grow. And such growth calls for all-round advancement in all areas associated with the functioning of the industry. One such important area is the body repair, which is increasingly being burdened due to more vehicles and the relatively unorganised nature of the sector.
Towards this, Mirka India, a subsidiary of KWH Mirka OY from Finland recently launched a new dust free sanding system. We had a chance to interact with Manoj Soni, Managing Director, Mirka India, who gave us an insight into the strategy for the Indian market.
Known as the optimised surface preparation (OSP), the system is the first of its kind in the world and is claimed to significantly lower repair cost and time. The OSP was first launched at Automechanika Frankfurt in 2012, and India is the second market after Mexico to receive the technology in full.
The differentiator between OSP and normally available technologies is that the grains of the abrasive surface have been optimised to offer better results. The company has developed a product known as the Orbital Sander 383 (OS383), which is more or less a hand block. This tool is claimed to be capable of performing every task that can be done by other machines. What makes it different is that it doesn’t need movement from one end to the other. Doing away with this process means that the damage area on a repair surface stays limited, which directly translates into savings of time and paint. This also means that the body shop will be able to complete work on vehicles sooner, allowing for more vehicles to be attended to in a given time frame.
Soni told us that Mirka’s OSP is the only system in the world to deliver dust-free results, wherein up to 99 % dust is eliminated during the operation. This leads to a better finish for the repaired surface and also improves the longevity of the paint. The technology essentially helps improve the overall value chain of the body shop through optimising the damager repair process and paint consumption.
Mirka also gets substantial business from OEMs as they use the company’s technologies to improve the finish quality of the surface during the body-in-white and coating processes. This business though is customised to suit every customer as per their requirements and doesn’t include any standard offerings.
Over a period of time, the technology could reduce the scarcity of manpower in the body shop sector. Presently, the scarcity is fuelled by the fact that working conditions aren’t safe at all places. Soni said the OSP can make a difference here by improving such conditions significantly and also improving the efficiency of workers. At a starting price of ` 2.5-3 lakh, Soni hopes the product wouldn’t be ‘prohibitively’ expensive, and drive future growth.
From a business perspective, Mirka India is takings slow yet steady steps by launching the product in a phased manner. The plans for 2013 include the launch of just 24 OSPs across the country. The reason behind this approach is that the OSP is a new concept for the Indian market and requires a change in mindset for adoption. The potential, however, is good as Soni told us that there are about 2,000 such body shops in India, which could consider OSP’s adoption. Mirka’s present marketshare in India in 2012 was about 9 % and the company plans to increase it to 20 % by 2017. In order to do so, the company will continue to launch new products based on market requirements.
Text: Arpit Mahendra