Jaipur-headquartered National Engineering Industries Limited, better known as NBC Bearings, has carved out a very strong reputation over the past several decades as a leading bearings manufacturer and exporter. Founded in 1946, NBC Bearings produces over 150 mn bearings each year in more than 1,000 sizes. The biggest share of revenues (60 %) comes from the automotive sector, with the rest being contributed by the railway and industrial sectors. We recently met Rohit Saboo, President & CEO, National Engineering Industries to get an update on the company’s business.
NBC Bearings attributes its rapid growth over the last few years to its sustained focus on engineering excellence at its state-of-the-art R&D centre in Jaipur. Equipped with the latest CAD, CAM, calibration & testing equipment and special heat treatment facilities, this centre has played a pivotal role in shaping up the company’s success story. Significant investments have been made on its R&D activities as well as skill development. There was a period, when 25 % of its R&D team comprised only graduate engineers and diploma holders, but they’ve been subsequently replaced by highly qualified manpower, with PhD and master degrees. This drove engineering excellence to new heights, Saboo said, and also enhanced the quality and range of its bearings.
The company claims to be one of the few companies in the world to manufacture bearings up to 2,000 mm outer diameter with technology developed completely in-house. It also has a prototype shop within the R&D facility to speed up all design, development and testing processes.
MEETING FUTURE GOALS
The contribution of bearings in the industry’s shift to BS VI emission norms might be small, but NBC Bearings has an industry mandate to reduce vehicle weight. The company is focused on reducing the size of the bearing that results in the reduction of the overall weight of the envelope around the entire component, subsequently resulting in reduction of vehicle weight, Saboo said. The company has introduced special heat treated bearings, where a smaller bearing can take the load of bigger bearings. This helps the entire envelope become smaller, something that has become a norm now, Saboo stated. Apart from reducing vehicle weight, NBC Bearings strives to reduce friction and torque as these will not only improve fuel efficiency but also reduce emissions, Saboo highlighted.
In the electric vehicles space, the company has made swift progress overseas, supplying motor bearings for EVs in Europe over the last three to four years. The high speed electric motors need minimal friction with high quality bearings, in terms of capabilities around tolerance and heat management. The company’s engineers are working on reducing the size of bearings, while delivering more load bearing capacities.
The quantum of bearing components in EVs will come down as the tolerances and speed needs are much higher, said Saboo. For electric current to pass, there is a need for either coating or material change. The number of bearings in an EV will come down in the first five years or so, but the value of total bearings per vehicle should go up, Saboo added.
NBC Bearings is focused on providing value addition around its diverse range of bearings. At the Auto Expo in February this year, it showcased a pre-set hub for commercial vehicles. The current practice of putting the hub and assembling the bearings is a time-consuming process. NBC has eased the process with a pre-assembled unit.
FOCUS ON MANPOWER
As mentioned earlier in this report, NBC Bearings understands the importance of leveraging the engineering knowhow of technical institutes in the country. The company works closely with premier Indian institutes like IITs, foreign institutes and research institutes. It also funds various PhD and research programmes with institutes based in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, Saboo pointed out.
Skill gaps, infrastructural shortcomings and frequent technological changes are posing key challenges for the automotive manufacturing industry in India. There is a need for skilled training centres as companies are finding it hard to identify skilled people and have to keep up with low productivity. Infrastructural shortcomings have resulted in high supply chain management costs, thereby leading to inefficiency, high cost and low quality manufacturing, Saboo said. “Frequent changes in technology is making it imperative for bearings manufacturers to stay alert, flexible and be well positioned to be able to adapt to the changes in technology faster than our customers,” Saboo added.
NBC Bearings currently operates five plants in the country – three at Newai near Jaipur, one in Manesar, Haryana and another in Savli near Vadodara, Gujarat. The first phase of production is currently on at Savli, while the second phase is planned to begin in 2020. By mid-2019, the company is planning to build another plant in Rajasthan, intimated Saboo. The company has been growing at a CAGR of 14 % over the last few years. It has clocked a 20 % growth this year and is expecting 14-15 % growth over the next five years. Saboo is upbeat about the Indian bearings market and expects a large chunk of the growth to come from the automotive and industrial sectors.
TEXT: Suhrid Barua