The bearing industry in India and in global markets is currently witnessing a positive growth trend. Growth in this sector is expected to be led by industrial production as well as increasing demand from the automobile industry. National Engineering Industries Ltd (NEIL) has been an important player in the bearings industry and is a supplier across product segments. Auto Tech Review met Rohit Saboo, President & CEO, National Engineering Industries Ltd (NEIL), to discuss the various nuances of this crucial feeder industry for automobiles, and the various innovations witnessed over the years.
According to recent research conducted by Global Market Insights, the bearings market is expected to grow at over 7.6 % CAGR from 2015 to 2022 globally, and the Asia Pacific region, led by India and China, is supposed to be where most of this growth will come from. Automobile production in India is anticipated to grow at a robust pace in the coming years, and expanding fleet size and the growing replacement market will further fuel the demand for automotive bearings in India.
Adoption of advanced technology solutions will be a key enabler to achieve required goals, as it will provide the necessary productivity benefits. ‘With an aim to sustain the current growth trajectory and prepare for the increasing competition, the Indian auto components industry needs to create a set of competitive advantages based on value-capture to stay ahead in the global and domestic markets,’ said Saboo.
Indian manufacturers have already been taking steps to improve the technology, over the last few years. To achieve a higher level of precision in designing, manufacturers are using various techniques to improve the smoothness of bearings used. Keeping fuel consumption and environmental factors in mind, the demand for low friction bearings or low-torque bearings command a tremendous priority. Hence, a greater level of importance is now being laid on the testing of bearings, and companies are increasing their investments in research and development to transform bearing design with unique design and tooling techniques.
With markets worldwide moving towards cost-effective products and solutions, manufacturing technology has also grown exponentially, as all the segments in the auto components industry have adopted methods aimed at reducing labour and material costs while increasing productivity, efficiency and component quality.
Constant innovation in heavy, general, automotive and other industries has encouraged the growth of the bearings sector in India. The focus on renewable energy is expected to further fuel increased demand for bearings, as wind and water turbines also require heavy usage of bearings. Prominent steps taken by the government will further encourage bearings manufacturing in India, said Saboo. Infrastructure expansion, coupled with industrial growth and robust construction and mining equipment market will also have a favourable impact on the Indian bearings market. The expanding railway sector is also expected to boosts the demand for bearings in India.
Looking from the perspective that India is one of the fastest growing global economies and is the third largest country in the world in terms of purchasing power parity, there is tremendous opportunity for the Indian automotive industry to rise to the occasion and contribute towards the ‘Make in India’ initiative, said Saboo.
AREA OF OPERATIONS
One of the critical areas related to automobiles today is the conservation of natural resources. In a vehicle, only about 12.6 % of energy is used for moving the vehicle whereas more than 62 % is lost to engine friction, engine-pumping losses and to waste heat, 17 % is lost in idling, 2 % lost in accessories operation and 5.6 % lost in the drivetrain due to friction and slippage.
By understanding the various torque contributors to the bearing, such as grease, seal and internal bearing geometry, National Bearings Corporation (NBC is parent company of NEIL) manufactures a range of bearings for automotive, industrial and railways applications. NBC’s assortment of bearings includes large diameter special bearings for the railways, steel mills, heavy engineering industries and power generation plants. The company also manufactures axle boxes for railway rolling stock and other allied, special and next-generation products to reduce friction and improve fuel efficiency.
Furthermore, the company is also involved in the manufacturing of a wide range of both metric and inch series deep groove ball bearings, angular contact ball bearings, self-aligning ball bearings among others, including Thermo Mechanical Bearings (TMB) for longer life, and special heat-treated bearings for dimensional stability at high temperatures. NBC has engineered bearings for transmissions and two wheeler applications as well. ‘Various other programs are underway and NBC is working towards extending the technology to other areas,’ said Saboo.
Skill gap and infrastructural shortcomings are the key challenges faced by the manufacturing industry in India. The lack of skills training is a prime concern as people are not trained and companies are struggling to find skilled people and keep up productivity, said Saboo. The other major issue that challenges growth is infrastructural shortcomings, resulting in high supply chain management cost, thereby leading to inefficient, high cost and low quality manufacturing industries.
Besides these, the other problems that exist are lack of focus on quality and innovation, and inconsistency of performance. Counterfeit products also pose a major hindrance in market growth. However, with quality standards increasing significantly in the automotive domain, bearing manufacturers have been steadily undertaking R&D activities in a bid to differentiate their products in one of the fastest growing markets for vehicles.
TEXT: Anwesh Koley