Suprajit Engineering | Focussing On New Product Development

Mechanical cables are an integral part of many automotive components, and have come a long way from the time of just consisting of an outer and inner pieces. Suprajit Engineering, a Bangalore-based manufacturer of control cables in instruments, is leading the development of new technologies in this area. In a recent interaction, Ajit Kumar Rai, Chairman and Managing Director, Suprajit Engineering Ltd gave us insights into new product developments and future growth strategies.

A very highly design-intensive product, cables are increasingly getting complex. Historically, lining material for cables would consist of a simple Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coating. But today, depending on customer requirements, they are made from polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyoxymethylene (POM) as well as Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).

The efficiency of a cable is enhanced by offering better routing options, and the use of better materials. The main design parameter to keep in mind is that the load/stroke efficiency of a cable is superior to other products available in the market, said Rai. Low NVH level is also another important consideration that needs to be kept in check while developing cables.

NEW PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT (NPD)

NPD is a core philosophy at Suprajit Engineering. One particular product that has met some level of success is a fuel sender unit (FSU), which has been approved by Royal Enfield. FSU is the sensor that measures the level of fuel in the tank. Development of the FSU is taking place, and samples are likely to be submitted to Royal Enfield in the next few months, for testing and approval. “We should be probably producing this within the next six months,” Rai said.

Other products being developed by the company include gear shifter boxes, parking brake levers, and fuel sensors with solid state electronics that will give a digital output on the dashboard. Suprajit has also developed samples with electronics for digital speedometers. The company is now strengthening the NPD team, which is just over a year old, and are looking at measures to take it to the next level. The biggest challenge for the company is to be able to convince customers about its capability of developing new products beyond its traditional domain of cables.

The company gets involved with any new project about 24 months before it’s brought to the market, and undergoes multiple prototyping for testing. Currently, the company is working for a new BMW project, due for launch in 2015, said Rai.

Suprajit-Window-regulator and-winding Cables ATR Dec13

RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

Every unit of the company has its own R&D cell and test house. The company’s test houses enable testing at extreme temperatures, from -40 to 140 °C, depending on customer requirements. Suprajit will also set up a central technical centre outside Bangalore in the next couple of years, where all major projects will be handled. The smaller projects and changes will continue to be carried out of the R&D cells present in each unit. The company also has a global tech centre in Tamworth, United Kingdom, and plans to set up one in the USA in the coming years. The UK facility acts as a business development centre seeking out the necessities of clients, and conducts the first level of R&D of products that customers require. Further development work and deeper research is then passed on to the R&D centre at Doddaballapura, near Bangalore. This is the unit that carries out R&D for all export-oriented products.

While talking about R&D, Rai shared that Suprajit has applied for two patents for new methods in the design and manufacturing of cables, and is in the process of applying for one more.

OUTLOOK

The automotive sector contributes to about 95 % of Suprajit‘s revenue, and sells about 85 % of its products in the domestic market. About 10 % of its total sales come from the aftermarket segment, which is considered an integral part of its business.

It is the largest producer of two-wheeler cables in the world, and aims to be one of the top five cable producers in the world. Towards that aim, the company is currently negotiating a joint venture with a European company for a new domain other than cables. Rai clarified the new JV would cater to the automotive segment.

Text: Naveen Arul