The LED lighting market has grown significantly over the last few years and is expected to witness rapid technology adoption. Lumax Industries Ltd has substantially contributed to this growth trajectory. We recently got an opportunity to visit the company’s Bawal plant in Haryana to understand the production of lighting modules as well as the various advancements currently undertaken at the facility.
Lumax operates nine manufacturing plants across India. Three of its plants are located in the cities of Gurgaon, Dharuhera and Bawal in Haryana, two in Pune, two in Uttarakhand (Pantnagar and Haridwar), one in Sanand in Gujarat and one in Bidadi in Karnataka. Nine of the Group’s 24 manufacturing locations are solely earmarked for the lighting space.
The Bawal facility is one of the dedicated units catering to the lighting division and has an 80 % capacity utilisation with annual capacity touching seven million units per annum. The plant has over 2,100 skilled and specialised employees. The Lumax Group has invested around Rs 70-75 crore at its Bawal plant, which is one of its largest production sites globally.
Lumax’s Bawal plant specialises in the production of automotive lighting for major OEMs. The company through this plant, has emerged as a full-capability supplier of high quality automotive lighting solutions for four-wheeler and two-wheeler applications, serving automobile manufacturing in India as well as across global locations. Lumax initially commenced operations with the production of halogen lamps, but subsequently shifted focus towards the LED technology given the growing demand for LEDs across product segments.
Over the years, the company has been beefing up its design and development capabilities as well as its manufacturing expertise in the areas of LED lighting, projector lamps and adaptive front lighting (AFS) systems. In line with this strategy, Lumax established an in-house R&D structure to cater to its northern and western region customers.
The Bawal plant has been developing projector lamps as part of front lighting for the four-wheeler market and is also mulling a similar solution for two-wheeler applications. Projector lamps will leverage a new technology for the Indian market, wherein light is projected through a reflector and a glass prism, thus providing a more concentrated focus with a higher styling intent. The company has been working on adaptive front lighting systems and intends to launch them when the customer is ready to embrace this innovation.
Lighting as a product category has become highly performance-oriented with the focus revolving around aesthetics and styling as compared to the earlier lighting systems that concentrated only on performance. This has necessitated Lumax to engage with OEMs from the development stage of the vehicle. The company has a presence in both interior and exterior lighting systems including headlamps, tail lamps and top lamps.
Lighting modules evolve every five or six years with lighting products undergoing a change from sheet metal glass to plastics, and are now shifting to plastics plus electronics. The Bawal facility incorporates the use of hi-tech electronic technologies involved in LEDs and projector systems. The enhanced integration of lighting with vehicle body systems has ensured that sensors are utilised with minor changes every two or three years along with vehicle facelifts.
This has necessitated the need for Lumax to build capabilities of integrating electronics into the lighting system through the development of printed circuit board capability, as well as manufacturing and integrating LED products into the lighting space. A key challenge of high-grade aesthetic products remains the surface treatment in lighting processes that is becoming more stringent. In order to address this, Lumax sources futuristic technologies through its global partnerships and collates OEM requirements through technology shows for its customers. Thereafter, the company co-develops products with customers for the Indian market with localised R&D for creating optimum value for OEMs.
Lumax has been making the most of the various technological advancements witnessed in the automotive sector and has been increasing the integration of lighting products into vehicle styling, which provides wider opportunities for product development. Embedding the latest technology in automotive lighting, the company has been fast replacing the traditional incandescent and halogen lamps with LED lighting modules. The design versatility offered by LEDs also warrants investments in this domain.
The LED lighting system currently represents around 25 % of Lumax’s production mix at Bawal, but the company expects to see an exponential growth in demand in the coming years. Among the various advancements witnessed over the years, LED lights are more energy-efficient and also more durable. The company sees a gradual streamlining of its manufacturing processes given the growing demand and economies of scale. Lumax expects the Automatic Headlamp On (AHO) and Daytime Running Lights (DRL) regulations on two and four-wheelers to boost adoption of LEDs because of safety standards.
As per global trends and given the growing interest of domestic players in LEDs, the share of LED-based products is expected to increase to 40-50 % of the total revenues by 2020 for Lumax. The LED market is currently less than 5 % in India. However, going forward, it will reach 30% for two-wheelers and 25 % for four-wheelers by 2020. The Bawal facility is geared up to incorporate additional lines, if demand warrants. Lumax is also upbeat about the advent of EVs, which is expected to boost rapid adoption of LEDs. Globally, the LED pricing is coming down and the domestic market may look to adopt the same after 2020-21.
The technology trends have been showing an inclination towards LEDs in rear lamps and interior lights, while front and exterior lighting including headlamps or fog lamps primarily rely on projector lighting. High intensity discharge lighting has still not come to India due to its cost-effectiveness but if a customer requires it, Lumax is ready to provide such a solution through its partner, Stanley Electric Corporation of Japan.
Lumax undertakes a significant amount of innovation and R&D at this facility to offer its customers the best quality at affordable prices. A lot of R&D focus has been on complying with the safety norms. All two-wheelers today come equipped with the AHO feature, which adds to the safety quotient. Another parallel requirement is the focus on lesser energy consumption and improved aesthetic for LED lamps as mandated by OEMs.
Lumax’s Bawal and Haridwar plants had recently participated for the first time in the International Convention on Quality Control Circles held in Philippines, and both its plants won gold awards. The cost-control programmes and enhancing operating efficiencies are top priorities at Lumax, apart from total productive maintenance (TPM).
Lumax has emerged as the preferred supplier for most OEMs for lighting and its R&D efforts are a step towards maintaining this position. Automotive lighting has undergone a transformation over the last few years from a functional product to a styling product for all vehicles and automobiles.
The plant has been ramping up its focus on the aesthetics of lighting modules due to OEMs preferring more innovative headlamp and tail lamp designs. Being a key differentiating factor for a vehicle, the plastic injection moulded parts for the lighting assembly use numerous different moulds in order to achieve the desired results. Lumax used both domestic and imported injection moulding machines for this purpose.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Going forward, the advent of EVs is expected to significantly boost LED adoption and thereby bolster the company’s margins. Lumax aims to take advantage of this technology transition by being early adopters of advanced LED manufacturing techniques. This transition would be carried out in a phased manner and Lumax would be closely looking into the bottlenecks. A typical halogen headlight uses 55 watts of power to produce 350 lumens of light, whereas the LED-headlight system uses about 17 watts only, which is a compelling reason for both OEMs and component makers to jump on the LED bandwagon.
The capacity ramp-up by Indian OEMs and the enthusiasm shown by international automotive giants to turn India into a global manufacturing hub is expected to benefit the auto ancillary industry as a whole. Overall, the sector is placed favourably as macroeconomic factors and consumer sentiment continue to remain in favour of large players like Lumax.
Lumax intends to continue focusing on providing high levels of technology, benchmarking processes as per international standards and undertaking designing, prototyping and product development. In order to maintain its leadership position, the company’s Bawal plant undertakes sustained efforts to achieve ‘Zero Defect, Zero Effect’, product innovations and filing patents to maintain its competitive edge over its peers. Hence, with these indigenous operations, the company plans to keep introducing new technologies in India as well as enable OEMs to optimise costs and get faster delivery of products.
TEXT: Anwesh Koley
PHOTO: Anwesh Koley/ Lumax