Manual transmissions have been the predominant choice of the Indian consumer, but there is a steady shift towards adoption of conventional and newer automatic transmissions. For any type of transmission, be it manual, automatic or hybrid, a key component is the clutch and its release system. There are also a number of different clutch technologies that are paired with their appropriate transmission systems, and this trend is evolving on a regular basis. One of the key players in this segment is LuK India.
Part of the Schaeffler India Group, LuK India enjoys a significant presence in the clutch segment in India. Auto Tech Review recently visited the company’s manufacturing facility in Hosur, Tamil Nadu, to understand the development and manufacturing of clutch systems, its focus on future mobility trends and transmission systems ahead.
Schaeffler India Ltd has three major product brands – FAG, INA and LuK – and operates four manufacturing plants. Two of its plants, located in Vadodara, Gujarat produces a gamut of ball bearings, roller bearings and wheel bearings for the FAG brand. Schaeffler India’s third plant in Talegaon near Pune manufactures a wide range of precision engine components under the INA brand. The Hosur facility is the company’s fourth plant in India, which manufactures clutch systems and dual mass flywheels for passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, heavy commercial vehicles and tractors for the LuK brand. This facility also takes up the assembly of clutch release systems (CRS).
Schaeffler had recently consolidated its business into three main divisions – Automotive OEM, Automotive Aftermarket and Industrial. The Automotive OEM division is further segregated into engine systems; transmission systems; chassis systems; and hybrid and electrical drive systems. The clutch and CRS division of LuK India comes under the fold of the transmission systems division. At the plant, we met Santosh Poojari, Vice President – Manufacturing, LuK India Pvt Ltd, who mentioned that the newly-formed Automotive Aftermarket division was earlier under the general automotive division.
On a global level, Schaeffler is working to achieve its vision of making the world cleaner, safer and smarter. In line with this, the company is working on the ‘mobility for tomorrow’ with a focus on four areas – eco-friendly drives, urban mobility, interurban mobility and energy chain. The company is also keen about making its manufacturing plants smarter and more flexible, in line with its ‘factory for tomorrow’ initiative.
The LuK India Hosur facility was established in 1978 originally by Rane Brake Linings Ltd. It was renamed LuK India Pvt Ltd after the acquisition by LuK GmbH & Co in 2001. The plant originally consisted of one manufacturing hall, with the second production hall being set-up in 2012. With LuK GmbH’s acquisition, the facility got regular upgrades of the tools and machinery being utilised, and continues to do so on a regular basis. Spread over an area of about 36,600 sq m, the plant has an annual production capacity of around 3.3 mn clutch systems per year, said Poojari.
The plant manufactures clutch assemblies for passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, commercial vehicles and tractors. The current product range includes conventional clutch, servo clutch, rigid clutch disc, torsion damper without pre-damper and torsion damper with pre-damper. LuK India plans to begin local production of travel-controlled self-adjusted clutch (TAC), self-adjusting clutch and clutch disc with alignment compensation focussed on driver comfort in the future, noted Poojari. He added that future projects with regards to dual mass flywheel and dry double clutch are at various stages of discussions. In terms of CRS, the facility only carries out assembly of components such as concentric slave cylinder, clutch master cylinder, semi slave cylinder, adapter and high pressure pipe. The company has plans to localise these CRS as well, Poojari noted.
A key factor in the success of this plant is in the 100 % indigenisation with regards to clutch systems and their manufacture. Poojari added that the LuK India plant is a fully-integrated unit, carrying out all processes including design, testing, tooling, stamping, machining, heat treatment and assembly.
The LuK India Hosur plant has an R&D centre that has received approval and certification from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). The company has a fully-developed R&D department, which offers complete solutions including design, development, testing and application engineering. Poojari stated that the department also conducts field testing on customer vehicles, and advices on the solutions that could be leveraged on those vehicles concerning the clutch system.
With regards to collaborating with the global R&D team, Poojari said that guidance is only sought in case of completely new products. However, for established products like clutch, the development is mostly local in nature. In addition, the company collaborates with customers as a systems supplier, working on their technology requirements. This collaborative work with customers has been on a growing trend, and is set to increase further, noted Poojari. This trend is backed by a wide range of products offered to customers, along with the technical solutions LuK India offers. The company ploughs back around 10 % of its revenues into R&D, with the global number being slightly higher due to the focus on new mobility areas.
Hall 1 of LuK India’s Hosur facility carries out production of various child components necessary for the final assembly of clutch systems. It is capable of performing forging, machining, stamping and heat treatment processes for these sub-components, and also includes a tool room that makes its own tools for production of these child components. The flow of materials in this hanger is from the press shop and stamping stations to the heat treatment area, and finally onto the machine shop. Hall 1 also houses two tool rooms for in-house development of specific tools for manufacture of its components.
Heat treatment is an extremely important process of manufacturing child components for clutch systems, and therefore takes up the maximum area in Hall 1. The company uses a roller hearth heat treatment furnace to carry out this process. For the purpose of induction hardening, LuK India utilises both rotary systems as well as seal beads, noted Poojari.
Hall 2 then performs the process of machining of castings as well as carries out the final assembly for clutch and CRS. It also comprises the seating area of operations teams for project management, industrial engineering, lean manufacturing, product lines and supply chain. To enable manufacturing efficiency and lean production processes, the company is digitising its shopfloor management process in the factory.
The main clutch assembly generally consists of mating the cover and disc assemblies together to form a complete clutch system. The assembly line is a highly automated one, which has also been designed in-house to bring about the best result for convenience and ergonomics, in addition to manufacturing excellence and quality assurance. Schaeffler has its own machine building division, which is an added strength for all its group companies and brands. For the assembly of CRS, the company created a special dust-free environment due to the nature of the components. All assemblies go through end-of-line testing to maintain the required high quality standards, Poojari observed. The company has a separate tool design department that designs tools used to make components based on their requirements of speed, strokes per minute and quality.
LuK India exports around 8-10 % of its total production, with this figure expected to further increase in the coming years, noted Poojari. He said domestic sales are also witnessing an upward move, with significant growth expected in the next two years. LuK India’s business from the aftermarket stands at around 20-22 % of the total business. Separating the company’s aftermarket business division is clearly helping this business grow, with LuK India having posted double-digit growth. Poojari credited the company’s growth in the aftermarket segment to a wide range of aftermarket products it offers across all vehicle segments.
Schaeffler has a capacity planning methodology, wherein it plans production over the next three years with focus on demand, investment and capacity. The LuK India plant also comes under this planning, and therefore has adequate additional manufacturing capacity to address expected future fluctuations from the market, Poojari observed. Schaeffler India has been investing € 18-20 mn (about Rs 150 cr) annually for the last five years in all its three brands, and this is expected to increase by 2-2.5 times 2019 onwards.
With regards to the LuK India Hosur plant, investments over the past few years were averaging at Rs 35-40 cr, and this is expected to go up to ` 80-90 cr, Poojari noted. These investments have been, and would be towards continuous upgradation of manufacturing processes, assembly lines, products and capacities.
Revenue wise, Schaeffler India has been posting a CAGR of 10-15 % over the past few years. With the growing trend towards automated manual and automatic transmission systems, LuK India has certain products and is also working on new projects to address these trends. Poojari said that it is too early to talk about clutch systems for electric mobility in India, but added that on a global level the company has solutions for such electric vehicle transmissions. Therefore, the two main focus areas for LuK India would be in helping customers achieve increased fuel efficiency from internal combustion engines, and clutch systems for automatic transmissions, he noted.
TEXT: Naveen Arul
PHOTO: Naveen Arul/LuK India