The Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA) organised its second (ACMA Centre for Technology) ACT Summit in Pune on January 9 and 10.
The summit this year followed the theme of innovations in manufacturing – Make in India, which is line with the component industry’s biggest concern revolving around sustainable solutions in a time of fast-changing transportation technologies.
The event saw representatives from auto OEMs and the component industry, which currently faces an open-ended question on the potential models of sustainable mobility solutions and the business ecosystem around it, discuss several emerging trends, technology innovations and disruptions, scope of building R&D capabilities and many other game-changing parameters.
As is known, the Indian auto component industry is fast upgrading itself in terms of R&D capabilities, manufacturing technologies and worker skillsets, thanks to the new legislative requirements including the stringent upcoming BS-VI emission norms, which in particular mandates zero-defect products. The zero-defect (products), zero-effect (on environment) catchphrase remained at the core of all the discussions at the two-day event.
Anant Geete, Union minister of heavy industries and public enterprises, who was also the chief guest on the first day, lauded the contribution of ACMA Centre of Technology in helping member organisations with technical support and services to meet ever-evolving industry demands. “I acknowledge the efforts put in by ACT in guiding the auto component industry in adopting international best practices and bring awareness on path-breaking technologies and development processes. The issues of the environment and technology are becoming critical and this summit is certainly an apt forum to advocate innovation and manufacturing. I congratulate ACMA on their efforts to drive the industry forward in a responsible manner and I assure that the government will extend its full support to ACMA in realising PM Modi’s vision of Make in India.”
The opening session of the ACT Summit on January 9, saw the presence of Srivats Ram, past president, ACMA; chairman ACT and managing director, Wheels India; C Narasimhan, chief mentor ACT and past president, Sundaram Clayton; and Nirmal K Minda, vice-president, ACMA and chairman and MD, Minda Industries.
The session saw the launch of a digital book on innovations in ACT clusters and a web portal (DigitalACT.in) and also the signing of MoUs between ACT and Cardiff University (UK), and with DuPont, USA for kick-starting joint programs.
Notably, the ACT summit was first organised in February 2015 to commemorate 25 years of ACT’s service to the industry. The ACMA Centre of Technology was set up in 1989 with the mandate to create excellence on the front of quality and technology in auto component industry in India.
According to the industry body, its interventions have benefited over 650 manufacturing plants in the areas of operation of excellence, new product development, zero-defect manufacturing practices and other critical aspects.
“These have resulted in enhancement of productivity conservation of space, enhanced resource efficiency, energy savings, zero-defect quality, product development capabilities and overall cost reduction,” reads an ACT document.
At the session, Srivats Ram, chairman, ACT said: “ACT clusters are now considered as a proven approach to building manufacturing excellence in the auto component sector. Over the years, ACT has successfully transformed more than 650 manufacturing plants with a special focus on upscaling the SMEs in the area of productivity, quality and manufacturing competitiveness, energy saving, better inventory management, space optimisation and total employee involvement. Besides, ACT is driving various other programs to optimise resources in such a way that there is zero-effect on the environment.”
Commenting on honing up the industry’s competitiveness and ACT’s role in the same, Nirmal K Minda said, “The Indian auto component industry is at the point of inflection, quality and technology will be the key differentiator for industry’s competitiveness. With the Make in India initiative and thrust on increased localisation by OEMs, the component industry is actively focusing on delivering enhanced quality products as well as on R&D and innovation. ACT is playing a major role in industry upgradation and I am happy to note that 300 companies including micro small, medium and large industries and OEMs are part of the existing clusters.”
Need to invest in tech
In a panel discussion on emerging design and development capabilities in the auto ancillary sector, which was moderated by Ashok Taneja, managing director and CEO, Shriram Pistons & Rings, the panelists jointly agreed that component suppliers, to ensure their survival as well as growth, will have to invest in building their own individual R&D capabilities, boost innovation by creating disruptive solutions and incessantly focus on upgrading quality on all fronts without guaranteed hand-holding by the OEMs.
“Technology is not expensive anymore. The component industry must invest in R&D innovations and quality control and work closely with the OEMs in co-creating disruptive solutions. We at Mahindra & Mahindra are looking at a supplier’s willingness and appetite for risk and investment. We are not only considering low-cost solutions but we are looking at effective combination of quality and costs, which can be dubbed as 80 percent features and 50 percent costs,” explained Lalit Verma, senior vice-president, component development and materials management, Automotive & Truck and Bus division, Mahindra & Mahindra.
Eighty percent features and 50 percent costs can be understood as a saleable combination of features that are in demand (by cutting out unnecessary features that adds on to the costs) at particular price-points in the market.
Giving his viewpoint in the context of BS VI emission norms, Verma added that “it is understood that most OEMs will opt for proven technologies in preparing for the BS VI norms as we have skipped a complete cycle and we don’t have enough time in hand. However, I believe that India is globally known for its software capabilities and I see that there is a large pool of software opportunities in the industry. Software integration is one area where we want the component fraternity to present their frugal solutions in product development stages.”
C Narasimhan, who received a lifetime achievement award for his relentless contribution to the auto component industry at the second ACT summit, cautioned the industry representatives to not make Chinese copies while doing reverse engineering of any solution. “Instead, begin from fundamentals and work on reducing the part-count and quality improvement areas. If we prevent errors in early stages, we won’t make defective products. But if we sleep over errors, defective parts will be made,” he stated.
Narasimhan, who has mentored over 500 companies in his lifetime, was given a citation by Baba Kalyani, chairman and managing director, Bharat Forge. Kalyani, who was also the chief guest on the second day of the summit, lauded the contribution of ACMA clusters over the years.
Addressing the industry in the context of rapidly changing technologies, Kalyani elaborated: “ACMA needs to bring the key stakeholders (industry, community and government) together and discuss the future of production 5-10 years from now. We need to understand what will shape up the future of production in the wake of rapid pace of fundamental transformation, which can be seen across industries such as automotive, IT, advanced manufacturing, space and others.”
“Disruptive technologies and innovations do not remain localised in one geography as the world is connected and the information is shared in no time. There is a new thrust, which is to shape the future of auto component space in India. The clusters have created expertise in the area of production, and I believe that the cluster power can be doubled in every 2-3 years. Whatever we have done in production technology in the past 15 years, we will do 4-5 times of that in the next 15 years,” he added.
The event also awarded representatives from several member companies, recognising their contributions in the areas of quality improvement, manufacturing and productivity enhancement on the shopfloor.