Mutual benchm arks with VW
With its state-of-the art plant at Shikrapur, near Pune, Mutual Industries aims to bring the latest technology in injection moulding to carmakers in India.
It was around this time that Mutual got into talks with Volkswagen AG which was keen to enter India with its Polo. And as with all carmakers, localisation was crucial to launching a product at an affordable price in the country. “VW was keen to rope in a supplier which was capable of taking on development work too,” says F Walter D'Lomen, director, business development. A veteran of the plastic moulding business, D'Lomen was tasked with showing VW the facilities that Mutual Industries had and what it was capable of delivering. D'Lomen now looks back and says that it was Mutual’s breadth of experience in the business that helped it bag the Polo account.
Today, Mutual Industries supplies bumpers sets for all variants in a colour sequence straight to VW India’s assembly line, located an hour’s drive away, for the Polo. This set of front and rear bumpers are made at the 10-acre state-of-the-art plant at Shikrapur village. “VW is the benchmark for the facility,” says Dharmendra Gandhi, the 30-year veteran of Mutual’s business who is now managing director. Mutual supplies the bumper as an assembly along with the headlights to VW India As Gandhi walks through the shopfloor, he explains that the Shikrapur facility has been designed to take expand to cater to new business. Apart from the Polo, Mutual will be supplying bumpers for the Vento slated to debut later this year. The company is doing validation work on the bumpers that it has developed for the Vento.
It is also gearing up for business for the Fabia. Mutual will now supply bumpers for the face-lifted Fabia that is due later this year. Skoda Auto India aims to tweak the Fabia's price and localising bumpers is a part of that effort. Mutual Industries’ expertise in the manufacturing of injection-moulded parts has its origins in the cumulative experience of several technical alliances. Among its first was with Zimmermann AG for mould design way back in 1995. This was followed by an alliance with ECIA of France (now Faurecia) for dashoards, then DNK Plastal for exterior parts and with Mecaplast for trim and engine parts. The company has since parted ways with Mecaplast has set up its own unit in Chennai.
As a result of these alliances, Mutual has developed a body of expertise that has helped it supply parts to players in both the car and CV segments. Among its major customers is Tata Motors for which it supplies bumpers, grilles and body side moulds for the Sumo, Victa and Grande variants, as well as the Safari. It also supplies dashboards and front bumpers for the Tata Ace from its plant in Uttaranchal and spoiler assembly and small decorative parts for the Nano.
For Mahindra, Mutual supplies the Bolero's dashboard, and inner consoles and door handles for the Scorpio.
In the CV space, it supplies coolant tanks for the Mahindra Navistar, door assembly and grilles. However, its major achievement as far as the use of composites is concerned is the front panel it made for the G90 truck. It supplies in addition, front bumpers and footsteps of this particular model. Mutual Industries has two plants in Pune (the Sanaswadi unit makes medium and small parts), a unit at Silvassa, one at Uttaranchal that makes exterior parts for CVs and a tool room at Vasai.
Like all vendors, the downturn affected Mutual. A part of the shopfloor was converted into makeshift offices for staff at Shikrapur. Turnover dipped as well but with the car market looking up from January 2010, Mutual hopes to record a turnover of Rs 230 crore.
As companies globally look to replace steel with plastic composites, there’s always business that can potentially be obtained. As a result of its expertise in bumpers, Mutual is now working on bumpers that have pedestrian safety characteristics. Gandhi says: “We continue to work on projects that centre around the use of composites for various car parts.
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