Polymer bearings to propel Igus’ growth

The Germany-based Igus, which manufactures a varied range of polymer bearings, believes that burgeoning demand for its products in the Indian market will help propel growth for the company.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 15 May 2013 Views icon12990 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Burgeoning demand from OEMs for lightweight products has seen polymer bearing specialist Igus double its supplies to the Indian automotive industry in 2012-13. Jaishankar Jayaramiah reports.

The Germany-based Igus, which manufactures a varied range of polymer bearings, believes that burgeoning demand for its products in the Indian market will help propel growth for the company. Fuel efficiency has, since long, been a USP for selling vehicles in the Indian market and increasingly OEMs are looking to reduce vehicle weight by using new materials. It is here that Igus, which manufactures a variety of polymer bearings that replace heavier metal bearings, expects to consolidate gains. Speaking to Autocar Professional, Deepak Paul, national sales manager, Igus (India), says the growing awareness about the adverse impact of greenhouse gases and the resulting stringent emission norms is seeing vehicle manufacturers focus on cutting down component and vehicle weight wherever possible.

Lightweight polymer bearings
Paul says for Igus, the automotive industry is the biggest client for its polymer bearings which are broadly classified into three types – Iglidur, Igubal and Drylin. Iglidur and Igubal bearings are widely used in vehicles and help reduce overall vehicle weight as well as noise levels and are corrosion-free too. Unlike metal bearings, lubrication is not necessary for Igus bearings which means that they are almost free from maintenance and are cost effective, says Paul. The company’s polymer bearings find wide usage in vehicle sections like windshield wiper, door hinges, multi-articulation hinges, lift links and headrest in seats, gears, shock absorbers, brakes and control arms in the chassis area, shaft and column in the steering system and in various sections of the engine compartment, pedal, angle transmitter, sensors in foot pedals, actuator and fork in the gearbox. Paul claims that compared to metal bearings, these polymer bearings can reduce 60-90 percent weight in specific products.

Promise of India
At present, the company supplies 200 types of polymer bearings to around 150 players in the Indian auto industry including many leading OEMs and Tier I component makers. Every month, Igus supplies around 870,000 units of bearings to these vehicle and component manufacturers, says Paul. “Despite the slowdown in the Indian auto industry, we are still growing as we are part of many of Value Addition and Value Engineering (VAVE) projects run by various OEMs, which focus on reducing weight and cost while increasing the performance of vehicles. At this juncture, Igus products are getting good recognition in the Indian auto industry,” he adds. Igus began its operations in 1998 in India, when it had only one customer, TVS Motor. As the need for lightweight materials in the auto industry increased, the company’s business grew to 80 customers with 120 types of bearings in 2012. By 2013, the products amd and customer base almost doubled. The company has been recording 40 percent growth in the past six years. There's additional business coming from existing customers. Igus is currently participating in around 500 R&D projects – to explore the feasibility of using bearings in various vehicle areas – being conducted by 150 players in the Indian auto sector. Even if 25 percent of these projects receive approval, Igus says it will start supplying another 125 types of customised polymer bearing products to auto customers in the near future, elaborates Paul. Given that the company holds a prominent position in the global polymer bearing market, it has been supplying its products to a majority of vehicle manufacturers and Tier I component manufacturers worldwide. Now with many of the global automakers already in India, Igus is eyeing new business opportunities. In India, the company's clientele includes Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Ford India, General Motors India, Maruti Suzuki India, Eicher, TAFE, TVS Motor, Bajaj Auto, New Holland and Sonalika. The company has around 40,000 type of products under its bearings division for multiple industries. Many of its bearings are suitable for the auto industry. R&D and testing is a key area and around 8,000-10,000 tests are regularly being carried out on all its products at the company’s mega laboratory in Germany, says Paul. Igus recorded a turnover of around Rs 60 crore in 2012-13 in India, of which Rs 8 crore came from the automotive business.

Strong product line


The India growth story for the company is strong. According to Antony P Kurian, managing director, Igus (India), it sees good business potential in the automotive segment in India. Explaining how Igus products are made, he says, “Iglidur polymers are enhanced by precisely matched, reinforced and solid lubricant additives, tested thousands of times and proven over millions of cycles. The individual components are not simply applied by coating but are homogeneously blended.” With the Igubal type series, he says a complete system of self-aligning bearing elements is available for design engineers. Self-aligning bearings are easy to mount, suit all angular variations and, in many cases, have already been able to replace special housings. The Igubal bearing user utilises all advantages of high-performance plastics. They have excellent vibration dampening properties and are technically applicable in dry operation. They are insensitive to dirt, can operate in liquids and even in chemicals, and are completely resistant to corrosion. Apart from auto, Igus bearings are also used in packaging machines, textile, agricultural machinery and machine tools industries. In addition to polymer bearings, the company also manufactures polymer cable chains and high flexible cables. Its polymer cable chains help support automation in vehicle assembly lines at OEM manufacturing plants. All of Igus (India)’s products are produced at its facilities in Germany. The Bangalore plant, which is spread across 23,500 square feet, has an assembly unit, office and warehouse. The products, sourced from Germany, are provided value addition in the Bangalore unit to make them suitable for the Indian market. This year will see the unit expanded to 35,000 square feet.

Big-ticket investment in the offing?
Earlier in January this year, Marc Poensgen, Head, International Group Development-Asia, Igus GmbH, said the company grew nearly 25 times in India in the past 10 years. Igus (India) ranks first among its subsidiaries in growth percentage continuously for the past couple of years and India is the top 10 fast growing markets for Igus globally. He had said the company expects to double its growth in the country over the next three years, helping it drive its leadership in the market for plastic bearing, high flexible cables and polymer cable chains. He also said the company is continuously investing in India to enhance both its sales network as well as infrastructure for assembly, storage and distribution. It looks to expand its current network of 11 offices to 16 across the country in the coming year. That's not all. There are plans to invest in a state-of-the-art factory with the highest production standards based on lean methodologies in the near future.
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