With management changes and new product lines being manufactured at their Chakan plant, LMT Tools India has a definitive blueprint for its future in the country.
by Mitalee Kurdekar
Ramakant Reddy, MD, & Mahadev Joshi, joint MD, LMT Tools India, may have just taken over the reins of the company’s India operations, but they are no strangers to its workings. Having been elevated to their current roles post the departure (to take on a global position within the organisation) of S Venkatasubramanian – a stalwart in the industry – they have big boots to fill, but also possess plenty of experience to carry out the job.
In fact, Reddy started his career with LMT Tools, and is a veteran in the tooling business, while Joshi’s expertise lies in the commercial function of the business. As a result, their responsibilities are similarly distributed. Reddy will be heading their Chakan plant as well as the gear-cutting and the export business, whereas Joshi will look after the shared services and the trading business. With both gentlemen balancing each other’s strong suits, LMT Tools India – in its current avatar – is well poised for growth.
“We call this our Version III. Version I was when we started out as a trading business in Chennai, something we did for around 10 years. Post that, in Version II, we launched the Bhosari (Pune) manufacturing facility, however, it had a limited scope for manufacturing. But with Version III, we have set up a full-fledged manufacturing plant in Chakan (Pune), and are supplying to the domestic market as well as exporting a major part of our overall production,” states Reddy.
“And, of course, our focus is more on expanding our manufacturing base. We are investing in machines and will shortly be commencing the manufacture of round tools. Following that, we have some more plans in place for 2018,” adds Joshi.
The duo’s inherent synergy is apparent, given the fact that they finish off each other’s sentences, something that bodes well for their Indian business, which has grown to around 20% of the domestic gear-cutting market, in the last year.
Reddy points out that a focus on quality, along with technology, has been the key differentiator for them in an otherwise stiff market. A walkthrough of their state-of-the-art Chakan plant proves this without a doubt. The three-acre large facility, which was set up in 2013, mainly caters to the automotive industry, making gear-cutting tools for two- and four-wheelers, and also for heavy commercial vehicles. As a matter of fact, the plant recently celebrated the production of 25,000 gear hobs. At the moment, the automotive industry makes up about 90-95% of the company’s demand. Besides this, it also supplies to the die and mould, general engineering, wind & energy, composites & plastics, medical technology, aeronautics and aerospace industries.
“The focus for the coming years, or at least this year, is on the die & mould sector, because there is a huge opportunity in India for the same. And we have the right kind of tools for this segment,” announces Reddy.
LMT Tools has the entire product portfolio that a customer might need, right from gear hobs and thread rolls to solid carbide end mills and milling cutters. Currently, they manufacture the gear hobs out of the India site, while the other products are imported from their sister concerns and stocked at the Pune facility. However, given the rising demand, they soon plan to introduce a new production line to produce shank tools at the plant.
The plant itself is around 2,000m2 and has a fully temperature-controlled, air-conditioned shop floor. They have a team of design engineers on site, dedicated to developing innovations and customising products for the Indian market, while two engineers cater to advanced tooling solutions, all the time working closely with their German counterparts.
“Customisation for value addition means that LMT Tools addresses a customer’s specific need; whether he is looking for better productivity, better tool life or reduction in cost per piece. We work out the optimum solution based on the customer’s need, something we like to call ‘exactly yours’,” says Reddy of their unique programme offering best-in-class solutions – from gear cutting, rolling, and milling to threading and advanced tooling – customised precisely for a project.
“In fact, ‘exactly yours’ describes our identity to perfection. We do everything to ensure the success of our customers. Recently – around three months back – we carried out a project for one of the leading two-wheeler manufacturers. Earlier, their scooter gears required roughing and finishing to be done in two stages. However, once we introduced our high-end tools, they have been able to finish the gears in one set-up. As a result, we eliminated another operation, they saved one machine, they saved the need for an additional worker, and they saved on additional energy use as well,” Reddy supplies.
On the trading side of things, the company offers advanced tooling along with other products, which are made-to-order. “We study the application and have particular products that are designed and engineered in Germany. So we take the help of our design team – based out of Germany – and the solution is produced custom-made for that customer. Again, the market is very competitive, so we work on a cost per component (CPC) basis. We prove the performance of our product to the satisfaction of our customer,” states Joshi.
The manufacturing process itself is vastly automated and conforms to the highest levels of quality. In fact, the plant must maintain quality to global standards as it exports 70% of its products to Europe, North America & China.
For starters, the new SpeedCore hobs from LMT Fette are manufactured out of a new cutting material which overcomes the barriers of high temperature hardness, at the same time offering sufficient toughness. With hobs using the new SpeedCore material, the cutting speed can be increased up to 70%. The customer gains significantly more parts in less time and the machine tools can be utilised more efficiently. Nearly no additional investment is necessary to increase the productivity, just the new SpeedCore material.
Since Powder Metallurgy high-speed steel is not made in India, LMT Tools India imports its entire raw material requirement from a European supplier. The material is then taken to the Soft Machining Section, where six-seven operations are carried out in a single, sophisticated machine, and, as a result, the material is ready for heat treatment. Post this procedure, machining is carried out on two separate production lines: one for bore-type hobs and another for shaft-type hobs.
Shaft-type hobs undergo Cylindrical Grinding, Rake Face Grinding, Pre-Profile Grinding and Finish Profile Grinding; while bore-type hobs go through Chamfer Grinding, Bore Grinding, Rake Face Grinding, Pre-Profile Grinding and Finish Profile Grinding. The two production lines converge with End-tooth Grinding and Edge Rounding. A Magnetic Particle Inspection is then conducted, followed by a Quality Assurance process for each piece that is produced. It is this stringent reliance on automation and quality that is helping the company develop faster.
In fact, while the LMT Group has plans to grow by 10% with 10% dedicated investment in place; on the other hand, they are targeting 10-15% investment in India. “The demand is shifting to Asian economies. Germany is quite aware of this, and they have already started the process to relocate some of the commodity/technology businesses to India. I think it is going to continue,” declares Joshi.
Reddy goes on to state that: “LMT as a group has a strategy vision document, called Vision 2020, wherein they have made provisions for investments going to India and China. It’s all going to come by 2020. If you see, we are already adding capacity in the remaining half of the plant and that will continue. And, in 2020, we may even need to build a new factory. Of course, this will depend entirely on the demand scenario at the time.”
Like with previous years, the pair is keen on continuing their investments within India, with € 1.5 million set to be invested in 2017 alone. In the same year, they will be expanding capacity by 15% at the plant, followed by another 15% in 2018, along with a similar financial investment. The strategy should help them to achieve the targeted 20% growth over last year’s revenue figures. In addition, last June, they launched the LMT Group Academy in India, in an effort to address the training needs of their 140-odd employees.
Given the strength of its products, its senior management’s expertise and progressive plans such as the introduction of new product lines in keeping with market demand, the future certainly looks rosy for LMT Tools India. After all, with plans as precise as the tools they make, there’ll be no stopping the tool-makers from achieving sustained success in the Indian market.