The sharper edges of modern machine tools

The machine tools industry is highly hopeful. with the government firmly in place again, the machine tool industry is looking to see a surge in manufacturing

Machine tools, P ramadas, Prashant Sardeshmukh, Keshav Khurana, Wohlhaupter India, MMC Hardmetal India, Ramakant Reddy, LMT Tools India

The global machine tool industry is predicted to exceed $120 billion by 2020, according to a report by Technavio. Experts are optimistic about the market but the emergence of certain disruptive technologies may change the future of this sector. Some of the core trends that are altering the dimensions of the current machine tool industry include process automation, additive manufacturing and the rise of electric vehicles.

Indeed, the machine tool industry is booming, but not based solely on the Unites States or certain Asian countries doing well. Rather, it is because almost all major manufacturing countries around the world are doing well.

High quality products with better precision in a shorter period of time can be achieved by automating one’s production processes. The surge in this segment is owing to the rise of CNC in developed as well as developing economies.

P Ramadas.

P Ramadas, president, IMTMA, says, “The Indian machine tool industry is globally ranked 12th in production and 8th in consumption as per a Gardner Research Survey. The current market size of machine tools in India for 2017–18 was estimated to be around Rs 12,800 crore of which the domestic production accounts for about 47% of the total consumption. The industry registered an impressive growth rate of 23% during 2016–17.”
IMTMA is expecting a growth of 25-30 % in this financial year. It expects the momentum to continue for a couple of more years provided the government policies are supportive and maintained. For the next couple of years, the Indian market is very bullish as far as the metal cutting industry is concerned.

Moving forward
What will aid the future demand pattern is the big push coming from demand for machine tools in the capital goods industry and through Make in India initiatives. “Then there is the defence and aerospace industries that are expected to further drive demand for precision and technologically advanced machine tools like grinding & turning tools, and milling and drilling, in the coming years. As a result, the country has the opportunity to become a force to reckon with in machine tools manufacture, for both internal consumption and exports. This is bound to result in a significant growth in high-end machine tools production,” says Rajesh Khanna, CEO, Wendt India.

There’s a general expectation that is adding to these positive trends. The Indian industry has seen a growing need for CNC-based machine tools to achieve the precision and quality required by these new segments of user demand. It is estimated that this will spur the growth of this industry in the next 4-5 years. Another satisfying feature is that intense competition amongst players has led to product differentiation on features, service and pricing. All this has prompted manufacturers to invest in R&D and implement cutting-edge solutions that bring newer benefits to end-users. 

Tools are being developed to add material and machine as well. It is the perfect combination of additive and subtractive manufacturing. This will be a game changer as complex structures can be made more efficiently, with less weight but same structural strength.

“Process automation, additive manufacturing and the rise of electric vehicles are the three core trends that are changing the dimensions of the machine tool industry,” says Prashant Sardeshmukh, vice-president & director, MMC Hardmetal India.

Prashant Sardeshmukh.

Gautam K Ahuja, MD, Dormer Pramet, says, “Automation and smart will be the buzzwords going forward and the trend will move towards machines being interfaced with automation systems and smart controls. Adding more on this, he says, “Reduced manual intervention in process control using the machine tool control system and smart tooling will be the key to optimising costs, scrap reduction and improved machine utilisation.” Globally, many advanced manufacturing markets have adopted these technologies and the trend is set for the Indian machine tool industry to address the technology-gap and drive innovation in this direction. In addition to this, the improved quality, capabilities for machining high precision components, and improved productivity will be the key factors to stay ahead of competing markets like China.

Stating that the industry is growing at an exponential rate and is presently estimated at around Rs 6,000 crore, he said the manufacturers will need to develop capabilities to cater to the demand and investments in this area could yield long-term benefits.

Sardeshmukh adds that the industry has advanced significantly in hardware and software applications. The future includes automation of processes into manufacturing and engineering sectors. Reduced manual intervention in process control using machine tool control system and smart tooling would be the key to optimise cost, reduce scrap and improved machine utilisation.

High quality products with better precision in a shorter period of time can be achieved by automating one’s production processes. Due to the combination of combustion engines and electric motors, the degree of complexity is expected to still require high chip volumes. Apart from this, there will still exist other areas that will require the specialisation of machine tools and there is also a growing need for the industry to integrate the latest technologies and come up with smart solutions for the changing market scenario. In the presence of these trends, the global machine tool industry has to brainstorm and think of innovative new ways to seize the future market.

Buzzwords in the industry
Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a ‘smart factory’. Explaining about the term smart factory, Keshav Khurana, executive director, Wohlhaupter India, says, “Within the modular structured smart factories, cyber-physical systems monitor physical processes, create a virtual copy of the physical world and make decentralised decisions.”

The standardisation of multiple products on a single platform is possible. The advanced CAM technology is being used for multi-axis, multi-spindle, and multi-turret machines. In addition to this, the software are increasing being used for automation of manufacturing and engineering processes. Speaking more about the software applications, Khurana says, “Software applications provide an integrated view of operation through direct integration with product lifecycle management, manufacturing execution services, process planning, and enterprise resource planning systems.”

Keshav Khurana.

“The machine tools industry has evolved with the development of both hardware technology and software applications. This has resulted in machines becoming faster, intelligent, and versatile,” he adds. He believes that machines have now become multifunctional and are capable of performing a broad range of tasks inside a single set up.

Speaking about the trends that are impacting the machine tool market in India, CR Sudheendra, president, India operations, United Grinding, says, “The sentiment has been positive in most of the manufacturing sectors with the recent impetus given to make India a manufacturing hub.” He also adds that the FDI attraction into various manufacturing sectors following the ‘Make in India’ policy initiative gives a fairly clear indication of an uptick in manufacturing going forward.

Customers are also looking for fully integrated solutions from suppliers. Ramakant Reddy, MD, LMT Tools India, says, “Customers are expecting machine tool suppliers to work in the background for developing processes that meet their component demands and implement the same during actual run of the component. We have been introducing newer technologies and also providing robotic solutions as turnkey packages, along with the CNC machines, to customers, wherein the cells work unmanned around the clock.”

Ramakant Reddy.

Even if there are many positives, the machine tools industry must continually innovate to improve quality, enhance productivity by maximum machine utilisation and improved costs savings by better part control utilising automation and other smart techniques.

Ramadas says, “With the interest rates forecasted to be tending lower in the medium term, increasing domestic consumption, and the government capital spending expected to increase, the machine tool market should grow at about 13% to 15% CAGR going forward for the next few years. “We should be looking at a total machine tool market size of about $3 billion by the year 2020,” he concluded.


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