A centre of knowledge created by and for manufacturing companies
Manufacturing tech centres have become hubs of knowledge and competence that help vendor and customers alike
Manufacturing tech centres bring the concept of industry-academia collaboration into a reality. More often than not, they are R&D centres that sometimes also double up as proof of concept centres. Very often, the day to day workings of such centres are managed by a team of faculty members or quality and R&D heads. Considering that products are getting more complex, it is in the benefit of companies to encourage tech centres that allows customers to grasp the nuances of the product and also suggest changes that the company could incorporate to make it better.
In the recent past, many MNCs have announced their decision to make India the hub for technology centres. This is not surprising considering the rising number if engineers and lower costs.
Companies are required to regularly upgrade tech centres with novel technologies and innovations. Speaking about the India technology centre, Manish Singhal, business director, general manufacturing & maintenance India, Henkel Adhesives Technologies India, says, “Our India technology centre has become a one stop solution for our strong customer base in South Asia, Middle East, and Africa. Located in one of the largest industrial and automotive hubs, our Pune innovation centre is the company’s first research lab in India and the largest in the region. It has strengthened our footprint in India and facilitated our customers’ exposure to global innovation and practices.” Spread across 27,000 sq-ft, the state-of-the art facility is equipped with dispensing systems, component testing facilities, application training, product development and engineering facilities, thereby, ensuring best-in-class adhesive solutions to customers.
Since inception, the Centre has catered to the customers’ needs by indigenously developing an array of products for the local markets. For example, LOCTITE PC 7000 is a high temperature resistant coating offering protection from abrasion up to 1200°C. This is a water-based, environmentally responsible system and is a breakthrough product for power plant maintenance practices across the world. Another one, LOCTITE EA E102 is a high viscosity industrial grade epoxy adhesive. It bonds dissimilar materials including aluminum, steel, and other metals, a variety of plastics and ceramics. It also offers superior thermal shock resistance, excellent mechanical and electrical properties while withstanding exposure to a wide variety of solvents and chemicals.
Similarly, Walter Tools India offers a complete solution to its customers through the technology centre looking for prototype component development. Over the years it has expanded its offer and support in all aspects of machining processes. Brajesh Kumar, MD, Walter Tools India, says, "Earlier, we used the Tech Center for training, testing and process improvement activities and now we provide turnkey project solutions. The solutions ensure the maximum material removal, shortest possible machining times, improves process reliability and reduces set-up requirements. This has improved our capability to provide complete machining solutions which includes tooling, fixturing and programming as a package. We have provided these solutions to customers in aerospace, automotive and general engineering segments."
Manufacturing tech centres are expected to develop and prove innovative manufacturing processes and technologies in an agile, low risk environment. The Spark Minda Technical Centre (SMIT) at Pune nurtures innovations to create breakthrough solutions tailored to address the market requirements. It actively pursues opportunities in the area of new generation technologies like connected, autonomous, electrified mobility solutions, body control and multi-function controllers, smart security and vehicle access solutions, etc. SMIT is also exploring incubation of future technologies like deep llearning, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, smart vehicles technologies, prognosis and diagnosis. Suresh D, group CTO, Spark Minda, says, “Our R&D centre is equipped with world-class EMI-EMC laboratory which is NABL accredited now. This facility will further strengthen our position to offer the new technology in the field of electronic, electrical and mechatronic products which meets the stringent automotive norms. Having this facility in house will enable us to offer well tested and proven solutions in an agile way and faster time to market to meet the OEM demands."
Continuing its commitment for Indian market, PCA Motors India, part of Groupe PSA, opened its new India Technical Center [ITC] in Chennai. The new ITC will play a key role in smoother and more efficient working of the employees of PSA India. Eric Apode, senior VP, PCA Motors India, said, “The new India Technical Centre will allow the group to accelerate quickly its growth in India, through the development of new products and deployment of our strategy in and outside India. The area around our new centre is popular for housing dozens of international and Indian companies. This gives the Groupe strong confidence of attracting Indian talent to the new ITC. The Monozukuri philosophy, the art of creating objects in an efficient and effective way is now taking shape with our new India Technical Centre, which will benefit group operations domestically and globally.”
What they offer
The tech centres usually operate some of the most advanced manufacturing equipment in the world, and employ a team of highly skilled engineers, many of whom are leading experts in their field. This creates a high quality environment for the development and demonstration of new processes and technologies on an industrial scale.
Singhal says, "Some of our recent additions to this centre are the MRO (Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul) Product and Application Development Centre and the Acoustic lab. The MRO Product and Application Development Centre is focused on the development of innovative products for our customers and mimic the application environment, test and improve the products. This end-to-end process has garnered a lot of support from our customers as this service provides them the surety that they are working with the best solutions for their maintenance needs."
The acoustic lab offers cutting-edge solutions to meet the evolving and challenging requirements of customers in the area of Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH). The lab facilitates product and component level testing for different applications as per international standards.
The MRO centre is divided into two sections. The first section is the product development centre which has the capability to develop innovative products right from the scratch. The second is the test lab where it mimics the application environment and see how its products will perform. This works very well for customers and limits the scope of trial and error, further speeding up the whole process at their end. Henkel also trains its internal team and customers on the best practices to use its products to maximise the benefits at this centre. Moreover, the company invites key decision makers from the manufacturing and process industry to visit the facility to get insights.
Minda Corporation and ANSYS recently inaugurated a joint Centre Of Excellence. The CoE aims to strengthen and further improve the capability of finite element analysis in emerging automotive areas. SMIT and ANSYS is set to work towards emerging automotive areas like connected mobility, pure electric and hybrid electric vehicles, and advance driver-assistance systems (ADAS) with this CoE. It will collaborate for virtual simulation in upcoming technology areas such to improve the performance and reliability. The venture will test and amplify the technical capabilities of legacy and non-legacy products of Minda Corporation. It will nurture innovations to create breakthrough solutions tailored to address the market requirements and actively pursue opportunities in the area of new generation technologies such as connected mobility, ADAS, electrified mobility, body control and multi-function controllers, smart security and vehicle access solutions, etc.
SMIT has the latest test and measurement equipment, development tool chains & environment and fully operational laboratory for supporting development of embedded software and hardware. The CoE will facilitate capacity building of company in advanced simulations. There are state-of-the-art EMI-EMC (Electromagnetic interference & Electromagnetic compatibility) test facility to cater to complete suite of design and product validation tests.
Similarly, Walter Tools often talks about Engineering Kompetenz. Kumar says, "In the current scenario, that is the only thing customers expect us to deliver. It could be process, tooling, or commitment about cost reduction per component during the machining. And in this, particularly, the Technology Centre is helping us to prove all these things in the actual manufacturing atmosphere. So, my customers can come to this centre and see for themselves. This helps us strengthen their belief and trust. Many times, customers don’t want to carry out developmental activities at their production lines. So, they need a competent partner to work with them. That’s where we play a role. We help them develop certain complex components and ensure this partnership is going to help them in completing their developmental projects satisfactorily."
The objective is clearly defined: At Tech Centre in Walter AG, it's creating a research factory for solutions that will become future reality. This applies to materials and machining processes, as well as digital elements. The Technology Centre allows customers, trade partners and employees to follow the individual machining processes live.