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Workshop sessions dig deep

The conference was structured so that high-level presentations and discussions took place in the general sessions attended by all delegates, and then the programme had break-out sessions which were used to drill down into specific operations and technologies.

For AMS India 2011 there were 12 workshops. Scroll down to read through reports of them all, or click to jump to a particular report:

  1. Body-in-white: welding, cutting and robotics
  2. Electric vehicles: development to come
  3. Environment: energy and protection
  4. Heavyweight manufacturing solutions
  5. Paintshop 1: reining in energy costs
  6. Paintshop 2: challenge from GM among the specifics of power & patterns
  7. Powertrain 1: engines & transmissions
  8. Powertrain 2: fuel quality, suspension design and modern machining
  9. Production: control & IT
  10. Production: development of OEM & supplier strategies
  11. Stamping : tool and die
  12. Welding : automation & material handling

Body-in-white: welding, cutting and robotics

Nigel Platt, global application manager, welding & cutting, ABB
Amit Bhingurde,  chief executive, and Klaus Konsek, head of sales & projects, Kuka Systems India
Rüdiger Brockmann, head of industry management, automotive, Trumpf

Performance can be improved for laser welding with robots by applying the laser software ‘over the top’ of the robot’s software, Nigel Platt of ABB told delegates at the conference session which focussed on body-in-white. This allows the two to work synchronously so the robot never has to stop moving. He showed delegates a video of 44 welds of 30 mm each being completed in 16.1 seconds, which as he noted was ‘pretty good’.

Nigel Platt of ABB

In an illustration of using robots in cutting, Platt also described how ‘tuning’ – ie iterative learning by the robot – can be applied so that it compares its own performance with a standard and applies corrections for future cycles. This is particularly useful for the challenge of cutting perfectly round holes, he noted.
Robots in continuous motion were also featured in Klaus Konsek’s description of Kuka’s Robospin methodology for welding. He said that tip dressing needed after five spot welds could be avoided until 320 welds had been achieved. Konsek showed delegate a video of a jig-less robotic operation in the company’s own development labs, which would be very useful for short-run jobs like service parts. Its very flexibility would be a challenge for human safety in a production environment, he added.

Kuka robots are used on the front & rear axle line of VW India, said Amit Bhingurde, as well as for bodyside brazing for the Tata IndiCruz model.

The challenge of splattering when laser welding zinc was addressed by Rudiger Brockmann of Trumpf, who said that significant improvements could be  made by adding dimples and gas release.  Using lasers in the right way, and for more than spot welding or laser stitching, can provide significant energy saving and reduce CO2 emissions.

In a wide-ranging discussion after the formal presentations, delegates and speakers discussed the overall cost of laser vs. conventional welding when all the factors of capital and operational spend and efficiency are taken into account. Nigel Platt gave an instance where four robots and two laser sources had replaced 16 robots carrying out conventional welding.


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Electric vehicles: development to come

Umesh Krishnappa, head of car programme, quality & validation, Mahindra Reva
Vidyadhar Humnabadkar, managing director, Curtis Instruments India

There is interest and passion in India for electric vehicles such that the old documentary ‘who killed the electric car’ no longer applies, asserted Vidyadhar Humnabadkar of Curtis Instruments. Indeed the market is on the point of being developed he said.

For the manufacturer, one of the challenges is that 75% of the bill of materials for an electric vehicle is specific to that type, in contrast to a conventional ICE vehicle which has little specific componentry.

Though there is interest, development in India are still at a nascent stage. However, Umesh Krishnappa of  Mahindra Reva did explain  to delegates the one-year collaboration with GM , and said that his company had a production capacity of 35,000 units per annum.

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Environment: energy and protection

Akash Anand, global product manager, Castrol
Pradeep Kumar, assoc general manager, automotive Schneider Electric
Markus Hachmoeller, manager solar thermal technology, EN-XL Solar Systems

Markus Hachmoeller of EN-XL Solar Systems

Growth throughout the Indian economy is driving up energy prices, and energy use efficiency is still generally low. Meanwhile, tackling environmental issues is high on the list of issues for any automotive manufacturing region, but particularly so for India which, in general economic terms, is one of the world’s largest polluters. 
Schneider Electric’s Pradeep Kumar illustrated some of the basic challenges still to be overcome in managing energy within a production facility. Energy is typically not considered at the early stages of technology selection and property development for a new facility, he said, but rather left until the post-construction/pre-operational phase.”By that time we are down at the subcontractor level,” said Kumar. And this is despite the fact that 75% of a plant’s lifetime energy use will be incurred in its use, after construction has been completed.

Applying its own energy management processes has saved between 11-25% of energy costs in Schneider's manufacturing plants, he said. The company's customers in India include Maruti Suzuki at Gurgaon, while its energy management solutions are being applied at VW's facility in Chattanooga in the US, and its energy monitoring techniques are used globally by Ford. A way of reducing the price paid for energy is for a plant to generate its own solar power. A technology which has been used at the Daimler plant in Hungary to generate energy for the paintshop there was described to delegates by Markus Hachmoeller of Eisemann-Ritter XL Solar Systems. It uses plasma-coated vacuum tubes which focus energy on water pipes, which can raise the fluid's temperature to 120 deg C even in cloudy weather. The water flows directly round the closed circuit of the plant's heating system without the need for a heat exchanger or any special fluid or additives, just as in a domestic central heating installation, said Hachmoeller. In the Delhi climate, an annual 700 kWh can be generated per square metre of installation, he said, a figure which rises to 800 kWh further south in Pune. While solar cannot be the only energy source (for one thing because of night-time operation) Hachmoeller says that output of his system is enough to provide 32% of the annual energy of a paintshop pre-treatment line operating three shifts.

Though XL Solar Systems is a joint venture with paintshop provider Eisenmann, it is available for other providers – the Daimler facility in Hungary is from Durr, for example. The company will contract to make the investment and take the risk itself in providing energy below market rates. A typical installation will have a 20-year lifetime and will pay back in 6-7 years, says Hachmoeller.

Applying its own energy management processes has saved between 11-25% of energy costs in Schneider’s manufacturing plants, he said. The company’s customers in India include Maruti Suzuki at Gurgaon, while its energy management solutions are being applied at VW’s facility in Chattanooga in the US, and its energy monitoring techniques are used globally by Ford.

A way of reducing the price paid for energy is for a plant to generate its own solar power. A technology which has been used at the Daimler plant in Hungary to generate energy for the paintshop there was described to delegates by Markus Hachmoeller of Eisemann-Ritter XL Solar Systems. It uses plasma-coated vacuum tubes which focus energy on water pipes, which can raise the fluid’s temperature to 120 deg C even in cloudy weather. The water flows directly round the closed circuit of the plant’s heating system without the need for a heat exchanger or any special fluid or additives, just as in a  domestic central heating installation, said Hachmoeller. In the Delhi climate, an annual 700 kWh can be generated per square metre of installation, he said, a figure which rises to 800 kWh further south in Pune.

While solar cannot be the only energy source (for one thing because of night-time operation) Hachmoeller says that output of his system is enough to provide 32% of the annual energy of a paintshop pre-treatment line operating three shifts. Though XL Solar Systems is a joint venture with paintshop provider Eisenmann, it is available for other providers – the Daimler facility in Hungary is from Durr, for example. The company will contract to make the investment and take the risk itself in providing energy below market rates. A typical installation will have a 20-year lifetime and will pay back in 6-7 years, says Hachmoeller.

This system was described in this article in the Automotive Paintshop Solutions supplement to AMS magazine in Sep 2011. His presentation at the conference  won Hachmoeller the AMS India/Siemens Award for Environment, made for the best contribution in this field over the two days of the event.

Turning to environmental protection, delegates attending this break-out session also heard from Castrol of the benefits of using a common ester for all machining purposes – washing, honing, cooling and tramp oil. Using the same oil for hydraulic systems also avoids any issues where leakage runs into the coolant, said Akash Anand. He said an engine plant in the UK had been able to save $1 million over five year in return for $80K of capital expenditure.

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Heavyweight manufacturing solutions

CR Ravi, general manager, project planning, Ashok Leyland
Santharam Raghavan, process & quality manager, Caterpillar India
Digambar Parkhi, head of advanced manufacturing engineering, emission controls, Tenneco

Ashok Leyland’s first foray into light commercial vehicle (LCV) production was the subject of C R Ravi’s presentation. He showed the adaptation of an engine line, formerly producing a 6-cylinder  heavy truck diesel engine, to manufacturing an entirely new 3-cylinder lightweight common-rail turbocharged diesel to power the company’s new Dost 1.5-tonne LCV.  Highlights included a clever use of laminar air flow technology to create a virtual clean room as part of the line, avoiding the need for a dedicated enclosed space to assemble the cleanliness-critical common rail fuel system components. Also impressive was the speed at which the new engine was designed, developed, tested and brought to market, using just one round of testing by an outside contractor; he spoke of how the Ashok Leyland management had challenged the engine team to develop the new engine ‘locally’ and be ready for mass production in 28 months.

Ravi was followed by Santharaman Raghavan of Caterpillar who talked of the special challenges of heavyweight manufacturing; the challenges of handling the large sizes of mining truck components. He pointed out the need for in-line measurement as an error in an early stage of casting or machining of parts that have takt times measured in minutes and hours (and not seconds as in automotive manufacturing) can have much greater knock-on effects. Raghavan also appealed to the supplier community to make the considerable investments required to service the needs of the heavy vehicle industry, and talked of how ‘normal’ automotive suppliers often struggled to cope with the long lead times and sheer size of the parts required.

The Heavyweight panel was joined by Digambar Parkhi who answered questions on the progression of emissions legislation and how India was moving towards Euro IV and V diesel technology, and how suppliers such as Tenneco could work with the OEMs to meet forthcoming regulations.

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Paintshop 1: reining in energy costs in fast-growth markets

Pavel Svejda,  key account mgr, application technology ,and Samar Bijoy Paul, GM India sales  Durr Systems
Bodo Mayer, senior manager sales, automotive,  Eisenmann
Junzo Sappa, manager of planning, automation office, paint finishing, Taikisha-Geico

Bodo Mayer of Eisenmann

Pavel Svejda and Samar Bijoy Paul made a joint presentation covering Durr’s modular paintshop concepts. Svejda noted that modern paint booths were allowing for even greater efficiencies; and despite an increase in volumes, paintshop-related emissions were falling and other environmental factors were being addressed through the use of new methods.

This, he explained, was due to the use of technologies including the modular paintshops offered by Durr. As a working example, Svejda highlighted the installation at JMC Nanching. While this is a high-efficiency installation, he went on to say that the shop was able to process a wide variety of models of different physical size. This could be traced back to various elements incorporated in the modular paintshop setup, which reduced the average number of robots used from 58 to 21 units. Further, a three-wet system eliminated the need for separate flashing between application booths, reducing the amount of raw energy required to operate the plant. Speaking about the latest technology from Eisenmann, Bodo Mayer said that the company had developed a range of installations especially designed for fast-growing new markets. When installed at OEM and tier supplier companies including Mahindra & Mahindra and Motherson Sumi, the paintshops were designed to dramatically reduce energy usage. The backdrop was that energy-related costs had doubled over the past 10 years, said Mayer, and were expected to double again over the next five years. Speaking on behalf of Taikesha-Geico, the newly-formed partnership between the Japanese and Italian paintshop providers, Junzo Sappa also covered technologies designed to reduce operating costs. As part of this, he noted that using the company’s dry filtration booths, instead of water, would improve recycling rates by 42%, while CO2 output would be slashed by almost 24%. He also noted that should the user increase usage ratios, then there would be a proportional increase in savings.

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Paintshop 2:  challenge from GM among the specifics of power and patterns

Satyendra Kumar Garg,  general manager, manufacturing , General Motors
Ulrich Schrikel, key account manager,  Siemens
Gilbert Lotito, automotive director, Kremlin Rexson Sames

General Motors’ Talegaon plant expansion to produce the Spark and Beat was the subject of Satyendra Garg’s presentation, which focused on the time and cost savings made by using the GM generic vehicle envelope paintshop design on a greenfield site.

The use of pre-cast concrete (unusual for an Indian greenfield plant construction)  saved $2.2 million of conventional methods, said Garg, who spoke with great pride of the 17.4 million man-hours without an accident during construction. He cited how the OEM’s Bill of Process system, combined with its Bill of Materials, produces a common Bill of Equipment, based on assembly plant production and labour rate ‘norms’ throughout the company. Much of this can be directly applied to every GM production facility.

A great deal of 3D virtual modelling was used to design the facility and perfect the layout, for clash avoidance  and optimal ergonomics.  Simulation extended to modelling the various paint processes, including e-coat film build, with reference to the various base materials. These included plain and zinc-coated steel and aluminium. Garg talked of the strong emphasis on employee training, citing 6-14 days of classroom tuition, followed by 3-12 weeks of on-the-job training.

Satyendra Kumar Garg of General Motors

He pointed out an unfashionable statistic and challenged the providers at the conference: “The paintshop is traditionally responsible for 56% or more of the total power consumption of a plant, and we must bring this down using the new technologies from the paintshop and other equipment makers. This is not just our challenge, it is yours too.”

Energy saving through totally integrated automation was the catchphrase of Ulrich Schrickel's presentation. He showed a Siemens automation concept process called CCR – central control room – that combines monitoring and power management through central engineering via the Profinet communication network. On the human front, Schrickel talked of the company's Global Team Motivation protocol; how Siemens works with the OEM and the paintshop provider with emphases on speed to market and energy saving. On specifics of the process, he covered the new rectifier system that moderates current more exactly than in the past to better ensure a homogenous coating layer in all paint processes.

Examples in his presentation included the Porsche paintshop in Stuttgart, where Siemens had retrofitted the rectifier system to save energy, and a greenfield paint plant at GAMC in China, where RFID systems for body tracking and storage control reduced cost and waste.

Paint plant componentry was covered by Gilbert Lotito of Kremlin Rexson Sames as he took delegates through the finer parts of the application process, defining the differences between internally- and externally-charged paint bells with some microscopic illustrations of application patterns. After showing case studies at Volvo Sweden, Suzuki Hungary, Honda and Nissan in Japan, and VW in Germany, Lotito made the bold forecast that Europe and the Americas will have switched to 80% water- and 20% solvent-borne paint products within the next five years.

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Powertrain 1: engines & transmissions

Senthilkumar Rathinam, head of process engineering, Renault Nissan Tech Centre India
Steven Gray, global technical programme manager for fine machining, Kennametal
Sharad Kulkarni, deputy general manager, Sandvik Coromant

Steven Gray of Kennametal

The first of  AMS India Conference’s two breakout sessions on powertrain focussed on both people and technology. Senthilkumar Rathinam of Renault Nissan described the contrast between running a plant in India (in Chennai) and  a similar facility in Europe. The technical centre has just 55 people but the whole plant has 3,500, of whom 65% are under 34 years old and have an average of 20 months experience. In Europe a typical average is 10 years of experience.
He also described the challenges still facing the two OEMs, despite the fact  that their alliance was forged in 1999 and that there are common objectives, in the different philosophies of the two companies. 

Turning to more practical aspects, Steven Gray of Kennametal described the dramatically tighter tolerances now being demanded in grinding processes. He said the company had just received a request for valve seat roundness with a tolerance of 4 microns, a level unheard of even a few years ago when typical values were 15 microns. In a presentation titled 'Controlling the radius', he said that the issue of roundness "will only become more important," driven as it is by ever-tightening engine emission standards. He said that techniques used in aerospace, like using glue rather braising for cam bores, are being imported to help keep tools straight by avoiding thermal stress. On cutting, Sharad Kulkarni of Sandvik Coromant addressed the issue of reducing vibration. Optimising data from prior activity can save up to 15% on a component's cost, he said, and pointed out that saving money on tooling was a false economy since it accounted for only a small proportion of the finished components cost. Kulkarni also gave delegates practical tips and a trouble-shooting guide for improving milling and turning.

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Powertrain 2: fuel quality, suspension design and modern machining

Gurpratap Boparai, head of powertrain, Fiat India
Saaurabh Mohan Saxena, general manager, strategic business development,  ZF Hero Motors
Willi Nef, head of sales, Tornos

 

Saaurabh Mohan Saxena, of ZF Hero Motors

A focus of fuels came from Gurpratap Boparai, who summarised for delegates the benefits and drawbacks of various types, and how they would affect future powertrain and engine launches by Fiat into the Indian market. For diesel, he said that Fiat would look to launch engines with common rail injection technology into India, but that there was still an issue of whether fuel of a sufficient standard was available to support these engine types.

CNG, already widely used across India, would also become a standard in Fiat models, said Boparai, particularly as petrol engines require little work in order to convert them to use the cheaper fuel, which also offer lower well-to-wheel CO2 output.

On electric cars, Boparai said that while battery storage technology is getting stronger, the local cost and availability of electricity could slow adoption of this vehicle type. In finishing, he stated that Fiat favoured using different powertrains and  fuels for different jobs: hybrids and diesels for LCVs; electric for utility vehicles; and diesel for trucks and extra urban. 

Saurabh Mohan Saxena of ZF Hero Motors outlined how the company was developing a new type of axle based on a leafspring design. He said that this format was ideal for India, as the low-cost solution gave individual wheels free travel, much like a fully-independent set-up. Additionally, he noted the trend for OEMs to increasingly outsource part production. Outlining a specific case with Maruti Suzuki, Saxena described how, in delivering completed knuckle assemblies to the OEM, the carmaker had been able to take 23 individual parts off its total inventory. Rounding out the session, Willi Nef outlined the latest machining equipment that Tornos has to offer India's OEMs and tier suppliers.He announced that the Swiss company would be setting up a permanent office in India in 2012 – addressing one of the complaints from OEMs heard during the conference of the lack of local support. Nef was keen to highlight the fact that the machines offered in India were the same as those made available in any other region of the world, which would assure local customers that they were getting the latest technology.

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Production: control & IT

Ajay Purohit,  technical chief, craftsmanship, tools & rapid prototyping , Tata Motors
Nitin Nair, of, Siemens
Andre Cote, vice president, worldwide business development,  Omni-ID
Andre Hack, strategic industry manager, SICK

The general consensus of speakers in the Production control and IT session at the AMS India conference was that standardized RFID technology could improve operational efficiency and reduce manufacturing costs.

In his presentation, Ajay Purohit covered how TATA was using in-line, non-contact  measurement to improve body-in-white operations by predicting upstream process results, such as part spring back in the press shop.

Following on from this, Nitin Nair spoke about how products from Siemens could help standardize the mechanicals, electrical, design elements of a production plant. He said that installing such a system would vastly improve overall performance, while such technology could also be extended outside the facility to help with supply chain issues.

Ajay Purohit of Tata Motors

Andrea Cote highlighted the fact that Omni-ID was delivering RFID products that could be useful across inbound and outbound product , helping to make movement “quicker, faster and more accurate”. Further to this, he said the technology could help with reducing ‘shrinkage’ or missing parts, in that it simplified the taking of inventory. Instead of calculating inventory every year, he noted that it could be done on  a monthly basis using RFID tracking on dunnage and trollies, which would allow full asset utilization.

Following on from this, Nitin Nair spoke about how products from Siemens could help standardize the mechanicals, electrical, design elements of a production plant. He said that installing such a system would vastly improve overall performance, while such technology could also be extended outside the facility to help with supply chain issues. Andrea Cote highlighted the fact that Omni-ID was delivering RFID products that could be useful across inbound and outbound product , helping to make movement "quicker, faster and more accurate". Further to this, he said the technology could help with reducing 'shrinkage' or missing parts, in that it simplified the taking of inventory. Instead of calculating inventory every year, he noted that it could be done on a monthly basis using RFID tracking on dunnage and trollies, which would allow full asset utilization.

Speaking about new RFID-based technologies from Sick, Andre Hack outlined how the company had developed a system that used the same RFID tag to indentify car bodies moving through the various production processes, thus eliminating potential errors when data was transferred between tags as a specific process was completed.

As an example, Hack said that the new RFID tags featured a UHF read/write system that could be read from up to five metres while the vehicle was static or in motion. Attached to the front bumper of the chassis, the tags could withstand the heat of the paintshop and they could still be read after the plastic bumper cover was applied in final assembly. While the tags could only be used once, as they would become an integral part of the finished car (which would also help in dealer delivery), the cost of each unit was approximately 50 cents.

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Production: development of OEM & supplier strategies

Jaywant Tawardi, Consultant Advisor, Tata Motors
SivaramanMargabandu, general manager, Delphi TVS Diesel Systems
Digambar Parkhi, head of advanced manufacturing engineering, emission controls, Tenneco
Venkatesh Agaram,director of automotive & industrial strategy, PTC

The long lead time needed by tier suppliers in India was emphasised by Delphi TVS and Tenneco in the conference break-out session focussed in development strategies.

At least 24 months are needed to establish manufacturing capacity, with another six months in addition for staff recruitment and training, said Sivaraman Margabandu of Delphi TVS. The joint venture is 21 years old, and along with Denso and Robert Bosch, is one of only three suppliers of diesel injectors to the Indian market. Its most recently-added facility was established in Chennai in 2009 to manufacture common rail injectors.

TVS is an Indian group which has revenues of $5 bn and this year reached its 100th anniversary. The jv is also a supplier of brakes, wheels, turbos and lighting among other components, and is expanding vigorously. Its traditional largest customer has been Tata, but supply to Mahindra, started only four months ago, has already grown as big.

Tenneco’sDigambar Parkhi told delegates that he “hasn’t seen any product development done in less than three years in India, and bemoaned the lack of standardisation. He gave an example of pipe gauges, where there are standards in Japan and standards in Europe but both a different to standards in India, leading to uncertainty of which to supply. During the session Castrol’s Akash Anand commented on the need to adopt a co-engineering strategy with suppliers in India, rather than the traditional method of asking them to build to a customer’s specification.

A good overview of the product development process was given by PTC’s Venkatesh Agaram. While not being specific to the automotive sector, he distinguished between spend on improvements in performance which reinforce the basic and unarticulated expectation of the product, and so have low pay-back,  and modest spend on unarticulated and ‘surprise’ improvements, which have a disproportionately high return in customer satisfaction.

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Stamping: tool and die

Nader Asnafi, vice president R&D , Uddeholm
Klaus Rothenhagen, vice president international sales, AIDA
Per-Ake Bustad, area technical manager, automotive, SSAB

Vehicle weight versus fuel efficiency was a recurring topic at the 2011 AMS India conference. Uddehlom’s Nader Asnafi addressed OEM concerns by noting that the company’s steel products, when used in BIW, could reduce overall vehicle mass, leading to improved fuel economy – of particular importance when developing electric vehicles.

Nader Asnafi of Uddeholm

Specifically covering weight reduction in BIW, Asnafi covered how Uddeholm steel was being used in production of the latest Volvo models. He stated that six steel grades were being combined in the bodyshell in order to gain the greatest benefit with regards to weight and strength. Going further, he outlined how the increased use of ultra high-strength steels was translating to a related increase in the amount of hot-stamped parts.

With regard to tooling steels, Asnafi said that shortened vehicle lifecycles have meant that a reduced number of finished vehicles would have to 'bear the burden' of tooling costs for that model. While collaboration between steelmakers could help to reduce the cost of these products, it was essential that toolmakers understand the basic structure of the steel before forming tools in order to get the best performance and longevity, he said. Klaus Rothenhagen covered the latest technology additions to the range of AIDA press lines. Of primary importance was the company's 'pendulum' technology, which when used in a 'slow press' motion could help to reduce energy usage by up to 40%.

Commenting on the company's most recently-installed press lines, Rothenhagen noted that the world’s largest servo press had recently been placed by AIDA at a Magna/Cosma facility in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, for delivery of parts to Mercedes-Benz  in Tuscaloosa and Volkswagen in Chattanooga.

Per-Ake Bustad of SSAB (Swedish Steel) also highlighted the company’s drive to deliver steels designed to reduce overall vehicle weight and improve fuel economy. “Advanced high-strength steel is a cost-efficient was to improve safety and cut weight,” he stated.

Explaining how AHSS usage had increased over the last 15 years, Bustad noted that in 1998 the average Fiat model incorporated about 10% high-strength steel; the proportion of the same material in the latest 500 model was almost 50%. Bustad said that, despite the high martensitic content of these steels, they could still be cold formed, thus increasing efficiency and reducing cost.

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Welding: automation & material handling

Selvam Ganesan, manager central manufacturing engineering , Mahindra & Mahindra
Sanjeev Puri, chief manager, press shop, International Cars & Motors
Ray Singh Rathee, managing director, Kuka Robotics

Mahindra’s new SUV, the XUV 500 model, was showcased in Selvam Ganesan’s presentation on welding automation. This is the first monocoque SUV developed and manufactured in India and raises both engineering and customer expectation to a new level.

He told delegates of the challenge in producing an entirely new model: “Today’s customer [in India] demands quality, quality, quality," he said, and told delegates how this could only be satisfied by a monocoque vehicle. The major challenge was in weld integrity in the BIW, and Ganesan showed a video illustrating the joining requirements of the various steel sections used to achieve a first for an India-designed and manufactured vehicle – an SUV that has won a 5 Star NCAP crash test rating.

Sanjeev Puri of International Cars & Motors

He presented the voltage and current regulation curves of the welding process, and noted how the system had to be precisely controlled to achieve the maximum strength and weld integrity: “On top of this, we have some voltage supply fluctuations from the Indian electricity grid to contend with," he said. This is particularly pertinent as India has no domestically-produced high-strength steels. He rounded off the presentation with a demonstration slide of two dissimilar sheets of steel, welded together with a business card in between to such accuracy that the card was hardly burnt!

This presentation at the conference won Ganesan the AMS India/Siemens Award for Innovation, made for the best contribution in this field over the two days of the event. International Car and Motors is situated in the far north of India, close to the border with Pakistan. This results in the company having one of the longest supply chain distances in the world – up to nine days for large loads. Sanjeev Puri presented International's novel solutions to this dilemma; its high level of vertical integration, from gear manufacture to plastic part injection moulding.

He gave a case study on rationalising the design and production of a front fender, showing how a re-design reduced manufacturing operations and how a re-organisation of the production flow helped cut the total operation time  by 60%.

Kuka India’s managing director Raj Singh Rathee outlined the company’s robotics training centre, and how employees, customers and now students were invited to experience the latest technology. “This training is especially important in India as it can be a long way for the Kuka technician to travel to a customer. If a problem can be resolved in-house, we can keep production running better for our customers.”

Many presenters at the conference talked of energy saving and ‘intelligent’ power networks. Rathee highlighted the savings possible using the new generation of robots, with their increasing levels of software integration replacing hardware, and how ‘staged’ automation can economically replace or supplement manual tasks, with robots working closer to operators than in the past. Questions from delegates included an enquiry from Digambar Parkhi of Tenneco on the finite life of a robot, and how companies like Kuka plan to support older robots with spare parts. “I can assure you," said Rathee," that under Indian laws we must keep spares available for at least 10 years.”

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