Auto sector registering double-digit growth and Make-in-India initiative are already driving the demand for auto bearings to all-time highs. There is more to come...
Indian automotive industry is slated to become the third-largest manufacturing hub in the world, over the next decade. In turn, auto component manufacturers are going the extra mile to meet the projected demand in line with the growth.
Ken Research announced its latest publication on “India Bearings Market Outlook to 2019” that is expected to cross over $4 billion benchmark by 2019. Furthermore, as per available market information, the ‘Make in India’ initiative will drive the OE segment and will result in a CAGR of above 12 per cent in the next five years.
In addition, the bearing industry will also be fuelled by a growth in other industry sectors like construction and mining equipment, machine tools, agriculture tractors, diesel engines and so on. This makes the business environment ideal for existing players and will be a major attraction for global players who are so far not present in the country. As per the Planning Commission’s estimates, the government has planned substantial investment in the 12th Five-Year Plan which has been aggregated at about 1 trillion. This infrastructure spending will lead to growth in the manufacturing sector, which in turn will have a positive impact on bearings industry.
All moving parts of automobiles require bearings to function. Some major sub-systems are engines, gearboxes, transmissions, wheels, steering, electrical motors, pumps etc. Interestingly, even wipers, rear view mirrors, door and bonnet hinges also need bearings for smooth functioning. Depending upon the function, the appropriate type and size is used by OEMs. All told, there are over 50,000 sizes of various configurations of bearings required by the industry. As per available information, the local established industry players produce approximately 5,000 sizes leaving the gap of 45,000 sizes for imports. Out of this, around 50 per cent of the requirement is met by MNCs directly and the balance comes from CIS, China, Korea and others.
It is difficult to accurately estimate the market size for automotive bearings as it is fragmented. There are a large number of unorganised players, and sourcing in the aftermarket space is still a grey area. However, taking into account the sales projections of the OEM industry and engine manufacturers presented in the AMP 2016-26 by SIAM and ACMA, the numbers are expected to be in excess of several billion spread over the same period.
Rohit Saboo, President & CEO, National Engineering Industries Ltd, echoes, “The bearing industry in India as well as globally is on a positive growth trend. The future growth of bearings industry is expected to be led by industrial production as well as demand from automobile sector. The global demand for bearings is expected to reach around a 100 billion by 2018 and the demand for ball, roller and plain bearings is projected to rise 7.3 per cent annually. According to a new research on “India Bearings Market Outlook to 2019”, the sector is expected to cross over $4 billion benchmark by 2019. The bearings market in India is very dynamic and competitive where machine and manpower play an integral role.” He adds, “NBC’s manufacturing prowess boasts of a vast range of bearings that cater to diverse applications in various industries like Automotive, Industrial and Railways. NBC is capable of developing bearings from 10 mm bore to 2,000 mm outer diameter, in over a 1000 sizes. We manufacture all types of ball bearings: taper roller bearings, double row angular contact (DRAC) bearings, cylindrical roller bearings, spherical roller bearings and special along with axle boxes for Railway Rolling Stock. In 2016-2017, one of our key focus areas is on shifting from standard bearings to new generation bearings which would be bearings with higher life and lesser friction.”
“Elevation in heavy, general, automotive and other industries has transpired the growth of the bearings sector in India. The focus on renewable energy will further lead to the increased demand for bearings as wind and water turbines require heavy usage of bearings. The prominent steps taken by the government will further encourage the bearings manufacturing in India,” comments Saboo towards growth prospects in other sectors.
To begin with, it is imperative to note that automakers and allied auto component suppliers in the country no longer cater exclusively to the domestic market. In both spaces, significant percentage of their goods is exported to global consumers. As a result, the latest generation and technically superior vehicles and components are being produced to meet the expectations and requirements of such markets. In parallel, the awareness and acceptance of similar high-tech and advanced engineered vehicles have significantly caught the fancy of domestic consumers.
“We started our export journey with $5 million in 2009 and it has multiplied seven times over the last five years. Currently, exports make up 16 per cent of the company’s total revenue. NBC exports to more than 23 countries and the distribution network is fast expanding. Worldwide demand for bearings which was $48 billion in 2007 grew at 6.4 per cent to $66.2 billion in 2012 and is expected to increase eight percent per year to $95 billion in 2016 and leveraging on the trend, NBC too is poised to further increase its export focus. Leading customers from the US, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Australia and other countries have entrusted NBC with their critical product requirements,” confirms Saboo.
The trend is evidenced by the fact that almost all automotive megatrends like light weighting, energy efficiency, emission compliance, connectivity, electronic sensing and others have found substantial acceptance by automobile manufacturers in India. In turn, the bearing industry is on a fast track to deliver new generation bearings, based on design concepts to reduce noise, vibration, weight reduction, endurance and other performance parameters.
Many manufacturers have resorted to use of alternate materials, even ceramic materials for that matter, and high-end design concepts to retain the shape of the bearings, minimise wear and also carry away or embed the carbon generated from the lubricants, due to extremely hot operating conditions, within the bearing itself. A very significant example in the sliding friction type of bearings: Quadri metal, thin shell bearings for crankshafts and connecting road.
Alternatively, for other applications, use of integrated sintered bearings is on the rise. Use of suitable sintered material composition also provides self-lubricating properties in dry condition, thereby eliminating the requirement of external lubricants.
On the other hand, anti-friction bearings of types like deep groove ball, cylindrical roller, tapered roller, spherical roller, needle roller, thrust and others in all sizes are required for automotive application in substantially larger number compared to the sliding friction bearings mentioned above.
Saboo informs, “NBC manufactures a wide variety and range of bearings for Automotive, Industrial and Railways applications. We develop bearings from 10 mm bore to 2,000 mm outer diameter. The product range includes Ball Bearings, Tapered Roller Bearings, Double row Angular Contact (DRAC) bearings, Cylindrical and Spherical Roller bearings. NBC bearings are widely used by two- and three-wheelers, cars, trucks, tractors, electric motors, railway wagons, coaches and locomotives, steel mills, heavy engineering plants, bulldozers, shovels, tillers and thermal power plants. In terms of product segments, we are further looking at leveraging Gen 3 bearings for passenger cars, Gen 1 taper roller bearing for SUV and preset hubs for commercial vehicles.”
“Bearing material technology is rapidly changing. Advanced materials are introduced into bearings, making products more reliable and light in weight. Hybrid bearings are good example of advanced alternate materials. Rolling elements (balls) made of materials like ceramics are becoming popular in bearings which provide superior values like higher wear resistance, reduced need for lubrication, lower friction, higher stiffness, non-corrosive, higher tolerance to contamination. We are working on hybrid bearings developments. However, currently hybrid bearing are expensive and suitable for special application conditions,” he adds.
On the customer focus, Saboo says, “We always work closely with our customers to understand their future needs and align our product development to offer superior value to customer. We do offer customised products as per customer applications and also develop specific objective bearings. Recently, we have developed "Optimile" bearings with special heat treatment process which offers extended bearing life as per customer requirement.”
Integrated products are key requirement of automobile industry in recent times. “We have developed integrated products for wheel applications, differential pinion applications. We continuously add new products to our portfolio and which are helping us to fulfil customer requirements,” says Saboo.
“As an organisation, we also focus on advanced coating technologies to provide application specific advantages to bearings like wear resistance coating for extended life bearings. We continuously strive to provide superior value to customers by offering products meeting specific application need using advanced material and coating technologies,” explains Saboo on his company’s stance on technology.
All bearing majors present in the country offer the new generation bearings to Indian customers.
Traditionally, by virtue of the application requirements, bearing manufacturing processes have been built around the principles of high precision, accuracy, stringent material control, consistent quality and mass production. In today’s context these principles still apply. However, disruptive elements in product design like lower machining tolerances, higher precision, use of alternate bearing materials, bearing performance parameters, product flexibility, much larger scale of business, trending to zero rejection, minimising human errors and, most significantly, maintaining a competitive edge in the market, are game changers driving the industry to adopt state of art manufacturing equipment and management systems. The Industry 1.0 revolution started with mechanisation is now at Industry 4.0 - the concept of integrating IoT with manufacturing.
Saboo explains, “Excellence in quality and precision performance are constant hallmarks of all NBC products. Our product portfolio allows NBC to cater to various segments other than automobiles, such as railways and aftermarket. The company intends to offer customers a product which is able to match its application and lifetime expectancy and thus the complete ecosystem of designing and delivering the product. Dialogue, Design, Development and Delivery happen to be the four Ds of flexibility for NBC.”
‘Our business environment is dynamic, uncertain and also competitive. In order to remain relevant into the market, achieve growth and retain our market leadership, we believe innovation is the way forward. We strive to develop innovative products which provide enhanced reliability, environment-friendly technologies like friction-optimised bearings, in addition to power dense products. Other than product innovations, the organisation emphasizes on process and business process innovations to ensure customer satisfaction. Recently, we have launched genuine product identification means to customer using unique code system,” says Saboo. He adds, “We have prepared a roadmap for Industry 4.0 implementation in 2-3 years.”
Majority of the bearing plants are highly automated. Earlier, bearing manufactures used to produce all components of bearings on their own. But now it is more of assembly and concentration to manufacturer of races, the rolling elements like balls, rollers, needles and retaining elements like cages and rivets are outsourced from other suppliers. Even forging and turned races are outsourced from vendors. In India, there are global vendors of quality turned bearing races. The bearing manufacturers now increasingly zero in on heat treatment, grinding and assembly apart from its R&D focus. This way, Indian bearing manufacturers have been able to produce bearing competitively.
The industry will invest more on design and development of precision class bearings. Technology research is being made for controlling the oxygen content in steel to improve the life of bearings. Most of the bearing manufacturers are busy in automation and keeping pace with the changing automobile manufacturer requirement of new design. Every new automobile launched has specific features in terms of driving, speed and comfort. So, a bearing manufacturer is working hand-in-glove with the R&D inputs from these automobile companies and develop suitable bearings solutions requiring less and less maintenance. Today, the new vehicle coming in the market never faces any bearing related problem.
Saboo shares his vision 2020, “We are present in Automotive, Industrial and Railways segments and all these segments are growing in India so to sustain and increase our presence these segments we are continuously investing in capacity and technology and new products. We have a plan to double our sales turnover in the next four years. We are a global player and 25 per cent of our revenue comes from exports, so we are planning to increase our footprint through M&A or greenfield projects. We have plans to invest more than Rs 100 crore in the next four years, looking at doubling our sales turnover in four years.”
According to the Research Analyst at Ken Research, “The Indian bearings industry is well-poised to achieve strong growth in the coming years, owing to rising domestic demand in the auto sector and in industrial applications. Given decent extensive demand scenarios in the domestic market and with India evolving as a preferred low-cost sourcing destination, bearings manufacturers are likely to capitalise on the increasing production capacities and technological capabilities.”
We have plans to invest more than Rs 100 crore in the next four years, looking at doubling our sales turnover in four years.”
President & CEO, NEI Ltd.
- Rohit Saboo
PARADIGM SHIFTS IN OEM & CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS
- SHANKAR SRIVASTAVA