With the setting up of a full-fledged R&D centre and a new assembly line for transmission systems at its plant in Pune, Carraro India gains significant importance in the company's global expansion plans
At 51, Enrico Carraro can look back with pride on a decision he took 15 years ago. That's when he harboured and nurtured the idea that outside of Italy, India would make for one of the best choices to set up an extension of the family business - the Carraro Group that is known worldwide for its domain expertise in the manufacture of transmission systems (axles, transmissions and epicyclic reduction gears) for earth movement machines, tractors, forklift trucks, lightweight commercial vehicles, mining applications, motor vehicles and stationary applications such as escalators. The company also makes gears and components (both in cut and sintered steel) for the automobile sector, agricultural and construction applications, material handling applications, gardening and power tools sectors, and wind power generators.
And that is how Carraro India came into being with a plant at Ranjangaon near Pune. "In 1997, Carraro signed a joint venture agreement in India with Escorts Ltd. which helped us set up a production centre in 1999. In 2005, we inaugurated the second production plant of Carraro India called Turbo Gears Ltd that specialises in the manufacture of gears and components. Carraro India now has strength of more than 1,100 people and primarily focuses on making axles and transmissions for agricultural applications and transmissions for construction equipment applications. Our India turnover for 2012 was Euro 119.3 million and in terms of sales India contributes 5.9 per cent to our global business," says Carraro, the chairman of the company, who visited India in October to make two important announcements.
In what could be termed as
taking yet another leap forward, the company has now opened a new headquarters for its technology and engineering division as also laid out an innovative transmission assembly line called 'T10' for tractors up to 120 HP.
"Being able to rely on a solid R&D team in India means that we are able to conceive product solutions in tune with the needs of this geographical area. And the start-up of production in India of the advanced T10 transmissions, intended both for the home market and for other similar markets, makes an important statement about the company's strategy to offer its customers the best service, to create value and not merely to reduce costs," Carraro states.
New R&D centre
Compared to the first Carraro Technologies India installation opened in Pune in 2006 with the aim of localising part of the group's engineering network, the new R&D centre represents a valued step forward and lays the basis for further developments. With an area of over 13,500 sq.ft, over twice the size of the initial premises, the new Carraro Technologies has been constructed to house twice the current number of employees, at present 50. It is equipped among other things with an auditorium, comprises a training room and a room designed for the disassembly and study of axles and transmissions, of fundamental importance for optimisation of the design, industrialisation processes, and benchmarking activities.
"The opening of the new centre also reflects the new structure of Carraro Drive Tech's engineering which, focusing on product excellence and the most effective response to market needs, has adopted a strategy of total integration of competencies, independently of their geographical location: maximum involvement, maximum cross-sectional growth, and maximum customer support. Today Carraro Technologies represents 45 per cent of the capacity of Carraro Drive Tech's engineering and innovation drivelines' global team, and this figure is destined to increase. Complete transmission systems are now developed for off-road operating machines, both agricultural and earth movement, with the mechanical part, axles and transmissions equipped with hydraulic services and all electrical and electronic control systems," informs Alexander Bossard, CEO, Carraro Group.
Carraro Technologies, supporting the entire Carraro Group, also comprises teams of specialists focusing on other specific themes. For instance, the team dedicated to Agritalia, specialising in tractors, follows a series of projects involving the development of tractor construction parts while the team dedicated to Santerno, which makes inverters for power electronics, concentrates on before and after-sale activities for inverters for industrial applications and photovoltaic parks in the Indian subcontinent.
New transmission line
Parallel to the setting up of the Carraro Technologies Centre has been a completely dedicated production line for tractor transmissions up to 120 HP.
"This assembly line consisting of a series of automated mobile stations on trolleys powered by electric batteries, and with process documentation sharing online (i.e., paperless), is today one of the most advanced in the Group. Once operating to full capacity, the end of the line will be equipped with a test bench (EOL) fully automated by means of integrated robotics for testing both the mechanical functions and the electronic control functions. This test bench will be able to assess product load capacities, simulate use of the different gears, activate brakes and differential and change direction," points out Sunil Puranik, the Ranjangaon plant's manufacturing director.
The start of this new line will enable Carraro India to produce locally the entire range of a new generation of agricultural transmissions, technologically advanced and conceived to offer greater efficiency and eco-sustainability. The T10 transmission is a 120 HP transmission, which will be marketed in several versions with 12 speeds forward/back and 24 speeds forward/back and in the 'Meccanico', 'Power Hi-Lo' and 'Power Reverser' fittings.
"The full range of fittings is possible thanks to a modular architecture according to function, each pre-set for electronic control. Due to its compact design, the T10 also offers new opportunities for combining special utility applications with more demanding applications in the open field," Puranik adds.
The T10 products will initially be exported because India does not make high-powered tractors. Meanwhile, it will also serve as a base for further experimentation by the company's R&D unit to make transmission units for fully electronic tractors. "That's what the trend for the future indicates and we will be prepared for it," Bossard states. An investment of Euro 1 million has been made for the T10 production line that includes its own test bench.
For its T3 and T5 production lines, the manufacturing floor houses 45 CNC machines imported from Mazak of Japan with a plan to install five more in 2014. Each of these machines is capable of performing 120 tooling applications along with the flexibility to make 100 different varieties of transmission units. Automation, in fact, plays an important role in the assembly of transmission units and as Puranik informs, those made for the construction industry depend on 70 per cent automation while it is about 40 per cent for the agricultural equipment. Localisation of raw material is an important factor too with only the very crucial components, such as control units, imported from Italy.
"This is to maintain the quality parameters as required for international sales," Puranik says.
And even as the production
continues in full swing, making of prototypes continues to be an ongoing process with Carraro using its years of experience to custom-design transmission units for both existing and new OEMs. "With new regulations and policies coming into place every few years, new prototypes have to be made. Also, what gives Carraro the edge is that we have a very stringent and automated quality check process that reflects the smallest flaw in the product while it is still on the assembly line. The final product, for example, comes with a bar code and it is not possible to dispatch an inferior quality product because the system will immediately point out the errors, and very specific ones at that," Puranik elaborates.
A wide market
With such clients as Caterpillar, Volvo, Ashok Leyland, Escorts, Mahindra & Mahindra, John Deere, Sonalika and others, Carraro India caters to almost all the OEMs across India in the tractor and backhoe loader segments and exports 50 per cent of its products. "The transmission systems that are used by our India clients are generally for their off-road vehicles that are exported. As
such, it wouldn't be wrong to say that our quality adheres to the best of global benchmarking systems," Bossard says.
Elaborating about production capacity, Bossard informs that while the current target for the T10 units is 5,000 per year, the output for agricultural and construction transmission units exceeds 42,000 and 25,000 per year. "And we are geared to increase the capacity at short notice because of our sound infrastructure design," he adds. The initial investment for the start of the Carraro India plant was Euro 15 million while that for Turbo Gears was Euro 20 million.
Carraro Group History
The Carraro Group's development is a case history in business success that has implemented strategies hinged on diversification, innovation and internationalisation to become a multinational world leader in power transmission systems business. The company was founded in 1932 and initially focused on the production of agricultural seeders in an inter-regional market. In the 1950s, the company entered the agricultural tractor market with the 1958 production of the first 'Tre Cavallini' branded tractor. In the 1970s and 1980s, Carraro experienced a growth spurt with the development of core business activities and the progressive decentralisation of production. In 1973, the company extended further, developing the business of the axles and drives division, specialising in the design and construction of axles and drives for agricultural tractors and earth-moving machines. In the years that followed, the activities associated with this division developed into the company's core business - so successfully, in fact, that by 1985, Carraro had become the world leader in the market, with over 1,00,000 axles sold. In the mid-1980s, supported by the development of core activities, Carraro began decentralising accessory production through the acquisition and constitution of companies specialised in activities functional to the core business. The Carraro Group was thus formed. In 2012, the total turnover of the Group was Euro 874 million. It now has a headcount of 4,010 people spread across 13 plants in Italy, India, China, Argentina and Germany and six R&D centres in Italy, Germany, Argentina and India. In terms of application markets, 40.3 per cent of the company's products are sold to the construction equipment industry and 33 per cent to the agricultural equipment sector while the
rest is shared by automotive and renewable energy industries.