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NBC Bearings is expanding capacities and developing next generation products for the Indian market.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

As India aggressively sets its course towards Euro VI emission norms, component suppliers are also gearing up to meet the challenges that may stack in front of them. Some of them anticipated, and the rest, unexpected. Among the list of suppliers are bearing manufacturers as well. With stress on longer service life, higher efficiency and lighter weight, bearings are undergoing a significant change. Helping to reduce the carbon footprint, bearings are coming to play a crucial role than ever. A live example of this was had at the Auto Expo 2016. National Engineering Industries (NEI) Ltd., at its stall, displayed pre-set hub assemblies for commercial vehicles. Marketing a wide range of automotive bearings under the NBC brand name, the company has designed and developed the pre-set hub assemblies with the view of extending the life of the bearings by up to 3 lakh kilometers. The pre-set hub assemblies deploy pre-adjusted bearings for easier installation and extended seal life. Extending the life of the bearing to 3 lakh km when compared to one-lakh km in a conventional hub setup, the company is bullish about carving out a larger share of the Indian CV market. Said Sanjeev Taparia, Senior Vice President, NBC Bearings,” We aim to eliminate failures that arise due to bad bearing adjustments or incorrect assembly of the seals, minimising risk of assembly damage with the preset hub assemblies thereby assuring bearing life of 3 lakh km.” The company has set up a completely new assembly line at its Jaipur plant with an overall investment of Rs 5 crore.

 

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Predominantly serving the NAFTA markets with pre-set hub assemblies (80 per cent of NBC’s exports are to the US markets), in India, the company has started suppling pre-set hub assemblies to Volvo Trucks in India. It is also talking to leading OEMs. “One of the major problems that we face here (in India) is overloading. This makes OEMs skeptical of adopting aluminium based hubs. Such hubs actually do not have any safety related issues even though they are light in weight,” he said. Confident that the Indian government will introduce stringent norms for the CV industry, Taparia expressed that the time is right for the industry to graduate to better products. “Close to 15-20 per cent of weight of the total assembly can be reduced if aluminium based hubs are used instead of cast iron hubs. Aluminum hubs can ultimately lead to superior fuel savings,” Taparia explained. Aggressively pushing for an enhanced portfolio of bearing solutions, NBC Bearings has also introduced low torque bearings that reduce friction by 15 to 20 per cent. The low torque bearings are claimed by Taparia to facilitate a significant reduction in initial torque a vehicle requires to move away. “If we understand the way in which torque affects a bearing, or works in co-relation such as the internal bearing geometry, the nature of sealing and lubrication available, an increase in fuel efficiency of up to 2 per cent can be realised,” mentioned Taparia. For now, the company has introduced low torque bearings for wheel bearing and transmission applications in the two-wheeler segment. Work on low torque bearings for trucks, buses, and tractors is already underway.

Capacity expansion for larger market share

Enjoying a market share of 24 per cent, NBC Bearings churns out over 100 million bearings in over 1000 different sizes on an annual basis, for now the company has the capacity to manufacture bearings within a range of 10 mm internal diameter and 2000 mm external diameter. The manufacturing prowess of the company will get a shot in the arm once the new plant at Savli in Gujarat is operational. Through the new plant, the company plans to push its overall production capacity by 40 per cent to reach 140 million bearing units annually. Plans are on to invest close to Rs.700 crores in a phased manner. Catering to various industry segments like locomotives and heavy machinery apart from automobiles, NBC Bearings posted a revenue of Rs.1500 crores in the 2014-15 financial year. The automotive business contributed handsomely to the revenue generation, and amounted to over 60 per cent. With a presence in the OEM as well as the aftermarket, the company spends 1.5 per cent of its overall revenue on R&D. The R&D facility is situated at Jaipur. With the CV market recovering, the R&D spend is set to increase. If this hints at a significant portion of the automotive business coming from CV, the fact is, a hike of 2 per cent in the future is being considered. This also had to do with the fact that most global CV makers are expanding base in India. Over 70 per cent of NEI’s sales are through OEMs. Stressing on the fact that it is important to work closely with the OEMs, Taparia opined that OEMs cannot execute every job in-house. “They have to depend on suppliers to stay cost competitive.”

Euro VI: A blessing in disguise

The Government of India set the course for the auto industry to move to BS VI emission norms by 2020 instead of the earlier decided timeline of 2023. Opining that there is a need to create awareness about technology adoption, Taparia stated, that such a move will be beneficial for the industry. “Though the progress to BS VI from BS III has never happened so quickly anywhere else in the world, such a move will not only be beneficial in terms of environment, it will also save billions of rupees in investments that would have been needed otherwise to move through each stage,” he averred. Stressing upon the need to keep pace with international markets rather than operate in isolation, Taparia said, “most automotive components are already going to international markets or are in the process of finding their way to the international market”. Such an exposure will expand horizons, and is good for the entire automotive components ecosystem, and even though the implementation of such norms might amount to tremendous pressure in terms of technology, costs and time. Summed up Taparia, “There has to be a collaborative effort, both from the government and the industry, to achieve something that has never happened earlier”.

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