Preset Hub copy

NBC Bearings is banking upon the rising demand for pre-set hub assemblies for strong growth.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

A flagship brand of National Engineering Industries, NBC Bearings is achieving good growth. A good deal of it is being contributed by the growing demand for pre-set hub assemblies. Targeting a turnover of Rs.4000 crores by 2021, the company is supplying pre-set hub assemblies to CV makers. A leading manufacturer of taper roller bearings in the country, NBC bearings supplies various types of bearings to the auto industry. Expecting the turnover to cross Rs.2000 crores in this fiscal, the company growing at 20 per cent against the industry average of nine per cent according to Rohit Saboo, President and CEO, is supplying pre-set hub assemblies to VE Commercial Vehicles for its range of trucks and buses.

Winning a ‘letter of intent’ from Daimler and Ashok Leyland, the company will soon start producing pre-set hub assemblies for the two. With a large chunk of the US commercial vehicle market moving to pre-set hub assemblies for superior reliability, efficiency and ease of maintenance, the rate of shift in India is slow according to Saboo. “The time taken to move from one system to another often stretches to between two and four years,” he opined.Maintenance free and sealed for life, pre-set hub assemblies that NBC Bearings offers, do away with the need to re-adjust the hubs in a CV every 50,000 to 70,000 kms.

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Increasing R&D spend

Working to optimise the design of taper roller bearings for CVs, NBC Bearings, said Saboo is addressing the torque and friction requirements of its clients. “Optimised, the bearings lead to a significant drop in friction. The result is a drop in torque and transmission losses. Fuel efficiency increases and emissions go down,” he explained. The optimisation of bearings is reflective of the company’s capabilities. NBC Bearings has filed 23 patents for processes as well as products. It has revamped its R&D facility at Jaipur. Manned by 120 people, the R&D facility is being increasingly invested into. Informed Saboo, “From 0.2 per cent a few years ago, we spent 1.25 per cent of our revenues last year on R&D activities. Our aim is to raise it to two per cent.” Instrumental in the development of low torque bearings that reduce friction by 15 to 20 per cent, the R&D facility of NBC Bearings, in view of the growing demand for fuel efficient vehicles, is developing special heat treatment techniques, greases, and tribology.

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Encouraged by one of its client reporting fuel savings of up to 13 per cent, the company, said Sanjeev Taparia, Senior VP – Marketing, NBC Bearings, is looking at employing aluminium-based hub materials. Such materials, he mentioned, are dominating the North American market. Quipped Taparia, “The weight of the complete hub assembly can be reduced by up to 15 to 20 per cent by using aluminium-based materials. Fuel efficiency increases significantly.” A challenge to the use of aluminium-based materials however are the Indian duty cycles. They are different from those in the US. Overloading is also an issue. CV OEMs are therefore said to be skeptical. If the use of hub assemblies made from aluminium-based materials could add to the light weighting initiatives of CV OEMs, the technology could find use in other segments too. Cost reduction is also possible.

Building capacity

Serving automotive, industrial, locomotive and energy sector clients through five manufacturing plants, the company, on an annual basis, is developing 100 sizes. It has invested Rs.1000 crores in the last five years to expand its facilities. Chalking out a plan to invest another Rs.1000 crores in the next five years, NBC Bearings is keen to enter new areas of the business. Spending Rs.20 crore to serve the rising demand for pre-set hub assemblies for CVs at Jaipur, the company, Saboo expressed, will soon see a jump in the capacity to produce pre-set CV hub assemblies. Of the opinion that heavy-duty vehicles can justify the additional cost, and others will follow, Saboo mentioned, “Market acceptance will take time.” Developing the Vadodara plant as its second biggest plant in the country, and as an export hub. NBC Bearings plans to export 50 per cent of what it produces at the Vadodara plant.

The future

Vying advanced automated solutions to improve consistency, and to further elevate quality, NBC Bearings is also looking at new techniques like robots and autobots. They could help it to accomplish complex tasks like material transfer. The company is also looking at artificial intelligence. It is keen to employ it in the next fiscal. Confident of having the pilots ready in a few months from now, NBC Bearings, with close to 80 per cent of its business derived from OEMs is buoyed by the rise in demand. Confident of growth continuing, the company is withering the re-emergence of demand for CV products. “After a period of lull, the LCV market is showing improvement. We are confident that growth will continue,” concluded Saboo.

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