Article by: Anirudh Raheja

Oerlikon focuses on strengthening its drive systems business.

Oerlikon commissioned its third drive systems plant at Sanand in Gujarat recently. It is the company’s tenth global facility for drive systems, and will be operational in six phases with a planned investment of Rs. 1,000 crore till 2019. In the first phase, the plant will manufacture PR10 axle for JCB wheel loaders and CVT transmissions for agricultural tractors. The plant will also manufacture transmission synchronisers and golf cart axles. Reflecting 95 years of experience in developing transmission solutions for mechanical, hydraulic and electric applications, the drive systems segment is Oerlikon’s key pillar globally. It is also the one that deals with diverse automotive segments including off-highway equipment, tractors, EVs and commercial vehicles. Offering AMT and DCT transmission solutions, as well as drive system solutions like rigid and steering drive axles, transmission, and gear components for EVs and off-highway equipment, the drive systems business is represented by two brands – Oerlikon Graziano and Oerlikon Fairfield.

For India

Not keen to get into AMTs for India as it is already over crowded, Oerlikon is instead routing products that have been developed in India to its other locations. “Application engineering on products that are already available in developed markets is carried out. We may not develop every product in India, but will route products developed in India to serve our global commitments,” mentioned Dr. Bernd Matthes, CEO, Oerlikon Drive Systems to CV at the Pfaffikon headquarters near Zurich, Switzerland. Vivek Prakash, President and CEO, Oerlikon Drive Systems India, opined, “R&D is the pillar of our growth everywhere and needs to be tailored to the specific requirements of each market. India is an exciting market and a strong manufacturing base for us, which is why we will create an engineering centre in India. We will tailor our products as per the requirements of the market, customising them where ever the need is felt.” In possession of over 50 patents registered the world over, the drive systems business has developed OGeco hybrid transmission suited for commercial vehicles and high performance cars. Other than OGeco hybrid transmission, the drive systems business supplies synchronisers for trucks and buses; 2SED and 4SED (multi-speed electric drive) for LCVs and passenger cars along with modular planetary drives for special sprayer applications as well.

Strong performance

Expressing that he sees growth in full electric and hybrid applications, Prakash said, “Some of the 2SED and 4SED patented transmission concepts could enter into production in the next three to four years.” Both of them complement an internal combustion-based powertrain, and are scalable in power and torque. They are also suitable for application across automotive segments,” he added. Though the drive systems business posted sales below the previous year’s level, at CHF 91 million, down 5.2 per cent, due to challenging market conditions in the first quarter of 2015, expectations about its performance remain strong. This is perhaps the reason why the company chose to invest in a new plant in India at Sanand last month. Interestingly, Oerlikon delivered a solid performance in Q1, 2015, with an increase in sales by 10.1 per cent to CHF 782 million. The EBITDA margin, for the 13th consecutive quarter, exceeded 15 per cent. A strong performer was its Surface Solutions Segment. Its sales doubled through organic and inorganic growth to reach CHF 300 million.

Surface Solutions Segment

The Surface Solutions Segment comprises two divisions – Oerlikon Balzers and Oerlikon Metco. The Balzers brand provides extremely thin, yet hard coatings for the automotive, aviation, oil, gas and power generation industries. The coatings find their way to pistons and piston pins used in modern engines, and to injection needles. Coating solutions like Balinit with a thickness of 0.5 µm and 4 µm, find use in tools. They improve the process reliability and productivity of various components, saving environmental resources in the process. When applied to precision components, Balinit coating reduces lubrication consumption. For instance, it enables a transmission to function smoothly even under heavy load. It also reduces fuel consumption and increases the performance of compressors and pumps. After acquiring Metco from Sulzer in 2014, Oerlikon’s Surface Solutions Segment, apart from drawing synergies and economies of scale, has developed MetroCald system for laser cladding. It has also developed Thermal Barrier Coating (TBC) to enhance efficiency of diesel engines, turbochargers and gas turbine engines operating under high temperatures. To expand its footprint and better address the needs of its clients, over 105 coating centres across 34 countries have been invested into. The business division has over 650 coating systems in operation the world over. Debuting with cutting tools in India two decades ago, Balzers covers forming tools, regrinding tools and components across automotive, tooling and other industries. Serving CV makers like Tata Motors, Mahindra, VECV and AMW, the business arm Oerlikon Balzers opened a RD cutting lab in India

in 2012.

Vacuum for the auto industry

Manufacturing vacuum systems and vacuum gauges along with high-vacuum pumps, which facilitate manufacturing of semi conductors, solar cells, etc., Oerlikon Leybold also makes high-end steel degassing systems that reduce hydrogen and carbon content in steel. Such high quality steel is procured by automakers for the automobiles they produce. Present in India since 2013, the company is working with clients like Alstom, Schneider Electric, BHEL and ABB. “There is immense local competition in India. Vacuum pump is a commodity, and customers that are not driven by energy consumption or other environmental issues want vacuum at the end of their industrial process. We however believe that India is an opportunity as it offers intelligence in production rather than the build-to-print manufacturing found in China,” said Martin Fuellenbach, CEO, Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum.

Fibres for autos

It may be difficult to distinguish a fibre from the modern moulded head liner or the carpet of a truck or a bus, it is however there. Even in tyres. And the chances are high that the fibres may have been made by Oerlikon Barmag or Oerlikon Neumag. As part of the Man-made fibres segment, which is the biggest contributor of revenue to Oerlikon at more than 50 per cent of the group revenue, the two companies manufacture synthetic fibres that are further processed to manufacture cloths and carpets. Barmag is into large scale filament spinning and texturing systems for polyester and nylon manufacturing. Neumag manufactures synthetic staple fibres and non woven fabrics. It also supports the construction of complete polycondensation solutions, and is getting into the manufacture of fibres for air bags and safety seat belts.
Engaged in diverse manufacturing activities, it is the drive systems segment that continues to draw attention. Perhaps due to the fact that it has a significant presence in India. The commissioning of the Sanand plant recently is a point in case. It is the youngest plant of the drive systems in India, the other two being those at Greater Noida and Belgaum. The addition of synchronisers and gears to the drive systems product portfolio in India in the next phase of expansion is certain to take Oerlikon even closer to the automobile industry. Especially the off-highway and commercial vehicle part of the industry.

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