RKFL: Leveraging the many positives

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  • Nov 30,-1
RKFL: Leveraging the many positives

The Make in India initiative has been fruitful for certain segments of the forging industry with demand anticipated to increase from the non-auto sector in the medium and long term.

T he Indian forging industry is an integral part and a major contributor to the manufacturing sector. Forgings are among the critical requirements of industry, from general engineering, capital goods, to power generation and distribution, to name a few, and the backbone of the manufacturing sector, encompassing railways, defence, mining, earthmoving and the automotive and aerospace industries. The Indian forging industry is recognised globally for its technical capabilities. With an installed capacity of around 37.7 lakh tonnes per annum (tpa), it has the capability to forge a variety of raw materials like carbon steel, alloy steel, stainless steel, super alloy, titanium and aluminum.

Forging units are usually classified on the basis of installed capacity. These are broadly five types: 1. Very Large (capacity above 75,000 tpa); 2. Large (capacity between 30,000 and 75,000 tpa); 3. Medium (capacity between 12,500 and 30,000 tpa); 4. Small (capacity between 5,000 and 12,500 tpa) and 5. Very Small (capacity below 5,000 tpa). Based on this classification, 87 per cent of the total number of units falls under the small and very small category, while only about 5 per cent are large and very large units. The balance of about 8 per cent constitutes the medium sized units.

The products manufactured by most units range from rough forgings and machined parts like crankshafts, connecting rods, camshafts, shifterfork, steering components, propeller shafts, gearbox components; crown wheel and pinions, front axle beams, rear axle shafts, earth moving link, railway wheels, flanges, pipe fittings to industrial valves.

The automotive sector currently accounts for about 61 per cent of the forging sales, while the non-automotive sector contributes about 39 per cent. However, going forward in order to de-risk and reduce its dependence on the automotive sector, the Indian forging industry is consciously making efforts towards upgrading technologies and diversifying product range to expand its customer base to emerging sectors including aerospace, energy, oil & gas, heavy engine parts, defence, construction equipment, power generation, power transmission and distribution. Today Indian forging industry is also trying to diversify into areas like electrical industry, oil and wind sectors.

The Indian commercial vehicle industry is flat today. Unlike the US and European countries, India does not have a system of scrapping old vehicles. Even trucks manufactured during the 1970s are seen plying on the highways. Once the government implements the latest emission norms, it will force the older vehicles to go off the road thereby creating market for new vehicles, which can kick-start growth in the commercial vehicle sector which is a major customer for the forging industry.

The industry is increasingly tapping opportunities arising out of the growing trend among global automotive OEMs to outsource components from manufacturers in low-cost countries. As a result, the Indian forging industry has been making significant contributions to the country’s growing exports.

Ramkrishna Forgings Ltd (RKFL) is a 36-year old forging company focused on quality, with initiatives spanning product development, manufacturing and improving customer experience. Mr M P Jalan, the promoter and Chairman of the company is a well experienced technocrat, having done his graduation in mechanical engineering in 1970 from BITS, Pilani. He is also a FIE (Chartered Engineer) from Institute of Engineers, Kolkata and a successful entrepreneur with more than 45 years of work experience in forgings. Having started from the shop floor, he was first associated with Tribeni Steel Forgings as a partner in 1974, before promoting RKFL in 1981, and has since been the driving force in the rise and expansion of the enterprise.

Following in his footsteps is Mr Naresh Jalan, MD, and a true businessman and principal architect of the growth of RKFL with an association of more than 20 years with the company. A keen disciple of work ethics, the younger Jalan has single mindedly steered RKFL into a prominent forging company in India, driven by research and strategic thinking on a global scale. His signature style is much evident in the management processes at RKFL, i.e., open culture, participative management practices, innovations, continuous improvement, speedy response, empowerment and enjoying one’s job – all hallmarks of RKFL the culture. “Our target is to become No. 1 in the forging industry and hopefully within a short span of time we will attain the same,” is how he encapsulates the task ahead.

The Indian forging industry is concentrated around its end user customer locations. Therefore, the major forging clusters are found to be in the states of Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Delhi, Karnataka, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.

At the Momentum Jharkhand Global Investors Summit 2017 held in February this year, the State invited global companies to invest in manufacturing and other sectors. RKFL had also participated in this meet in order to showcase its abilities.

The government’s Make in India initiative has definitely been a good move in the right direction to give the necessary boost to the overall manufacturing sector. It has created an all-round positive business environment and sentiments. The campaign has definitely been fruitful for certain segments of the forging industry and the demand anticipated to increase from the non-auto sector in the medium and long term.

Having said this there are certain issues that needs immediate attention. The need of the hour is to address issues like faster clearance of mega infrastructure projects which have been pending for quite a long time. Investments in the development of overall infrastructure being executed on priority, both in the public and private sectors, will result in pickup of demand, among other things, in commercial vehicles, construction industry and capital goods sector. All these will have a multiplier effect on the Indian forging industry.

RKFL has done some major improvements in the railway components, an ancient business in which the company has tried to make an aggressive move. Two units of high value crankcases for diesel locomotives have been identified which demand special welding and high precision machining. In addition to this, the company is venturing into individual LHB bogie frames and precision fabricated components like coaches and locomotives. Recently, RKFL has been awarded the job of anti roll bar bracket and also DMW stiffer unit camshaft. In addition, the company has also tied up with a casting company who will be involved in implementing the new designs of coupling drawbar.

RKFL has been certified in terms of TS 16949, OSHAS 18001 and ISO 14001 and AS9100C, uses state-of-the -art technology to reduce wastage at every possible stage. It has introduced circular saw machine for cutting raw material instead of searing bend saw, induction heaters with optical pyrometers against oil fired furnaces, new technology for forging like ring rolled and press forging on wedge press concept for higher yield (input to output).

In future, RKFL will be moving towards bigger size ring rolling up to 2 metres and ISO thermal forging to serve the aerospace industry. Advancements in the field are also taking place in the area of CAD/CAM where the die development time is considerably reduced. This will help in the new product development (NDP). At the same time the company is also making advancements in 3D metal printing.

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