Kobelco: The Excavator Specialist

Vikram Sharma Kobelco
"We have focused only on Excavator and become a specialist of this product. We develop value-based solutions for our Customers. Our fuel-saving technological advances have made us the leader in fuel-efficiency, while our selection of perfectly matching components helps us achieve high level of productivity and reliability. We have also worked hard at setting up a very reliable and prompt product service support network. Fast response and a customer-friendly approach have always been our key words," says Mr. Vikram Sharma, MD & CEO, Kobelco Construction Equipment India Pvt. Ltd. in an interview with S.K.Khanna.

Kindly share the details of preparations going at your end to participate in the forthcoming edition of Excon with our readers. What products, services and other business development and promotional measures are proposed to be unveiled at this mega event by Kobelco CE?
Excon is the leading event for our industry in India and we, at Kobelco, always commit a lot of our resources towards our participation in this event. As usual, we shall showcase two of our machines along with other displays like attachments, parts, etc. The 14 ton model SK140HDLC-8 will be the new offering from our Indian factory.

Despite the fact that Kobelco CE is a single product company manufacturing Excavators of various capacities, it has been able to make a marked technical and business impact in the CE market. What are the important technical attributes of your Excavators and their attachments giving your company an edge over other Excavators in the market place?
Kobelco Excavator
The fact that we make only Excavators also means that we are the Excavators specialist. We have focused on this single product and developed value-based solutions for the Customer. Our fuel-saving technological advances have made us the leader in fuel-efficiency. Our selection of perfectly matching components helps us achieve high levels of productivity and reliability. We have also worked hard at setting up a very reliable and prompt Product Service support network. Fast response and a customer-friendly approach have been our key words.

What is the impact of present slowdown spell on the company? Has it provided the company an opportunity to fine tune its operations, to improve after sale and to improve its performance and equip it to face new challenges as situation becomes normal?
The slowdown has been a learning experience for all. Securing our Customer base, strengthening our support network, improving our responses, as well as our logistics, have been our key focus areas during this crucial period. We have also improved our competitiveness with better after-market pricing. Training for our team members has been stepped up to build the required competencies. We have bucked the trend by growing in a slowing market.

The government is likely to adopt Swiss challenge methodology to motivate private sector to develop highways. What are the advantages and challenges of this methodology in the Indian context?
It is definitely likely that there will be overall improvement in the quality of work. This method encourages competition as well as creativity and innovation at the same time and tends to move things away from the failed lowest bidder system.

Since inception Kobelco CE has embedded indigenization in its DNA. How this focus has contributed to contain the manufacturing costs? Is there any recent key technical development which can be shared with us?
Yes, indigenization has been a priority for us. Our experience in this area has been a mixed one. While we have been successful in developing some very good sources capable of meeting international quality standards, we have also faced challenges in some critical components. The demand for high quality components is still quite low mainly because the overall size of the market is small and different manufacturers use components of different specifications/technologies. This does not encourage any investment in local manufacture of such components. We are, therefore, constrained to depend on sizeable imports, which carry the burden of cost escalations due to various factors like exchange rate fluctuations. We have recently introduced "Robotics" for key structural components.

How the company is strengthening its pan India product distribution channels? What are the systems placed in the company to ensure fast-track supply of product, their spares and related technical services? Also please brief us about your vendor base.
We now, have over 100 outlets, and a strong team of trained Service manpower. Training for our Dealer teams is a constant endeavour and this has already started paying dividends. Our repeat orders percentage continues to rise. For our parts operations, we have collaborated with reliable logistics partners like Blue Dart and GATI. Our Kobelco lubricants are supplied through our Lubricants partner's network.
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