SKF Bets Big on Higher Demand Scenario

Rajesh Thantry
"With the new government at the Centre, we are expecting a renewed focus and attention towards Mega infrastructure projects in sectors like roads, irrigation, and power. Substantial infrastructure investment will drive higher demand for construction equipment and we, at SKF, are well equipped to cater to the higher demand. Close cooperation with equipment manufacturers and end users has given us a unique understanding of the industry demands scenario which help us to cater to the changing industry requirements with our comprehensive, high quality, reliable and energy efficient solutions improving productivity and reducing the total cost of ownership," says Mr. Rajesh Thantry, Head Off-highway & Railway Business, Strategic Industries, SKF India, in an interview with S.A.Faridi.

How do you see the business outlook for Indian off-highway construction and mining equipment in general and SKF Bearings business in particular in the wake of new government?

Infrastructure development is a key driver of India's economic growth in this decade. Substantial infrastructure investment will also drive higher demand for construction equipment and SKF is well equipped to cater to the demand. Backed by deep construction vehicle application experience and a wide range of products and solutions, SKF is able to deliver fully integrated, optimized solutions.

Key to infrastructure development will be for the government to create a favorable policy environment that will revive and bring speed to several long pending infrastructure projects. Rural demand due to irrigation projects, state government sponsored road projects, Metro projects across the country which promises to create demand in cities, dedicated freight corridor, centre's announcement of river connecting project amongst other positive developments should augur well to create higher demand for construction equipment.

We at SKF are ready to serve our customers drawing on decades of expertise in bearings, seals, lubrication and more and helping construction equipment OEMs and end users achieve higher reliability, safety and environmental goals for a range of machinery applications. Whether it is a complete, integrated unit with less maintenance and re-lubrication, or a centralized lubrication system that automates time-consuming greasing tasks, SKF solutions are meeting the industry's expanding application demands.

Please provide us an overview of SKF India's operation briefly touching upon its various segments and important milestones which enable the company to reach on the current stature.

SKF's roots in India can be traced back to 1923, when a trading arm of SKF Group was set up in Kolkata. Since then SKF has been serving the Indian market with high quality products and solutions.

Bearing Assortement
Today, SKF has 6 manufacturing facilities across India with Ahmedabad facility manufacturing industrial bearings and the Mysore facility manufacturing Sealing solutions for Industrial and Automotive applications. In 2010, SKF acquired Lincoln Group which is represented in India as Lincoln Helios India Ltd, an SKF Group entity. With a supplier network of over 300 distributors, SKF continues to serve the varied markets with reliable solutions. SKF's products and services range across 5 platforms, namely: Bearings and Units, Seals, Lubrication Systems, Mechatronics and Services. To make full global resources of SKF accessible to our customers, we have created SKF Solution factories which bring people, services and technologies together to deliver custom solutions. The services at SKF solution factory range from engineering consultancy for original equipment manufacturers to bearing remanufacturing and cloud-based remote monitoring and diagnostics. SKF inaugurated state-of-the-art Global Technical Centre India (GTCI) in Bangalore in December 2011, reinforcing its group strategy to open engineering hubs to work closely with customers.

SKF is taking a more holistic approach that includes and considers the needs of both equipment makers and the users of the equipment. By taking the SKF Lifecycle Management approach, we utilize the knowledge of both our design teams and our field application specialists to create next-generation designs that reflect real world conditions, and to recommend maintenance practices that maximize the equipment's life and reliability. This is what sets SKF apart and has helped us surge forward.

What is the role of your Global technical centre in India?

SKF's Global technical center in India drives innovation by developing products and solutions for local and global customers in a faster and in an effective way.

The-state-of-art centre located in Bangalore focuses on testing and on providing advanced technical knowledge for design, process and supplier validation. In addition, the Centre conducts bearing analysis and has a fully equipped laboratory for metallurgy and chemistry, mechatronics and product investigation centre in order to:
  1. Develop significant critical mass in engineering knowledge where the market is growing
  2. Develop the ability to quickly analyze and support the needs in the Indian markets
  3. Design components (to SKF Global Design Standards) for local market
Synchronizing our global capabilities and expertise, GTCI conducts testing, optimizes and manufactures innovative products and services to meet the needs of off-highway customers.

With the establishment of GTCI, more locally adapted products are developed in lesser time. More Knowledge Engineers are deployed to prioritize the requisites of the local market as per industry needs. Currently, GTCI has a fully functional engineering and leadership team working on various local, regional and global projects. The state of the art laboratories at GTCI ensures reliability, accuracy and speed in each project.

SKF hydraulic seals cylinderSKF sealing solutions for hydraulic cylinder

What are the products and services being offered by SKF to the off-highway segment?

Close cooperation with equipment manufacturers and end users has given SKF a unique understanding of the industry demands. SKF is geared up to cater to the demands of construction segment right from the design stage to the service requirements of the end users; by leveraging on its strengths of – GTCI and Solution Factory in India along with the global expertise and proven solutions based on Life cycle management approach.

We provide complete solutions by way of bearings, sealing solutions, central lubrication systems, condition monitoring and design engineering for the off-highway, construction and agricultural machinery.

SKF has a broad range of bearings types like standard cylindrical roller bearings, spherical roller bearings, plain bearings, slewing bearings. Also, we have world-class unique offerings like Y-bearings for agricultural applications, SKF Explorer class spherical roller bearings and application-specific sensorised bearings; all of which ensure reliability and energy-efficiency to OEMs and end users alike.

We also provide comprehensive sealing solutions for all parts of off-highway machines ranging from engine and transmission, chassis and suspensions, drivelines, undercarriages, hydraulic cylinders and sealed for life products like SKF Agri Hub for agricultural applications. With SKF sealing solutions, customers can reduce weight, noise and simplify installation.

By integrating mechanical, electronic and information technologies, we help customers design smart products through mechatronics that provide high reliability in harsh environments and reduce maintenance cost. We also provide extensive range of customized lubrication systems which optimize efficiency, reduce maintenance and enhance reliability.

The opening of GTCI is part of SKF's technology strategy to develop a global product development and engineering organization. Our customers in India will benefit from "closer to home" availability of SKF's global knowledge and expertise to address the growing need in India by incorporating latest technology in their new product development.

Thus, SKF offers a full range of services to both OEM and aftermarket customers at each phase of the asset life cycle which improve productivity and reduce the maintenance cost.

Metallurgy and greasing play a big role in the performance of maintenance-free bearings; how does your R&D Centre ensure minimum wear-free performance of bearings in the Indian conditions where, in many cases equipment are either over used or rather abused?

Motor encoder unitsSKF motor encoder units
Off-Highway vehicles are expected to work in challenging and demanding environment where maintenance and repairs are often inconvenient and potentially costly. SKF has looked at ways of making life easier for Off-Highway vehicle operators. Applications have been targeted where the effects of contamination from harsh conditions can take their toll. These include critical applications for the axle pivot joint and the kingpin, oscillating articulation joints and boom applications.

The result is innovative offerings components that combine SKF's expertise in materials knowledge with advanced lubrication and sealing concepts. The solutions offered are lubrication-free and environmental- friendly.

These maintenance-free bearings from SKF offer a number of advantages for OEMs and end users alike, like minimal maintenance and reduced lubricant consumption. Also, the impact that maintenance-free bearings have on the environment is an added benefit.

SKF manufactures maintenance-free spherical plain bearings in a variety of designs and a wide range of sizes which help to eliminate the need for relubrication, and reduce the total cost of ownership.

SKF maintenance-free spherical plain bearings incorporate special sliding layers of modern materials which have very low friction. They are used for applications where long bearing lives are required without maintenance, or where operating conditions are such that the use of steel / steel bearing is inadvisable.

SKF also has a unique and novel solution in form of Extended Life plain bearings. Featuring high-grade, carbon chromium steel to minimize the risk of corrosion, SKF Extended Life Plain Bearings offer a relubrication-free alternative to frequent re-greasing. Non-toxic grease fills the bearing, which is then sealed with steel-reinforced SKF LS heavy duty triple-lip seals for high performance over long periods.

Aftermarket is considered to be the most important segment for the brand recall. How is SKF positioned to address the client's needs significantly, timely availability of its offerings and competitive pricing which are precursor towards brand recall?

Effective management of assets throughout their lifecycle can deliver significant value and reduce total cost of ownership. Building on SKF Life Cycle Management approach, SKF has developed advanced services and technologies to maintain, monitor, repair and optimise the assets throughout their operating life; providing the optimum replacement parts at the right time and helping our customers to optimize their asset efficiency.

We channel our end user knowledge back into the specification phase of next generation equipment. Technologies, such as condition monitoring, can be designed into new OEM assets or retrofitted, constantly improving and providing differentiation in competitive markets, adding value, and extending the possibilities for aftermarket services and enhanced machinery maintenance.

At every stage of the asset life cycle, SKF products, advanced services and solutions help our customers improve productivity, reduce maintenance costs, improve energy and resource efficiency, and optimize designs for long service life and reliability; ultimately helping to make the end users more successful, sustainable, and profitable.

SKF's network of over 300 distributors is an essential part of the company's supplier ecosystem. Given their geographical proximity to customers and a sound knowledge of the market demand, distributors can effectively service the end users. SKF also has strategically located regional warehouses which stock products based on customer needs and make them readily available as per requirement and location of the customer.

Thus, through extended partnership, SKF can offer value based solutions for total product lifecycle optimization and lower operational costs for the customers.

Would you please elaborate on SKF integrated sensor solutions for off-highway? How does it help in increasing the performance of equipment?

Innovative, reliable and well proven, SKF sensor technology is state of the art and based on SKF's extensive knowledge and experience of bearings and surrounding machine parts. SKF knows how to apply this technology to help customers meet the ever increasing demands in the off-highway vehicle industry. Thoroughly tested and proven to perform in rough off-highway conditions, the integrated sensor solutions are hard at work around the world in applications such as sensor bearings on motors, cabin rotation and angular position of joints.

SKF sensorised solutions consist of various offerings like sensorised bearing units for speed, position and directions; drive by wire for improved equipment performance and efficiency; motor encoder & roller encoder units for forklift and other construction equipments; electronic parking brake; all of which improve productivity.

When it comes to integrating sensors into bearings, resulting in the optimal position for accurate measurements, SKF offers unmatched capabilities. SKF has the capability to offer customized solutions to meet the customer's specific needs. The integrated sensors are more robust and compact due to built in sensors. It is also able to measure at the optimal position-the bearing or shaft- for better precision.

SKF sensor solutions are truly integrated and hence fewer components are required. This contributes to reduced size and weight, while also helping to reduce costs. The integrated design also helps protect the sensors in demanding work environment, which the off-highway machines are subjected to.
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