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Composite Centre International (CCI) recently invited David Skertchly, a UK composite technology expert, to visit India for a period of two weeks in order to provide industry workshops to the India composites community, and here also provides a report on his findings.
The primary objective for planning the visit for two weeks between 21st November and 3rd December 2004, was to assess the present technologies and production system currently being employed by the Indian composite manufacturing industries. As CCI’s objective is for India to become a world hub for composites design and manufacture, and with the India Composites Expo coming up in February, also being organised by CCI Composites, the visit to India was an ideal opportunity to see how far the CCI had come in realising its ambitions to put India on the worldwide composites map.
David Skertchly is a composites consultant from the UK with 25 years of professional experience of automotive composites. He is CEO of Product Technik and consultant for several composite manufacturers in Europe and the UK.
To maximise the benefits from the visit, CCI had drawn an elaborate programme to conduct technical workshops in each of the four cities that Skertchly visited during his stay. Visits were also arranged with composite manufacturing companies with a number of meetings organised with entrepreneurs and newly formed composite organisations that develop composite products.
At each city, Skertchly conducted a workshop on the topic “Status of composite Technology in Europe & UK and opportunities for India”, attended by over 30 representatives from the Indian composites industry. At the conclusion of the visit, Skertchly summed up his observations by highlighting the potential of India becoming a major global manufacturing hub for composite products.
Skertchly’s report on the visit to India suggested that “the spread of capabilities was considerable, with the best companies being world class with automotive system approvals and smart single level factories which are producing products for both home and export markets. The balance serves their indigenous markets with varying degrees of success.”
An example of a company ideally suited to its market, Suvarna in Pune, manufacture a large range of FRP parts varying from military equipment to windmill structures with their CEO, P.I.Varghese having received many awards from the Indian Government.
Skertchly suggested that organizations such as CCI, Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, APITCO and others are keen to provide support to Indian composites producers. “They all share the view that the dollar/euro cost to SMEs of foreign consultancy was excessive and that a co-operative attempt to make a once off transfer of technology to Indian trainers should be undertaken, enabling training to be delivered in India at Rupee rates.”
“The principle observation I have to make is that Indian SMEs in the composites sector have not yet made the transition to leading customer expectations. They are happy to deliver what the customer expects, whereas European and American companies, driven by Japanese competition, and trained by Demming in the late 1970s, set out to please the customer and lead him to even higher expectations of quality and service. Only one Indian company included a wow factor in their mission statement.”
However, Skertchly pointed out that there were instances where major customers had abandoned composites all together due to poor quality from suppliers and it has only been through sustained lobbying by CCI that these customers are reconsidering their position.
“During my visit I identified that India has the indigenous capability of producing advanced composites from raw epoxy and carbon fibre, through weaving and 3D composites to pre-pregging, vacuum infusion and autoclave curing. With support from IIT in Delhi and MCCIA in Pune, there is the possibility of providing world class research and test capabilities to back up these indigenous materials to a standard which could be sold in European Markets. I identified several companies who have reached very high quality standards and have the infrastructure to move to high technology composites for exports. These companies are in the vanguard of the Indian Composites Industry”. Skertchly adding that “where they lead, others will surely follow.”
One of the interesting points raised in Skertchly’s report is that composites technology is particularly ideal for India, and Indian designers are capable of reading across high technology ideas into clever low cost solutions for Indian infrastructure. Examples of this were found in the railway engineering, road transport and energy sectors of the Indian economy.
Skertchly is due to visit India again in February as an overseas expert to attend the forthcoming Composites Expo being organised by CCI. India Composites-2005 will be held from 24th to 27th February at Hyderabad, India.
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