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Trailblazers | July 2017

Bharat Bijlee DRIVES ahead

After having perfected the art of making motors in the last 70 years, Bharat Bijlee is raring to drive ahead in variable speed drives and engineered drives and automation solutions.

After just four years of production in a fairly new field, delivering the 10,000th drive is no mean achievement! Bharat Bijlee’s Drives & Automation Division did just that very recently!

Bharat Bijlee, which has set records in motors manufacturing in the last 70 years, laid the foundation stone for producing drives, servos & automation products in 2007, but the commercial production began only in 2012. “It all began when in 2007 we entered into a tie-up with Karl E Brinkmann gmbh (now KEB Automation KG) of Germany for distribution of AC Servo drives. We used to buy and sell drives to many industries including textiles. From 2012 onward, have been assembling drives for the Indian market as well for Sri Lanka and Bangladesh,” said Bhadresh Dani, Vice President, Drives & Automation, Bharat Bijlee, during an interaction with Samuel Joseph, Editor of the Indian Textile Journal at the Airoli factory premises.

“We are manufacturing drives with a capacity ranging from 15KW up to 900 KW. There are servo drives as well as AC drives that we manufacture at this plant. To set up 900 KW, one can go for a parallel set up of 250 KW, said Dani. The Bharat Bijlee drives facility is a state-of-the-art IS0 9001-2008 compliant plant for manufacturing the KEB Drives at Airoli, Navi Mumbai. Last year, Bharat Bijlee turned out 3000 drives, and has set an ambitious goal of making 4000 drives this year.

“This is certainly an exponential growth,” summed up Dani.

For drives, servos and automation products, the testing standards are of utmost importance. Said Dani: “We have testing instruments, all imported for testing under full load condition and also at elevated temperature of 500 C. Before the product is sent to the customer, every care is taken to assure that KEB quality is maintained throughout.”

Bharat Bijlee has established a well-knit team for boosting the sales of drives and automation products. “We have got a network of sales teams, business development team and a special textile vertical manager to take care of the needs of the textile industry. Drives application in textile industry is widespread, covering many important segments including spinning, processing, printing, etc. Since the application has to be developed, we have the manager, who understands every aspect of the textile industry and can meet the requirements,” said Dani.

Designing an application to cater to the specific needs of textile industry is important in the matter of drives. Delivering 10,000 drives in a matter of just four years is no small feat for this motor manufacturer. “In this drive manufacture, we are not in a general market. The applications are very specific. Apart from textile, plastics, elevators, printing, packaging, metal, crane, test bench are some of the verticals that we serve. Our managers for each vertical are people with special knowledge about the particular industry and hence our customised solutions in drives match perfectly the requirements of the clients,” said Dani.

Said Dani: “We don’t sell product. We sell the solution. This is very key to drives application. Textile today is a focused area. Though plastics and polymers come first in our scheme of things, textile is the next big segment we cater to. KEB was once a major player for the textile industry in Europe and hence its attention to drives for the textile industry gets all the importance.”

What are the USPs of these drives? “Machines in textile industry work in very harsh environment. For instance, in cotton, there is a lot of fluff and machines have to bear the brunt. Another situation is when there is a power dip, there should not be any yarn breakage. These critical factors are taken into account, when we offer solutions through our drives. We provide a special varnishing on cards to take care of dust. We also have created a special cooling design for the drive structure. This makes it possible for the heat to be outside the panel, which prevents any heating problem,” said Dani.

Power fluctuation is the biggest problem of textile mills. Dani explained: “Our drives take care of power fluctuations and can work on lower capacity of 240 volts DC, while conventional drives can manage only up to 300 or 350 volts. This is very important for most of the mills in India, which go through power fluctuations. Besides, when there is a power failure we have got a kinetic energy function mode, which will regenerate the energy and try to stop the machine slowly. This prevents yarn breakage. As soon as the power comes back, it will slowly restart the machine. The abrupt cutting of power ending in yarn or any breakage is totally avoided.” KEB has specially designed the drive system for all sections of the textile industry including spinning and flatbed printing, the latter needing accurate repetitive printing. “The drive that we offer gives 100 per cent accuracy for this type of printing, which is relevant to the printing industry spread over areas like Surat and other cities,” said Dani.

The customer list for KEB and Bharat Bijlee now covers giants like Rieter, Suessen and Benninger. “There are at least 15 to 20 global leaders in various segments of textile industries, who are our customers. The drives are high-end power electronic products and hence quality has to be 100 per cent. For instance, our shop floor is 100 per cent anti-static (ESD protected) since the components should not come under power field.

Every care is taken and KEB monitors through visits and audits the production process here,” said Dani. Dani did not rule out competition from cheaper import from countries like China. “Particularly in flatbed printing, there were very cheap imports. But companies have seen the advantages of using a KEB-designed drive and today they clearly opt for good, quality drives in the long term,” said Dani.

Interestingly, the motor market of Bharat Bijlee is now partly driving the drives market also. Said Dani; “We have now motor-drive collaboration initiative wherein the marketing team complements the induction motor demand with information on the drives also. This helps one market to promote the other one, creating a better demand for both the products.”

Will Bharat Bijlee become a manufacturing base for export of drives from India to other countries? Said Dani: “Yes, that could happen at some future time. KEB has manufacturing bases in China and the USA apart from its main plant in Germany. There is a possibility for using India as base for such export. But presently, the domestic demand itself is so high that we need all assembling/manufacturing facilities to meet this demand.”

KEB, Germany exports nearly 80 per cent of its drives. But Bharat Bijlee has made a small beginning with some export to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and at present is dwarfed by the dominant motors. “Industry 4.0 is very much here and the scope for drives and automation is bound to multiply in the years to come,” said Dani. His words carry firmly the conviction that Bharat Bijlee is set to drive ahead and will leave no stones unturned to tap fully the field of drives and automation products, just like way it has made the strides in the market for motors.

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