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Racold’s factory: making of efficient water heaters

 Racold Thermo’s Chakan plant manufactures 6 lakh products per year and aims to expand its product range. After a visit to the factory, Swati Rana writes about the process involve in making of efficient water heaters
Racold Thermo Ltd., an ISO 9001:2008 company, is a fully owned subsidiary of Ariston Thermo Group, Italy. In India, Racold’s fully integrated water heater plant started in Chakan near Pune and has been in operation since 1999. Spread over 21 acres, the plant manufactures electric, gas and solar water heaters.
Ever since its inception, Racold Thermo has been changing standards in the Indian water heater industry by bringing in new technology, enhancing the aesthetics, quality, durability and performance of the product. The plant manufactures 6 lakh products per year.
The company has won the Energy Conservation Award from Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) four times in a row for electric storage heaters.
ChallengesOne of the main challenges that water heating industry faces is how to make a product that can last in any water condition. Commenting on this aspect, Mathew Job, MD, Racold Thermo Ltd., says, “We felt the product we sell anywhere else in the world may not work well in India. We did lot of R&D locally and developed Super Polymer High Performance (SPHP) technology to manage the hard-water condition in India.”
The company’s plant in Chakan has an R&D centre, which has helped Racold to produce energy efficient products. It is pertinent to mention that, Ariston Thermo, the parent company of Racold, invests 58 million Euros yearly in R&D worldwide.
Manufacturing process Electric water heater contributes 70 per cent of Racold’s business. Racold Thermo has the complete in-house manufacturing process of water heater. The process starts with the manufacturing of top and bottom dome of the water heater. Round shaped flat stainless steel sheet is moulded into the container. In trimming operation the collar of the container is removed. After the top and bottom dome is ready it’s sent for flange and pipe welding. Different model has different cylinder. Stainless steel sheet is then rolled and welded to form a cylindrical shape. In Circum MIG welding process, top and bottom dome along with cylinder of water heater are welded together to form the inner body of water heater.
Sand blasting inside and outside, smoothens the surface of the inner body of water heaters. With the help of SPHP technology the product is made corrosion free. The heating element is added and the product is tested to check whether it withstands upto 8 bar hydraulic pressure, which is the highest pressure. The puff used for insulation is manufactured in the factory to make the product more energy efficient.
Once the inner body of the water heater is insulated, the product is sent for assembling where the outer body of the water heater is positioned. Once product is all set, it’s sent for packaging. The company has also come up with its new range of product in electric water heater section i.e. Eterno and Altro.
Vacuum tube and flat plate collectorThe solar market is growing very quickly due to electricity shortage and the increasing cost of electricity. As India has abundant sunshine, there is a huge scope of growth for solar market. Racold Thermo started manufacturing solar water heater in early 2005. The company provides vacuum tube collector and flat plate collector in solar water heating section. The plant manufactures all the components like the inner tank, outer body, thermostat, heating element etc. to ensure the quality of the product.
In 2012, Racold introduced solar water heaters in two categories: Vacuum tube and flat plate collector. The tube technology provides maximum heating efficiency. Each tube is made up of two high quality glass tubes of optimum length to ensure excellent solar absorption. The inner container is insulated with high density injected PUF to provide maximum heat retention. The tube has a unique V shaped SUN-MAX reflector. This ensures maximum absorption of solar energy as the rays are reflected back on to the tubes, thus increasing the product’s efficiency.
Whereas the flat plate collector has a specially designed contact area that allows superior heat absorption. Thick aluminium fins and copper pipe used in its construction ensure longer life and higher efficiency. The fins are painted black to absorb more heat from the sun’s rays. Box structure is designed with pre-coated steel that makes for a tough and sturdy collector. Solar water heater contributes 25–28 per cent in Racold’s business and is one of the fastest growing sectors.
Safety measures“We have safety committee and there are certain rules and regulations. There are 500 employees working in the factory and safety trainings are provided to all of them,” says Mahesh Bhangale, GM Manufacturing, commenting on the safety measures taken by the company. “The factory has an automated fire alarm, which triggers with the increase in room temperature. Hazardous waste released from the plant, are given to the waste management for disposal.” 
LocalisationIn past, the company was primarily dependent on local products, but now it offers both local and international range. Today Racold products are available in 10,000 stores across the country and now it plans to extend the tally to 12,000 stores.
Roadmap for RacoldAccording to Mr Job, since 2012, Racold has been growing approximately 30 per cent per year. Their objective is to double their business every 3 years. The company aims to expand its product range and availability in the market.
Talking about its expansion plans Mr Job says, “Expansion happens on many fronts, one is of course in terms of product range. We have introduced a new product range in 2012; we also have the possibility of bringing some of the products from the other global markets of Ariston.”

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