SKF’s Ahmedabad factory: the source of perfect bearings

After a tour of SKF’s bearing manufacturing facility in Ahmedabad, Subhajit Roy writes about his understanding on what goes into making a perfect bearing
 Incepted in 1907, SKF has established itself as a global supplier of bearings, seals, mechatronics, lubrication systems and services. SKF entered the Indian market in 1923 and today provides automotive and industrial engineered solutions through its five technology-centric platforms: bearings and units, seals, mechatronics, lubrication solutions and services.
In India, having fully operational state-of-the-art manufacturing plants in Pune, Bangalore, and Haridwar; SKF is well-positioned to cater to the need of Indian market. However, in an aim to further strengthen its manufacturing footprint in domestic and Asian markets, SKF Technologies (India) Pvt. Ltd., a subsidiary of AB SKF (SKF Group), has set up a plant in Ahmedabad in 2010. The plant manufactures medium to large size bearings of various types for heavy industrial segments such as power generation, renewable energy, construction, mining and material handling.
Green with a purposeSpread over 33 acres of land on the Ahmedabad-Rajkot highway, the Ahmedabad facility of SKF is the first bearing factory in India to be certified by LEED rating and the third SKF facility across the globe to attain a LEED certification.
Explaining the efficiency quotient of this facility Ajay Naik, Factory Manager, SKF Ahmedabad said, “The manufacturing facility is certified to ISO 14001 and OSHAS 18001. We are also expecting a certification for energy efficiency soon. The plant is designed to achieve atleast 23 per cent energy efficiency and 30 per cent reduction in water use.”
Maintaining global standard  The manufacturing process of bearings is not as simple as we presumed especially in the case of large size bearings! SKF uses highly sophisticated processes in manufacturing. SKF treats its rings in a highly automated sophisticated furnace with patented process that defines the highest level of quality. After the heat treatment, a series of tests are carried to ensure high quality and post which, the rings go through the grinding operations. This is where super finishing is done in fully control environment and checked for 100 per cent in CMM for dimensions and once passed, the components are assembled by highly skilled and trained engineers. To support this process the plant follows controlled environment for manufacturing. The plant also has state-of-the-art sophisticated automated furnace, high precision grinding machines, CMM for checking. The plant is equipped with metallurgy and metrology lab with latest equipment. However, the optimisation of real-time monitoring makes the plant highly efficient.
Today, Ahmedabad facility of SKF involves almost all crucial functions of a manufacturing unit that helps in achieving optimum localisation level to churn out affordable products. Strengthened with technologically advanced machines, quality skilled employees, and in-house QA & QC team, the facility is gradually becoming a global resource hub for SKF.
Henrik Wickberg, Project Manager (SRB) at AB SKF, who was present during the trip, was quite astonished with the manufacturing set-up and process being followed at Ahmedabad facility. Sharing his experience, he said, “I was responsible for process development in Gothenburg factory and was working with manufacturing and implementing new processes. What we see here is the same processes we established at Gothenburg.” He was also quite impressed with available talent pool in India. SKF is also looking at increasing the production capacity of Ahmedabad facility to meet the increasing demand, he said.
Upgraded SRB – the perfect bearingsEver since the invention of the self-aligning ball bearing in 1907, SKF has been leading the development of self-aligning bearings. SKF Explorer set a new standard for performance in 1999.
Now, the company has introduced a new range of upgraded Spherical Roller Bearings (SRBs): SKF Explorer SRB Upgrade, Sealed SRB and SE Housing. Developments in steel processing technology have enabled SKF to further improve the performance of its SKF Explorer self-aligning roller bearings. Upgraded SKF Explorer spherical roller bearings, marked with “WR” on the package and the bearing outer ring, features a combination of high-quality steel and an improved heat treat process.
Sealed SKF Explorer spherical roller bearings can significantly increase bearing service life in contaminated environments. These bearings are pre-lubricated with specially formulated bearing grease and sealed with highly effective contact seals. The seals protect the bearing and lubricant from contaminants that might otherwise cause premature bearing failure.When compared to an open bearing, the higher level of cleanliness inside a sealed spherical roller bearing makes it possible to down-size the bearing arrangement without negatively affecting the service life or performance of the application.
SKF also launched SE Housing which enables efficient distribution of grease to the bearing for best possible bearing performance during operation. This design also enables heat dissipation via the supporting surface for reduced grease consumption to reduce environmental impact.
Presenting a case study Mr Wickberg said that the sealed bearings lasted twice as long and the grease consumption was reduced by more than 95 per cent. He also claimed that sealed bearings can often improve rating life 2-4 times compared to an open bearing.
Capacity expansionBuilt with a cumulative investment of around Rs. 300 crore, the plant is having an installed production capacity of ` 40 crore per annum. As of now the production facility, office building, and service building occupy 26,700 sq.m. of area. SKF plans to utilise the remaining 20,400 sq.m. for future expansion.

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