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‘Skilled labour shortage hits machine tool industry’

India is fast becoming a global hub for manufacturing in particular, and as one of the fastest growing economies of the world, in general. Several companies, including multinationals, are investing in India with a view to serve the global market using cost effective manpower and other resources. DD Mulherkar, vice president of machine tools division at Premier Ltd talks on the industry and his company’s performance
 
Growth Drivers for machine tool industry
The manufacturing sector is presently demonstrating an upward trend and will continue to do so for the next decade due to prime growth drivers such as the auto and infrastructure industries. Within these, growth enablers such as power, transport and oil will play a significant role.
 
Customers today are extremely discerning, especially when it comes to technology. Their key interest area when making a buying decision is technology and innovation as they are aware that these two aspects drive productivity. In today’s context customers are often prepared to absorb a price increase as the extra cost is offset by higher productivity which in turn conveys a lower piece rate. Today many customers are considering the ‘life cycle cost’ when evaluating machine tools.
 
Market status
The Indian machine tool manufacturers’ association (IMTMA) has projected that the machine tool industry in India to grow to Rs 23,000 crore in the next ten years and these estimates are in line with our projections for the machine tool industry as a whole.
 
We, at Premier Ltd manufacture highly sophisticated CNC machines, including CNC gear-cutting machines, CNC vertical turning and turnmill centres, machining centres and custom-built special purpose machines. We hold a significant share of the CNC gear-cutting machine and CNC vertical turning centre market, ranking among the top five machine tool entities in India, with a customer base spanning over several public and private sector players such as the railways, defence and public sector undertakings (PSUs).

 
Technological advancements
Technological advancement is a continuous evolutionary process in the Machine tool industry. This can be noticed in basic machine function as well as tooling and accessories. The essence of technological development is always directed towards productivity improvement and ease of operation. Premier is always coming out with innovative solutions. The gear shaper with electronic guide is an example of our recent development.
 
Challenges
Today, shortage of skilled manpower is one of the biggest challenges for the machine tool industry in India. Plant Location is another critical factor. But Premier is relatively fortunate because of its location. The technical man power is abundant in Pune.  A lot of institutes are located in Pune which are churning out a large number of technical personnel.  Another vital factor is ancillary industries such as vendors which can supply precision machine tool components to original machine tool manufacturers.
 
For example, Premier employees enjoy a short commute from Pune and neighbouring areas or regions which enables us to attract talent otherwise unwilling to commute to remote locations, sometimes even for high remuneration.
 
Another growing trend which is a challenge to the manufacturing sector is that many employees are attracted to the service sector, with more pay and fast track growth.
 
Road ahead
We believe that the Indian machine tool companies are poised to grow tremendously and are equipped to face stiff challenges that the market may pose. They are ready to take opportunities that make their way due to growth in Indian manufacturing sector.
 
Your recent initiatives
Premier is already an established pioneer in the Indian machine tool industry. However, it has not just rested on its past laurels. In the recent past, several initiatives by our enterprising team have enabled us to retain our title as leaders in the machine tool market:
 
Environment
We have proactively switched over to environment friendly packaging of our machinery, aligned with international standards. We have pioneered the use of alternative resources in packaging resources in packaging heavy machinery. The traditional practice of using timber has been replaced with metal-based materials such as steel and aluminium, after considering the pros and cons of the machine size, weight and taking into account the proactive aspects of the material as well. According to our CMD, Maitreya Doshi, “Our team explored feasible alternatives to earlier practices. We replaced the traditional practice of using timber with recyclable materials such as steel and aluminium, based on suitability to size and weight of the machine and proactive aspects of the material”.
 
We provide our employees with on-the-job training, to educate them about electrical energy efficiency. These intensive training sessions help our team to continuously monitor and maintain the plant’s power factor to 1.00 (unit) powers on daily basis.
 
Premier has also clubbed air compression into grid format, which saves 22,000 KWH per month and have installed new energy-efficient T5 lights and transparent sheets for added natural light on the shop floor.
 
We have also installed the new effluent treatment plan (ETP) system, which separates waste oil and coolant; the recycled water from here is used in the gardens as well. Currently we are working on a rainwater harvesting plan which will probably see fruition by next year.
 
Attracting the right talent
On the talent front, we have recently launched a formal performance management system for career growth and development where all employees went through an intensive role play and briefing on the topic.
 
A vibrant suggestion scheme which in the first 10 months of operation attributed
Rs. 50,000 lakhs in company savings and employee motivation. In an ongoing effort to attract the right talent, Premier’s association with educational institutions such as College of Engineering Pune (CoEP) and ITIs ensures that the next layer of engineering talent is built for this business.
 
Branding presence
We have successfully branded ourselves in the Machine Tool arena as a ‘one stop shop’ complete machining solutions for specific machining, since there is always a certain degree of customization in the product requirements by customers.
 
Taking our illustrious history a notch higher, today, Premier has strategically located technology centres in Delhi and Bangalore, enabling the company to showcase its products and demonstrate technological competence.
 
Innovation – the key to success
We have charted a strategy for continuous investment in R&D so we can introduce innovative products and machining solutions. Two such machines which exemplify this are: PSC 250 and PHC 150.
 
In keeping with its principle to make its machines more price competitive, Premier also plans to share R & D facilities and joint manufacturing opportunities with its international counterparts, keeping in line with its strategy to grow inorganically through international acquisitions.

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