“Technologies like AI and ML are giving a new direction to manufacturers in 2019”

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Rajeev Sharma, head – corporate services and strategic planning for Mitsubishi Electric India Pvt Ltd

India is gradually transforming into a potent and lucrative business destination for foreign players. The electronics industry is booming, with world-class work being done at the local level. Mitsubishi is a well-known brand that has identified great business opportunities in India and has expanded its B2B offerings in the country. Rajeev Sharma, head – corporate services and strategic planning for Mitsubishi Electric India Pvt Ltd, shares the firm’s plans and strategies for the Indian market with Baishakhi Dutta of the EFY Group.

EB: Which domains has your B2B business expanded into today, and which one of them is the most important?
Mitsubishi Electric has a presence across India with a large distribution channel that is expanding to more cities. The product range includes B2B goods and solutions for factory automation and industrial systems, automotive equipment, elevators and escalators, power systems, semiconductors and devices, and imaging and transportation systems. It is quite difficult for us to choose the most important business as we are catering to a vast customer base and all the businesses are of equal importance to us.

We have a wide range of offerings in various segments. We support India’s infrastructure through our transportation services by supplying rolling stock equipment. On the industrial front, we offer efficient factory automation services. Our factory automation division actively supports new-age manufacturing facilities, offering technology at the shop-floor based on the e-factory concept. Our semiconductors and devices also help the Indian Railways —we provide solutions like low power loss, long lie-time and high-reliability, as well as the high voltage insulated gate bipolar transistor (HVIGBT) modules of Mitsubishi Electric for railway traction inverters and power transmission.

EB: How do you tailor your offerings when it comes to the Indian market?
As India’s manufacturing sector is growing rapidly, the competition encourages us to adopt advanced automation solutions to produce higher quality products in larger numbers. The size of the Indian economy, changes in the demography, the population and the relatively high economic growth make the Indian subcontinent an important market for us.

Only a few years back, there was no need for automation technology in India – but today, we see great growth potential. To keep up with it, Mitsubishi Electric focuses on understanding the preferences, needs and requirements of the Indian markets and, accordingly, adapts its technologies and products. To deploy better and faster services, we have shifted from using coal-based diesel engines to electric engines. We are constantly working on the rapid expansion of our factory automation division with our e-factory solutions, which are helping to align the work of our manufacturing facilities from the shop floor to the top hierarchy.

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We are open to new ideas and investments for product development and manufacturing in India, for which we keep on doing market research and analysis. We will invest more, depending on the business scenario, in the future. The product engineering and development teams from our headquarters in Japan keep visiting India to do market research and get customer feedback, as well as to make products suitable to Indian conditions. We have also introduced our solar pump controller a couple of years back, for which we are getting an excellent response from users.

An example of one of our successes is the rolling-stock transportation system, which is our tailored offering for the Indian market. In this system, the products are put in a dust-free casing, which makes them reliable and suitable for Indian conditions.

Another example is of the graphic operation controller (GOC), which is a customised factory automation product for India. This product has a controller with a display, and suits the limited requirements and budgets of SMEs.

EB: Do you have production facilities in India?
Yes. Mitsubishi Electric India (MEI) has manufacturing units at three locations in India, apart from nine technical centres.

In November 2015, MEI opened a factory for transportation systems in Bidadi near Bengaluru. The factory assembles electrical propulsion equipment for rolling-stock under a plan to expand Mitsubishi Electric’s transportation systems’ business in the Indian market. The factory, which cost around US$ 8 million, is on a site measuring 4,605 square metres. It produces traction inverters, motors and other electrical equipment for rolling-stock in metro systems across the country. The factory also does equipment maintenance. Mitsubishi Electric targets an annual revenue of US$ 170 million in India (from this vertical) by fiscal 2020. This division strengthens the transportation infrastructure by offering sales and maintenance services too for subways and trains.

In May 2016, we opened the Mitsubishi CNC Technical Centre at Peenya, Bengaluru, which helps to strengthen our business in India with centralised management and support. The facility is on a site measuring 1458.57sqm. With this CNC head office in India, the sales and support services we offer will be enhanced as the assembly of computer numerical control (CNC) packages for machine tool builders, as well as the repair centre and training centre for customers, have all come under one roof. This technical centre is a small support to the ‘Make in India’ initiative, as local assembly and repair will decrease downtime and help manufacturers to have responsive and robust production. The technical centre also has a state-of-art showroom with all the Mitsubishi Electric CNC equipment. The showroom is open for customers to walk in and make enquiries.

Apart from the above facilities, we have manufacturing facilities set up by our group companies for automotive equipment, elevators and escalators. Mitsubishi Electric India has invested in the elevators and escalators business, and also set up a factory in India in 2016 at Pune.

EB: Are there any R&D and design centres in India?
Mitsubishi Electric India has one R&D centre at Pune, which develops factory automation products for India. The team develops graphic operation controllers (GOCs) in India. Globally, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation spent US$ 1.81 billion in R&D (consolidated) for the FY that ended in March 30, 2016.

EB: What percentage of your business does the Indian market contribute?
The Indian business of Mitsubishi Electric is at a very nascent stage, and it would be difficult to give a percentage of the Indian market’s contribution to Mitsubishi Electric Corporation’s overall business. However, our headquarters in Japan has a positive outlook about India, because of which we are seeing investments and organic/inorganic market expansion in India.

The local unit of MEI generated sales of ₹ 9.3 billion (US$ 137 million) in fiscal 2014. The plan is to raise this figure by about 140 per cent to between ₹ 22 billion and ₹ 23 billion in the year ending in March 2021. The rail-car electrical equipment and HVAC businesses, that each generate about ₹ 6.12 billion in sales a year, will drive the growth.

EB: Are there any new investments/expansion plans in the country?
MEI plans to grow its business and market share in India in the future. The company has made considerable investments in the recent past in two newly set up manufacturing facilities in India, one of which, as mentioned earlier, is at Bidadi in Bengaluru.

Our HVAC business in India has also seen expansion, with our global acquisition of the Italy-based company Melco Hydronics & IT Cooling S.p.A. (previously DeLclima), which includes its vast Indian operations.

Mitsubishi Elevators, a group company of Mitsubishi Electric India Pvt Ltd, has also opened a factory in Bengaluru.

EB: What are your latest flagship B2B offerings?
For factory automation, we are evolving from a product to solutions business, where we are looking at process automation, factory energy monitoring systems and complete plant visualisation—what I earlier referred to as ‘e-factory’. On the industrial front, we are working towards our robotics and IoT solutions.

For semiconductors and devices, we have the latest IGBT technology. We are in discussions with many automobile companies in India for the development of electric and semi-hybrid technology. This is an industry trend, which will gradually see the transition from non-renewable to renewable sources of energy.

For transportation systems, where we are supplying rolling-stock equipment, we support various metro rail projects at Jaipur, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, etc.

EB: What are your views on the Indian electronics ecosystem —in terms of indigenous manufacturing and consumption?
The Indian electronics industry is undergoing a revolutionary technological transformation with the launch of innovative products. This takes the level of global competition up a notch every other day. Electronic product and component manufacturers in India focus more specifically on continual developments and improvements to beat the cut-throat competition. Better production techniques and processes, miniaturisation, high-frequency applications, and technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are giving a new direction to manufacturers in 2019.

EB: What are the major challenges you face in India as a B2B electronics business?
The major challenges in India as an electronics business are the state government and central government regulations and approvals. For factory automation, the struggle is with high capital investments on the shop floor. In semiconductors, we are dependent on the rules and regulations of the government. As mentioned earlier, global competition leads to manufacturing innovations in the electronics business in the most cost-effective way, but mid-sized electronic product and component manufacturers might find it a bit challenging to continue operating in a cost-effective manner.

Manufacturing energy-efficient electronics can be a life-saviour in such conditions, when cost-cutting is a necessity. Moreover, there are environmental concerns not only during the manufacturing processes but throughout the life span of electronic products. There’s surely a need to adopt green electronics manufacturing.

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