In an exclusive interview with Industry Outlook, K. Soundhar Rajhan, Director of Operations - Machine Tool Division, Lakshmi Machine Works Limited. expresses his views on the machine tool industry's rising technological trends, including the need for automation, digitization, sustainability objectives in manufacturing processes and more. He has more than a decade of experience in supply chain management, organization building, and general management. Also, Soundhar Rajhan is on the boards of the Indian Machine Tool Manufacturers Association and LMW Aerospace Industries Ltd.
What are the emerging technology trends in the machine tool industry and how are they expected to impact the market in the near future?
The demand for high-speed machines in machine tool manufacturing has been increasing in recent years. It offers several advantages and caters to the evolving needs of the industry. It increases productivity through faster cutting and machining operations. It also reduces cycle time. High-speed machines support enhancing precision by incorporating advanced technologies like precision servo motors, and linear guideways. These features enable tighter tolerance and improved accuracy, resulting in high-quality products.
Modern industries often require the machining of advanced materials like titanium alloys, high-strength steels and composites. High-speed machines equipped with powerful spindles and cutting tools can effectively handle these materials, enabling the production of complex designs with intricate details.
With the growing demand for customized products, high-speed machines allow manufacturers to quickly prototype new designs and efficiently produce small to medium-sized batches. This agility in manufacturing is essential for industries like aerospace, automotive and medical devices.
It is also compatible with automation technologies such as robotic loading/unloading systems. This integration enhances overall efficiency and leads to increased productivity. It also facilitates predictive maintenance, process optimization, and real-time data monitoring as part of the Industry 4.0 paradigm.
How is the growing demand for automation and digitalization of manufacturing processes driving growth in the machine tool industry?
Increased efficiency – Automation and digitalization of manufacturing processes allow for more efficient use of time and resources.
Improved quality – Automated manufacturing processes are often more precise and consistent. This helps to produce machines with higher quality, leading to customer satisfaction.
– Digitalization and Automation also allow for greater flexibility in manufacturing processes. Manufacturers can quickly and easily reconfigure their production lines to accommodate changes in demand and design, which can help to reduce downtime and increase efficiency.
What are the main opportunities for machine tool manufacturers in industries like automotive, aerospace, energy, and medical equipment?
The automobile industry in India is at a growing phase especially the electric vehicle market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 49% between 2021 – 2030.
Indian passenger car market is expected to reach a value of US$ 54.84 billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 9%
The Aerospace and Defense (A&D) market in India is estimated to be around 5, 25,000 Cr by 2030. The aerospace industry demands for high-quality components, that are produced in high volume and require high precision with bespoke production solutions.
Machine tool contributes to manufacturing high-precision medical equipment parts/ accessories, surgical implants, dental tools, etc. The medical equipment industry is estimated to reach around Rs. 48,543 Cr by 2024, with a CAGR of 27.4%. Additionally, the government has taken several initiatives to promote the growth of the medical device manufacturing industry in the country. The Make in India program encourages domestic manufacturing and also boosts exports.
Other industries like Die & Mould, Electronics, Agri machinery and equipment are also growing. The positive growth in these industries helps to create huge opportunities for machine tool manufacturers.
What are the future challenges that machine tool manufacturers will face?
Machine tool manufacturers are likely to encounter several future challenges. Some of them are as follows:
Technological advancements: The machine tool industry continues to adopt more digital technologies. Manufacturing machines built with automation and the industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), the use of AI to program machines, can be a challenge. Manufacturers will need to continually innovate and upgrade their machines to remain competitive. CAM software is becoming increasingly sophisticated, offering advanced features and capabilities. However, utilizing the software effectively will be a challenge for machine tool manufacturers.
Customization and Flexibility: Customers are increasingly demanding customized solutions and flexible manufacturing processes. Machine tool manufacturers need to enhance their capabilities to deliver highly customizable machines that can adapt to changing production needs.
Sustainability and Environmental Regulations: Increasing focus on sustainability and environmental regulations pose challenges for machine tool manufacturers. They need to develop Eco-friendly technologies, reduce energy consumption and comply with stringent regulations related to emission and waste management.
What is the future of additive manufacturing technologies like 3D printing and how are they expected to impact the machine tool industry in the long term?
Additive manufacturing gained popularity for rapid prototyping due to its ability to quickly create prototypes and iterate designs. It is well-suited for low-volume production and custom manufacturing. Whereas, the machine tool industry primarily serves production machining needs, catering to higher volume requirements. It focuses on efficient and precise manufacturing of parts and components.
There can be some overlap between additive manufacturing and the machine tool industry. Some machine tool manufacturers have started incorporating additive manufacturing capabilities into their machines, allowing hybrid processes that combine both additive and subtractive techniques. This integration leverages the strengths of both technologies and offers enhanced manufacturing capabilities.
It is important to note that while additive manufacturing technologies have potential, there are still challenges to overcome such as material limitations, scalability and cost-effectiveness for high-volume production. While additive manufacturing and the machine tool industry share some common objectives in manufacturing, they employ different principles and serve distinct purposes.
What role will sustainability and circular economy principles play in driving innovation and growth in the machine tool industry and how can manufacturers leverage these trends to create new market opportunities?
Circular economy principles play a significant role in driving innovation and growth in the machine tool industry. Applying this encourages machine tool manufacturers to design products with durability. This means creating robust and long-lasting machines that can be easily upgraded. It also helps in resource efficiency and optimization. Manufacturers can explore innovative techniques and technologies to optimize material and energy use during production processes.
This can involve using advanced materials, improving manufacturing processes and implementing energy-saving measures. By integrating circular economy principles, the machine tool industry can drive innovation, reduce resource consumption, minimize waste generation and create new growth opportunities. This transition towards a more sustainable and circular approach can lead to economic, environmental and social benefits for the industry and its stakeholders.