Godrej Tooling Crafts Imagination For OEMs And Suppliers

The Mumbai-based Godrej Group, one of the largest industrial conglomerates in India, was established in 1897 as Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. by the Godrej brothers – Ardeshir and Pirojsha. The company began with the manufacturing of Locks with Levers, and later diversified into other lines of business such as Appliances, Furniture, Security Solutions, Aerospace, Precision Engineering, Process Equipment, Material Handling, Construction…. to name a few.

Godrej Tooling is one of the largest and most sophisticated Tool Rooms in India. Established in 1935, the company has grown to one of the most organized and professionally managed Tool Room facilities in the world, capable of handling any challenge in design, manufacture, and testing of Stamping (Press Tools) and Die Casting Tooling.

The types of Press Tools made by Godrej includes Lamination Dies, Transfer Tools, Fine Blanking Tools, Progressive Tools, Automobile Panel Tools, and Flexible Punching Tools. In the recent decades, Godrej Tooling has been the pioneer in applying innovative tooling technologies in India, like CNC machines, workstation CAD/CAM, parametric design technologies, etc.

“Today, we have come to a point where we are top-of-the-mind recall for OEMs. They get their tooling from abroad or from Godrej. What I really feel good about is that we are competing with the might of people in Korea, Taiwan and Europe who have got decades of experience in serving the automotive industry; we have done all these, covered a lot of ground, in a compressed period of 10–12 years,” D K Sharma, Executive Vice President & Business Head, Godrej Tooling, told AutoParts Asia.

(Late) Naoroji Godrej, father of the present Chairman & Managing Director of Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd – Jamshyd Godrej, wanted to produce world-class products for consumers, for which he obviously wanted good tools to produce good products. Godrej conceived and made some of the best machines in the world at that time. Skills for the employees were developed in-house and on the job. By virtue of a variety of products that Godrej rolled out, the company developed skills in plastics, sheet metal & die-casting, and made all the tools initially for its captive, in-house requirements.

For mass production, there was need for Jigs & Fixtures, and these were also developed, for captive use. When the need arose, Special Purpose Machines (SPMs) too were developed. Over a brief period, the already talented workforce at Godrej Tooling honed their skill & expertise and enhanced their experience to be able to design & manufacture Jigs & Fixture and SPMs as well.

Within its Sheet Metal design group, it had been using six seats of Pro-E and 12 seats of AutoCAD. They planned to replace AutoCAD in a period of two years, with new tool design software which would satisfy their needs for Progressive Die design as well as other varieties of tools. Godrej was expanding their business of large progressive dies for the export market in parallel to the expansion of new design facilities.

“When the management decided in 1994 that each business will work as an independent Strategic Business Unit (SBU), a significant change in mind-set was required in the Tooling Division, as till then, we were only serving the internal customers. Looking at the infrastructure and skills available with us, we could add much more value by going commercial. At that time, Maruti had just set up shop in India, and they sourced everything from Japan, right from machines to tooling and technical knowhow. Subsequently, when Honda and Toyota started scouting around for good tool rooms in India, they came to Godrej Tooling in the year 2000. We told them ‘we don’t do Automotive Tooling,’ and they replied, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll teach you.’ And that’s how we started,” Sharma said.

The Prime Mover

Godrej Tooling has created a benchmark in the industry by being the prime mover in many tool room innovative initiatives. “We are the First Tool Room to have used the Theory of Constraints (ToC), as tool rooms are notorious the world over for not adhering to timelines. We are also the First Green Tool Room in the country with Certification from CII–GBC (Green Building Council), Hyderabad. We are the first – not only in India, but probably around the world as well – to offer Annual Maintenance Contract for tooling,” he said.

There is a huge inventory of exotic and very expensive tooling in India today. Some are developed indigenously, but most of the complex tooling are imported. When an OEM wants to repair an imported tool, it is a problem. In many cases, the tool manufacturer does not come at all. Godrej takes into consideration the total cost of ownership of the tools.  While the company maintains its own tools at the customers’ end, Godrej Tooling also takes up the modification work for tools supplied by other manufacturers as well, and sets the same right and functional again. This initiative of Godrej Tooling has been getting overwhelming response.

Godrej Tooling embarked on its TPM journey in 2010, and has been awarded the JIPM Certification for the First Level in TPM Excellency. Parallely, Godrej Tooling is also working toward the next level of Certification in TPM. “Even in this, I want to set the benchmarks for the industry,” said Sharma.

Strategy To Excel

The challenges in the tooling business are very difficult to face, to succeed and to survive. The fact that there are no large-scale Commercial Tool Rooms in the country, vindicates this. Companies like Tata, Mahindra and others have captive tool rooms, most of which are run only for maintenance of tools. “There are very few Commercial Tool Rooms in the country, because scaling-up the business is a big challenge, you cannot grow. We have to compress the timeline, which is the need of the hour for any tool shop today,” Sharma said.

Godrej Tooling, meanwhile, re-chartered its growth strategy. It hived off Plastic Moulds about five years ago, as there was not much of value addition there. Instead of being the jack of all trades, making all sorts of tooling under the sun, the company decided to be a specialist in making certain types of tools, excel in them and be highly competitive in that arena. “We made a shortlist of three choices: Die-casting Dies, Sheet Metal Tooling and Industrial Machines (SPMs and Jigs & Fixtures) – in the percentage proportion of 50, 30 and 20 respectively. In Sheet Metal, we wanted to make tooling for internal automotive components, such as Reinforcement Panels, Side Panels and Fuel Tanks for Two-Wheelers. We have manufactured and supplied tooling for all the top bike manufacturers – TVS, Hero, HMSI, Suzuki, to name a few – and we are proud to mention here that these companies have now stopped sourcing from Japan,” Sharma said.

The list of prestigious clientele of Godrej Tooling – both within India and overseas – includes Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra & Mahindra, Toyota, Honda, etc. In the last decade, Honda has repeatedly awarded Godrej Tooling as the Best Tool-maker in India.

Focus On Productivity

Though not being in the race with standard machine manufacturers, Godrej Tooling still makes Customised Machines based on special applications, at par with global standards. The company mostly makes only SPMs which are unique.  Even for the new generation standard machines, the basic design remains the same. Improvements are made only in cutting parameters and tool life.

In the present scenario of tool production, focus is on cycle time reduction and productivity enhancement, so as to reduce the cost of manufacturing per piece and pass-on that benefit to the customer. The approach would be whether to use a hydraulic or pneumatic system, or any other means to achieve it. There are fixtures that are made with manual clamping, while the same can also be actuated by pneumatics.

From making small fixtures for its own parts, Godrej Tooling has migrated to making fixtures for builders of locomotives and railway coaches (21metre long). In the Indian Railway factories, the fixtures are of a very old design. All clamps over the length of 21metres are all manually operated, resulting in very low productivity.  By re-designing the fixtures, the cycle time can be reduced to just 15 minutes, leading to substantial enhancement in productivity.

“We have had a very successful break-through in the railways, in making fixtures for Bombardier and Alstom Metro Coaches. With several Smart Cities coming within the fold, and the resultant increase in Metro lines and coaches, high mobility is going to be the order of the day in future. We are confident of growing in a big way with these clients, as Godrej Tooling is their preferred supplier for fixtures,” Sharma said.

After railways, Godrej Tooling set its eyes on the defence arena, where there is a huge (unexplored) opportunity for automation of the Ordnance Factories. The company already has an expertise in the robotic automation field for defence requirements. “There will be hurdles, but the Defence Minister of India has positively assured us of their support. The present Government has recognised the need for private sector participation, and we are quite excited about it. We see a big opportunity here for industrial machines,” he said.

Die-casting For 2-Wheelers

Every third two-wheeler on the Indian roads will have a part produced from the tooling manufactured by Godrej.  The tooling for production of fuel tank, crank case (both LH & RH) and other engine parts, is manufactured by Godrej, and supplied to renowned two-wheeler makers such as Bajaj, TVS, Honda, Hero and  two others.  “From its humble beginning of making tooling for small aluminium parts for Locks, Godrej Tooling has come a long way, by making – for the first time ever in India – the largest tool for the manufacture of flywheel housing component. This tool was supplied to the Sundaram Clayton, and run on a 3,200-T Die-casting machine,” Sharma said.

The latest trend in tooling is that it is getting commoditised as many players enter the market. To be ahead of competition, the company is making the most complex die-casting die for cylinder blocks. “We are making this die for Honda, which is currently importing the same from Japan. This is another import-substitution benchmark which my team will create,” he said.

Now, thin-walled castings have been getting into vehicles, where pressure requirements and related risks are high. This means a reduction of 25 to 30 percent in the section thickness, as compared to the standard casting. Thin-walled casting technology is considered to be the trump card in achieving the objective of light weight of components. It is the key to faster heat dissipation, but needs to be applied with abundant caution. Excess material is removed from the non-load-bearing areas, thus making it lighter.

The strength of the part is ensured by providing strengthened load points. The dissimilar thickness sections are joined by welding, bonding and riveting technology, to achieve weight and other criteria – for example: Tailor Welded Blanks (TWB).

In developing dies, it is important to consider the diameter, high velocity and high thermal requirements. The venting system has to be designed differently to meet extreme conditions. It calls for a very specific die construction, to withstand and meet all these criteria.

“Today, when foundries are to be equipped with high velocity casting machines with vacuum technology under thermal regulations, a bit of infrastructure is required to be able to come out with thin-walled castings. What we do at the pre-engineering stage like product design, is to provide inputs to the customer and apprise him of the available technologies to make it feasible to produce thin-walled castings,” he said.

Green & Clean Casting

Casting is said to be a 3D industry– Dirty, Difficult & Dangerous. The first step to break this 3D myth about die-casting is by changing people’s mind-set. Good housekeeping practices and proper implementation can transform the die-casting shop into a ‘showroom.’ Some of the world’s best foundries now exist in India – Toyota (TKAP), Hyundai (Engine Block Foundry) etc. Awareness in the tooling industry has to be enhanced to bring about change in making it clean and green.

Godrej provides solutions to make foundries clean and green, by giving better engineered and built dies. The design itself will decide whether the shop will be dirty or bright. If there is need for more re-work and more rejections, the scraps will get piled up on the floor and present a bad picture.

“Our dies will give better yield with miniscule flashes for clean operation. We are also the first one in the industry to refurbish the tool, at a lesser price than the original one while guaranteeing the same life as the new one. All this will help the environment and society at large,” Sharma said.

About 50 percent of the die elements by weight can be recycled thus conserving natural resources. The company offers tool management services for better upkeep of the dies and maintain them. Like the Japanese who will not compromise on the checklist for tool maintenance, Godrej also educate the customers on the benefits of maintaining tools properly by following the standard instructions of maintenance.

“We are working in a big way with Bosch to provide these end-to-end services. We also train people as there is an acute shortage of skills pertaining to tooling and tool maintenance. We have started offering our training modules for die-casting and press tool applications,” he said.

Training Modules

Godrej Tooling is conducting several Training Modules beginning from three months (short-term course). People are given theoretical training, and on-the-job training, in their own foundries, on the right methodologies to be adopted during usage and maintenance of tools. These are professional services offered by the company – which again is a first in the tooling industry.

The company has established a small Gurukul – named ‘Nalanda’. “We map the skill levels of our own employees and upgrade the same over time, by providing inputs from Nalanda. This initiative has been extended to out vendor fraternity as well, as it is in our interest to ensure that the output from our vendors conform to the quality standards which Godrej is well-known for. If we compare our (Indian) tooling with those of Taiwan and Korea, the big difference is that we are totally unreliable because we think only of ourselves and not for the entire industry. The Tool And Gauge Manufacturers Association (TAGMA) is now coming up with a Training Centre located at Chakan near Pune, supported by the Government of India, which has told us to make the training model successful, so that TAGMA can set up such centres pan-India. This is how we are going to make the industry green,” Sharma said.

Sheet Metal

In the Sheet Metal industry, as the life cycle of a product is drastically reducing, OEMs and component suppliers are constrained with higher capital cost of tools and dies. In this scenario, the major challenge for Godrej is the high price pressure from the OEMs. The company may not know the number of vehicles to be sold. However, it would take up and manage more complex parts, play a major role in import substitution and try to reduce the price pressure on the OEM.

Project management is a vital aspect for Godrej Tooling, in its Sheet Metal stream, which is made up of various assemblies of parts. “We have started offering the entire assembly, not a part alone as in the past. Here, the performance of a cluster of parts in the whole assembly remains only with one supplier. This has reduced the time to market. I will work with my vendor, make most complex parts in-house and design the parts that I can get fabricated outside. However, the responsibility remains with me. This is the CCPM (Critical Chain Project Management) approach – consolidating for small and medium parts from outside with design activity being done in-house. We have used these techniques as reliability is a big question mark with Indian Tool Rooms,” Sharma said.

In order to work with the increasing use of high tensile steel by OEMs for making the components weigh light, Godrej has to develop the engineering capability for simulation. The quality maturation of parts will take a little longer than normal steel.

“For this, we have acquired special software like AutoForm. We started this journey four years ago, and are already deep into it. We have done high tensile parts for Audi, Cosma and Gestamp for Fiat and Renault projects. The foresight we had four years ago is keeping us moving to greater heights. We do simultaneous engineering to reduce the lead time, and pre-order some parts based on our simulation models. We are helping the customer to make his first product right. This ensures commitment of orders to us from OEMs,” he said.

For Stamping, as a process, Godrej carries out simulation and optimises yield from the part. “We sign-off with the customer during simulation itself and the design review stage. It is further optimised during the trials and commissioning, sometimes at the customer’s production site. The process of trying-out various sizes of steel is a regular phenomenon and we show the customer the most optimised blank which will enable output of the desired part,” Sharma said.

New Frontiers

Godrej Tooling will always have new customers and it will be continuously working on new projects and probabilities to be ahead of competition and OEM requirements.

For its Industrial Machines segment, Bombardier and Alstom – the big coach builders – are the new customers. In die-casting, the list is longer with Bosch, Sundaram Clayton and all the two-wheeler manufacturers. For Sheet Metal, the new customers are the Spain-based Gestamp and Cosma International from Canada.

About 10 to 15 percent of the Godrej Tooling business is from exports. The company has received an order from Tower Automotive (Germany), which will supply the parts to Mercedes for its mills. “This is the first time that the Germans are sourcing tooling from India.  We have supplied to the American companies in the past, but I consider Germans the best. If I can satisfy them, I can work with anybody in the world. The German motto is ‘Engineering to perfection.’ We are very excited and take this as an opportunity to showcase India’s capability. We will complete delivery of tools of the present order, to Tower Automotive (Germany), by February 2017,” Sharma said.

The company also has business dealings with Fanalca S.A., in Colombia, and is looking at South America too for enhancing its exports, while continuing to focus on the European and US markets. It is developing import substitutes, in which the Japanese have evinced a great deal of interest. The tools made by Godrej for the rear arm are exported to Japan and fitted into the Yamaha two-wheeler manufactured there.

About the work culture in the company, the secret of its success, Sharma said, “We are so capital, skill and knowledge-intensive, that we cannot keep our resources idle. The workers would become frustrated. I keep throwing challenges and they are able to take them. That is how we have been able to create such a good system. Technology is changing at a very fast pace, along with introduction of new software. To keep our team abreast and updated on the technological front, we need to have a strong financial base. This is a challenge – but, we have expansion plans to come closer to the customers.”

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