Gerdau India develops ‘spring steel’ for suspension systems
The Brazil-based Gerdau, a leader in the segment of long steel in the USA, and one of the main suppliers of special steel in the world, has operations in 14 countries. The company’s Indian operation, Gerdau Steel India has its plant at Tadipatri, Andhra Pradesh, to produce special steel, mainly long products, for automotive, defence, railways and related industries.
The Indian arm has been experimenting on new applications of its products and one of the recent try-outs is the rolled flat steel to manufacture ‘Spring Steel’, a component that goes into the suspension system in commercial vehicles. The company has identified the suspension system manufacturer Jamna Auto as its potential buyer. The steel component gets into a truck as a shock absorber to withstand potholes and other deformations, which is very common on Indian roads.
Initiatives for India
Gerdau Steel India’s Managing Director, Sridhar Krishnamoorthy said, “We are working on lot of new applications for the Indian market. One of the applications we have developed is the Spring Steel, which acts as a shock absorber in the suspension system. This particular application is essential for Indian roads which are generally bumpy with lots of potholes. We supply spring steels as rolled flats to our customers. They do the cutting, drilling, heat treatment, and painting and make it as a spring steel assembly for OEMs.”
The steel manufacturer also plans to open a heat treatment bay to harden steel. The customers who buy steel from Gerdau go to a third party vendor for the heat treatment operations. “If we are able to do this process, we will become one-stop- solution for their steel needs,” he said.
Gerdau India manufactures special steel or alloy steel for various automotive applications like steering and transmission systems, engine and axle components, and wheel hubs. “Since 3 years we have been supplying to forging companies and many component makers. Our products have to cross the grade quality check line and on completion of this auditing, the standards are approved and they will be tagged with ‘ready to supply’ badge. We are very particular about the quality of our products. If any product is not up to the quality standards, it will be recalled immediately,” Krishnamoorthy said.
The company is yet to supply special steel to the Japanese car manufacturers, who have very stringent standards and a lot of technical requirements to be met in India and at their parent establishment. Gerdau India is working to get the Japanese endorsement and hopes to supply the test samples very soon. It is currently working with Bosch, John Deere, Ashok Leyland, Mahindra, Hyundai and others.
Gerdau India has a localisation strength of 90% with 10% being imported from Australia. The current capacity utilisation is 80% and by 2020 the company expects to produce 325,000 tonnes.
“Lightweighting has become one of the major challenges. We are using special alloys to reduce weight. We work on the chemical and mechanical properties in discussion with OEMs. We are working on to increase the tolerance of the bar and to reduce the diameter of the products without compromising on strength. However, engine components still need steel as a raw material. In India electric vehicles are still in the nascent stage. At the moment, all-electric is beyond our horizon and our focus is on new applications for the prevailing market in India. We work on special steel space and have done a lot of value additions to the products. The low-value steel will not match the standards of OEMs which place orders based on immediate demand. We have warehouses close to our OEMs including Pune, Chennai and Faridabad. These factors make us unique and the importers cannot service such demands,” Krishnamoorthy said.