KOSTAL India expands domestic business
KOSTAL India Private Limited, the wholly-owned subsidiary of the German technology company KOSTAL Group, is expanding in a big way with a renewed focus on the domestic OEMs. The company, which manufactures mechatronic modules, ECUs, switches and panels, is expanding its production infrastructure and increasing its product portfolio. The company makes all kinds of single switches for the car interiors like hazard, steering column switches, HVAC control panel, power windows, gearshift, headlamp switches etc.
Present in 23 countries in Asia, the Americas and Europe, the KOSTAL Group reported sales of Euro 2.58 billion in 2017. KOSTAL India which began as a joint venture between KOSTAL and NTTF, became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the KOSTAL Group in May 2011.
For the proposed capacity expansion, KOSTAL India has acquired a 12-acre plot in the third phase of SIPCOT in Ranipet, in Tamil Nadu close to the existing plant operating out of rented premises. Suresh Bhaskaran, Managing Director, KOSTAL India Private Limited said, the company in the first phase, would construct about 9,000 sqm to accommodate the machines and equipment from the existing plant, and to commission new manufacturing and assembly lines.
“ln the new spacious plant we will be adding more machines to be well equipped with all capital equipment. The technical part of investment in the building is going on as we have certain specifications like acoustical settings to be met. We have engaged an engineering company for that. We are looking at ‘think global, act local’ concept to reduce dependence on imports. The idea is to match global prices wherever possible. The budgetary part is separate as we look at the technical feasibility before coming down to cost,” Bhaskaran told Auto Components India.
Thrust on exports
KOSTAL India supplies seat adjuster switch to Volkswagen Global through its German parent. The company plans exports to Indonesia also. In the domestic market, the company supplies to Ford India, Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra & Mahindra, Renault Nissan and Fiat Chrysler. By 2020, the share of domestic business will increase without compromising on exports.
The company caters to Ford India’s Ecosport and Aspire. For Maruti Suzuki, the supplies are for Alto. Soon it will supply to Ertiga, WagonR and Baleno. Some of the cars exported by Maruti Suzuki will also have parts manufactured by KOSTAL India.
“We go for exports to confirm our ability to make world-class products with local manpower. These are highly labour-intensive assembly lines. When the manual content is high, the chances of making mistakes are more. We started with a sample and found that we could meet the global standards. Top European companies like Volkswagen set their quality levels very high and they certified every step of our localisation and ensured that we were on the right path. About 70% of our workforce is rural women with minimum education and employing them to handle critical components was a challenge. We wanted to prove it as possible
and were successful in doing so. Today we are exporting with a good quality record,” he said.
“Our vision is to have a smooth, lean manufacturing line that synchronises all activities together. The new state-of-theart plant in Ranipet will meet the requirements of our customers and show them that we can make more. Our first focus will be on our employees and their safety – we will always be a people-driven company,” Bhaskaran said.
“We want a proper plant that has got a smooth flow, where we can eliminate most of the nonvalue-added activities, especially transport. Value-stream mapping has to be done in the plant. We are looking for a user-friendly and labour-intensive system. We will control inventory; gone are the days when parts were kept piling up. In today’s changing world, if we have a hundred parts of a particular model and tomorrow that model is changed, the parts become obsolete and have to be scrapped. That is not the approach we should have. In the past, mass production was the key, but today it is singlepiece movement and batch manufacturing,” he said.
KOSTAL India is thinking of adopting new generation manufacturing practices. But, it has not yet moved in that direction. “We are a company still wedded to conventional methods of working. There are still many question marks on disruptive technologies like 3D printing. Volumes are still not speaking about the glories of 3D. We don’t want to jump blindly on to the bandwagon,” Bhaskaran said. With connected cars and hybrids, globally many changes are taking place in the automotive industry. This gives lot of scope for the integration of electronics in the industry. KOSTAL India, with the support of KOSTAL across the globe, is keeping abreast of the global changes. “There are 2 types of trends happening in the automotive industry now. One is on the passenger vehicle side, with people talking of electric cars; the other is the connected car. We have been talking of connected cars for 2 years; suddenly we are looking at cars with gasoline going out of the market. France has fixed 2025 for the shift. We are gearing up globally for both - connected cars and electric cars,” he said.
Another major change that affects KOSTAL India is the emergence of touch panels and screens in cars replacing switches. “This has a lot of scope in India for which we are getting solid support because the biggest challenge in India is dust that gets into the switches; touch screens or panels would solve that issue. Of course, the drivers are still not comfortable with touch screens. Those are challenges we have to tackle, for which we are prepared. We have to wait and watch how these technologies will come to India. We have electric cars, but the batteries are not longlasting; they run only upto 80km. We are looking at cars that can run for 250km at a stretch. When that will come remains to be seen, but as an electric parts provider we are prepared, with our global partners ready to support us,” Bhaskaran said.
The entire instrument panel or a part of it can have touch panels and it purely depends on the customers’ need. “Initially, for the Indian market, we could replace the HVAC panels, where you keep turning the knob to control airconditioning speed, with a touch panel. From there, we can go on to indicators and other items. The screen display on the vehicle will be blank and will come to life only when the engine is started,” he said.
“Many OEMs are working on haptics. They do tell us what has to be implemented. We are the people who could define what haptics is. Our experience from 1912 and the many patents we have developed enable us to do that,” Bhaskaran concluded.
Steering column module
Suresh Bhaskaran, Managing Director, KOSTAL India Pvt Ltd