Text: Bhargav TS

CK Birla group firm National Engineering Industries (NEI) will be launching its 3rd generation hub bearing by next year. The company, which sells its bearings under the NBC brand is currently developing a 3rd generation hub bearing mainly catering to passenger cars and SUVs. NBC bearings are widely used by two and three-wheelers, cars, utility vehicles, commercial vehicles, tractors, electric motors, railway wagons, coaches and locomotives, steel mills, heavy engineering plants and thermal power plants. The automotive and railway industries form the 2 largest client segments of the company.

Washing, testing for vibration and free rotation

Speaking to Auto Components India, Rohit Saboo, President & CEO, NEI said, “Currently we are developing 3rd generation hub bearing and taper hub unit. The 3rd generation bearing is basically a wheel bearing used for cars and SUVs. It is an integrated bearing where the hub is the outer of the bearing therefore it will be easy for the vehicle manufacturers to fix it as it does not require to press the bearing and will be easy to maintain the torque. In this new bearing the process to fix it becomes easier as it has to be just pushed and fasten 3 screws. We are reinventing this new product which is developed indigenously by us. We have got an LoI from the Indian origin vehicle manufacturer,” reveals Saboo, without disclosing the company names.

The new 3rd generation hub bearing can be either taper or ball bearing and the order that NEI has got is the ball bearing and will commence its commercial production by 2016. The company is also developing taper hub bearing which is expected to be out by early 2016. Citing a reason for developing this new product, Saboo said, “The life of the 3rd generation hub bearing will be more when compared to the other bearings and it is easy to manufacture, so we are just following the OEMs as they are moving towards this new technology. This product exist in other part of the World but as far as India is concerned we are the first to bring it.”

Rohit Saboo

Rohit Saboo

The bearing manufacturer has been ramping up its investment on R&D to become globally competitive. Gradually increasing its annual R&D spend from an earlier 0.25% of the turnover, NEI now invests 2% of its total turnover every year and has doubled the R&D headcount in the last 3 years. Continuing its focus on R&D, NEI is also developing taper hub bearing which is expected to roll out in early 2016.

NEI has 3 production plants located in Jaipur, Newai (both in Rajasthan), and Manesar (in Haryana) producing 100 million bearing a year at present. The 4th plant a green field project at Savli in Gujarat – started rolling out bearings recently. The construction of the Gujarat plant will be completing its first phase in March 2016 and the second phase will be completed by May 2017. Once the Gujarat plant becomes fully operational, the company’s overall bearing production will touch 140 million units a year. Apart from catering to the domestic market, the Gujarat plant will also be exporting bearings to almost all the countries.

“The construction of the first phase in the Gujarat plant has already completed and almost half of the lines are under production. Every month there are outputs having production lines started functioning. The construction of the second phase is already started, which is expected to get over by 2017. Towards this new plant we have invested Rs 350 crore and will be further investing Rs 350 crore for the second phase,” added Saboo. He also said that, “The kind of response that we are getting in international market is very encouraging, therefore we target to export 50% of the bearings that are manufactured in our Gujarat plant,” revealed Saboo. Currently NEI exports 22% of its total turnover and targeting to reach 25% by end of this year.

The company is also present in the two-wheeler segment and has recently completed developing low torque bearing, low friction bearing and low noise bearing which are mainly going into motorcycles and electric motors. Commenting on the two-wheeler business Saboo said, “Though, the industry is down by 1.5%, we have grown in the two-wheeler business with new products which are doing better, especially the scooter segment.”

Last year NEI launched its ConMet PreSet hub assemblies for HCVs and supply to 1 customer in India. Currently the company is in technical discussion with 2 large OEMs in India to supply the same and Saboo is confident about bagging those orders. The ConMet PreSet bearing will save maintenance costs, labour, time, eliminate failures due to a bearing’s incorrect adjustments and minimise the risk of assembly damage or incorrect assembly of seals. Saboo explained that, “It is an assembly of bearings for wheel applications. Conventionally, the OEMs assemble the hub at their end on the axle and the tyre is mounted. After the vehicle completes 40,000km, it requires re-greasing, replacement of bearings and other services. The preset hub assembly comes in a ready-to-use form and offers a trouble-free life of 200,000km.”

The company that commenced manufacturing in 1950 with an annual production of 30,000 bearings in 19 sizes has now grown in range and stature, making over 100 million bearings in more than 1000 sizes every year. It has the capacity to develop bearings up to 2000mm outer diameter. The product array includes ball bearings, tapered roller bearings, and double row angular contact bearings, cylindrical and spherical roller bearings. The company now plans to consolidate exports by further adding new markets and aims to notch 25% of total turnover in exports by 2015-16. Around 60% of all NEI business comes from automotive of which, two-wheelers and farm equipment comprise 25% each while passenger cars and commercial vehicles jointly constitute the remaining 50%.

Currently, the company exports to over 23 countries in 5 continents, including the developed markets like US and Germany. The current client portfolio includes Hero Motocorp, Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Bajaj Auto, Honda Motorcycles & Scooters India, TAFE, VE Commercial Vehicles, Ashok Leyland, Indian Railways, Daimler (Germany), Conmet (USA) and Agrale (Brazil). NEI recorded a turnover of Rs 1650 crore last year and expecting to reach more than Rs 1900crore. “Mainly the growth is more in the export market and in the domestic market we have added new customers this year, which fuels the growth of the company. By 2020 we intend to cross Rs 3500 crore turnover,” concluded Saboo. ACI


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