Happy Story for Automation Suppliers in India

Automation companies operating in India are experiencing strong economic growth.

The revival of the manufacturing sector in India has been a happy story for automation companies. India's economic growth is gathering pace, and the country is already looking at 9 percent to 10 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth supported by double-digit industrial growth. Capacity additions (both brownfield and greenfield) are underway with metals, paper, cement and construction leading the charge. Other encouraging trends include industry's increased focus on efficiency, productivity and quality improvements and global ambitions of Indian industry, all driving home the need to leverage automation technologies. 

With a nearly 80 percent weightage in the country's industrial production, India’s manufacturing growth rate has doubled from 6 per cent in 2002-03 to a record 12.3 per cent in 2006-07. Growing investor confidence in India can be attributed to its rise in position from rank 50 to 43 in the Global Competitive Index. 

Automation majors across the globe—ABB, Honeywell, Siemens and Rockwell Automation, along with their Indian counterparts such as Larson & Toubro Ltd. (L&T), to mention a few, are expanding operations in India to meet the growing demands. And new companies are investing in the country. 

ABB get orders 

Enhancement of production and execution capacity is underway to meet growing market demands of ABB. The Zurich, Switzerland-based company has won orders worth $127 million from Indian industrial group JSW Steel Ltd. to increase capacity at its steel mills. ABB will supply turnkey power and automation solutions for two power plants that will generate electricity needed by the mills. 

The company said it received significant orders during the quarter, including the successes in new revenue streams. Its third quarter orders were up 23 percent compared with last year. “Our order book is getting stronger, helped by core business growth as well as new revenue streams, and we continue to be positive on the market outlook,” said country head and Managing Director Biplab Majumder in a press statement. 

ABB India said that in addition to power and automation projects, the standard product business continues to grow at an accelerated pace. “Today, ABB is rated among India's blue chip companies and recognized as a market leader in power and automation technologies. The company has over 6,500 employees with an extensive local manufacturing and marketing presence across the country, and a national network of over 750 channel partners. Besides serving the domestic market, the company also has a significant level of exports. ABB’s business portfolio in India is represented across five divisions,” he added. 

“The company is making steady progress on its charted course and has been growing at an accelerated pace. We shall continue to increase ‘depth’ and ‘breadth,’ and at the same time, strengthen our resource base and sharpen our delivery systems,” he pledged. 

Rockwell metamorphosis 

As it announced its fourth-quarter earnings, Rockwell Automation Inc. issued a stronger-than-expected outlook for 2008. The company, which reported 2007 sales of $5 billion, also projected 2008 sales to grow by 10 percent to 12 percent. Chief Executive Keith Nosbusch said he expects the fastest growth in Asian economies such as China, India and Korea, where Rockwell is aiming for 20 percent sales increases in the coming year. U.S. sales, by contrast, will grow in the “mid-single digits,” he said. 

Much of the fascination with Rockwell stems from its ongoing metamorphosis from a manufacturer of motors and mechanized factory automation gear into a software and computer-services company that networks factories to increase efficiency. Nosbusch, who used the term transformation repeatedly to describe the company, said Rockwell reached a milestone with January’s divestiture of its Power Systems unit, which makes gears and motors. 

The Indian unit of Germany-based Siemens AG has won an order worth $22 million from Mcnally Bharat Engineers Pvt Ltd to supply electrical equipment for Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd's (RINL) new sinter plant in the southern Indian city of Vizag. Siemens also received an order worth $83 million from Tata Steel to provide the power distribution network solutions for its greenfield integrated steel plant at Kalinganagar, Orissa. 

Schneider outpaces 

Schneider Electric, the Rueil-Malmaison, France-based automation supplier, has said a big part of industrial investments would come to India and the Asia Pacific region as they form strong growth centers for the company. Speaking in connection with the launch of the company's ninth global manufacturing plant in India at Hyderabad recently, Henri Lachmann, chairman, Schneider Electric, said the company is growing at 30 per cent annually in India, much faster than any other country in Asia and also faster than its competitors. Its business across the globe is growing at 10 percent year-on-year. 

“We want to produce where we sell. Once the capacity of this plant is full, we will think of setting up another plant in India. But I can only say that we are growing very fast here,” Lachmann told the media. The company is also focusing on increasing its business in integrated business management systems (IBMS), which include automation, fire and security systems, in India. 

The domestic firm Larsen & Toubro is hopeful of achieving growth of its automation business to more $200 million by fiscal year 2010, a top company official said. L&T automation business has recently started operations in the Free Trade Zone at Jebel Ali in Dubai, and successfully conducted integrated Factory Acceptance Tests (i-FAT) for the Reliance East-West gas pipeline project. 

“Our expansion plans and creation of centers of excellence are in line with the ongoing and anticipated growth in automation and system integration business. We are, therefore, creating base infrastructure with a long-term perspective in mind,” L&T Chairman and Managing Director A. M. Naik said in a statement. 

“The company’s automation business has been consistently growing over the last few years, registering a robust CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of around 35 to 40 percent. This is going to increase further and, therefore, we need additional capacity,” President (Operations) and Member of the Board R. N. Mukhija said. “The new facility will enhance productivity and help meet the growing requirements of India and international markets. By FY 2010, we expect to grow this business to over $200 million,” he said. 

Beckhoff expands 

Germany-based Beckhoff Automation is expanding its international sales network with the establishment of a subsidiary in India and now has a global presence with twenty branches of its own. The newly established Beckhoff Automation started operations in India on Aug. 1, 2007. According to Jitendrakumar Kataria, managing director of Beckhoff Automation, the site chosen is the Muttha Towers technology park close to the airport. “Besides the market for industrial automation solutions, the demand for intelligent building automation is currently booming,” he said. 

Murata Machinery, of the Muratec group, from Japan is setting up its fully owned Indian subsidiary, Murata Machinery India Pvt Ltd, which will start its operations in December. Murata Machinery India, to begin with, will take up marketing, post-sale technical services including installations and spares of its textile machinery range for the sub-continent, hitherto handled by its authorized service partner, MMI Services of Mumbai. It may later on enlarge its operations to cover Murata Machinery’s other divisions, such as machine tools, logistics and automation equipment in India. The subsidiary will have its organizational bases in Delhi (registered office), Mumbai and Coimbatore, which will enable it to cover India’s textile clusters. 

Manufacturing exports 

According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok, India is emerging as a force in manufacturing exports. Manufacturing exports have surged, growing 37.3 percent year-on-year in U.S. dollar terms between April and September 2006. Manufactured exports are dominated by capital-intensive engineering, chemical and petroleum products. The main engineering products, iron and steel are feeding large global demand, especially from China. India's automotive sector is also expanding rapidly. 

“India, along with China grabs all the limelight in the automation and software markets in Asia today. However automation suppliers understand the important role of Southeast Asia in the region and have adopted a mix of strategies to capture this highly competitive market,” observes Satish Lele, Director for research firm Frost & Sullivan’s Industrial Practice, Asia Pacific. 

Strong macroeconomic fundamentals, integration with the world economy, industrial pick-up and the significant work that still remains to be done with reference to the power sector, continue to offer bright prospects for both power and automation technologies businesses. 

About the Author
Uday Lal Pai, udaylalpai@gmail.com is a freelance journalist based in India.

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