Aerospace manufacturing is a complex exercise that is both capital intensive and technology driven and underpinned by a long gestation period and certain amount of risk. Even so, the rapidly growing multi- billion dollar global market for aerospace products and services has been beckoning the entrepreneurs in India to take up the challenge of aerospace manufacturing to meet a part of the requirements of global aerospace OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers). Because for long, India’s state owned aeronautical major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) totally dominated the Indian aerospace, the private sector industry in the country could not hone its skill to become an active partner in the Indian aerospace sector.
…for long, India’s state owned aeronautical major HAL totally dominated the Indian aerospace, the private sector industry in the country could not hone its skill to become an active partner in the Indian aerospace sector.
Clearly and apparently, the callous negligence of the nationally important aerospace sector over the last six decades did result in the country failing to develop and evolve a robust domestic base for design and build capability model, which, is at the heart of a well endowed aerospace eco system.
Of course, way back in 2001, with a view to help India attain the much debated defence self reliance, the private industrial set up of the country was allowed to be a partner in India’s defence and aerospace sector. Even so, overcoming the six decades of lost opportunities in the aerospace sector was not an easy task for the country. The current ruling dispensation in New Delhi has initiated a slew of pro active measures to encourage the Indian private sector to play a pivotal role in defence production and aerospace manufacturing.
For instance, big time industrial players like Tata Sons, Reliance Industries and Mahindra have been allowed to tie up with global aerospace OEMS for the production of both the fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft in the country. This move is expected to position India as a major hub of aircraft and helicopters production and help the country acquire much needed expertise to build the futuristic aerospace products featuring cutting edge technologies.
Against this backdrop, the Indian Government is keen on harnessing the synergy inherent in private –public partnership for taking the Indian aerospace sector to the next level of growth. On another front, the collaboration of the Indian industry, cutting across private public sector jurisdictional differences with globally recognised aerospace enterprises is being projected as a win-win development to acquire much needed technological edge and precision manufacturing expertise to help turn India into an aerospace power of the first order.
As noted by Melligeri, globally aerospace manufacturing is about US$ 100-billiion business per year. Unfortunately, India’s share in this gigantic opportunity is just US$ 250 million per year.
For quite some time now, aerospace industry experts have been suggesting a need for a local-global model wherein the locally available in Indian skill and manufacturing capability can be fruitfully wedded to the state of the art technologies being made available by international aerospace entities forging partnerships with the Indian firms.
According to Aravind Melligeri, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Belagavi based Aequs Aerospace SEZ (Special Economic Zone), an up and coming Indian aerospace manufacturing entity, innovation and quality consciousness in manufacturing could be a critical factor in turning India into a force to reckon within the global aerospace industry by 2020. The objective of Aequs is to build up an aerospace business of around US$300-million per annum by 2020.Aequs has a proven strength in the areas of precision machining, sheet metal fabrication, assembly, forging and special processing for worldwide customers including OEMs.
As noted by Melligeri, globally aerospace manufacturing is about US$ 100-billiion business per year. Unfortunately, India’s share in this gigantic opportunity is just US$250 million per year. This is expected to touch a billion dollar business by 2020 but still remains a very small portion of the global opportunity.
Interestingly, long before Make in India flagship programme of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to be recognised as a catalyst for the growth of Indian aerospace and defence sector, Aequs SEZ, which took off way back in 2009 as Quest Global SEZ, has been focussing on building domestic capability in aerospace manufacturing through joint ventures and acquisition of the operational aerospace enterprises across the world. This strategy aimed at building a full-fledged aerospace eco system to meet the wide ranging requirements of the worldwide customers from a single location has paid rich dividends to Aequs which has already notched up the distinction of being the first Indian private aerospace entity to serve as a tier one supplier to the European aircraft major, Airbus.
The aerospace manufacturing sector in India is fragmented. India has enormous potential to benefit from the global shift of aerospace manufacturing to low cost locations…
As part of its strategy to expand its geographical footprint with a view to provide better services to its worldwide customers, early this year, Aequs acquired the France based SiRA Group. This has helped Aequs expand the reach of its global aerospace ecosystem with a vastly enhanced expertise level. SiRA Group, operating across five sites, offers highly regarded expertise in areas such as precision machining, assembly and testing of engine, landing gear and aircraft actuation components as well as welding and fabrication of aircraft assemblies. This in built capability of SiRA would considerably enhance the skill level of Aequs in providing a wider range of products to its worldwide customers. Among the important customers of SiRA are Dassault, the manufacturer of Rafale fighter jet for the acquisition of which India is in negotiation with France, Safran and United Technologies Aircraft Systems (UTAS). As pointed out by Melligeri, “the acquisition of SiRA strengthens Aequs’ ability to deliver increasing value to our European customers.”
In 2015, Aequs became the first Indian private aerospace enterprise to expand into North America following the acquisition of Texas based T&K Machines. This facility has now been renamed Aequs Aero Machines “This acquisition gives us an opportunity to offer the local-global model to Boeing, Spirit Aero Systems, UTAS, Triumph and other notable players in the industry, ”observes Melligeri.
Interestingly, Aequs is also an active partner in the supply chain system of the US defence and aerospace giant, Boeing.Netherlands based enterprise Fokker Technologies,a part of GKN Aerospace, has entered into a contract with Aequs for the supply of machined components for Boeing’s Chinook heavy lift chopper. As part of this long term agreement, Aequs will supply machined detail parts which will be Made in India for the Chinook heavy lift helicopter. Fokker Technologies will build the parts into final sub assemblies at its facility in Papendrecht in Netherlands. ”Boeing is rapidly expanding its supplier footprint in the country to reinforce our commitment to Make in India and we have doubled our sourcing from India in the last twelve years,” says Boeing India President Pratyush Kumar. Boeing on its part has said that it plans to assemble either its Chinook heavy lift helicopter or Apache helicopter in India. India has already signed contracts for the acquisition of 15 Chinook and 22 Apache helicopters.
Parrikar, pointed out that he is delighted to see Indian companies creating value in the global aerospace industry and supporting the Make in India initiative.
According to Melligeri, the Aequs aerospace eco system at Belagavi in Karnataka facilitates less production cycle time saving on time and cost of transportation and helps to deliver best in the class products to the worldwide customers at an affordable price. The philosophy of Aequs it to boost the qualityof manufacturing through collaboration and partnership that ultimately help build an efficient global delivery eco system. Incidentally, Aequs Aerospace SEZ has the largest aerospace machining capacity in the private sector in India.
Evidently, the business model of Aequsis based not only on manufacturing machined parts and assemblies on a larger scale and lower prices but also on creating a rapidly evolving manufacturing eco system, which comprises several facilities to support the entire manufacturing process—from beginning to end. This eco system facilitates less production cycle time, saving on time and cost of transportation and help deliver the best in class products to customers at competitive prices. “We will continue to expand our capabilities by bringing in new technologies to our global eco system. As part of our 2020 strategy, we have aggressive growth plans in all verticals, especially for aerospace for the Aequs SEZ,” said Melligeri. In the view of Melligeri, aerospace supply chain is challenged to keep pace to increase the rate of production of components, systems and services.”
The aerospace manufacturing sector in India is fragmented. India has enormous potential to benefit from the global shift of aerospace manufacturing to low cost locations,” states Melligeri.
In September last, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar inaugurated a custom built aerospace machining facility covering an area of 100,000 sq. ft at Aequs SEZ. This facility designed to manufacture aerospace machined components and sub- assemblies for Airbus Group would attract an investment of US$50-million over the next five years. When operated at peak capacity, this facility will be able to generate revenue of US$75-million per annum. This facility has the capacity for 150 advanced CNC machines, making it one of the largest aerospace machining facilities in India. Parrikar, in his inaugural address, pointed out that he is delighted to see Indian companies creating value in the global aerospace industry and supporting the Make in India initiative.
While developing the Kaveri power plant meant to propel India’s home grown, fourth generation fighter aircraft Tejas, Bengaluru based GTRE had to look beyond the borders of India for the kind of metallic forgings that Aequs is now capable of delivering.
Olivier Cauquil, Senior Vice President (Materials and Parts Procurement) of Airbus said, “We are proud to claim that today every Airbus aircraft is partly Made in India and we fully support Make in India campaign. This state of the aerospace machining facility dedicated to Airbus represents a significant milestone in our journey with Aequs and in growing our Indian industrial cooperation footprint for the long term. Aequs has been a strategic partner for us in India and we applaud their ability to bring the manufacturing capability to the country”.
Industry experts are of view that the aerospace machining facility being set up at Aequs SEZ represents the growing prowess of the Indian private sector enterprise in the critical area of precision aerospace manufacturing. On another front, this state of the art aerospace machining facility, will augment the integrated aerospace manufacturing capability built up over the years by Aequs Aerospace SEZ that already houses several inter-related capabilities that are either unavailable in India or difficult to come by in one location..
The ultimate objective of Aequs, is to realize an integrated and holistic aerospace eco system where the customers can source all their requirements from one point and in the process save time, money and logistics involved in outsourcing from multiple locations. Aequs is laying increasing thrust on aero-structures and aero systems with a capacity of over 350,000 hours/year. Through Aero Structures India Pvt. Ltd, a joint venture between Aequs and Saab AB of Sweden, the focus is on build to print assemblies for commercial and defence aircraft. This facility delivered its first batch of aircraft structural assemblies to Saab in 2014 for use in Airbus A-380 aircraft. Further into the future, Aequs is planning to set up facilities for casting and manufacture of aero engine components.
There is no denying the point that through a proper policy framework and a slew of incentives, the Indian aerospace sector can be transformed into India’s sunrise industry on the lines of the IT and software industry.
Aequs Aerospace also set a new milestone in precision aerospace forging by commissioning a 10,000-tonne capacity hydraulic forging press in 2014. This closed die, hydraulically operated hot forging press set up by Squad Forging India, a tripartite joint venture between Setforge, Aequs and Aubert and Duval, happens to be the largest of its kind in the country. This innovative facility is being pressed into service to forge larger aircraft parts including landing gear and various actuation parts besides structural parts weighing upto 400-kg. While developing the Kaveri power plant meant to propel India’s home grown, fourth generation fighter aircraft Tejas, Bengaluru based Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) had to look beyond the borders of India for the kind of metallic forgings that Aequs is now capable of delivering.
Similarly, Aerospace Processing India (API), a joint venture between Aequs and Magellan Aerospace, operating out of Aequs SEZ, has achieved the distinction of being the first Indian outfit to set up Tartaric Sulphuric Acid Anodizing (TSA) line approved by Airbus. The customer profile of Aequs reads like who’s who of the global aerospace giants and includes Boeing, Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney, Moog, UTAS and Eaten.
The strides made by Aequs have raised the hopes of giving a required level of momentum to the Indian aerospace sector by harnessing the potentials of Make in India strategy. There is no denying the point that through a proper policy framework and a slew of incentives, the Indian aerospace sector can be transformed into India’s sunrise industry on the lines of the IT and software industry.
Melligeri is of view that the state funding of Indian industry for R&D (research and development) is a welcome move that would ultimately help create an enabling environment for the production of advanced technology aerospace systems. He feels that manufacturing sector in the country has not received incentives and benefits on par with the service sector. But then he is optimistic that Indian Defence Minister’s plan of procuring close to US$8 to US$ 10-billion per year worth of defence and aerospace products in the next five to ten years from the domestic sources could create a positive environment for the Indian manufacturers.