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One Must Dare To Dream – R.V.Gandhi

One must dare to dream. Entrepreneurship is about dreaming and conceptualising, says R.V.Gandhi, Managing Director and chief promoter of GRP Ltd in an exclusive interview with Rubber & Tyre Machinery World.

“Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader. They set out to make a difference. It’s never about the role – always about the goal.” 

The above verse best summarizes Rajendra V. Gandhi (RVG). From building an ethical corporate organization in GRP, to serving on prestigious boards and industry bodies, public and private trusts that serve the cause of education in rubber, women empowerment, training in ethical values, water resource management, Gandhi’s immense contribution to Indian rubber industry has established him as an inspirational business leader and an iconic corporate citizen.

While the global reclaim industry depended on the European technology for manufacturing, Gandhi boldly decided to design, fabricate and install an entire plant and machinery for the manufacture of Reclaim Rubber, with complete indigenous components when India was largely deprived of foreign funds for imported machinery. This pioneering effort, at the start of his career as a young graduate engineer from IIT-Mumbai, ensured the beginning of a reclaim movement in India. Under Gandhi’s leadership, GRP Ltd has emerged as one of the largest manufacturer of reclaim rubber in the world, setting benchmarks for others to follow. Its an honour to know him and present you his leadership wisdom in this edition.

Know-A-Leader-R-V-Gandhi-GRP

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I urge you not to miss reading this complete interview online on our digital edition (or please click on the image above). You will immensely gain from his wisdom shared through passionate narration of personal experiences of over 40 years; know his views on changes, new ideas energizing the reclaim rubber industry, sustainability, challenges, expectations from equipment manufacturers, and machinery selection advice for buyers.

Here’s one teaser Q&A below, while the full interview has 10 questions.

Q) Reclaim Rubber is widely used in manufacturing of automobile tyres and tubes as well as many other rubber products. How do you ensure that industry acknowledges the ‘sustainability & environment friendly’ aspect of Reclaim Rubber and consciously increase its usage in their products; especially when there are favourable price fluctuations for them in NR and SR?

RVG: In the aftermath of the World War II, Reclaim Rubber emerged as a significant player in countries like USA to offer the third source of rubber hydro carbon after Natural Rubber and Synthetic Rubber. But with advent of cheap crude oil prices in the 50’s and 60’s, and huge production of Synthetic Rubber saw demise of Reclaim Rubber Industry in the western world. By late 70’s barring one or two Reclaim Rubber producers almost all manufacturers ceased to exist in USA / Europe.

As a result, almost one generation of rubber technologists did not have the knowledge of use/advantages of reclaim rubber in compounding.

Consequently, when our Company in early 90s decided to enter export market we realized, we had to re-educate technical people in the compounding division of our customers to see the benefit of Reclaim Rubber as a technically sound ingredient / raw material rather than cheap inexpensive filler. It took a lot of time and efforts to build trust with our customers.

After 2005, with the Chinese economy galloping at more than 10% annually, there was a concern worldwide about possible shortage of Natural and Synthetic Rubber. The prices of Natural and Synthetic Rubber along with crude oil price began to rise rapidly. In addition, with the adverse effect of global warming, several Governments became conscious about sustainability and environmental degradation.

GRP since then has been highlighting the role of Reclaim Rubber from the point of view of sustainability and as a environmental friendly raw material. We have succeeded to some extent in this endeavour.

In recent times, however with the crash in the commodity prices as well as in the prices of Natural and Synthetic Rubber, there are fewer incentives for using more Reclaim Rubber despite of it being more environment friendly raw material.

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Also, the center fold of this issue ‘One Page Leadership Insights from Around the World’ should be an added resource for you, I trust.

Centre Page Preview

Do review page 25 of the eEdition

I look forward to your feedback and thoughts of this interview.


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Tyre Technology Is An Amalgamation Of Science And Engineering – P.K.Mohamed

Tyre Technology is an amalgamation of science and engineering. It is dominated by physics, chemistry, mechanical and chemical engineering, says P.K.Mohamed, Chief Adviser – Research & Technology and Member of Management Board, Apollo Tyres Ltd. in an exclusive interview with Rubber Machinery World.

Mohamed is a soft-spoken and an accomplished tyre technologist with 5 decades of experience in the field of Tyre Technology and Manufacturing. When you read this passionate interview of his journey from a college lecturer to a well-known tyre technologist, you will observe struggles, challenges, achievements, dedication and loyalty; and importance of continuous education – a complete package of learning and leadership wisdom for new generation of aspiring professionals in tyre industry.

Mohamed is a Fellow Member of the Rubber and Plastic Institute London, Member in the Management Board of Apollo Tyres Ltd, Industrial Advisory board of Centre for Tyre Research, USA, IRCO and Area Director of American Chemical Society Rubber Division. Mohamed is also the Chairman of Indian Tyre Technical Advisory Committee (ITTAC), Technology Environment Safety and Standard (TESS) group of ATMA and past chairman of IRI. He has several international publications to his credit.

Mohamed’s exceptional knowledge, clarity, relevance and insight on the various aspects is awe-inspiring. I consider it a privilege to know him and present his thoughts to you in our “Know A Leader” Series.

Know-A-Leader-Mohamed-Apollo-Tyres

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I urge you not to miss reading this complete interview online on our digital edition (please click on the image above). You will immensely gain from his wisdom shared through passionate narration of personal experiences growing Apollo’s technology might; know his views on changes in rubber compounding,  future of tyre building, new ideas energizing the tyre industry, sustainable profitability, automation, notes for equipment manufacturers, and machinery selection advice for buyers.

Here’s one teaser Q&A below, while the full interview has 10 questions.

Q6) Tyre design is a fascinating topic though few people really understand the differences in design between brands. How has the design of tyres really changed during as you witnessed it? What were the key factors driving this change?

P.K.Mohamed:

Tyre technology is an amalgamation of science and engineering. It is dominated by physics, chemistry, mechanical and chemical engineering. Tyre is a product which is a unique combination of steel and rubber.

Steel is responsible to withstand all stresses experienced by the tyre and rubber is responsible for taking care of its strain. Such an intelligent sharing of stresses and strain is rarely seen in any other product other than a tyre. So it is a challenge for the tyre engineer to design a carcass of a tyre with minimal strain on material when the same is stressed by inflation, vehicle load or traction loads. This challenge further increases when it comes to the tread design. Tread is responsible not only for providing adequate traction, mileage, and water drainage but also need to cater to other performance requirement of rolling resistance and noise. It is noticed that, several new concepts such as natural inflated profile (NIP), and Tension Controlled Optimized Theory (TCOT), have been tried by several companies but the tyre technologist is yet not very successful in creating a carcass which can withstand under inflated condition and provide the same performance. This still remains as a challenge. In the case of tread, several developments have taken place to enhance water drainage & traction improvement, reduction in foot print pressure & noise and improvement in aesthetics and aggressive looks. While the pattern design methodology followed by many companies generally follow same guidelines, significant deviations are seen recently to meet the new-found challenges in meeting label values in RR, traction and noise. In depth understanding is required to make significant alterations in tried and tested designs to meet ever-increasing performance requirements and advanced design simulation tools are of great use for the tyre designers in this process. With the usage of new materials and improvements in compound properties, tyre technologists are now trying to tune the behavior of new compounds in different designs for optimal performance in a given operating condition.

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Was this informative for you? I look forward to your feedback and thoughts of this interview.


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The Future Will See A Lot of Machinery Makers – David Shaw

The future will see a lot of machinery makers; some will be based in Asia; some in Europe and some in the Americas. It will become a lot more difficult to guess which offer high tech and high prices or low tech and low prices simply by looking at their country of origin, says David Shaw, CEO of Tire Industry Research, in an exclusive interview with Rubber Machinery World.

David Shaw, is a tall leader and a global expert on the international tire and rubber industry. He has studied tire manufacturing, raw materials, processes and technologies and how they vary around the world. This deep technical knowledge, built up over 25 years combined with a thorough understanding of branding, pricing and distribution channels, gives him a unique advantage to analyse regional and global strategies in car, light truck, heavy truck & specialty tires.

With exceptional knowledge, clarity, relevance and insight, David offer both overviews and detailed analyses of companies, markets, sectors, segments and regions as a strategy consultant.

Interview With David Shaw

Click on the image to Flip through digital edition

I consider it a privilege to know him and present his thoughts to you in our “Know A Leader” Series. Because, it is a lengthy interview covering a wide topic on trends, growth drivers, innovation, sustainability, tire design, machinery improvements, concerns, role of China & India, etc; I reproduce below only 3 Q&A’s to give you a feel.

I invite you to read the complete interview online on our digital edition (by clicking on the image above).

Q3) One school of thought that has been endorsed by another expert is that there have been very few changes in tyre industry in the last 100 years. Your views?

David Shaw: I saw your interview with Jacob Peled. I like Jacob very much. He has been a good friend and teacher to me and has been in the business longer than I have, so I have great respect for his views.

He is right to say that there has been limited progress in the fundamental design of much equipment in the tyre and rubber industry, but I think his analysis can be expanded. We have seen huge improvements in the detailed design. Productivity, repeatability and process-flexibility have all improved tremendously in the last couple of decades, albeit in a series of incremental improvements.

The introduction of consumer labelling for tyres a few years ago in Japan, Korea and the EU led to a near-revolution in the tyre manufacturing side in which machinery makers were asked to deliver equipment that can make semi-finished components and finished tyres with tight Cpk and Cpp values.

Tyre building has changed massively – not only with the introduction of radial designs in the 1940s, but over the last couple of decades the need for more automation and faster size changes has led to a transformation in the design of TBM equipment and especially building drums.

Although mixers still use the same principles as original designs of Thomas Hancock, the power of the rotors, the heat transfer capacity and the variety of rotor designs for high shear, intensive mixing and other processes show tremendous creativity and development.

It so happens that I believe the internal mixer is close to the end of its development cycle. I think that in the near future we will see some very significant developments in mixing technology which can overcome some of the limitations of internal mixers when it comes to high-volume, highly dispersive mixing of silica in solution SBR and high molecular-weight Nd-BR compounds.

Q6) What new ideas are energizing the tyre industry globally? How much of it is related to machinery developments or improvements?

David Shaw:I have hinted above that I think the internal mixer is approaching the end of its product development cycle. Wear rates on tyres are closely linked to the uniformity of the compound on a 10nm – 100nm scale. That’s the size of agglomerations of carbon black and silica particles. More discontinuities in that size range lead to greater stress concentrations and consequently increased wear under dynamic loading as seen in hard cornering or heavy braking.

Current internal mixers are close to their limit when compounders want good dispersion on these scales, especially when mixing silica which likes to self-agglomerate.

I think we will see some very significant changes to the mixing process during 2016. If the industry adopts these new changes – and I am convinced that they will – then the design of compounds and the care of compounds will become a new field for machinery makers. I can envisage whole new classes of machinery which are less aggressive towards the compound. This in turn should lead to lower energy costs and improved product performance.

Second, the machinery suppliers have traditionally looked only at initial capital investments by tyre makers with on-going maintenance contracts where they can sell them. They have restricted themselves to the machinery.

I suspect that one or two of them will venture into the raw materials supply area. Already we have seen Mesnac investigating some material properties. Today this is largely driven by a need to better understand how these materials can be processed.

I remember a conversation with Ronil Malaney in India a few years ago. At the time he was acting as agent for machinery makers and for materials suppliers. There are strong synergies in that combination.

As machinery supplier, you get an idea of the capacity of the factory and so can predict what materials will be needed and in what volumes. As materials supplier, you can get an idea of when a factory is close to capacity and might want to think about expanding, so can time your upgrade suggestions accordingly.

Q10) What would be your advice on machinery to both equipment buyers and equipment sellers?

David Shaw: To both buyers and sellers, I’d say the future will see a lot of machinery makers; some will be based in Asia; some in Europe and some in the Americas. It will become a lot more difficult to guess which offer high tech and high prices or low tech and low prices simply by looking at their country of origin.

My advice to sellers would be to explore every way of removing cost without removing value and to develop a deep understanding of the attributes your customer thinks genuinely add value; concentrate on those aspects to exceed the expectations of your customer.

To buyers, I’d say look at the total cost of ownership, but also think about the kind of tyres you want to make and assess the performance needed for each operation within that envelope. In many cases, balancing initial cost against overall quality can bring the amortisation time down, so reducing the overall financial risk.

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I look forward to hear your thoughts on David Shaw’s interview.


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Machinery Is The Key To Rubber Processing – Dr. Chakravarty

Machinery is the key to rubber processing and brought significant changes in rubber industry, says Dr. S.N.Chakravarty in an exclusive interview with Rubber Machinery World. Celebrating his 50th year in Rubber Industry working in different countries including India, he shares his experience.

Know A Rubber Leader

Dr. Chakravarty has many achievements to his credit. After working in Bayer AG, Germany for many years he became Technical Manager of Bayer (India) Ltd. and then of Modi Rubber Ltd. Subsequently he started his own Consultancy Organisation in Rubber and related field.

He is the past Chairman of Indian Rubber Institute and Rubber Committee (PCD14) of Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS), Fellow of Plastics & Rubber Institute, PRI (UK), Indian Rubber Institute (IRI),  Indian Chemical Society (ICS), Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers (IIChE), Inst. of Chemist and Member of Rubber Division, American Chemical Society (USA). He represented India in TC 45 / ISO & was a member of IRCO, UK Committee, Convenor of 1st Int. Rubber Conf., Rubber Con ’93 Delhi in 1993 and member of ITTAC for many years.

Dr. Chakravarty has been Hon. Professor of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and Kharagpur, visiting Faculty to different Universities & Institutes. He was the first President of Asian Rubber Forum to which all Asian countries like Japan, Korea, China, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nepal etc. are members.

Dr Chakravarty has more than 106 Publications in National & International journals of repute. His work in the area of Rubber Chemistry & Technology and educational activity are well recognised all over the country & abroad. Dr. Chakravarty has traveled widely over the world and has command over different languages.

Recently he was awarded the “TRiLA Life Time Achievement Award, 2015” by Tyre Times at the recently concluded Tyre expo in Chennai.

So, now you would understand my predicament when I had to limit to 10 questions to capture his vast knowledge, leadership and expertise to feature him in your Know Your Rubber Leader Series!

Fortunately (for me), he also shares his expertise through articles on this portal. (Read his earlier posts – Mixing & Mix Design and Injection Moulding Of Rubber Product)

Below are some thoughtful snippets of his interview while you could read the complete interview by clicking on the image below.

Know A Rubber Leader - Dr.Chakravarty

Click on this image to read the complete interview

  1. Would you say that rubber processing has undergone change in the last 4.5 decades that you have been with rubber industry? What were the drivers for this change?

Surely, rubber processing has undergone substantial changes over the last about 5 decades, This is mainly due to availability of developed machinery – Mixer, Extruder, Calender, Presses etc., along with electronic / microprocessor controls, as well as development of rubber technology & ingredients used in compounding. Machinery is the key to rubber processing.

  1. What role has machinery played in this change?

Machinery played many fold role in rubber industry. These developments of machinery have made it possible to

  • Improve production output (impact on cost)
  • Superior dispersion & homogeneity – improvement in property level.
  • Lowering of wastage – impact on cost
  • Dimensional accuracy of components
  • Accuracy in working – improvement in quality
  • Effective Quality Control (QC)
  • Energy saving – very important factor
  • Pollution Control, better housekeeping, health factor for the working people in this industry.

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I hope you find this interview insightful. Let me know your thoughts.


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Adopt Higher Levels of Mechanization To Improve Quality And Reduce Cost – T.K.Mukherjee

The Indian entrepreneurs must accept that only by adopting a higher degree of mechanization they would be able to improve the quality and reduce cost, says T.K.Mukherjee, CEO Mentor & Strategist and Past President of AIRIA in an exclusive interview with Rubber Machinery World. He further adds that Indian Rubber industry could grow at 7 per cent CAGR during the next 5 years to touch USD 19 billion with maximum demand from automotive sector.

Mukherjee, a post-graduate in science and an MDP alumnus of IIM Calcutta, served for over 18 years as the CEO/MD of Phoenix Yule (erstwhile Andrew Yule and now Phoenix Conveyor Belts India Pvt Ltd). A motivational leader who strongly believes in hard work, smart networking and team development, Mukherjee taught me two things 1) there is no end to enrich one’s job knowledge 2) Always recognize that ‘Customer is the Master’.

Currently a mentor to CEOs and strategist, he has been rooted to his belief that Knowledge is Power and Power is Leadership.

His interview here in this edition of “Know A Rubber Leader” series brings in a leadership perspective of a experienced manager who has, worked with rubber machinery early in his career and, used his knowledge to transform a sick PSU (Public Sector Unit) into a dynamic and vibrant MNC.

Know A Rubber Leader

Here’s is Mukherjee’s complete interview reproduced for you.

  1. Hello Mr. Mukherjee. First of all thank you for accepting an interview with Rubber Machinery World and sharing your thoughts. For over 4 years, that we have been interacting, I have seen you transitioning within different leadership and mentoring roles with inspiration and ease. I have been in awe of your energy level and dynamism. So let me start with a personal question – what drives you?

 The various driving forces which act on me are generally situational. However, the biggest forces are:

  • I still believe that my best is yet to come
  • I always feel that as an Indian why can’t we be the best
  • There must be a continuous transaction with the society under which I operate

However, strong driving forces do not always bring success. I grew up predominantly during pre-91 era. We had limited resources and hence ability to take up challenges was less. With the opening up of the economy, various opportunities started knocking at our doors and thus we progressed faster. Failures still remained as a great teacher in my life. One point is very relevant – the definition of success changes from generation to generation. We must appreciate that.

  1. Tell me about a leadership position that you enjoyed the most? Why?

I had the good luck to work as a CEO/MD for over 18 long years. During this period the most enjoyable and rewarding experience was to transform a sick PSU to a vibrant and profitable MNC. This process provided me a great learning – how to change the mind-set of the people. One very challenging issue was to convince the leftist trade unionists about the fruits of privatization! There were cultural issues, communication issues – all providing challenges.

  1. Indian rubber industry has a turnover of around USD 14 Bn with exports touching USD 2.67 Bn. Where do you see this in next 5 years and which sub-sector will have the most significant growth?

I believe that Indian Rubber industry could grow @7% CAGR during the next 5 years, thereby USD 14 Bn may touch 19 Bn. Similarly as far as Indian exports of rubber products are concerned it may touch 4 Bn, thanks to some recent govt. initiatives. The demand growth could be maximum in automotive sector – tyre and non-tyre rubber products. However, due to shift of energy sources from conventional to non-conventional, the rubber products sector depending on usage of fossil fuel may not grow at the same rate.

  1. Apart from serving the interests of Indian Rubber Industry, you have also been a successful business leader of a leading MNC business brand in conveyor belt industry. Since you started, what have been the major changes in your business ecosystem? And how have you repositioned yourself against the challenges to sustain your company’s leadership position in the conveyor belt industry?

My 18 years’ experience in conveyor belt industry (till Sept.’13) is a mixed one. The growth was achieved primarily in correctly understanding the intrinsic needs of the customers early. Once that was mapped, then we could mobilise all the available resources at a fast pace in meeting them. The manufacturing process was re-designed to make it customer centric. And finally improving the core competence of the team members through series of HR initiatives in order to continuously accept and win challenges. The company’s leadership position was achieved by networking with all the stakeholders as per the business need.

Know A Rubber Leader - T.K.Mukherjee

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  1. What kind of technological improvisations had you bought in to your business? Was this sufficient?

By being part of a MNC, we always had the opportunity to obtain continuous exposure of a world-class technology, whereby the customers always found the winning products from the company. Be it application issues or environmental issues or capex issues – we could always provide a workable solution. We always believed that improvement was a continuous process; hence the question of ‘sufficiency’ did not arise.

  1. Today you also consult clients in rubber industry. Is the machinery industry in India currently meeting your client’s technology requirement? Do they import machinery? If yes, how do you feel this gap in technology be bridged over next 5 years?

The Indian Rubber Machine manufacturing industry need to grow in terms of scale, cost competitiveness and quality. Chinese machines with comparable quality are still cheaper. The ultimate customers have more reliance on American/European/Japanese machines, equipment and process, though these are expensive. We definitely need to bridge this gap. Perhaps many companies are trying to manufacture all the major machines as a package deal. Instead of that, we need to focus on mixing, calendaring/extruding, curing press etc. Technology tie-up/equity partnership with American/Japanese companies may help Indian companies to achieve world class standard during the next 5 years’ time. In this direction the ‘Make in India’ initiative, Mumbai-Delhi Economic corridor could provide an excellent opportunity.

  1. I know you have traveled widely and visited many rubber goods manufacturing plants. What is the level of awareness about developments in Rubber Machinery and production technology today in India? Is it different globally?

Now a days the Indian entrepreneurs are travelling outside India quite a bit. They have a fair amount of knowledge of what is globally available. But they are not equally informative of what is possible within the country. It could be a good idea that Indian Rubber Machinery companies may jointly undertake to showcase to Indian entrepreneurs their capabilities by organizing pan India roadshows. This would also help them to understand their customers need.

  1. Rubber sector in India has grown to over 6000 units and is today a highly labour and energy intensive sector. Employing over half a million skilled manpower and many unskilled, what difference do you see the National Rubber Policy making to the stakeholders including the rubber machinery sector?

National Policy on Rubber (NPoR) is an excellent initiative in addressing various issues of the stakeholders- though sometimes these are diametrically opposite. Definitely issues related to Rubber Machinery industry must also be highlighted as they are also a stakeholder.

Handling skill level of a labor intensive industry like Rubber is a challenge. However, under the NSDC umbrella we are quite active in sectoral skill development initiatives under RSDC. This would help sustaining the growth momentum as mentioned earlier.

  1. Currently, you play a very key role as a strategic mentor to CEO’s and also involved in financial sector. SME’s today starve due to lack of “timely” funds and this has been the case in the past too. No change. Is this situation improving? Is there something that SME entrepreneurs can proactively work on to attract funding?

I agree that finding fund for growth of SME sector continues to be a problem. Banks have their issues like – mounting NPAs, high cost of operation etc. Similarly SME sector has their own problem of organizing collaterals and proportionate equity contribution. Various schemes of govt. are also not known sufficiently to the entrepreneurs. In this regard Industry associations may take a leading role in facilitating the process. The financial conditions of many state governments are weak and uncertain- as a result they are able to meet their own commitments. Actually a sustained work is necessary during the next 5 years in order to improve the lot.

The Indian rubber industry is dominated by SME sector, hence such improvements can only ensure growth of this sector.

  1. Great! And one last question, what would be your advice on machinery to your clients and entrepreneurial business leaders in rubber industry?

The Indian entrepreneurs must accept that only by adopting a higher degree of mechanization they would be able to improve the quality and reduce cost. However, they are somewhat uncertain about the skill level of their own people- Blue and white collar. There has to be an engagement program involving all the work force. There has to be a low cost mechanization program. If one looks at some of the successful SME rubber companies, this point would be well established

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Let me know your thoughts.


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Select A Flexible And Transparent Supplier – Arul Shanmugavelu

Select a supplier who is flexible and transparent, says Arul Shanmugavelu, Chief Executive of L&T Kobelco Machinery Private Limited, in an exclusive interview with Rubber Machinery World. He further adds that in the project situations there are always changes that would crop up. Hence you need suppliers who are ready to listen to the tiny requirements of the customer and be ready to meet the same with open and transparent manner.

Well, Arul knows best being associated with the tire industry for over two decades now.

Soft-spoken and astute, Arul is a credible business leader amongst tire machinery manufacturers and I am happy to present before you his interview in this edition of “Know A Rubber Leader” series.

Know A Rubber Leader

In this crisp interview, you will find him share his thoughts on the challenges and customer frustrations and some plain advice that could lead to a win-win situation between rubber machinery manufacturers and users.

Here’s is Arul’s complete interview reproduced for you.

  1. Hello Arul. First of all thank you for accepting an interview with Rubber Machinery World and sharing your thoughts. You have been head of marketing at L&T and now head of L&T Kobelco, which is a JV. What has changed for you? How has your leadership style evolved over the years?

I am associated with the tire Industry for over 2 decades. As you mentioned, I was Head of Marketing in L&T Rubber Processing Machinery unit, before moving over to L&T Kobelco as the Chief Executive. In short almost, everything has changed for me, except the customer segment. Since I am associated with them for many years, I am able to understand them very fast and most of them know me well. This gives me and also the customer a comfort feeling. Now that, I have a full responsibility of the business, I have the opportunity to fulfill the requirement of the customer faster and better, this I enjoy a lot, as I always want to be close to the customers.

  1. What’s a challenge you spend a lot of time thinking about these days?

One of the challenges that we face is the varying choice of components by the buyers. Each one has their own choice of make (or brand) when deciding bought-out components, be it, RTDs or PLCs, switch gear items, etc. The varying choice of bought-out parts puts limitation on the Machinery manufacturers in terms their flexibility of price and delivery. If the users leave the choice of makes of the elements of the machine to the OEMs, machinery manufacturers will be in a position to provide better returns to end customers in terms of price, delivery and service. Any way the overall guarantee of the machine is given by the rubber machinery manufacturers and hence I feel the choice and responsibility should be left to the manufacturer.

  1. What is the biggest frustration today for buyers of rubber and tire machinery? How are L&T Kobelco/Kobelco Products and Services addressing this?

Tire making is a complex process and each of the tire companies’ are continuously improving their product through various product design and process improvements. Each time a green field project is conceived, the project engineers are required to validate all their assumptions of the previous project, as they are required to show improvements over the previous execution, in terms of better machines, better productivity, shorter project lead time, etc. This puts lot of pressure on the Project team.

We have often seen that the Project engineers are never able to repeat their specification of equipment between 2 consecutive green field projects, even if the projects are phased by only a years’ time.

Moreover due to the shorter lead-times on the project, they are required to concurrently do machine ordering, layout finalization, civil construction, etc. Sometimes this leads to changes during execution of the project, which becomes tough and expensive.

Know A Rubber Leader - Arul

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  1. How does L&T Kobelco propose to change the rubber and tire industry in the years to come?

Currently L&T Kobelco’s focus is on the BB270, BB310, BB370 & BB430 Mixers and TSR330 & TSR450 Twin Screw Extruders. This product range covers almost the complete requirement of Tire Industry.  In this segment, where L&T Kobelco operates, the customers are generally used to one manufacturer and have not experienced any other technology.  The resistance to change comes out of the fact that the customers need to undergo the learning curve while using our technology to realize its benefit. Here, we assist our customers with the support of the process expert to stabilize the mixing process and also offer the facility of Trial mixing at Kobelco’s lab in Japan, if required.

  1. Is the rubber machinery industry leading or lagging behind the customer expectations when it comes to customer’s rubber processing expectations?

I think the Tire Machinery Industry is leading the customer expectations in several segments viz. Mixers, TBMs, automation, etc. We have seen manufacturers from these segments coming with new products which push the quality and the productivity of the customers.

  1. Can “superior-technology” and “low-cost” ever go hand-in-hand in rubber and tire machinery/equipment?

Certainly superior technology and low(est) cost cannot go together. To manufacture a quality product, we need to have a certain infrastructure i.e. good machines, trained manpower, good sub-suppliers, and good quality control. In addition for a product to sustain in the market there needs to be investment on R&D.  All of these cost money. At the same time, if we are able to couple appropriate strengths of different countries, we can come out with best value for money.

India with manufacturing expertise and availability of skilled manpower offers a best platform for making machine at competitive price. When this is coupled with the technology of Kobelco, Japan, I feel this is winning combination.

  1. Sustainability, Environment and Innovation are the key global themes today. How is Kobelco incorporating this in your business that has a positive impact to your customers?

Who can ignore this? No one.  Kobelco in Japan is working on these areas of Sustainability, Environment and Innovations. Though I cannot share what is being done in Japan, I can assure Kobelco takes these as very important and works on these relentlessly.

Kobelco Make Mixers

Kobelco Make Mixers

  1. What do you think is the awareness levels of customer on advances in machinery and its availability, superior technology and its adoption here as compared to the west and developed nations? Is there a disparity? How is L&T Kobelco working to expand your market on newer technologies here?

Today the world is a single market. In the Tire machinery market, the number of customers and number of machinery manufacturers are small. With the current information technology, I do not think any customer whether he is in India or Europe is lacking any information. In some occasions, I have seen that the customers in India are more knowledgeable in terms of availability of machines than some of the customers in the developed world. This may come out of the fact that they strive hard to beat the competition with the products made by them in India, compared to the products made by the developed countries.

  1. What do you envision for L&T-Kobelco in the next 10 years?

I feel that L&T Kobelco would have emerged as a major Mixer and allied machinery manufacturer from India catering to both Indian and export markets. L&T Kobelco will play a major role in the overall strategy of Kobelco as a leader in Mixer and allied machinery in the world.

  1. Great! And one last question, what would you advice on machinery selection to buyers and users of rubber and tire equipment?

My input to the buyers regarding machinery selection would be to evaluate the features that are required by you for your processes. Please do not beef up the product with an intention of having all the features whether required or not. Because every penny counts in the project stage. Whatever money you put in, requires a return to be paid to the owners. We have seen customers who use the bare minimum features for their machines and keep their investment on machine to the minimum and yet be a leading player in the tire business.

Hence making of the functional specification is the most important. Please leave the detailing of the machine to the machinery manufacturers and demand the performance parameters. In some cases the project team starts to specify the design parameters of the machine, which is best left the Machine manufacturer.

Select a supplier who is flexible and transparent. In the project situations there are always changes that would crop up. Hence you need suppliers who are ready to listen to the tiny requirements of the customer and be ready to meet the same with open and transparent manner.

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Download the full interview in PDF here.

That’s some profound practical approach from Arul Shanmugavelu, I think. What do you think?


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There Is Lot of Innovation In The Rubber Machinery – Prof. Dr. Andreas Limper

There is a lot of innovation in the rubber machinery and its adaptation in the industry, says Prof. Dr.-Ing Andreas Limper, Member of the Board of Management, Harburg-Freudenberger Maschinenbau GmbH in an exclusive interview with Rubber Machinery World.

Prof. Dr.-Ing Andreas Limper is a dynamic and well-respected business leader steering HF Mixing Group for over a decade now. A tall technical authority on rubber and polymers, acclaimed author of a few books on rubber, key-note speaker, educationist and much more, Dr.Limper is an inspirational figure.

Hence, this opportunity to present before you his interview, is a privilege to me and a prestigious addition to “Know A Rubber Leader” series.

Know A Rubber Leader

In this engaging interview, you will find him speak passionately about success, challenges, customer frustrations, plans of HF Mixing Group, innovations for tire and non-tire industry, quality and tackling piracy.

Here is  Prof. Dr.-Ing Andreas Limper’s complete interview.

  1. Hello Dr. Limper. First of all thank you for accepting an interview with Rubber Machinery World and sharing your thoughts. The journey from a Mechanical Engineer, specializing in Polymer processing (1981) to Member of Board of Management (2004) of an Organization with 155+ years of legacy is a remarkable one. So let me start with a personal question – What would you say was a key to your success and how you reached the very top spot?

Everybody who has passion for his kind of job will be successful. When I started my career at the IKV (Aachen University), rubber processing was a focal point of activities. It has been very fascinating to transfer methods of engineering to the rubber industry. At that point of time (beginning of the 80’s) the rubber industry was dominated by chemists and a lot of process understanding had to be developed. Being a part of this paradigm change had been very inspiring and motivating. To the new generation, my advice is whatever you do, stop doing it if you do not like it (or can’t change it). The Rubber Industry is an attractive field of work, since it requires multi-disciplinary thinking (chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, product design, etc).  

  1. Through organic and inorganic growth (acquisitions), HF currently enjoys an enviable leadership status for its portfolio of products. What’s a challenge you spend a lot of time thinking about these days?

Excellent solutions require holistic thinking in the mixing room. We could show that, for example, by the tandem technology it is possible to save considerable mixing time and even mixing stages in some cases. The integration of the abilities of modern control systems, drives, hydraulics and machine concepts is necessary to achieve lowest possible costs at highest quality. Many customers are still ignoring these facts and tend to keep buying mixing lines as in the old times. In those days, steel and iron, controls and peripheral aggregates have been sourced individually and there have not been a lot of synergistic interactions.

It is a challenge for us to convince customers to leave the archaic way of purchasing and to go for holistic “turnkey” offers.  With our investment into a first class technical center, the building up of a big group of system engineers and control system specialists, we are today well prepared for widespread offers.

HF Tandem Mixer

HF Tandem Mixer

  1. Recently, a reader wrote to me saying “Ever since the inventions of Banbury® and Intermix®, rubber mixing machinery have not witnessed any spectacular invention”. Would you agree with this statement? Where do machinery stand today vis-a-vis the progress (or lack of progress) in rubber technology?

This reader was definitely wrong! Imagine, somebody saying: “Cars today still have four wheels, a motor , a brake and an autobody, I cannot see any new technical concept..”  Would you agree??

Only out of a very big distance the mixers from 1920 and today look similar. We have

  • hydraulic instead of pneumatic rams
  • a controlled ram pressure and a controlled ram position
  • dust stops , which have far less leakages as in the past
  • machines running at least with double speeds as 100 years ago
  • have rotors being at least 250% more productive
  • a tight process control, which uses to control the process parameters to achieve a very high batch-to-batch uniformity
  • a wear protection, which has doubled the lifetime of the mixer components

Apart from the common feature, many people address to the rubber industry, I see a lot of progress in the mixing room. Tangential mixers are offering new rotors with enhanced capabilities for cooling and a higher productivity. Tyre producers are using mixers as reaction vessels (silica compounding) and are introducing intermeshing mixers. The tandem technology is getting an increasing importance and a steep rising market share. Twin screws have conquered the downstream area in many mixing rooms. I have seen a mixing room for final mixing without any roll mill.

Summarizing these shows, there is a lot of innovation in the rubber machinery and its adaptation in the industry!

HF Twin Screw Extruder

Twin Screw Sheeter

  1. What is the biggest frustration today for buyers of tire machinery? How are HF Tire Products and Services addressing this?

As I already mentioned, a missing “holistic view” can be very frustrating. Customers seem to save money, when they purchase their mixing lines “in slices”. This is only a short-term thinking. Normally their own engineering work is not taken into costing consideration or valued to be for free. Also the cheapest product can have the highest “costs of ownership”, since in many times the availability of low-price solutions can be poor. Availability is not only reached by robust and well-engineered products, it is also a function of service. This means customers should also value, what would be the reaction of a supplier, when it would come to problems. By installing a network of own service stations and service partners all around the world, we show a high commitment to achieve highest possible availability for our customers.

To allow our customers the look to a complete line, we have installed two lines in our technical center, where customers can use all components of a mixing line (material feeding, mixer, peripheral aggregates, different downstream solutions, a complete automation system including material and recipe management, process control, lab data etc.) to analyse his personal advantages in practical tests.

Such a detailed practical test had not been possible in the past. Often customers had to use industrial field installations for complete studies, which had a lot of limitations.

  1. How does HF propose to change the rubber and tire industry in the years to come?

I would be very happy, if a broader view on solutions would take place. In our case this would be an entire look at a mixing line – including controls, order and material management. It could be that the rubber industry will lose a part of its market to the TPE industry. In such cases, rubber processors could think about own compounding facilities for these materials.

In the tyre industry, we expect even new challenges from newer materials, as functionalized polymers or surface activated fillers. To develop solutions, which will assure the ability to compound these new recipes at acceptable costs, remains to be a real challenge.

Energy Efficiency will be a big theme in mixing. The relative costs might be only a few cents per Kg, but the absolute costs are approaching very high values in practice. We have developed new drive solutions with considerable higher efficiencies. Besides this we have a quite big research work in which we have analysed the complete energy flow in the mill room. The first results are very promising! By the optimisation of processes, the more intelligent process control (for example the ram-position control possible by iRam), a better use of hydraulics, we see specific energy-saving potential of up to 40%.

All in all, these examples show again, that we should be prepared to look in the bigger scope to the mixing line – then a lot of substantial optimizations are possible.

Know A Rubber Leader - Dr. Andreas Limper

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  1. Can “superior-technology” and “low-cost” ever go hand-in-hand in rubber and tire machinery/equipment?

If we are speaking about high quality demands, it is a must!! Look at the major tyre producers. They have analysed the total costs of ownership and keep buying high quality machinery.  For low-quality products, which have to fulfill low requirements, perhaps a cheap solution also works. But for me, even this way is questionable.  A rubber mixing line has a high investment and a very long lifetime. Customers, serving today a low-requirement market, might see the demand for higher sophisticated solutions in a few years. With a line of sight at a low-standard, they are limiting their ability to follow market trends.

  1. Most analysts opine that the production has shifted from west to east in case of rubber goods production. However the customer awareness levels on advances in machinery and its availability, superior technology and its adoption is seen to be better in the west. So, on a scale of 1 to 10 (low to high), where do you rate the practices of manufacturers of the east? What do you think of this disparity and how is HF working to expand your market on newer technologies in the East?

We are actively supporting our customers wherever they go. We have own service activities at our new facility in Slovakia and an own service station in Qingdao/China. The higher personal costs are producing a higher pressure for modernization on western facilities. So in general terms, there is a certain routine for optimizations and process improvements. In eastern facilities, which in many cases are much younger, these skills must first be developed.However, I see eastern European facilities learning very fast. If the western companies in best cases are at a scale of 10, eastern facilities today are achieving results of at least 7.

If I look at Asia – which means predominantly India, China and Southeast Asia, conditions are comparable. These countries have been used by OEM’s, for example car manufacturers as source for easy and inexpensive parts. Companies being active in such business fields are working with very simple and inexpensive solutions. I am deeply convinced, with increasing quality demands there will be a strong requirement for modernisations and upgrades. New technologies, a wide use of automation concepts and new mixing procedures create the necessity to qualify as well the operators and people responsible for the mixing room. By installing our own training center, we are preparing our customer operators for the use of new technology. We see that this is as important as the technology itself.

Rubber Mixing Room

A Rubber Mixing Room

  1. One of the greatest threats to any business is copying of design and features from original manufacturer and offer at a fraction of price. Some politely call it “re-engineering” but any imitation can be quite intimidating. As a respected industry pioneer, I am sure you too would have your share of concerns and challenges. How does HF face this and protect your revenue or profitability?

I like the general thoughts of John Ruskin, who said, “There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey”.
A mixer is – with a superficial view – not a complicated machine. Its geometry can be copied simply. What “pirates” ignore?  A lot of secrets are in the production methods! Think about hard coating, high precision machining of hardened surfaces, sophisticated controls for ram hydraulics, etc. Also, the correct assembly involves a lot of manual skills which need a lot of experience. If we apply our quality demands, a production of a key component is usually not decisively cheaper in a low-cost country. This means the production of this key components in own premises is the best know how protection.

  1. What do you envision for HF Group in the next 10 years?

I am convinced the market will ask more and more for “solutions” instead of “machines”. This means our group has to be able to deeply understand our customers’ requirements. Our understanding has to include not only the mill room but as well the general product specifications and the value chain of its production. The HF Mixing Group is preparing itself by building up more engineering power and more engineering competence. Our production of key components will be further developed to achieve lowest costs at highest quality. We will as well develop and use our world-wide purchasing network to accomplish the best costs for our customers.

  1. Great! And one last question, what would you advice on machinery selection to buyers and users of rubber and tire equipment?

Let me again answer with a worldly wisdom of John Ruskin. “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better”.

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Download the full interview in PDF here.

A highly influential persona up to First World War, John Ruskin’s ideas and concerns are today widely recognized as having relevance in environmentalism and sustainability. Significantly, both are key challenges for the rubber machinery industry as well.  And continued innovation in rubber machinery, I think, is the best way to protect environment and also ensure overall sustainability. With this food for thought, I look forward to hearing from you on this chat with Prof. Dr. Andreas Limper.


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