‘VR and AR enable “seeing” inside the weld’
An interview with Sundarram Srinivasan, Managing Director, Lincoln Electric Company (India) Pvt Ltd.
Lincoln Electric Company (India) Pvt Ltd.
Welding equipment and automation
Welding is an important process for the engineering world. What is the Lincoln Electric product portfolio?
Lincoln Electric manufactures arc welding machines and consumables, including consumables for all arc processes, MIG/MAG, stick welding, submerged arc welding and TIG.
What are the latest trends and developments in the welding world?
The most rapid developments are in Industry 4.0 as in most of the manufacturing world; specifically, technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR) and overlay in additive manufacturing. For example, AI enables robots to learn and improve on their own; and data from welding processes is collected, analysed, stored and referenced or acted upon without human intervention. VR and AR enable ‘seeing’ inside the weld – helps welding in varied situations in different environments, parts, materials and modes. With AR helmets, the embedded cameras ‘look’ deep into the weld to assess weld quality in real time and adjust accordingly. Non destructive ultrasonic testing is done with hand held device and defects marked and rectified. Data superimposed on images helps placing of parts – all this results in extraordinary levels of quality and consistency, productivity and efficiency, and flexibility and mass customisation. It also facilitates predictive maintenance and factory optimisation without the need for special welding skills.
What is the USP of LE products?
The Lincoln Electric USP is its wide product range enabling precision solutions tailored to a wide range of specific applications, with the expertise to support customers in implementing those solutions.
Automation and robotics are today the buzzwords in industry and welding/cutting operations are highly automated. How does the Indian market fare on the global scale in this respect?
The automotive industry, driven by global car manufacturers, is moving towards automation and IoT – automation to ensure quality consistency and the demand for IoT to ensure traceability. One car maker awards a higher share of business to those who have software that records arc data for every part produced – data that typically software like Checkpoint can provide. Most of these manufacturers are being driven technologically by their parents overseas, so it is mostly a “trickle down” effect from them to the Indian arm of the company to local vendors. And these are Tier 1 vendors who need to be “pushed” into these technologies. In the unorganised sector (by and large Tier 2 and Tier 3 vendors), there is very little movement towards adoption of new trends. The same is true also of yellow goods, where too most parents are overseas driving the technology change in India. In other sectors, the level of automation is relatively less.
USA and Japan are the most advanced in this respect, and rated 10 on a scale of 1-10, with Germany on 9, China 6, Bangladesh 2, and India could be 4.
LE has an impressive training programme and there is a serious shortage of welding skills in the country. What is the impact of this training?
Welding skills need to be defined to understand where the shortage is. 1. Skilled manual welders who can weld once the basic parameters are finalised; 2. Application specialists who can determine what the best welding parameters are for a job; and 3. Robotic programmers to “teach” the robot how to do specific jobs. This is apart from (4) Generic welding supervisory skills and similar programs. Lincoln focuses on (1) and (4). The real shortage is (2) and more and more we are going to find a shortage in (3). What is the impact of this training? This has been a significant value addition for our customers to whom we offer such services free in the interest of skill development, and customer intimacy.
The company manufactures consumables in India. What is the range and scale? Any exports?-
We basically manufacture MIG and SAW wires. We do export these products to Australia, Middle East and South East Asia.
Is there any plan to manufacture equipment in India as well?
We do basic equipment assembly. In fact most “manufacturers” in India are assemblers (the question only being how much local content), as the significant parts are imported.
You cater to the pan Indian market. How strong/effective is the after sales service? What kind of support services?
There are different levels of support. Level 1: The machine is broken down and we fix it. This is basic and everyone must provide this. Level 2: We understand why the welding is mal-functioning – maybe machine, maybe consumables, maybe poor preventive maintenance or a host of other reasons. And fix it. Lincoln does this. Level 3: Assist the customer in development of applications, reducing welding costs, etc., i.e., providing solutions. Lincoln does this.
What are the company’s achievements?
The company’s major achievement is a portfolio of satisfied repeat customers, achieved in a span of 7 years.
Any breakthrough product launch that made a difference?
The major product launch is “Checkpoint”, i.e., the Lincoln software that enables Internet of Things. We see this as the stepping stone towards Industry 4.0.
Lincoln Electric – The Welding Experts
Lincoln Electric, with HQ in Cleveland, Ohio USA, is a global manufacturer and the market leader of the highest quality welding, cutting and joining products. Enduring passion for the development and application of technologies allows LE to create complete solutions that make customers more productive and successful.
Founded in 1895, the company clocked US $2.7 bn in sales in 2016 and is No.1 in welding globally. It has 9,000 employees worldwide with 41 manufacturing sites in 19 countries and representation in 160 countries and 20 worldwide distribution centres and regional headquarters in Barcelona – Spain, and Shanghai – China.
Lincoln Electric Company (India) Pvt Ltd was established in 1997with the Regional Office in Mumbai initially. In early 2009, the company built a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility located at Mahindra World City, Chennai and commenced production from May 2009.
Lincoln Electric India has the largest wire manufacturing facility in India and is currently the market leader in wires. The company also sells equipment and other products made in its factories overseas. This constitutes around 40% of the turnover. In addition, Lincoln India also has a fully equipped Training Centre to meet customers’ requirements for Demonstrations, Application Support and Training. The company employs 240 people in India.
Applications of Lincoln Electric products cover a wide industrial spectrum, including: transportation/automotive; process & power generation; offshore; pipelines; maintenance & repair; structural steel & construction; heavy fabrication; shipbuilding; pipe mill; and many other.
- Production monitoring with Lincoln Electric Checkpoint
- State-of-the-art manufacturing facility of Lincoln Electric India.