In the welding sector, the number of available skilled and trained workers is much less than the need. We are trying to concentrate on training and skill development so that we have more skilled and trained workers readily available, which will increase the productivity, says R Srinivasan, Vice President, The Indian Institute of Welding. Excerpts from the interview...
Please elaborate on the Indian Institute of Welding and its activities.
Established in 1966, the Indian Institute of Welding is the only association affiliated to the International Institute of Welding (IIW) based in France. By virtue of our association with the international institute, we are able to organise various international levels of welding programmes in the country. As we are members of IIW, we have been authorised by the international institute as the Authorised National Body (ANB) for certification programmes, company certification programmes (ANBCC), and various other international level programmes. For example, the European Welding Federation has recently introduced a set of specifications, mandating that the materials coming into Europe have to meet certain standards set by the IIW. The manufacturers from our country who manufacture materials for Europe, has to follow these standards. If we have to follow those standards, first the people have to be geared up to meet that level. Now, IIW India is training the people and companies in India to certify as per IIW standards.
Today, welding in India is a fast growing market as the country is in the middle of change. IIW India, after acquiring the international membership had organised the first International Welding Congress in 2005 in Mumbai. Since then, IIW has been offering us an international event in every three years. Every year, our members go to IIW, participate in various commissions, present technical papers and project India as one of the main hubs of activity. First time in the history of IIW, the President is an Indian. Dr Baldev Raj was earlier the Director of Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR). This is a great achievement for any Indian to be on the board of IIW.
How do you see the growth of welding in India?
Welding is a part of engineering. As the steel consumption goes up, welding grows. So, the growth of welding depends on the growth of steel industry. We expect the steel sector to grow better in the coming years. Per capita consumption of steel is 61 kg and in value terms it is $215 as on today. We expect these figures to tripple in the next 10 years owing to a lot of infrastructure projects on the anvil. Almost every state is now planning metro rail and large infrastructure projects. Steel is the backbone of these projects. So, there is likely to be a surge in the demand and hence, proportionally the welding activity will also be gaining momentum.
Today, most of the global auto companies have set up manufacturing facilities in India. Similarly, all the global welding companies have set up manufacturing facilities in India directly or indirectly with Indian companies. Kobe, Panasonic, Kemmpi, Fronious, Boheler, etc, have also set up manufacturing base here. There are two reasons: accessing technology and matching the requirements of the world, and availability of qualified and cheap labour.
What role is IIW India playing to improve welding technology in India?
IIW India is playing an important role in bringing the science and technology with respect to the materials close to the international level. By acquiring knowledge from international institute, by becoming a member of the international institute, by participation of our members in various boards, and study groups we are able to get access to various technological developments, which we would like to pass on to our fellow engineers in the country by conducting symposiums, seminars, periodical courses, etc. IIW India has gained a lot as it can conduct a specific programme for the members of a particular industry. We have a mix of professionals working in the four regions North, South, East and West.
What is the role of welding in construction equipment?
Whether it is OEM or user, welding is an integral process of metal joining. For a permanent joint, welding is mandatory. For OEMs, repeatability (repeated use) of the product depends on what they are delivering to the market. If the OEM is able to deliver a product which meets the market requirements consistently in terms of quality, strength and competitiveness, it stays in the market. Similarly, welding is playing an important role with respect to any OEM. Every OEM is doing some kind of R&D to reduce the weight of the components/parts and increase product lifecycle by changing certain metallurgical aspects. For example, in shipping industry, companies use 60-80 mm thick plates to make ships. But today, high strength steels, which meet the same strength with thinner plates are being used. This can reduce the travel time of the ship. In the construction machinery sector, welding has a totally different purpose altogether. Construction and mining machinery move on different terrains. So the parts of the machines, especially the teeth of buckets wear frequently. One cannot replace these buckets or such parts once they are worn, which is not economical. So there is a technology called rebuilding where certain welding companies are working in this segment to rebuild the worn parts through welding and re-use for many years.
How do you look at the market trends in India?
The overall welding market comprising the welding machines, consumables and services is about Rs 6,000 crore. This is expected to reach Rs 16,750 crore by 2019-20, because steel consumption is going to multiply three times and proportionally this is going to grow three times. We are growing very well except 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13. Export is not a significant part of the Indian welding market. But now people are using Indian facilities to export to the Middle East and the SAARC countries. Some of the European machine manufacturers are making machines in India and exporting to neighbouring countries. Panasonic has set up a manufacturing facility in Gurgaon, and Kemppi, Lincoln Electric in Chennai.
Welding market comprises approximately three per cent of the total weight of steel. As mentioned earlier, the growth of welding industry is directly related to steel industry. Total steel consumption in 2013-14 is about 87 million tonne, out of which 75 million tonne is from domestic production while 12 million tonne is from imports. We expect this to grow in the next five years, in 2019-20 to 250 million tonne, out of which 225 million tonne will be domestic production and 25 million tonne from imports. In the next six years, we are going to touch up to three times the growth as on today. This growth will enhance new investments.
What are the opportunities for welding in future?
In the total consumption of steel, over 95 per cent is carbon steel. The total consumption of carbon steel in 2013-14 is about 74.8 million tonne, which is expected to reach 200 million tonne by 2019-20. In India, the per capita consumption of steel is 61 kg per person, which is very low compared to international figure of 216 kg. We are set to achieve 100 kg of consumption by 2020, while the world consumption will be about 330 kg. Today the proportion of Indian consumption is one-third of the international per capita consumption, while in future this can reach 50 per cent. Infrastructure is going to play a significant role in steel requirement with about 52.8 million tonne of projected requirement in 2020, up from 18.8 million tonne at present. Railways comes next with 18.1 million tonne consumption with a projected 50.6 million tonne in 2019-20. From 2015 to the next Five-Year Plan, there is a phenomenal growth expected in the welding market.
What is the importance of automation and skill development in welding?
More automation is the requirement of the day. Automation brings in consistency in quality and increase in production rate, at the same time it is not against the labour interests. In the welding sector, over 20 lakh people are employed, out of which 1,15,000 are unskilled workers. So, more and more workers should go for training. Today, the number of available skilled and trained workers is less. In the next five years, we are trying to concentrate on this segment to grow steadily. This will help us to have more skilled and trained workers readily available, which will ultimately increase the productivity.
Infrastructure will play a significant role with 52.8 million tonne of projected requirement of steel in 2020.