Welding industry fighting battle to perform profitably

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Like every other industrial sector, the welding industry sector has also come under severe pressures due to the pandemic. However, welding activities cover a gamut of industries like manufacturing, automobile, aviation, etc. Against this backdrop it is expected that the welding industry will recover sooner than later. Apart from being in natural demand the government has also initiated several positive steps to boost the welding industry. If things go according to plans the industry should be able to contribute handsomely to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The present government has introduced a couple of schemes to boost the industry, the major contributor being ‘The Make in India’ campaign.

The process of welding is a precise, reliable, cost-effective and a highly technical method for joining materials in manufacturing industries. Actually, no other technique is so widely used by manufacturers in India to join metals and alloys efficiently to add value to their products. Most objects in modern society, right from buildings and bridges, to vehicles and medical devices, cannot be made without the use of welding. At present, welding is used in a wide variety of materials and products, with the help of advanced technologies as lasers and plasma arcs. The future of welding holds immense promise as methods are devised for joining dissimilar and non-metallic materials, and for creating products of innovative shapes and designs.

Welding is a very critical operation in any manufacturing process and the quality of welding has direct impact on the final product. Joining technology or welding is an integral part of a manufacturing process. Welding is at the core of modern technology and has evolved completely today, following the precedence that machines have gained in our lives.

There has been rapid development in the welding industry and innovative methods are being added almost every day. Welding is an ever-growing discipline which presents challenges and work opportunities for the upcoming generations of engineers. Welding contributes significantly to the Indian GDP in various ways, such as welding intensive industries, auxiliary products, complementary goods, employment, and user industries. The Indian welding industry has so far been dominated by low technology and very rare technological innovation. However, in recent years, the demand of automatic and semi-automatic welding production systems is rising. At the same time, poor budgets and recession have driven the ongoing popularity of manual, economical techniques. Increased FDI investments inflow in India has contributed to the rise in projects in automotive, offshore activities, oil and gas sector, ship building and heavy machinery industries.

Several foreign automobile firms have set up their manufacturing units in India. This has positively impacted the rise of welding consumables and equipment. However, the growing economic crisis has affected the flow of FDI in India which may result in decline in demand of welding equipment over a short period of time. There has been an overall growth of about 10 per cent in steel industry in India. The increasing demand of steel has promoted the use of modern and unique uses of steel, boosting the demand of welding equipment. BDB has conducted a study with support from the CII focussing on macro market assessment of welding consumables and equipment market in India. The BDB team has conducted this study through selected interactions directly with industry leading companies in product value chain. This has led to give a holistic view of the prevalent market dynamics, highlight new trends and analyse opportunities.

The welding industry contributes significantly to the Indian GDP in several ways, such as welding intensive industries, auxiliary products, complementary goods, employment, and user industries. Incidentally, the Indian welding industry has been dominated by low technology and rare technological innovation. In recent years, the demand of automatic and semi-automatic welding production systems is rising. An increase in FDI equity inflow into the country has contributed to the rise in projects in automotive, offshore activities, oil and gas sector, ship building and heavy machinery industries. Several foreign automobile companies have established their manufacturing units in India. This has positively impacted the rise of consumables and welding equipment. However, the economic crisis has impacted the flow of FDI in India which may result in decline in demand of welding equipment over the short period.

One of the primarily challenges faced by the local manufacturers of equipment in India is the significant import of welding equipment. The increased imports have negatively impacted the market share of local participant in various industries such as shipbuilding, automotive and transportation and white appliances. Another challenge faced by welding electrode plant is the unorganized sector that presently occupies nearly 50-55 per cent of the market. Absence of standard specification and tedious red tape in the approval process have resulted in the growth of the unorganised sector. Indian welding consumables and equipment manufacturers need to produce high quality and unique goods in order to stay competitive in the Indian and international markets. With competition increasing and lower profit margins, manufacturers need to improve their service, performance and delivery.

The welding consumables market is expected to grow at a CAGR 10-11 per cent over next five years. And continuous electrodes will witness a much higher growth compared to Manual Electrodes. Robust outlook of the infrastructure sector, welding consumables market is expected to grow at a CAGR 10 – 11 per cent over next five years. Organised Market accounts for 40 – 45 per cent while the unorganised accounts for the balance market. The welding equipment industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of six to seven per cent over the next five years.

In the future, welding alloy materials will have the biggest growth in demand for growth in consumable market alloys present better mechanical properties, like Nickel resistance to oxidation, Chromium with carbide stabilisation, aluminium for lighter weight, copper for corrosion resistance, and so forth. Poor R&D and testing facilities are hurdles to industry growth and needs to be addressed at the earliest. With almost 45-50 per cent of manufacturers in the un-organised segment the R&D inclination towards material, technology and techniques is minimal and limited. Public or third-party facilities in this direction can prove to be a good value add for a larger welding community. It’s expected that selected segments will drive the demand of welding consumable and equipment.

Better and improved attention to manufacturing and infrastructure segments like Heavy Engineering, Power, Transportation, Automotive should be the demand drivers in India though increasing price of steel is expected to affect the cost of welding consumables and thereby the revenue. With increase in raw material cost there is a direct impact on manufacturing hence for the larger unorganised community the competitiveness in market place reduces thereby affecting the overall revenues New Govt. initiatives and overall technology advancements to drive the demand With advent of Govt. schemes like Make in India, Smart cities, Cluster development programmes, SME support drives and due to advanced technologies and concepts of Smart manufacturing, IOT, and Robotics the welding community is optimistic about the future growth. Need for skilled labour training and development of skill are of utmost importance. Govt. has budgeted for spending of INR 10,000 Cr a year for skill development. In a simultaneous move with the Govt. initiatives it is imperative that even the private sector should take up internal training process in order to enhance the overall skill level.

It will be an understatement to say that India is lagging behind in welding techniques and we definitely need to upgrade ourselves. The Indian Institute of Welding (IIW) is basically focusing on the same. IIW is an organisation of Indian professionals from the welding industry. It is a non-profitable organisation under Section 25 of the Company Act of India. IIW is the only member of the International Institute of Welding in India, with its headquarters in Paris.

Disappointingly, as far as welding is concerned, there is no basic welding research centre in India, except Welding Research Institute (WRI) in Tiruchirappalli, India. WRI is the frontline BHEL Research Centre of India in the field of welding and allied areas. We acutely need to have a government established or government supported welding research centre. IIW is working very hard in this subject. If the authorities give us the clearance, we can work closely with the government and establish a full-fledged welding research laboratory. The government has already created huge opportunities through public private partnership (PPP) project, starting with defence. In the years to come, the atomic energy, aerospace segment will also be boosted. The welding industry is facing lot of challenges. The primarily challenge is the technological chasm between India and the international market. The other challenge is the availability of skilled manpower, which is a problem not only in India but globally. The entire welding, fabrication and other segments are facing this issue.

In Asia Japan and Korea have been leading in the welding segment. China is also catching up very rapidly in welding. Canada, USA, European countries, and Germany are the other major countries largely focusing into welding. India is also definitely not lacking behind. Top welding companies are located in India. Ship building is one of the areas wherein India needs to increase our welding activities, since India has the largest coastal line in the subcontinent. We are not exploring the possibilities of the coastal line by having large number of ship repair workshops and shipyards. This may prove to be a handicap in the not-so-distant future.

Article by Arijit Nag
Arijit Nag is a freelance journalist who writes on various aspects of the economy and current affairs.
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