We want to double our turnover by 2025 – NEI

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National Engineering Industries Ltd. (NEI for short), is a name to reckon with in the world of bearings. A part of the C.K. Birla Group, NEI manufactures over 200 million bearings known by the reputed brand name ‘NBC’ in a whopping 1,450 sizes in five plants to serve diverse industry segments not only in India but also beyond our shores, in 30 countries across the globe. The only company to get the ‘Deming Award’ in the world for bearing manufacturing, NEI’s biggest differentiator is its offer of flexible solutions meaning flexible design, development, delivery and dialogue, reveals NEI President & CEO Rohit Saboo in a one-to-one with Engineering Review. Excerpts:

Q. How would you introduce your company?

Founded in 1946, National Engineering Industries Ltd (NEI), manufacturer of NBC brand of bearings, is India’s leading bearings manufacturer and exporter, renowned for excellence in quality and delivery. Headquartered in Jaipur, NEI is an integral part of the US$ 2.4 bn CK Birla Group. Having started with 30,000 bearings in 19 sizes in 1946, NEI has evolved to manufacture over 200 million bearings each year in more than 1450 sizes to serve a host of customers across India and 30 other countries across five continents.

Leading customers from US, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Australia, etc. have entrusted NEI with their critical product equirements. NEI also serves the Indian aftermarket through a countrywide network of 550 authorized stockists and thousands of retailers spread across the country. With an employee strength of over 2,800 and five manufacturing plants in Jaipur, Newai (Rajasthan), Manesar (Haryana) and Vadodara (Gujarat), NEI is equipped with global manufacturing and process technology and one of the best R&D centres in the country. In 2020, NEI acquired a European bearing manufacturer Kinex, which will help in further spreading the business across the globe.

Q. What are the different types of bearings you offer?

NEI manufactures 200 million bearings per annum in over 1450 sizes. Our range of bearings include: Ball bearings, Taper roller bearings, Cylindrical bearings, Spherical roller bearings, Thrust bearings, Needle bearings, Special products like low torque bearings, Next-gen Pre-set hub assembly and Gen3 wheel bearings, CTRB for railway wagons, Axle boxes for locomotives, Traction motor bearings, Large diameter bearings, and so on.

Q. Which are the industry segments you serve?

The Industry segments NEI caters to are:

Automotive: Leading supplier to automotive OEMs and aftermarket with a wide range of products and services

Railways: Partnering Railways around the world with bearings for Locomotives, Wagons and Coaches

Industrial: Catering to diverse industries from Power, Steel, Cement to Electric motor, Switchgears and Mining

Q. Who are your major customers?

We have a diverse customer portfolio. Our clients are market leaders in the segments they operate in.

In automotive, we supply our products to Hero Honda, Suzuki, Bajaj, Mahindra, etc.

We are a dominant supplier to the Indian Railways. In the industrial segment, we supply to several customer segments ranging from Cement (Orient, Birla, Shakti), Steel (Tata, JSW, SAIL), Construction & Mining (BEML, JCB,), Textiles (Sintex, Grasim), Power (NTPC, BHEL, L&T Power) and many more.

Q. Please throw some light on your manufacturing facilities.

We have five manufacturing plants – two in Jaipur, and one each in Newal, Manesar and Vadodara. Our Newal plant was started in 1980 with an all women assembly line. Our in-house manufacturing, activities comprise Casting, Turning, Brass foundry, Press component manufacturing, Heat treatment, Grinding, Rolling element manufacturing and assembly.

Q. How do you ensure quality of your products?

Quality is our key focus area. We are always looking for ways to improve our processes and material. We put in a lot of efforts on research for process improvement, quality improvement and TQM. Quality of NBC bearings is at par with any international brand. Our prices are competitive and justify the value for money.

Q. What are your strengths, credentials and attributes whichplace you in a class apart?

  • Our biggest differentiator is that we offer flexible solutions. By this we mean flexibility in design, delivery, development and dialogue. Our machinery is best-in-class. Our people are our biggest strength.
  • We always focus on making longterm partnerships whether it is with our customers, suppliers or other stakeholders. Our philosophy is to understand what customer wants and then provide a solution to meet the challenge. This is the reason why OEMs trust us and collaborate with us to get the bespoke products for their requirement.
  • We take pride in our ‘Made in India’ credentials. We are the first bearing manufacturing company of India and have been a trailblazer. We have grown our range and reach substantially in around 75 years of our eventful journey.
  • We have collaborated with the best to deliver international quality products providing value to our customers.
  • We have won several quality awards; some of the significant ones being the Deming Award and Grand Deming Prize. We are the only bearing manufacturer in the world to get this coveted award.
  • We also have a world-class R&D setup in India with testing and validation facilities comparable to the best in the world. This helps us to develop products specific to individual customers.
  • We also have one of the widest product portfolios manufactured in the country. Our products keep evolving depending on the needs of our customers. For example, we added needle bearings to our portfolio this year as our customers wanted us to supply them with complete offerings for the automotive sector.
  • We have a significant share of business from the Indian Railways. We have been their partners since a very long time and have been developing products for them meeting their changing requirements.

Q. Like other segments, the Bearing Industry is also impacted adversely by COVID-19. How could you overcome the crisis? And what are your plans to catalyse growth?

Although Covid-19 has slightly slowed down our pace temporarily,we have plans and motive to double our turnover by 2025. We have chalked out aggressive plans to grow both organically and inorganically. Organically, we will keep working towards expanding our portfolio based on the evolving landscape and needs of our customers. This year, we have invested in new lines to manufacture needle bearings. In the coming period, lots of our R&D projects will be completed.

We will be introducing more bearings for Electric Vehicles along with smart bearings and high speed bearings. Our industrial range of bearings is being enhanced with spherical and cylindrical bearings.

We will continue to work with the Indian Railways to support their future expansion. We are also actively exploring aerospace, defence, space exploration and other sectors to accelerate our growth. We have also launched services like conditionbased monitoring, bearing training, etc. to add another revenue stream to our mix.

Apart from our activities, in India, we will continue to expand our presence in international markets. We have customers in over 30 countries and have good relations with OEMs across US and Europe. Adding to this, we acquired Kinex, a European bearing manufacturer at the start of this year. This will boost our reach in the international markets and also in the segments we were earlier not very active, like aerospace and textile. We will also continue to look for M&A opportunities to fuel our growth.

We have also set up a leading R&D centre equipped with the latest equipment and highly qualified personnel. The R&D workforce comprises 20-30% Ph.D’s and Masters degree holders.

We streamlined our activities to eliminate waste and non-value adding activities. Operational efficiency has increased significantly, offering competitive value to our customers.

We also embarked upon a journey towards Industry 4.0 and digitalisation. This made our processes leaner and smarter, ultimately creating value for our customers. We have received the ‘Great Place to Work’ certification three years in a row. This year we ranked amongst the top 100 companies to work for in India.

Q. What are your present thrust areas?

The urge for continuous improvement is in our DNA and we continue to improve ourselves. Following are the areas we are currently focusing on:

  • Improve our products and services
  • Respond to customer much faster
  • Improve on time taken for NPD
  • Find new material, heat treatment techniques and other process improvements to provide better products.
  • Industry 4.0 is also our focus.

We continue to digitalise our processes. We want to be leaner and smarter creating value for our customers.

We are confident that we will emerge stronger from the current situation. We want to be lean, innovators and wish to continue our legacy.

Q. So what are your key differentiators which would help you stay ahead in the highly competitive environment?

The key differentiators of NBC are:

Wide product range for auto, railways and industry. Currently entered the EV segment too

  • Flexible and agile to provide solutions to customers
  • Trusted by customers in over 30 countries
  • Large product portfolio from 06 mm bore to 2000 mm outer diameter
  • Competitive products, true value for money
  • Preferred bearing brand of Indian and Global Automotive OEMs and Railways
  • Only company to get ‘Deming award’ in the world for bearing manufacturing
  • All Bearings are designed & engineered by experienced technical professionals
  • In-house indigenous bearing testing facilities
  • Localised sourcing of components and materials by being ‘Vocal For Local’
  • Engagement through partnership approach to work on projects right from the drawing board stage.