S Venkatasubramanian, President, LMT USA

Please tell us more about LMT Tools , its product range and innovations…
LMT Tools is based out of Oberkochen, Germany.  It is a family owned small and medium enterprise.  As a group we have four principle brands LMT Fette, LMT  Kieninger, LMT  Onsrud & LMT Belin. Two of these brands come from Germany, one from France and one from the US.

The products we are concentrating on are niche and highly focused in specific areas.  e.g. the products manufactured in Fette at Schwarzenbek, close to Hamburg are essentially the tools which go to produce gears .  Under this brand LMT Fette, today we are ranked amongst the top 2 or 3 global companies and within Europe, we are certainly the No. 1 supplier of hobs for this application.  In this product program, we have the complete range in both materials and modules-  starting from powder metallurgy steel to solid carbide to the indexable version and  from Module-1 to almost up to Module-50.  In short, it’s not just the automotive industry that we cater to, but also general engineering and Energy sectors. To give you an insight into the various developments and innovative initiatives of the group, our Speedcore, probably stands out – essentially this has come out of the advances made in the material science in combination with variety of its heat treatment and coating apart from our manufacturing technology making it unique. This product is able to achieve attractive speeds and feeds substantially higher than any other competitor in this classification thereby ensuring the productivity for the customer is always met

The other product line that comes out of LMT Fette is the unique Thread Rolling System where we certainly claim the pole position globally.  Here, we have set the benchmark for range and applications and are the preferred suppliers to many internationally acclaimed end users.

If I move down the third line which comes out of LMT Fette, it would be the Round Tools in the field of High feed milling and special Solid Carbide End-mills for the aerospace industry and the medical industry where the product is carving a name for itself.

Moving on to the LMT Kieninger range of products you will get to see the complex tools which are predominantly used in production of automotive industry specially –

  • line boring bars which are needed to produce Crank and Cam bores-
  • Cylinder boring bars
  • Tools to produce spherical shapes.

We are easily among the top three suppliers of these tools and are working closely with most of the machine tools manufacturers and end-users. We have a reputed list of customers from the machine tool industry and end users, mainly German companies like BMW, Daimler and Volkeswagen amongst others.

We have managed to share the same technology with quite a few companies in India, Renault for example, have been testing our products and are quite happy with it. We have also supplied to Cummins, TATA and Ashok Leyland being our  principle customers.

Moving on to other brands- LMT Belin, we have a range of reaming tools which involves high precision and our manufacturing technology from this French company stands out in the product. Our other range of product is LMT Onsrud, where we supply predominantly to the aerospace industry -so for machining of composites, honeycombs and host of other applications, especially for exotic material like Inconel, Onsrud range does a brilliant job.

Can you please explain about the Indian operation?
We have the manufacturing base in Chakan, Pune where we produce hobs and catering to the Indian automotive industry from motor-cycles and scooters all the way up to cars and have graduated including trucks and tractors.  We are expanding the manufacturing programme to round tools and gradually we will be moving into other tools as well, as and when we see the necessity. The reach and go to market approach has given us lot of confidence having established Centers of competence for gear cutting, milling, tapping and thread rolling – here we have most of our engineers trained in Germany, thereby ensuring we offer performance solutions to the customers in sync with what they exactly want.

Tell us more about your R&D activities. What percent of your revenue goes into R&D?
As a group we believe in constantly innovating. We intend to constantly bring out something new every year in the respective areas we are operating. For example right through last year we introduced a totally new product in the field of gear cutting. We brought in the CarbideLine, SpeedCore and ChamferCut.   As for   motion tools from Kieninger range, we have been constantly innovating to come up with   new geometries and new special designs – “Copy max2”   to ensure that the  customer always benefits.  So to answer your question, the group spends an average of 4-5% of the revenue on R&D.  Each of these individual companies have their own engineering teams and development centres. There is one coordinating head from Schwarzenbek who ensures that we are all constantly listening to what customer wants, be it from the emerging markets of China and India or the matured markets of Europe and America.

L-R: Ramakant Reddy, MD, LMT (India) Pvt Ltd; S Venkatasubramanian, President, LMT USA; Mahadev Joshi, Joint MD, LMT (India) Pvt Ltd

What are the new technological up-gradations coming in?
We have worked on two areas.  When it comes to carbide technology we have been working closely with our carbide suppliers to ensure that the latest trends are provided for us depending on the application like steel, cast iron or stainless steel or exotic materials. For example, what we are doing with respect to Aerospace industry, we have come up with very very latest generation materials, but that apart we have our own in-house coating team which is constantly working towards new ranges of coatings to be brought in,  e.g., nano-mold, nano-spehere etc.  Now coating by and large is not enough on its own.  We have also developed substantial technology from manufacturing perspective especially with respect to edge rounding and de-burring and host of other areas, thereby ensuring that the advancements we make both in the substrate and coating is translated and easily brought on to the  material. If one visits our plant in Pune or anywhere in the world, you will get to see these little, specific advancements in manufacturing technology that have been made thereby ensuring our claim of substantial benefit with respect to the product when it reaches the customer.

Now everyone is talking about green machining and industry 4.0 and technology like IOT. Where does LMT stand?
In most of these areas, we are working closely on Industry 4.0.  Back home in Germany which is where most of these technologies are introduced, our team is working closely with the universities, colleges and the leading companies and we are part of the group with which we try to ensure that as and when such progress is made it gets translated. So if and when a particular market is beginning to see and show demand for such things, we are one of the few, who will not be left behind. We are very much participating in most of these activities; for example,  if you ask me one of the things which you see here whether it is part of Industry 4.0 or not, some of our thread rolling system we have 3D printed covers.  So things like that have started coming in. So we are able to turn around pretty fast, when customer wants something which is highly customised. To sum it when the progress is made at the market end, we are certainly not caught unaware.

What are the challenges that you face in India?
Being a highly price sensitive market, the basic challenges are always there because most of our products are imported. So we have to necessarily combat with the additional cost associated with importing and the duties amongst others.  The speed with which we are able to bring it in is also a struggle for us.  So our time to market becomes a little more constrained.  We are trying to overcome this challenge by manufacturing it locally and making the products cost competitive. We are now confident that the challenge of producing such high end precision tools exactly to our stringent German and global standards can be overcome thanks to our experience over the past three years

But most of your competitors are also producing in India.
Exactly.  So which is why I am saying when we started producing gear hobs, we have been able to distinctly show that we are able to retain the technology which is produced in Germany and at the same time offered to the customers with the cost competitiveness of products produced in India and in short the customer gets the best of technology and best of price.

What is your strategy to enhance or increase your market share in India?
One simple answer would be, the centres of competence.  In this matrix structure of sales and product specialists who form the centres of competence, we aim to ensure a right blend throughout the sales process.  The sales engineers or sales teams are well qualified to identify the opportunities and the likely pains the customer is facing then the specialists from centres of competence would step in quickly to give the right solution and   therefore, the customer is able to quickly see the benefits and features which we have – both from the knowledge and the product – by this approach we should be able to gain substantial penetration.  We started this exercise in the first half of last year and we have already begun to see sizeable traction in the fourth quarter of last year.

What are the emerging sectors in India?
We see aerospace gaining quite a bit of importance and with our strong program we find ourselves very much relevant in that sector. The medical industry is another one that is gaining greater amount of importance. Within the Energy sector we have seen some resurgence in the Wind Energy and the need for newer technologies. Within automotive sector itself, with the advent of the latest generation of machines coming in, we are beginning to see sizeable interest in the new generation cutting tools – for example in gear production, the manufacturers having brought in latest technology machines which has a high throughput – so we have had to step in to give them the latest range of tools to meet the expectations of both machine and customer.

Your future plans in India…
We plan to expand our manufacturing base in India adding the new products to our manufacturing program. And we aim to increase our market share with the focused approach already explained.

by Nishant Kashyap