By T Murrali
The US-based Axalta Coating Systems, a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings, has set up a new manufacturing facility along its coatings plant in Gujarat to meet the increasing demand of the automotive industry in India.
The 5,200-sqm plant is part of the Savli (about 25 km from Vadodara, Gujarat) manufacturing site of Axalta Coating Systems India that produces coatings for refinish, automotive parts, and commercial vehicle customers. This increases the annual coatings production capacity of this plant from about eight million litres to 11 million litres. Eventually the cumulative capacity will be raised 19 million litres a year for the needs of light vehicles, commercial vehicles, and other industrial segments.
The capacity expansion of the Axalta Savli plant is for both the high and low temperature-cured coatings. The new plant is designed to scale-up production of waterborne coatings for customers who need more sustainable solutions. It employs more eco-friendly processes with low emissions to ensure healthy environment for the community and sustainable future for Axalta.
Axalta continues to invest here in line with its India growth strategy. Charlie Shaver, Chairman and CEO of Axalta Coating Systems, said that together with the new facility and other development costs, the company would have invested close to USD 70 million by 2020-21.
Axalta has opened a Technology Centre in Savli for the Indian automotive industry. Its new headquarters in Gurugram, in the National Capital Region, hosts its global IT and other back-office operations. The company has upgraded its refinish training centres across India to serve customers better in a growing market.
“These facilities and the significant investments made in the past couple of years are in sync with Axalta’s strong commitment to India to deliver innovative and comprehensive coating solutions to our customers in the automotive and other industry sectors. I am confident that Axalta’s global expertise in coatings will play a significant role in India, catering to our customers’ specific requirements,” Shaver said.
According to a World Bank data, India’s GDP in 2017 was at 7.2 percent, which makes it the fastest growth economy in the world. Last year the automotive sector contributed about seven percent to India’s annual GDP, and India became the fourth largest vehicle manufacturer in the world by making more than three million cars after China (24.2 million), United States (17.1 million) and Japan (4.4 million units). The industry observers say that India will be globally the third largest by 2020 with an estimated five million units to be sold annually (Source: Society of Indian Automotive Manufacturers, SIAM).
“Axalta has been widely recognised by its customers in India for excellent performance and service commitments in the refinish and industrial segments. We now look forward to bringing the same kind of commitment to meet the growing demand of the Indian automotive and industrial OEMs,” Vinay Rajadhyaksha, Managing Director, Axalta Coating Systems India, said.
Axalta Coating Systems India’s new plant is the state-of-the-art facility encompassing the best practices of all the manufacturing facilities of the global company all over the world. Automation, with minimal human intervention, is a unique feature of the plant. From raw material receipt to its charging to the paint-making vessels to storage, everything is automated. Coatings are visible only when they are filled in the cans. The entire manufacturing and on-line testing is automated to ensure quality of the products and safety of the workforce. It is also very lean manufacturing, minimising waste and improving efficiencies.
Paint manufacturing is in batch process and in four stages of pigmented coatings composed of four broad classes of materials: resins (often called as binders), solvents (includes water for water reducible / waterborne coatings), additives (a broad class of materials used in small quantities to achieve special properties) and pigment (added as dispersants, sometimes called pastes) for pigmented coatings such as primers, basecoats, and mono-coats. To make non-pigmented / clear coatings only the first three materials are used.
In the pre-mixing, the binder (a film-forming material) is mixed with some special solvents (that help in the application of the paint) and additives that enhance the paint properties. This mixture is then added to powder that gives several properties, including colour and resistance. After this, the mixture goes to the dispersion chamber where pigment particles get separated from each other to form a good coating layer. Later it is sent to storage for packing.
Axalta Coating Systems India has a full-fledged laboratory and a testing centre to carry out regular short and long-term testing of coatings. For some special testing, the company sends samples to Axalta’s test facilities in China or Europe. The NABL-accredited lab has all the equipment, including salt spray chamber to test for corrosion. In the application lab the company has facilities for robotic simulation that can replicate the operations carried out by its customers and identify points for improvement. The company studies customers’ line parameters / conditions to reproduce the same colour, which will help achieve ‘right first time’ status, eventually minimising iterations. On this aspect the India lab is working along with the global team.
The application lab comprises different segments like light vehicle, commercial vehicles and industrial. The light vehicle division is further segregated into three parts: OEMs (such as VW, Honda, Tata Motors etc), two-wheelers (Bajaj and Kawasaki to name a few) and coatings for plastics. The lab for commercial vehicles is catering to several customers like Scania.
Axalta, which established business in India in 1996, has offices and regional training centres in Gurugram, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Vadodara, and an extensive product distribution network. With more than 150 years of experience in the coatings industry, Axalta, with the finest coatings, application systems and technology, has a turnover of USD5 billion, and about 100,000 customers in 130 countries. Focused on innovative, colourful and sustainable solutions, the company gets about USD 1.75billion from the transportation sector, about USD 2billion from refinish (aftermarket) and the rest from industrial segments. In the refinish segment the company is a world leader commanding 24 percent market share.
According to Shaver, the contribution by the Asia Pacific region will reach 20 percent of the global turnover in the next five years, from the current 18 percent. This region has been having double-digit growth since a few years. Overall, about two-thirds of the incremental growth will be from India and Asia Pacific region, he said.
Axalta, which spends about four percent of sales on R & D with 1,300 scientists, engineers and technology staff, stationed strategically across the world, considers acquisition as an important avenue of growth. The company made 15 acquisitions during the last two years amounting to USD800 million in annual sales. The primary objective of taking this route for growth is to augment its technology and process capabilities. The company is looking at inorganic growth in every market including India, a refinish market for Axalta. “We began looking at acquisitions in India two years ago due to its stable political environment and a stabilising currency,” Shaver said. About 80 percent of the revenue for the Indian operations is coming from automotive refinish segment.