Home Cover Story Mahindra enters aircraft components manufacture in India

Mahindra enters aircraft components manufacture in India

Mahindra enters aircraft components manufacture in India

As a logical extension of Mahindra’s interest in building aircraft, the group, under Mahindra Aerospace, has entered into manufacturing of aircraft components in India









Mahindra Aerospace, Mahindra Group’s aerospace offensive structured under Mahindra Systech, has commissioned a modern aerostructures facility at Narsapur Industrial Area near Bangalore. Built on an area of 25,000 sq m, the service oriented facility has the ability to accurately craft large, complex sheet metal parts using CNC routing, stretch forming bladder press, heat treatment and other equipment. Featuring an impressive 5-axis CNC machine as part of the modern set-up, the facility also includes a fully automated surface treatment line. The priming and painting capabilities for parts and assemblies are complemented by 10,000 sq m of space for the manufacture of major airframe assemblies and sub-assemblies.

Speaking at the inauguration, Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindra Group, said, “India has moved from being producer of outdated products to offer home grown world-class products. India has made a mark in frugal engineering. India also has to become a global contributor in the aerospace domain in three areas – design engineering services, utility aircraft and aerostructures. We have put money in these three areas.”

Set up at an investment of Rs 150 crore, the facility is expected to deliver Rs 250 crore in revenue per annum at peak capacity. “The Bangalore facility is an investment in aerostructures. To enter this new orbit, we have entered into a strategic partnership with Aernnova of Spain,” Mahindra added.

mahindranew1.jpgAernnova specialises in the design and manufacture of major airframe assemblies. The Spain-based manufacturer supplies aerospace assemblies to major manufacturers in the world, and would be entitled to pick up a stake of up to 24 per cent in the Bangalore facility. A logical extension of Mahindra’s Aerospace business, which started in 2006 with the acquisition of Plexion Technologies, an engineering design company, the Bangalore facility could pave way to making aircraft in India. Interestingly, Mahindra also has a unique partnering agreement with India’s National Aeronautics Lab to co-develop the 5-seat C-NM5 aircraft, which will follow the GA10 into the certification process. Said Hemant Luthra, President, Mahindra Systech, at Bangalore, “You can expect a move to manufacture an aircraft in a time-frame of two years.”

With Mr Mahindra planning to broaden the utility aircraft product range by making twin turbo prop aircraft, and aircraft that will find their way into rural India like the Jeeps made by Mahindra made it to areas where there were no roads, the manufacture of GA8 at Bangalore could be made possible by either shifting its production from Australia to India, or by concurrently manufacturing it in India. In case the production of GA8 is brought to India, GippsAero, which currently produces it in Australia could move to making the GA10 10-seater aircraft, and aircraft that are bigger and more value intensive in the future. GippsAero is one of the two Australian companies, the other being Aerostaff Australia, Mahindra acquired in 2010, the deal valued at close to Rs 1.75 billion. While GippsAero plans to launch the GA10 (10-seater turboprop derivative of GA8) in 2014, it is supported by Aerostaff as the supplier of aircraft components. To develop the Bangalore facility, Mahindra integrated the Australian (Aerostaff) team and the Indian team with an aim to meet global OEM and Tier 1 sourcing requirements and develop sustained long-term sourcing relationships.

mahindranew2.jpgAs the transition to manufacture aircraft pans out, the Aerostructures facility at Bangalore is expected to get FAR 23 certification. Opined Luthra, “Aerospace industry is very safety conscious. The tough part therefore is to get certification.”

The first client of the Bangalore facility will be GippsAero, and is expected to be joined by clients of Aernnova as the Spanish company hikes its stake in the Bangalore facility, helping Mahindra Aerostructures, in the process to graduate from a Tier 2 supplier to a Tier 1 supplier. Certification, according to Luthra, should take 12 to 18 months for various levels. With plans to make smaller parts and sub-assemblies to start with, the Aerostructures plant will ramp up to make larger, more complex assemblies, and build-to-print parts. To provide the best cost utility value, Aerostructures plant is expected to move up from build-to-print towards design-to-delivery offerings in the future.

Especially considering the fact that Anand Mahindra would like it to become a part of the supply chain as Government of India looks at replacing aging aircraft with locally made ones. A labour intensive operation, Mahindra Aerospace is also investing in skilled aerospace sheet metal, special processing and assembly workers, which would generate significant employment and place India firmly on the global aerospace industry map, serving clients like Boeing and Airbus. With the Aerospace business gaining mass to compete with thriving business verticals within the group, like TechMahindra, Mahindra could also look at setting up an assembly facility for aircraft in USA in view of luring business there.

FDM Methodology

Talking to: Hemant Luthra President, Mahindra Systech

How have you leveraged your strengths in auto components manufacture to enter aircraft components?

mahindrabox.jpgThe connection between auto components and aircraft components is limited to the (Systech) engineering services support. Engineering services will support the auto components business and aircraft business. We acquired Aerostaff Australia, a component manufacturer of high-precision close-tolerance aircraft components and assemblies for large aerospace OEM in 2010 along with GippsAero. We restructured the auto components business under Mahindra Forgings. Through Mahindra Forgings we have entered into a global alliance with CIE of Spain. The alliance is talking to global automakers to secure business. We want to reach into new geographies. The alliance is the next bold step towards global supply.

How different is it to manufacture aircraft components?

Aircraft industry is very safety conscious. Traceability of parts is an important criteria. This translates into certification, and the tough part is to get certification.

What are your plans for the future?

Our first client is Mahindra’s aerospace arm (GippsAero). To build this (Bangalore) facility we integrated the Australian Aerostaff team and the Indian team. We want to meet global OEM and Tier 1 sourcing requirements and develop sustained long-term sourcing relations. You can expect a move to manufacture an aircraft in a time frame of two years.

What market potential do you see for small aircraft in India?

We see a huge potential for small aircraft in India. They could play a role in the development of tourism in India. To connect bigger cities with tourist destinations. To transport pilgrims to destinations that takes 5-6 days by road. For businesses to transport perishable goods like fruits, flowers, etc., to the market in the shortest possible time.

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