Pumping it up
Backed by strong manufacturing, the Eaton Hydraulics plant at Pimpri has emerged as a premier global supplier. BY INDIRA RAO
Spread over 11 acres of land at Pimpri in Pune is Eaton Hydraulics Group. The Eaton Group marked its entry into India after acquiring Aeroquip Vickers in 1999. This plant in Pimpri is one of Eaton India’s oldest and has completed more than 32 years of existence as of this year. Musing over, Subhasis Chatterjee, MD, Eaton Fluid Power, hydraulics group, said, “We started off with two manufacturing units – one in Pimpri and the other at Kandivali in Mumbai as Vickers Systems International. Subsequent to 1999 when Eaton took over Vickers globally, they consolidated the Pune plant and closed the Kandivili plant. Thus, Pune which earlier catered to only a limited range of hydraulics components now also houses a complete portfolio of mobile as well as stationery hydraulics components.”
Mobile components relates to products manufactured for equipment manufacturers like in the agriculture and construction sectors. Examples of such equipment are tractors, harvesters, backhoe loaders, etc. Stationery on the other hand refers to project business and has products essentially for sectors like mining, oil and gas, power and steel plants, injection moulding, machine tools, etc. “After the consolidation we started getting into sectors that we hitherto were not a part of. That is when our association with one of the global majors in the healthcare industry started,” stated Chatterjee.
The plant makes cylinders for them which ultimately go into their Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tables. Talking of the association, Chatterjee said, “They were looking for a partner for hydraulics and they zeroed in on Eaton India. Since then we are the single supplier source for them for the hydraulic cylinders and pumps.” Pointing out the complexities in producing these products, he added, “You need to understand that we are a mechanical engineering company, where everything typically starts and ends with steel. With these specific challenging projects, pumps and cylinders had to be non-ferrous because it handles magnet. If there is even one ferrous particle it will be catastrophic. So, it has to be made completely out of brass or non-ferrous stainless steel, which is something very unique and also very compact in size. Typically MRI tables are small and therefore the valves that go into these tables, as a part of these pumps and cylinders are as small as the ones in aerospace.”
Hitch valve is another component which the company manufactures for the tractor industry. The hydraulic hitch-system was introduced for lifting and lowering the implements at the headland and for transportation. When ploughing the system was switched in the float position, so that the plough worked with constant working depth and could freely follow the soil-surface even under undulated conditions. This also helps the tractor to protect the expensive implements from fouling with unwarranted objects. “This product is highly technology intensive and we are proud to produce it at this facility. We also export this product to US, China, etc.” mentioned Chatterjee.
The Pimpri plant is also home to an Eaton Centre of Excellence (COE) for gear pumps and has now expanded to manufacturing steering control units. The facility was earlier manufacturing low pressure pumps made out of aluminium, which catered to the agricultural sector. Of late they have started venturing into the high pressure range of gear pumps, which mainly includes construction equipment. “In order to handle high pressure we had to start producing another range of gear pumps that was casted out of iron instead of aluminium. Now, these developments are done from India because this is specific to the domestic market. This facility is a COE for gear pumps in India because the engineering as well as manufacturing is done out of here. We also produce it in other countries like Mexico,Japan etc., but majority of the production is here and therefore, it becomes a kind of a hub for manufacturing and also exports,” explained Chatterjee.
He also mentioned that almost all the products manufactured here are indigenous. Elucidating with an example, he stated, “If a valve is made typically in the US or Europe, and we want to produce that valve in India we will have to adapt it to local conditions. First of all the valve is going to a certain machine. That machine adaptation can be different. For instance, a tractor in the US is typically 100 HP or above, whereas a tractor in India is somewhere around 30-50 horsepower. So, if you are putting the same valve over here, it will be an over-fit. Therefore, a different flange or body or shaft are needed. In the same token, we have to research, evaluate and manufacture our entire product ranges to suit the Indian conditions.
There is also Eaton India Engineering Centre (EIEC) in Pune that helps the company in its R&D. In fact, it is the company’s largest integrated, multidisciplinary research, development and engineering centre globally. “Today, technologists, engineers and designers work in virtual teams with their counterparts from Eaton’s aerospace, electrical, hydraulics and vehicle businesses and the corporate research and technology (*CRT ) teams are spread across the globe. EIEC has developed Centers of Excellence in modelling and simulation, embedded systems, intellectual property and even for safety, reliability and sustainability,” mentioned Chatterjee.
The EIEC team collaborates with global teams of engineers for their respective business groups to drive the product-centric compliance requirements such as ROHS/ROHS2, REACH, ELV and IHM focused on material and chemical contents.This team also specialises in applying the ‘design for environment methodology’ to new product development processes. Design for environment enables lifecycle approach to evaluate and manage the impacts on energy and resource efficiency, recyclability and compliance to regulations. Talking on the various ways in which these measures have been put in place in the facility, Chatterjee averred, “Power density is one area where most of the R&D goes on. It is not easy to fulfill the challenge of producing more withless. For example, we have customers who want construction equipment with higher horsepower but it has to be more compact. So instead of 250 bar we have to make hydraulics components producing 300-400 bar. This adjustment will allow them to produces same horsepower at a smaller envelope/size. This is power density.”
There is a system at Eaton called Management of Environmental Safety and Health (MESH), which further helps them focus not only on safety but also the environment. Elucidating, Ashutosh Nadgauda, general manager, operations, Eaton Fluid Power, Hydraulics group said, “We have received the Silver Safety Award from the President of India for not having a single accident on record for more than 1,000 days. There are no alternatives to safety in our factory.
One of the ways we ensure our people are safe is by machine guarding. This basically ensures that the machines are foolproof and are guarded in such a way that the risks of operating the machines are minimum. Our third-party consultants basically help identify the machines into low, medium and high risk category based on standards set by them. We are currently running a programme where in the first phase we brought our entire high risk category of machines to medium or low risks and in second phase we’ll bring the medium risk ones to the low category.”
“When we started out in India as a part of Eaton Group, we had only two plants —today we have seven. This shows our commitment to the country. With respect to the Pune facility, expansion plans may be on the anvil depending on the market situation. Moving forward, we are definitely going to make the Indian corporation a bright star within Eaton global. We are determined to give world class products to the market so that customers do not have to run around the globe in search of a good product as far as hydraulics is concerned. Our ultimate aim is to be the most admired company in whichever business we are in,” concluded Chatterjee.