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Owens Corning plans use of composites-based parts in India

Owens Corning India Ltd (OCIL), the joint venture between US glassmaker, Owens Corning and Indian firm Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd (M&M), is currently studying a project for introducing the use of composi…

Owens Corning India Ltd (OCIL), the joint venture between US glassmaker, Owens Corning and Indian firm Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd (M&M), is currently studying a project for introducing the use of composites-based parts in the Indian three-wheeler industry. “It is at design stage,” Mr Brad Wiggins, Managing Director, OCIL, said at a press briefing. While a collaborator – most likely a good moulder to shape the raw material into the required automotive part – is needed, the understanding will not mandatorily be an equity tie-up. The venture should be in place some time next year. Roughly speaking, the use of composites will help reduce the weight of a regular three-wheeler by 30%, Mr Wiggins said, pointing out, however, that the real gain in using glass fibre composites despite their high first-time cost is the estimated 10% cost savings reaped over a complete product life-cycle. There are advantages for component manufacturers too. In India, typically production volumes straddle the 1,00,000 units per annum range, which is short of the 2,00,000-league required to make tooling for steel-based products viable, Mr R.K. Pitamber, Director, M&M, said. For instance, a steel automobile bumper usually calls for a 1,000 tonne-press, while the same, rendered using composites, can take shape with a 250 tonne-press. Owens Corning is a leading integrated solutions provider of high-performance glass fibre composites and building material systems. OCIL“s equity is held 50% by Owens Corning, 26% by M&M and 24% by AIG and IL&FS. Total investment was Rs 550 crore. Mr Wiggins said that the planned overall pattern of operation will be to have OCIL supply the raw glass fibre, with ventures like the proposed three-wheeler one and the existing one with Tata Auto Comp Systems (TACO), using the same to fashion composites-based products. The cost of production at OCIL“s Taloja plant is the lowest in the Owens Corning family worldwide. The plant, with a total installed capacity of 110,000 tonnes per annum, currently manufactures 34,000 tonnes of glass fibre reinforcement material. While 85% of manufacture is exported, the telecom sector is perhaps the single biggest consumer of the balance with15% going into domestic sales, Mr Wiggins said. At a later stage, OCIL has plans to introduce building insulation materials in the Indian market, Mr David T. Brown, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Owens Corning, said. Lauding the workforce at Taloja and the high standards of efficiency achieved, Mr Brown said that executives from the Indian operations are being sent to Owens Corning“s facilities elsewhere to implement some of the best practices from here. “Our competitive advantage here is truly the people,” he said. The low production cost at Taloja was despite a high power cost. OCIL needs seven MW of power every year. OCIL which began operations two years ago, recovering from a severe flooding of its facility close to commissioning date, incurred a Rs 58 crore loss in FY 1999. In FY 2000, against an expected loss of Rs 15 crore, it returned a profit of Rs 28 lakhs on a turnover of approximately Rs 225 crore. For FY 2001, the company is targeting a profit of Rs 15 crore, Mr Wiggins said.

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