Revolution in the world of material science is need of the hour

Revolution in the world of material science is need of the hour

Surface Modification Technologies has over 20 years of hands-on experience in handling various advance surface treatment technologies. The company delivers surface enhancement solutions using Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) coating processes customised to individual requirements. Umesh Mhatre, Managing Director, Surface Modification Technologies opens up about latest technologies in surface enhancement solutions and provides suggestions to improve the Indian textile industry.

Surface Modification Technologies has over 20 years of hands-on experience in handling various advance surface treatment technologies. The company delivers surface enhancement solutions using Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) coating processes customised to individual requirements. Umesh Mhatre, Managing Director, Surface Modification Technologies opens up about latest technologies in surface enhancement solutions and provides suggestions to improve the Indian textile industry.

How has COVID-19 impacted your business and the textile sector?

SMT is a leading surface engineering provider which delivers surface enhancement solutions in the field of metal finishing and coating through the high-performance Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) coating processes, at times even customised to individual industry specific requirements. Cost effective textile production would not be possible without high speed fibre processing machines. High processing speeds and highly abrasive fibre limits the life of various components used in these machineries. Therefore textile machine components are one of the promising applications for our coating technology. Being in the service industry, our business is always dependent upon the up’s and downs of the business sector that we serve. Unprecedented lockdown has deeply impacted the production, turnover, employment and exports of textile industry. This has impacted our business too. Although after lockdown, slowly economy is coming back on track but it is very difficult to predict when things will revive in the Indian textile sector.  

Has it also opened new markets or product opportunities for you? If yes, please share few details.

COVID-19 created exceptional crises and exposed all the weaknesses of various industrial sectors. But in doing so, it has also highlighted reforms that could help the way we handle future. In my opinion, such new reforms would remain very much industry specific.  Numbers of industrial sectors seem to be benefiting from these with smart incremental changes whereas others may require major reforms. Such reforms always bring opportunities for coating service providers like us. We have been always remained an indispensable constituent of cost effective production in engineering sector.  Certainly, for us COVID-19 has opened promising new opportunities across various sectors of industries.  For example, boost in import substitute manufacturing in several engineering sectors opened up enormous demand for our coating solution to manage cost effective production. Due to import restrictions and logistic uncertainties during COVID-19, PVD coating equipment manufacturing has also become lucrative opportunity.      

What factors will influence the growth of this segment in the next 2-3 years?

The textile industry is extremely diversified having traditional hand-spun and hand-woven textiles sectors at one end whereas the capital-intensive high speed modern mills sector on the other end. Irrespective of COVID-19 crises, textile industry is always under constant pressure to withstand the challenges of present business scenario and also to safeguard itself by adopting the upcoming imminent trends of modern society.  Sudden and prolonged break during COVID-19 escalated these pressures to high level. Although, forecasting the exact factors that will influence the growth of this segment are bit complicated due to the varied nature, one can list few pressing issues that might influence the growth of this segment.  Rapid and erratic changes in climatic conditions, on-time adoption of rapid changes in the technology based on Industry 4.0 platform, product innovation, utilisation of renewable energy sources for efficient and cost effective operations, focusing on virtual business platform to showcase their products on world market are some of the factors that influence the growth of this segment in next 2-3 years. Apart from all these, government promotional policies and investment also will play major role in the growth of this market.

What new technologies are you working on currently? What kind of new features or solutions do you plan to incorporate?

Surface engineering technologies and their solutions for cost effective production have been extensively used by automobile sector to their benefit. But many other engineering sectors including textile sector has not been explored for the benefit of these technologies. Our research and development team and application development engineers are delicately focusing on textile sector to improve the performance of high speed spinning and weaving machine components processing highly abrasive natural and man-made fibres. These modern plasma based surface engineering treatments would enhance the surface characteristics of various textile processing components that worn-out prenatally due to the highly abrasive nature of fast running fibres. These solutions will not only improve the performance of the components and reduce the production cost but also help to improve the quality of the cloth produce.       

Do you spend a significant sum on R&D? If yes, what is the budget allocated towards it?

SMT has dedicated research and development team focusing on upcoming technological challenges in the field of surface engineering. We do spend enough time and money in developing new application, new potential markets and spreading awareness about our technology by way of seminars, meetings and media. Currently we do not have specific budget allocated for these activities for year 2020-21 due to the current slow and uncertain phase of industry due to COVID-19 crises.  But looking at opportunities in hand, we do gearing us to infuse adequate funds to seize the niche opportunities.      

Which are your major markets in India and abroad? Which new ones do you pan to explore?

Currently we are catering our surface engineering services to the automobile, pharmaceutical, horological (Watch), bio-medical instruments industries. We have initiated our developments to explore the potential applications of textile, agricultural and aerospace industries. In year 2019-20 we have developed one of such applications for textile industry and today it has been converted from pilot scale production to the main stream production.    

What would your suggestions be to the government?

Reinforcement of MSME sector is one of the prime expectations from the upcoming budget. “Make-In-India” and “Ease of doing business” are great initiatives to encourage national, as well as multi-national companies to manufacture their products in India.  We are optimistic and hopeful that government policies will open all possible avenues to current businesses and upcoming start-ups to get benefit of these noble causes. Business compatible Infrastructure is also very much essential. 

What are the pain-points exclusive to this segment? How can these be overcome?

As stated earlier, textile industry is very much diversified and hence it is difficult to narrow down challenges for this industry. There are many challenges.  Each sub-segment of this industry has its own excusive challenges. But in collective, unpredictable climatic conditions and its impact on availability and increasing prices of raw material is the one of the important challenge. Apart from this, environmental compatibility issues, slow pace of technology upgradation and its implementation, investment, competitiveness in global markets are among the exclusive challenges of this segment.  Government support and dedicated policies and their root-level implementation would help this sector to overcome these challenges and become competitive in the global market. 

What kinds of technologies do you see Indian textile industry adopting in the next 5 years in this niche?

The continuous development of textile industry is very much important. Global competition and modern demands required a complete transformation of this industry to usher in a sophisticated phase of textiles economy. Such transformation could only be possible through system-level changes with extraordinary degree of commitment, dedication, and innovation. An industry 4.0 revolution is inevitable. Appropriate and adequate usage of laser technology, artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing, robotic and automation technologies for economical and higher scale production is very much essential to remain in the race of competitive global market. Degree of digitisation of operative procedures, online data analysis and e-commerce will remain key features of success. Innovation in the new raw materials with the help of revolution in the world of material science is need of the hour. These developments will potentially replace climate based natural fibres and revolutionise the quality of man-made fibres. All these modern technological resources will change the textile industry in profound ways

Umesh Mhatre, Managing Director, Surface Modification Technologies

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