Exclusive Interaction with Shri Sudhanshu Mani, Team Leader – Independent Consultant, Retd. GM ICF, Indian Railways and Shri Ramakrishnan Venkatraman, Director, Dassault Systemes

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SOLIDWORKS Innovation Day, every year brings together a vibrant community of designers, engineers, industry leaders and innovators to learn, engage and drive innovation, around the 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio, for the SOLIDWORKS customers. The insights shared at SOLIDWORKS Innovation Day 2021 captured the interaction focused on new technology solutions and the way forward for the railway sector.

Profiles:

Shri Sudhanshu Mani retired in the apex grade of Government of India from the Indian Railways (IR) Service of Mech. Engg. as General Manager, Integral Coach Factory, Chennai after serving Indian Railways for 38 years. He also served as Railway Advisor in the Embassy of India, Berlin for 3 years, lesioning and interacting with railways systems in Europe and other advanced countries on behalf of IR. He is a Fellow of Institute of Mechanical Engineers, London. He led the Train 18/Vande Bharat Express project, the first ever indigenous semi high-speed train of India, from concept to delivery.

Shri Ramakrishnan Venkataraman, has been in the CAD/CAM/CAE/PLM industry for the last 24 years. He has led business transformation for the manufacturing industry sector by providing his expert consulting services and solutions to address the challenges. He is very passionate about helping the organizations in bringing new products to markets faster by engaging with them through the cycle of concept to production. His technical background with deeper understanding in product design and manufacturing has made a distinctive connect with various CXOs in the Indian manufacturing sector. Ever since 2008, he has been strategically working with manufacturing sector in transforming their business experiences by helping them with industry proven solution from Dassault Systemes.

 


 

Rail Analysis: In the development of Train 18, how did innovation and technology enable you to achieve the indigenization? How did technology play a role in product development?

Mr. Mani: Technology essentially starts with an idea. There may be thousands of ideas, some of them get converted into concepts and then the concept further translates into a product or service. This has to be further tested in the market and should bring value When the idea is introduced to the market it involves processes and many other things. It could also involve special machines, detailed designs, engineering to make it into a product or if it is a service, then something related to that – all these things are combined together by technology.

In Railways, we have had sufficient experience with Transfer of technology, starting with diesel locomotives, then electric locomotives and then we have the technologies from ABB ,GE and also the technology for LHB coaches – all of these technologies have been purchased by Railways through a transfer of technology.

With the Train 18, the idea was to do as much as you can to design here in India and that included the innovation in ICF along with a large numbers of vendors involved which were manufacturing the components for other coaches. All that was needed was some encouragement and close collaboration with them to ensure that the local vendors are also able to innovate and provide a higher technical product.Hence, it was a combined effort of ICF and great effort from the industry involved to design and make things in India.

As for product development, Technology enabled us to manage the timelines. For Train 1 8 project, our aim was to manage it within 1 8 months. It involved creation of a common platform so that all the stakeholders are available to collaborate effectively and decision making time can be shortened. Hence, we focused on getting the designs ready and collaborated with the vendors simultaneously so that we could place the orders in advance, sometimes even before the drawing was completed – which was a new practice completely.

Thus, one of the things which made us cut down the time from 36 to 1 8 months was ordering components without having frozen the drawings. This sort of collaboration was possible purely due to the design tools at our disposal without which we could not have done this in 1 8 months.

Mr. Ramakrishnan: There is one particular aspect that I want to talk about. The EMU, which is an Electrical Multiple Unit, was developed by ICF earlier They have also built the coaches for Kolkata metro. Having such expertise, has enabled ICF to further develop the coach design and framework for Train 18.

Improving upon each and every level including the component design, production process and rolling out the Train 18 within 18 months has been a great achievement.

Now with the encouragement from the government of India and the focus on Make in India, the industry looks forward to many such initiatives and we hope to contribute for the projects from our side from a technical perspective.

 


 

Rail Analysis: If the technology is developed in India, What could be the potential for exports of the Indian coaches?

Mr. Mani: Exporting the coaches is possible to medium level countries but whether they have a market or not, we will have to go and build that market. Countries such as Brazil Turkey, Morocco – these kind of countries have the finances for procuring rolling stock from us and they do not need financial assistance like we provide today to African nations etc.

You must build a market there first and only then they will be ready to accept your product. Once they see wide scale usage in other countries, then more markets can open up. As for Train 1 8, It needs to run well in India for a few years and after that we can provide it to other countries. Additionally, In India lot of new developments are going on such as the HSR, RRTS and other projects which are also coming up. These provide a good potential for development of world class rolling stock in India.

 


 

Rail Analysis: How do you view the mass transit projects in India? How can we achieve more standardization projects across the county?

Mr. Mani: As you know the DMRC success story which has a very good ridership ( pre-pandemic ) but the metro projects must not become a political tool. Rather, metro projects must be approved in cities after a proper analysis otherwise the project will not be sustainable as we can notice in various cities.

Further, much of the budget can also be allocated to other areas and unbelievable improvement can be done in thousands of crores in terms of roads, flyovers, traffic management and so on. I think that the opportunity cost of each project must also be taken into consideration.

As for standardization, if a country spends one lakh crores in one area then it should work on some kind of standardization and it must also build enough indigenous capabilities to make trains for its own market and also to start exporting. In India, this has not been the focus as of yet but we hope in the future, it will be encouraged.

In terms of manufacturing, there is no core designing work happening in India. Infact, the very first metro train in India was made by ICF for Kolkata metro. Hence, such local initiatives must be developed and encouraged. The first metro train ever was built and designed in India. More than manufacturing, it is the core design work that precedes manufacturing which must be encouraged in India.

 


 

Rail Analysis: Local suppliers do not want to spend on R&D since there is no assurances of orders, How does one resolve that issue?

Mr. Mani: Indian Railways is a Government entity and the responsibility of solving this can also happen with the government encouragement. You cannot expect that private sector will invest in development of a product and spend lots of money without any surety of any orders in future.

For example, seats are not made in India. I remember importing each one for about INR 45 lakhs for one coach. So each seat was about INR 60 to 70 thousand rupees. But then we could not develop them in India, since only two rakes were being developed. Today, 42 rakes are getting built so now it is possible to develop this in India. Now imagine 45 lakhs into 42 rakes. The order value itself is above 200 crores plus.

Hence, you can encourage some domestic suppliers such as Tata or any other major suppliers and tell them to invest and make everything here and learn technology. In the future we can modify and personalize the designs further to suit the requirement of projects in India.

Expecting industry to develop and spend money on R&D without an assured order is very difficult. Some companies still do it and succeed to get order but on their own risk taking capability. That’s the model which is followed even today. Lastly, GMs of production units and zonal railways need to be empowered so that they can exercise these changes and encourage vendors.

Mr. Ramakrishnan: In fact, many similar examples such as the seats mentioned by Mr Mani, we can look at the same thing happening to many other products as well. With the encouragement of the government and if the suppliers are involved at the conceptual stage of product development cycle, we can expect many more suppliers to get further involved in R&D and develop global quality products for the Indian market. At Dassault Systemes, we look forward to partnering with local suppliers in India and assisting them latest technology and design tools to make this happen!


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