Exclusive Interview with Shri A.K Agarwal, General Manager, Rail Wheel Factory, Indian Railways

Shri Atul Kumar Agarwal, IRSME took charge as General Manager RWF, on 07/11/2022. He belongs to 1981 batch of special Class Railway Apprentices from Indian Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (IRIMEE), Jamalpur.

During his tenure of 41 years, He has served Indian Railways in various capacities such as General Manager, Integral Coach Factory, Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer, Central Railway, Chief Rolling Stock Engineer of North Central Railways and Divisional Railway Manager, Trichy Division of Southern Railway.

Interview Insights:

Rail Analysis: Please tell us more about your professional journey with RWF? What has been your experience over the years with Indian Railways?

Shri A.K Agarwal: I have been with the Indian Railways since almost 4 decades. I was mostly associated with operation of diesel locomotives besides maintaining prestigious Shatabdi and Rajdhani Express trains in the Delhi Division of Northern Railway. I was also associated with the first Shatabdi Express train with modern LHB coach.

Vande Bharat is one the most prestigious trains of Indian Railways. As General Manager, ICF, we made a long term plan for production of 75 rakes of Vande Bharat Express with streamlining of supply of materials and integration. We could ensure that the 1st and 2nd Rake of Vande Bharat Express Version 2.0 with various improvements in passenger amenities and safety, was rolled out within the time frame for flagging off by Hon’ble Prime Minister from Gandhinagar to Mumbai Central and from Amb Andaura Station in Himachal Pradesh to New Delhi.

Now, I have taken over as GM, RWF, Bengaluru, which manufactures railway wheels, axles and wheelsets. We are not only meeting our targets every time, but also planning for expansion and improvising in manufacturing process and maintaining quality.



Rail Analysis: What are the technologies you are using for manufacturing Wheelsets & Axles at the factory and what are the present production levels?

Shri A.K Agarwal: RWF is in the business of manufacturing cast wheels, forged axles and wheelsets for various rolling stocks of Indian Railways. RWF uses specialised bottom pressure pouring technology acquired from M/s Amsted, USA to manufacture cast steel wheels for railway.

This technology uses a high degree of automation which translates to lower costs. For axles, we use long forging machines with dedicated lines of special purpose CNC machines assisted by an automated gantry to produce railway axles.

The plant was setup in early 1980s, but has continuously upgraded its controls and machinery and plant over last 4 decades, keeping its core manufacturing processes same. Assembly of wheels on axle is achieved to precise pre-set limits of interference, mounting rates and dimensional tolerances by 300T mounting press.

RWF has sufficient capacity to meet the demands of wheels. The plant capacity of RWF is 1.90 lakhs Wheels and 70,000 Axles and 70,000 Wheelsets.



Rail Analysis: What are the targets set for 2023 for production of these products?

Shri A.K Agarwal : Target set by the Railway Board for RWF the year 2022-23 is 1,95,300 wheels, 85,200 axles and 84,000 wheelsets.



Rail Analysis: How does RWF seek to meet the rolling Stock requirements in the Railways of India and How can local vendors be a partner of RWF in this?

Shri A.K Agarwal : RWF is fully equipped to develop new products of wheels, axles as well as wheelsets. Starting from only 5 types of wheel designs, we are currently manufacturing 17 types of wheels and 40 types of axles and 9 types of wheelsets. We have in house design facility to cater for new wheel development as well as getting it validated from RDSO or the relevant validating/certifying bodies in USA or Europe as per requirement. RWF is a sterling example of Make in India initiative of the government. We have indigenised several products. With commissioning of new Axle Shop projects, we will become capable of meeting all the requirements of Axles of Indian market.

RWF is a huge recycler of its own products after its useful life. Scrapped rails, wheels and axles are used in foundry for manufacture of wheels.

RWF has an effective program of vendor development and we are largely successful in developing indigenous vendor base. Major consumables like high alumina bricks, wet ramming mass, calcined lime, Ferro alloys, electrodes, and graphite granules that are used in the manufacture of wheels are supplied by local manufacturers. Efforts are being made to indigenously developed the specialised materials like graphite mould blanks, pouring tube ceramic, dry ramming mass etc.

Indigenisation of supplies is a continuous process and with Government of India giving emphasis to Make in India, we are sure to find more vendors locally, which will also make our products cost effective.



Rail Analysis: What are the RWF’s future plans and targets with respect to the Indian Railway market?

Shri A.K Agarwal: As said earlier, RWF has enough capacity to produce wheels for Indian Railways. But, on the axle side there is requirement to build up additional capacity for which two major projects i.e., 3rd axle machining line at a cost of about Rs.150 crores is underway and New Forging Complex at a cost of Rs.311 crores is nearing completion. With this expansion, the Axle Shop capacity will be enhanced suitably. On completion of these projects, RWF will be able to match all future requirement of wheels, axles as well as wheelsets for Indian market and also cater export orders.



Rail Analysis: As we know the government is giving a lot of emphasis on Make in India initiatives and also exporting to other countries. Can you let us know what countries you are exporting your products to and the product range?

Shri A.K Agarwal: RWF is completely committed to the vision of “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” or “Make in India” initiative. Guiding philosophy of setting up of this Plant in 1984 was indigenous implementation of the patented bottom pressure pouring technique of M/s Griffin. This would enable the country to become self-reliant especially in freight wagon Rolling Stock.

RWF has been successful in translating the vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat to reality over the past 40 years. In addition to the vision of self-reliance, RWF has also developed products which have been exported directly or through RITES/IRCON to other countries. RWF exported its different products to various countries such as Mozambique, Benin, Sudan, Tanzania, Angola, Malaysia.



Rail Analysis: Any additional insights you would like to share with us?

Shri A.K Agarwal: RWF plays a strategic role in the IR’s supply chain of rolling stock. Wheels, axles and wheelsets manufactured here are supplied to locomotive, passenger coach and wagon manufacturers in Government, Private and Public Sectors.

RWF as a manufacturing unit of Indian Railways is also unique in respect of being 100% recycler of its own products. All wheels when worn out are brought back to RWF from all over Indian Railways and melted again to produce new wheels. This makes RWF a role model as far as environmental sustainable production systems are concerned.

Though RWF is a red category industry, emission levels are strictly controlled by fume extraction systems. It is also committed to ensure conservation of resources and proper waste management.

RWF is certified for Integrated Management System, encompassing: Quality Management System conforming to the standards of ISO 9001:2015, Environment Management System to the standards of ISO 14001:2015 and Occupational Health and Safety Management System to the standards of OHSAS 18001:2007. RWF has been certified with International Railway Industry Standards (IRIS) in accordance with ISO (International Standards Organisation)/TS 22163:2017.

RWF has been certified for AAR-QA 5000 by the American Association of Railroads which is a requirement for the export of Wheels, Axles & Wheelsets to American Railroads.

RWF has also been certified with ISO 50001-2011 for Energy Management System (EnMS), 5-S for Workplace Management System, GreenCo Certification, Silver Rating by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Metallurgical lab of RWF has been accredited by NABL with ISO/IEC 17025:2017 for its laboratory management system in the disciplines of chemical and mechanical testing.

RWF has taken steps towards Energy conservation and intends to harness Green Energy like Solar water heating for residential colonies and solar panels for generation of 2 MWp electricity, solar lighting etc., Conversion of HSD fired furnaces to PNG has not only saved revenue but also controlled carbon emissions to a considerable extent.

RWF has developed rain water harvesting and also channelized rain water to wells. Taking a step further to restore and preserve environment, an Eco-Zone with water bodies has been created. There are about 6 open wells in this area which caters to the need of process water. RWF is in-fact self-sufficient in process water requirement. The development of these water bodies has helped increase the ground water level in an around the area. These steps showcase RWF as a sustainable manufacturing unit of Indian Railways.

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