Exclusive Interview with Shri Rajiv Kumar Vyas, General Manager, Rail Wheel Factory

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Rail Analysis: What are the state-of-the-art technologies you are using for manufacturing of Wheelsets & Axles at the factory?

Shri Rajiv Kumar Vyas: The Plant was setup in the year 1980, which has grown to manufacture various types of wheels, axles and wheelsets, thereby substantially contributing to ‘Make in India’ policy of Govt. of India. RWF is one of the few integrated plants in the world undertaking manufacture of wheels, axles and wheelsets under single roof.

RWF uses specialised bottom pressure pouring technology acquired from M/s Amsted, USA to manufacture cast steel wheels for Railway and Metro application. This technology is associated to a high degree of automation which translates to lower costs.

New Assembly of Wheels on Axles

The Factory has facility of forging axles using long forging machine. There are two dedicated lines of special purpose CNC machines for machining of axles assisted by an automated gantry to produce semi machined or machined axles.

RWF has a high productivity state of art wheelset assembly complex, consisting of an auto axle measuring unit, precision borer and 300 T mounting press. Assembly of Wheels on Axles can be achieved to precise preset limits of interference, mounting rates and dimensional tolerance.

 


 

Rail Analysis: Please tell us about your expansion plans for manufacturing of Wheels & Axles at RWF? What is the current status of the New Axle forging Line at RWF?

Shri Rajiv Kumar Vyas: RWF has sufficient manufacturing capacity of 2,00,000 cast wheels to meet the domestic demand of cast wheels. A new wheelset press has been commissioned in August 2019 taking the capacity for manufacturing wheelsets from 59,640 to 70,000.

“There is requirement of axles on domestic market and there is need to build up additional capacity for axles. To augment the capacity two major projects i.e., New Forging Complex at a cost of Rs340 crores and 3rd Axle Machining Line at a cost of Rs150 crores and are underway. These two projects will enhance the Axle Shop capacity to 1,59,000 axle forgings and 1,20,000 machined axles, which will enable RWF to meet future requirements of wheels, axles as well as wheelsets for Indian markets.”

Forging

The New Axle Forging Complex is being installed by M/s ISGEC, NOIDA at a cost of Rs. 340 crores. The majority cost is of M&P- Rs 280 Crores. Project has a completion period of 36 months. About 90% of civil work has been completed. The machinery for the project has started arriving at RWF. Erection of the preheating rotary hearth furnace has already started. The Axle Forging Machine from M/s GFM Austria is likely to reach RWF by May end. The Complex is likely to be commissioned by January 2022. There is expected delay in commissioning due to Covid-19.

The letter of acceptance (LOA) has already been placed for 3rd Axle Machining Line by COFMOW. An important technological advance project has been made by in house development of scrap cutting machine. Scrap cutting is a very demanding process where scrap wheels, axles and wheelsets received from all over Indian Railways are manually cut to smaller size to feed to the three electric arc furnaces. This is being done manually through gas cutting.

Forged axles conveyor

This manual cutting activity has been automated and now scrap is cut on machine. One prototype has been successfully installed and now 5 more machines will be installed which will completely eliminate manual cutting of scrap wheels, axles and wheelsets. This automation will release about 40 employees who are planned to man the New Axle Forging Line.

 


 

Rail Analysis: Are you supplying wheelsets for Metro Rail Systems in India also, if yes, please inform us more about the same ? What are your future plans for participating for the wheelsets for the Metro Rail Systems across India?

Shri Rajiv Kumar Vyas: RWF manufactured wheelsets with cast steel wheels have been fitted on one train, (trailer coach) manufactured at ICF for Kolkata Metro. The cast wheel performance in trailer coach in Kolkata Metro has been found satisfactory.

Splitting of a just cast wheel

“RWF has been allowed to do trial of cast wheel for Metro Coach of Kolkata Metro. This is perhaps the first application of cast wheel in metro worldwide. A prototype wheel has also been developed for Bangalore Metro. However, various Metro Rail system uses forged wheels in their system. In future, in case cast wheel manufactured wheelsets will be used by Metro system then RWF will participate in supplying wheelsets manufactured from cast wheels.”

 


 

Rail Analysis: In the Budget this year, the government committed Rs 1.97 lakh crore in the next 5 years starting FY 2021-22 for Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes. What will be the impact of this scheme on India’s manufacturing ecosystem and How can the railway MSME sector benefit from the same?

Shri Rajiv Kumar Vyas: Production Linked Incentive (PLI) is an attractive scheme to incentivise manufacturing investment. The PLI scheme per se is not extended to Railway sector. However, MSME working in the identified 13 sectors covered for PLI can play a lead role through supplies to Railways also. It does not impact RWF directly, but in the long run this facility can help in Import substitution and aid in cost reduction and build a robust domestic manufacturing ecosystem.

Red hot wheels

The Govt. Of India has issued a policy for not importing items upto a value of Rs.200 Crores to promote Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative. So MSME’s doing business with Railways need to built their capacities with sustainable infrastructure under PLI scheme to reap the benefit over the next 5 years till scheme is in place.

For example, MSME in the sector of batteries can contribute more by developing their present technology and making it environment friendly. Railway is a big customer for batteries. Under speciality Steel sector also the reduced rates can help in bringing down the cost of production of our products specially axles and wheelsets.

 


 

Rail Analysis: Indian is now focusing on indigenous manufacturing and encouraging local companies to introduce new products. How does RWF seek to localize its expertise for Rolling Stock requirement in the Rail and Metro of India and How can Local vendors be a partner of RWF in this?

Shri Rajiv Kumar Vyas: RWF is fully equipped to develop new products- wheels, axles as well as wheelsets. Starting from only 5 types of wheel designs, we are currently manufacturing 18 types of wheels and 32 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 and with commissioning of the Axle Shop projects we will become capable of meeting all the requirements of Axles of Indian market.”

wheelsets pressing process

Over the years RWF has been working with local industry to develop various materials required for production as well as machinery and plant. The wheel manufacturing process being highly specialised requires certain materials like graphite mould blank, ceramic pouring tube etc. which are currently being imported. RWF has an effective program of vendor development and we have largely being successful in developing indigenous vendor base. Efforts are in pipeline to develop the specialised material of graphite mould blanks with M/s Graphite India. The Pouring tube has been developed in association with M/s BHEL which will substitute import of pouring tube.

 


 

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

Shri Rajiv Kumar Vyas: RWF has systematically reviewed the costing of its products and has been able to reduce product cost because of which RWF products have become competitive in Global Market. We are the only unit of Indian Railways to have both US certification of American Association of Railroads (AAR)- QA-5000 as well as European railway standard- IRIS.

wheelsets ready for dispatch

Some of the key technologies introduced recently have focused on environmental and energy efficiency commitment of RWF. Over past three years all HSD fired furnaces of RWF are being switched over to PNG. We have introduced Secondary Fume Extraction system for the Steel Melt Shop for emissive dust mitigation. On resource conservation front we have introduced Thermal Sand Reclamation Plant to recycle sand. Several key technologies like VVFD drives etc. have been introduced towards improving energy efficiencies. Solar plant has been installed on roof of RWF administrative building.

We have created a network of wetlands with rejuvenated open wells which has resulted in making us self-sufficient in process water requirement for the Plant. On the consumption side, automation of major water supply pipelines has been done.


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