LIFE

Consolidating the gains

"When private companies are finding it difficult to survive as the total capacity of the manufacturers exceeds the demand, our position compares well. The BHEL is now one of the five largest boiler manufacturers in the world."

It has been just a year since he took over the reins of the BHEL, Tiruchi. But his policy initiatives have already had an impact on the operations of the BHEL, as well as on hundreds of ancillaries units located in and around Tiruchi that look to it for their survival.

Through his no-nonsense approach, Arun Kumar Mathur, Executive Director, has sent out a clear and loud message: both should gear to face the emerging global competitive scenario. Some of his decisions have proved that he means business. He has also infused a "customer- oriented" approach in all operations of the company. A Colombo Plan Scholar, who was also trained in Management of Complex Projects by Price Waterhouse in the United Kingdom, Mr. Mathur takes time off for a tete-a-tete with S. Ganesan to share his vision of the BHEL's role as a global player.

"I COULD see the BHEL emerge as one of the big three among the global boiler manufacturers in the near future." Coming from a man who has risen to become the top executive of the organisation, starting his career as an apprentice engineer in 1968, these are not mere high-sounding words. With 34 years of outstanding professional experience, all through in the BHEL, Mr. Mathur, knows the organisation in and out.

"We have come a long way," says Mr. Mathur. From a humble beginning, limited by technology, the BHEL has reached a stage, where it is one of the foremost manufacturers of heavy electrical equipment in the world, by virtue of its engineering and low-cost manufacturing skills. The BHEL's engineering capabilities are recognised worldwide, and many of its technologies are home grown, he points out.

After working extensively on various on-site power projects, commissioning steam generators and turbines, including installations of up to 500 MW, he took charge as General Manager in-charge of the BHEL's Power Sector Northern Region (PSNR), in 2000. He handled various thermal and hydropower projects, and was instrumental in setting benchmarks in time-cycles. He also had a stint in the Planning and Technology Transfer Group, which, perhaps, had given him a good insight into the dynamics of the industry.

Notwithstanding the churning that the electrical capital goods industry has witnessed worldwide, with mergers and acquisitions over the past decade, the BHEL has managed to hold its ground. "When private companies are finding it difficult to survive as the total capacity of the manufacturers exceeds the demand, our position compares well. The BHEL is now one of the five largest boiler manufacturers in the world," he says.

"Two-thirds of the country's installed power capacity comes from the BHEL equipment, and we hope to retain that market share. We have a large developing market and enormous potential because of our capability to design any type of boiler, at a low cost for any kind of fuel — coal, liquid or gas. South Asia accounts for 50 per cent of the global power development. Even the Chinese do not compare favourably with us in engineering capabilities, not even in costs. The BHEL, Tiruchi, has enormous growth potential in the boiler market, both domestic and international," he asserts.

At the same time, he is also conscious of the challenges faced by the unit to achieve the goal. Towards this end, his attempt in the last year has been to "consolidate" the BHEL's strength in some key areas: cycle-time reduction, cost cutting, quality improvement and, above all, customer satisfaction. "We have made an attempt to think from the customer and project angles, instead of the product angle," he says. Reducing production cycle-times involves extensive preparations, including stocking adequate inventories in anticipation of contracts — a process mostly unheard of in the public sector units. The efforts have paid off. "Our deliveries are well ahead of schedule, in many cases by three to six months," he says. Engineering Procurement and Construction Contract is another emerging area that claims Mr. Mathur's attention, as many customers prefer it to reduce the interest burden during the gestation period. He also sees a good scope for the BHEL in niche areas, such as nuclear power equipment, fluidised bed combustion boilers, steam generators, heat recovery systems, speciality valves and gas turbines.

The BHEL's relationship with the ancillaries in Tiruchi is another sensitive issue that has been exercising the minds of the local industrial circles.

Mr. Mathur has taken some tough decisions, cutting down the rates for sub-contracting works to the ancillaries by eight per cent. Mr. Mathur wants the ancillaries to shed their over-dependence on the BHEL, for their good.

"We want the ancillaries to innovate, come up with value-added products, and ultimately, become independent product manufacturers," he says.

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