Case Study EDM plays key role in Indian manufacturer's tool production
Godrej employs most of its 10,000 workers at its Mumbai headquarters. When they need high accuracy, they turn to EDM.
From humble beginnings in the late 19th Century, this well-regarded company is said to be one of the best-known brands on the Indian sub-continent. A manufacturing conglomerate with a wide range of goods, it makes everything from engineering products to vegetarian soap to refrigerators.
The company campus hosts much of Godrej's multifarious manufacturing activity and looks more like an immaculately maintained suburb of the country’s second most populous city than the base of a prolific manufacturer. Along its wide streets are its factory blocks, each dedicated to a different product or engineering service. Some of them are unremarkable looking concrete buildings of three or four stories. One or two are cavernous, 100-foot-high hangars with gaping doors that look big enough to swallow an airship.
D.K. Sharma, vice president at the Tooling Division Godrej & Boyce Mfg Co Ltd, said the company covers a number of areas. “Godrej is well-known in many different industries. It is vitally important that we choose our technology partners very carefully."
A short walk from a showroom with the company's goods is the busy tooling machine shop, where it makes the moulds and dies used to manufacture countless die-cast aluminium parts for its products. Godrej owns 18 Haas CNC machine tools, five in the tooling department, which is run by S.M. Nayak, general manager of Engineering Services. “Three of the Haas vertical machining centres are being used to make electrodes for our sinker EDM machines,” he said. “The other two, VF-3s, are used to make conventional moulds and dies in steel.”
Electrodes for EDM (electrical discharge machining) sinker machines create an imprint or cavity in a machined workpiece. Electrode holders clamp the precision-machined, tungsten carbide electrodes in place to ensure a high degree of accuracy and repeatability. The process is typically used when the surface finish of a component and the dimensions of intricate features are critical, which means the electrodes themselves have to be very finely machined.
Intricate components require finely machined electrodes
“Given the complexity of the electrodes and the accuracy we need to achieve, we originally thought we would have to buy high-end, expensive European or Japanese machines, until we discovered Haas," Nayak explained. "We couldn’t believe how capable they are; we have no problems regularly achieving tolerances of 10 microns.”
Several of the company’s other Haas machines are employed in its lock-making division, where they operate 24 hours a day in a production configuration for a line of products that Godrej has been making in one form or another for all of its 114 years. The division uses four Haas VF-2s, two VF-2SS Super Speeds, and two SL-10 lathes. Between them, they make pin cylinder locks in brass and stainless steel. Tolerances are typically 20 to 50 microns and batches are 200 to 1000 units per shift, depending on the component being machined. The VF-2 machines are fitted with two rotary tables on each table, with different types of fixtures to accommodate the wide variety of part shapes and sizes.
In the company’s Precision Engineering Systems (PES) division, Haas VF-3 machining centres make critical components, such as the stator ring, hub, carrier arm, and disc rotor for wind turbines, one of Godrej’s latest and fastest-growing manufacturing activities.
“Haas machines are reliable, user-friendly, and flexible,” Nayak said. “We’re already achieving 65 to 70% cutting time, and we are always looking for ways to make our operations more efficient. We will order two more Haas VF-8 machines for our tooling division, and one for the MHE division.”
Giving back to the community to pave a path to the future
The founding family and the senior managers at Godrej say they know the company’s future depends on helping India’s disadvantaged. The challenge is to do the right over the expedient, but without sacrificing opportunity. Being privately owned means Godrej can make its own judgement call.
“Our company provides its employees and their families with extensive social support,” Sharma said. “On our Mumbai campus there is a purpose-built school, and a memorial hospital with 110 beds and a fully equipped intensive care unit. There’s also housing and accommodation for all levels up to senior management, and even a hill-top country club. “The future of our country depends on the intellectual capacity and the learning capability of the young India, Sharma noted. “Twenty-five percent of our company’s shares are owned by the Pirojsha Godrej Foundation Trust, which provides communities around the country with schooling, medical treatment, education, and disaster relief.”
Godrej’s investment, relentless innovation and wide-reaching philanthropy mean that it could play a very important role in the socio-economic and industrial development of India for at least another 100 years.