“WIL developed welding procedures for motor casings for Aerospace & tri-junction welding for Nuclear applications.’’

Chirag C. Doshi,
MD & CEO,
Walchandnagar Industries Ltd

You have been newly appointed as the MD & CEO of WALCHANDNAGAR INDUSTRIES LTD (WIL), one of India’s fastest growing hi-technology Engineering and Manufacturing Companies.  Congratulations. How do you feel on taking up the new role?

It is truly an honour and privilege to lead such a magnificent institution, with a patriotic and nation building legacy as grand as ours. More importantly, it is the faith that our employees and stakeholders have instilled to select me for this role, that drives me everyday.

What are your plans for the growth of WIL?

The focus of WIL over the next decade is to build on our strengths that we have developed over the past century. That really resides in a few critical areas: deepen our engagement with our strategic sector customers of Defence, Aerospace and Nuclear and increase our contributions from being just a fabrication company, to giving end-to-end solutions starting with Design, Engineering and ending with Integration services; focus on development of a few niche product businesses, and expand their offerings beyond India, to multiple countries across the world; and, finally, make our strength of Design & Engineering Services into a separate Business Unit that can be grown independently.

WIL, established in 1908 is a Heavy Engineering Company with its presence in various Sectors like Defence, Nuclear & Aerospace and Industrial Products. How has been the company’s journey so far?

I would say WIL’s journey has been of constant and continuous evolution, and innovation. We started the journey as a sugar manufacturer, and over the next 50 years evolved into a Machinery and Equipment manufacturer following the global technology trends and continuously staying at the cutting edge of Industrial fabrication. As some of these industries and equipments became “commoditized” we then evolved into even more stringent areas of Fabrication in the Defence, Aerospace and Nuclear Industries. As we believe WIL will always continue to have “A tradition of Engineering Excellence” as we “Engineer for Tomorrow”.

Could you brief us on one of the mega recently completed project of WIL?

We completed 45 hair pin heat exchangers recently for NPCIL. This involved sourcing of raw material from international suppliers, developing new welding procedures including tube to tube-sheet welding, meeting very stringent fabrication & machining tolerances & we delivered in a comparatively short time compared to our competitor. We also supplied an assembly for Wind tunnel project for ISRO which required innovative process developments to meet final dimensions.

Can you list down on some of the upcoming projects?

We will be working on couple of defense projects – details cannot be shared due to secrecy clauses.

Small satellites are transforming the dynamics and economics of the space industry. WIL is involved in the manufacture of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle  components  designed by ISRO with an aim of launching small satellites commercially .In addition to the prestigious Gaganyaan project in space ,WIL is associated with  DRDO in forthcoming missile Programs like XRSAM, LRASHM.

WIL’s association with Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) started in 1973 with manufacturing of motor cases for SLV-3. Since then the company has worked on various mega aerospace and defence projects. Please elaborate.

As we talk of Aerospace, WIL is proud to be a trusted partner for various strategic and critical components of ISRO since 1973 for all space programs from SLV3 to ASLV, PSLV & GSLV including the prestigious missions of Chandrayaan 1 and 2, Mangalyaan & the upcoming Gaganyaan  Mission. We take pride in stating that every Launch vehicle of ISRO’s ever flown in space has always had WIL flight hardware and each component/sub-systems has performed flawlessly.

Being a preferred Industry partner to DRDO and Bharat Dynamics Ltd, our missile division has contributed with supply of more than 1000+ rocket booster motor casings till date. WIL’s contribution is distinctly visible in ambitious programs of our Country like India’s Agni, Akash, Astra, QRSAM etc.

Can you brief us more on the current Gaganyaan project? What is WIL’s role in the project?

Gaganyaan is an Indian crewed orbital spacecraft that is intended to send 2/3 astronauts to space, as part of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme. ISRO’s Modified version of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV Mk III, the three-stage heavy-lift launch vehicle, will be used to launch Gaganyaan as it has the necessary payload capability. The launcher uses two HS200 solid rocket boosters to provide the huge amount of thrust required for lift off.  These critical booster segment   (measuring around 3.2 m in diameter & 20m in length) are also being manufactured at Walchandnagar industries Ltd.

We are the first in the country to have state-of-the-art facility for proof pressure testing, a critical tests of these segments which was inaugurated at the hands of Shri S. Somnath, Distinguished Scientist & Director VSSC. The component for the crew escape system, an emergency escape measure designed to quickly pull the crew module along with the astronauts to a safe distance from the launch vehicle in the event of a launch abort is also being developed & manufactured by WIL.

How, according to you is the current aerospace market scenario in India? What are the challenges and how WIL manages to cope up?

The current Indian space sector is projected to increase at a ~48% CAGR over the next five years to reach US$ 50 billion.  Given the long gestation period and capital-intensive nature of space technology, private players would need access to ‘patient’ capital, which can be achieved from the government or global private equity markets as only these can afford to bet on long-term space initiatives.

Presently WIL’s contributions towards Space industry are limited to flight hardwares but we plan to expand this to integration and other services in the next few years. In the global space market, rocket and satellite launch service amount to only 5% share as this segment requires robust infrastructure and heavy investments. The timelines—products usually have a long lead time from order to delivery, without a clear road map comes uncertainties in the order booking, budgetary issues, competition to attain continuous improvements and improved affordability are some of the main challenges.

Our decades of industry collaborative association/ experience with ISRO, sophisticated manufacturing facility & best in class trained manpower helps us in giving unique & high quality products & services to these esteemed customers. To add, lean manufacturing focus is applied in a targeted way to ensure that quality products are delivered on time and within budget.

Can you brief us on your current Manufacturing Unit, its capacity? What type of projects undergo in the unit? What type of processes can the facility handle? Any expansion plans?

  • The current facility at Walchandnagar is one of its kind in India where diversified products are manufactured under one roof. We have dedicated facility for Aerospace, Nuclear, Defense, Missile, Gear, Crushing & grinding solutions & Centrifugal machines and also shared resources. We have dust free enclosures for Aerospace & Nuclear welding / assembly, pit furnaces for controlled heat treatment, NABL lab for testing of materials & weld test coupons, Welder training facility, NDT facility for conducting RT, UT, PT & MT. Critical machines include CNC plasma cutting, Heavy duty Press, heavy duty rolling, 5 axis machines, VMCs, VTLs, CNC HBMs, Gear grinding, Lathes which can handle up to 100MT load & overhead cranes with up to 225MT handling capacity. We have independent quality control team well versed with international codes & customer specifications & have instruments like Unimaster, Laser tracker, Optical instruments. We have our own tool room which designs & manufactures jigs & fixtures required for meeting critical dimensional requirements.

Expansion of facility is done recently for increasing capacity for Aerospace manufacturing including proof pressure testing facilities for ISRO, a large Dust Free Enclosure, Deep hole drilling Machine& furnace up-gradation is done for Nuclear applications.

WIL is the only India Manufacturer of Propulsion Drive System for Submarines. Please elaborate. Any recent project?

Well, WIL has been supplying critical marine gearboxes to the Indian Navy for the last over 50 years. In fact, we were the only company selected by the Indian Navy in the 1960s for indigenization of the propulsion system. We supplied the first gearbox for INS Himgiri in 1973. Since then we have supplied over 63 critical gearboxes for Frigates, Corvettes, Fleet tankers, Survey vessels, Offshore Patrol Vessel and of course Nuclear submarines. Since 1992 we were associated with the submarine project and supplied 5 ultra-critical gearboxes. We can earnestly boast that we are the only Indian manufacturer at present to have supplied such gearboxes successfully. At present, we are doing a project of 2 nos. Diving Support Vessels meant for the Indian Navy. We are very upbeat on the recent announcement for acquisition of several vessels by MOD, namely Next Generation Missile vessels, Next Generation Offshore Patrol vessel, Conventional Submarine etc. We look forward to participating in these projects.

Welding plays a major role into the successful completion of any project. Your say.What is WIL’s role in welding?

  • Some of our prestigious clients like VSSC & NPCIL had collaborated with WIL when indigenization of critical equipments was started in India in 1960-70s. WIL developed welding procedures for motor casings for Aerospace & tri-junction welding for Nuclear applications. Developments were done for defense equipments too but we are not free to share the same due to secrecy clauses.

WIL has a very diversified portfolio & expertise in welding & fabrication of ferrous, nonferrous and exotic materials like MDN 250,Titanium alloys, Aluminium alloy 6061,15CDV6, Aluminum Bronze, S690QL, Borated steel, Inconel, Monel, Carbon steel, Super Duplex stainless Steel and so on. A lot of experiments have been carried out on the heat treatment cycles &welding techniques in order to meet the requirements of some of the most complicated and prestigious projects. WIL is also able to meet the stringent 100% RT/UT requirements post welding with their team of qualified Welders and Welding Engineers.

WIL has more than 1000 critical Welding procedures qualified and approved under reputed bodies.

WIL has @ 110 nos. welding machines including GTAW, Auto-GTAW, SMAW, SAW, SASC. These machines are properly calibrated every year. WIL has four nos. Polysoude welding head for Orbital GTAW. Welding of Aluminum and Maraging steel are carried out under clean room, dust free enclosure, humidity controlled rooms. VSSC MDN250W2 filler wires are stored in special temperature controlled “Hot Room”.

Availability of skilled welders is one of the major challenges in India. How do you manage to cope up with the same, as WIL has a huge team of well qualified welders?

WIL has around 120 qualified welders in various processes like Manual GTAW, Auto GTAW, SMAW, SAW, FCAW. Our welders are qualified under reputed bodies like VSSC, ASL, DRDL, NPCIL, BARC, IRS, etc. Their welding continuity record is maintained by our WDS team every six months. WIL has a special WDS-Booth wherein training, practice is provided to welders in order to qualify them in various positions as per job requirements.

‘Safety at site’ is one of the key factors. What are your efforts towards safety?

In addition to the legal compliances, we have IMS certification which covers ISO 14001: 2015 covering environmental management & ISO 45001:2018 covering Occupational Health & Safety. Employees are regularly trained for safety awareness & we have negligible time loss on account of workplace accidents / injuries.

Quality welding and appropriate certification is a must for any fabricator? Your say? Is this considered as an important factor by Indian fabricators today? Please elaborate.

Yes, we do agree. Certification by independent agencies does differentiate between a regular & a niche supplier. We are ISO 3834-2 certified under INTERTEK. We also have certified and competent persons in welding holding the international Diploma of International Welding Engineer. Recently we have been recommended for ASME U & U2 certification.

What is your say on the current welding and fabrication segment of India? Is it on par with the international markets?

Yes – India manufactures products which meet international standards & advanced welding technology is used for fabrication. With the govt. push for Make in India & Atmanirbhar Bharat, equipments which were otherwise imported are being made now in India meeting all stringent global requirements.