Mr. N. S. Shenoy has come a long way since launching his precision manufacturing business just 14 years ago. A financier by profession, Shenoy spotted a market opening for an Indian manufacturer of high-performance flexible disc couplings for high-power and high-speed applications. The opportunity was sufficiently promising that he left his previous employment – and profession – to set up a joint venture with UK company Euroflex Transmissions Ltd.
At first, Mr. Shenoy had no staff, no factory, and outsourced almost all of his manufacturing operations. Today, the company is a $4 million enterprise with a promising future, and a reputation for innovation.
Like all business start-ups, the company’s early years were filled with uncertainty. But in 1994, an Indian customer opted to try the services of Mr. Shenoy rather than buy direct from the UK. Two years later, Euroflex Transmissions India was doing well enough to build its own one-stop shop for coupling production.
Today, Euroflex India supplies flexible disc couplings to a number of well-known OEMs around the world, including GE, Peter Brotherhood and Siemens – the latter specifying Mr. Shenoy’s company as one of its two preferred vendors for this type of product.
It’s a success story that reflects the endeavour and entrepreneurship of a hard-working business professional with an eye for opportunity, and a strong commitment to relationships, trust and mutual benefit.
“I placed my entire life savings into this venture,” Mr. Shenoy says, “but I couldn’t have done it without the support of Euroflex Transmissions Ltd in the UK. Their 49% stake in my business enabled me to finance the technology I needed to get started. Not many companies would have been as willing to do this, and it showed great faith in me. It’s something for which I will be eternally grateful.”
Couplings were just the beginning. In the past few years, the company has expanded its product range into rotor and stator blades for turbines. When Mr. Shenoy went looking for new opportunities, he typically put his customers’ objectives first.
In 1998, Euroflex Transmissions India approached a prospective customer and asked for a sample turbine blade and the associated CAD model for it. The aim was to reproduce the blade at a lower price than the customer was already paying – in the same or shorter lead-time, with no loss of product quality. Shenoy’s philosophy of building a relationship based on trust was the key to eventually winning the business. It’s an approach, he says, that helped put the customer at ease.
“We had no technology assistance or advice from the customer,” Mr. Shenoy says. “There were no costs involved, nothing in writing, nothing legal, nothing binding. All we asked for was an agreement that if we succeeded, they would consider buying the product from us. I appreciate that the move from flexible couplings to turbine blades may seem unlikely, but we’re not afraid to make mistakes. As they say, only those who don’t try never make mistakes.”
To make those early prototypes, the company invested in its first US-built Haas CNC machine tool: a VF-0E vertical machining centre with fourth axis and on-machine probing. After two years of designing and making improved versions of the customer’s turbine blade – machined on the VF-0E – Euroflex India was awarded its first production contract for them in 2000. That event led to an order for five Haas VF-2 CNC vertical machining centres. In 2005, this already impressive armoury was boosted further by the acquisition of an additional four VF-2 machines – a model that Mr Shenoy says is the perfect size to manufacture turbine blades.
Today, the company produces in excess of 3,000 compressor blades per month for steam and gas land-based turbines, as well as aero engines. The machining centres are arranged in pairs, with each pair operated by a single person. The company runs a 16-hour, two-shift system over six and a half days per week. To meet future growth projections, Mr. Shenoy anticipates the purchase of another four Haas machining centres every year for the next five years!
“There are many reasons why we select Haas machines,” he says. “They are compact, user friendly and competitively priced. Also, Haas is one of the few machine tool companies to develop its own control, which is married to the machine perfectly. To me, this is the biggest success of Haas.”
The company uses its H aas VF-2s to finish-machine components in a wide variety of materials to tolerance limits of around 20 microns, as well as perform roughing operations on parts manufactured from cast iron, brass and aluminium. All components are inspected 100 percent at every stage to allow complete traceability throughout the manufacturing process, as you’d expect from an ISO 9001-certified company.
Shenoy claims that to repay his “debt” of gratitude to the UK parent company, he chose to merge the proceeds from the new venture with his Euroflex business.
“Although turbine-blade manufacturing has nothing to do with Euroflex in the UK, I have chosen not to separate the business’s activities,” says Mr. Shenoy. “Euroflex UK therefore owns 49 percent of my new activities.”
Despite the phenomenal success of Euroflex Transmissions India, Mr. Shenoy is already looking towards further product lines to help continue his company’s growth. These remain close to his chest at this stage, but he intimates that the next one may be another turbine-related product, possibly alternators.
The company has four selection criteria for new products: They must be technology – not price – driven; have high margins and low volumes; have a difficult entry barrier; and have a reasonable resale value in the event of failure.
“These are the reasons we are not in the high-volume automotive or telecommunications industries,” says Mr. Shenoy. “It has to be a niche product. Otherwise, we don’t want to get involved.”