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Posted at: Jun 12, 2018, 12:35 AM; last updated: Jun 12, 2018, 12:35 AM (IST)

Ambala’s instrument cluster to take China head-on

Scientific equipment makers invest in automation to remain competitive
Ambala’s instrument cluster to take China head-on
A worker measures a part of instrument manufactured by a CNC machine in Ambala on Monday. Tribune photo: Dev Dutt

Vijay C Roy

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 11

Ambala-based Rs 1,700-crore scientific instruments industry has shunned the century-old conventional production methods to adopt automation to remain relevant in the international market and thwart the Chinese threat.

The transformation is necessary to increase production, improve quality, make high precision equipment and remain relevant in the changing market scenario, Scientific Apparatus Manufacturers & Exports president Arun P Bansal said. Earlier, the industry was dependent on manual labour and conventional machines.

Ambala has over 3,000 micro, small and medium enterprises which are engaged in making scientific instruments. The industry exports instruments worth Rs 500 crore. The sector directly employs around 30,000 people. The cluster exports instruments to the Gulf nations, European countries and the neighbours such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The Ambala cluster is believed to be the largest in the country for manufacturing scientific instruments and apparatus. The products manufactured are used in engineering industry and educational institutions.

The cluster was initially lured by the Chinese imports. It posed a major threat to the domestic industry, but it was a transient phase. Although, some manufacturers still import components like lenses and cameras for microscopes from China and assemble them into laboratory instruments. This has helped them to cut costs and maintain consistency of equipment design.

“The obsolete technology and quality manpower were stumbling blocks in the growth. Considering this, the manufacturers are deploying state-of-the-art Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines,” Bansal said. Earlier, the cluster relied on conventional machines.

The cluster is inspired by innovations and aspires to match the international benchmark. Some manufacturers have already expanded their product portfolio with the help of automation and added a new dimension to their businesses.

“Learning lessons from countries like China, Singapore, Taiwan and Korea, we have learnt to equip ourselves. There are no short cuts. So, we automated our production to compete globally,” Laby Instruments Industry proprietor Mahesh Kumar Singal said.

The manufacturers have installed CNC bending machine, hydraulic shearing machines and hydraulic press brakes etc. “It will enhance precision and production. Ultimately, margins will increase,” said Cone International partner Satish Kumar Saini.

At the same time, the industry is also trying to seek help from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, for the revival of Instrument Design and Development Centre at Ambala. “The government should set up facilities like Common Facility Centre, if it really wants to boost the industry. Even, the automation is being done by individuals from their own resources as banks are reluctant to lend money to them,” Bansal said.

Rs 1,700-crore industry

  • Ambala has over 3,000 micro, small and medium units which are engaged in making scientific instruments
  • The industry exports equipment worth Rs 500 crore to the Gulf nations, Europe, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka
  • The industry directly employs around 30,000 people and has a turnover of Rs 1,700 crore per annum 

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