The Steel Wire sat down with three employees from POSCO Maharashtra to get an insider’s look at their recent successes and future vision. Improvements in quality, production, and customer service have all contributed towards helping them become POSCO’s largest subsidiary in India. Find out more from Ajay Telrandhe in Quality Assurance and Manish Kochar & Chetan Waghchoure in Sales.
Q1. Despite several market challenges heading into 2016, POSCO Maharashtra has become POSCO’s most successful subsidiary. What would you credit with this quick turnaround?
Manish Kochar: At the beginning of last year, there were many import restrictions imposed by the government of India, and at the start of 2015 a lot of people were not sure whether we could even survive. We were merely a POSCO group company that was buying from POSCO Headquarters and selling in India. But we quickly adapted to the situation.
Because of the high costs of materials, we began to develop partnerships with local mills. Our Quality Assurance and Product Departments worked with these local mills to improve standards and help guarantee the same quality that our customers expect. This also reduced our inventory levels, which in turn reduced our inventory costs.
This was a very good move and I appreciate that management had the foresight and ability to make these collaborations possible. Otherwise, our journey would have been very different.'We worked with local mills to improve standards and help guarantee the same quality that our customers expect.' - Manish KocharClick To Tweet
Chetan Waghchoure: First of all, we were able to succeed because of the direction from management. We have clearly defined strategies for each segment in terms of targets, market, and pricing, which are constantly under review. Because of this, we have been able to make improvements in production, logistics, and quality.
From 2015-2016 we were barely producing 80-90 thousand tons per month, but today we are reaching over 140 thousand tons each month. Additionally, we were able to cut the production process from two months to just 30 days. And, we made an effort to move away from small market segments where the prices are low and competition is very high. Instead, we changed our focus to producing high-quality products for auto, home appliances, and panels. This move gave us higher margins and more market share.
Ajay Telrandhe: In addition to what Chetan and Manish have said, in the last 3-4 months, we have increased the operating ratio and plant utilization. While we were operating at around 70-75%, now it’s at almost 90%. Increasing the operating ratio helped reduce the operating cost and that indirectly affected our profitability. Because of this, we were able to enter into more non-auto segments and produce more exports.
Q2. POSCO prides itself on producing the most advanced, high-quality steel around the world. How important is quality at POSCO Maharashtra and how are you able to maintain quality standards with such rapid growth?
Chetan Waghchoure: If I supply material at a cheaper rate, the customer will come back one time. But if I supply quality material, they’ll come back again and again. So that’s what we’re doing right now. Although our products might be priced a bit higher in the Indian market, we are supplying quality material and our customers continue to be loyal because they understand that value.
Ajay Telrandhe: POSCO Maharashtra has very advanced inspection systems. From surface inspections to mechanical testings to calibration – those are all constantly maintained so that we can ensure delivery of uniform products to our customers.
Also, in the next few months, we will be adding an AI system for zinc coating. Maintaining a consistent coating weight for automotive steel is a highly specialized process and prone to error. By integrating advanced AI technology, we will be able to reduce waste and ensure consistency.'If I supply quality material, they’ll come back again and again.' - Chetan WaghchoureClick To Tweet
Manish Kochar: One of the most important ways we are able to offer higher quality control is in the way we manage our supply chain for automotive customers. There are three to four automotive hubs in India and for all 3 locations, we have dedicated POSCO-owned service centers. Before POSCO began collaborating with the local mills, there was no integrated logistics plan so mills in one part of India were supplying products on the other side of the country. Now, India is a big country so it was impossible for them to manage any type of dynamic, just-in-time delivery supply chain. Because of POSCO’s superior supply chain management, we have created a very big gap between us and our competitors.
Also, nobody works in as much detail as POSCO does. At POSCO, we develop specific steel solutions for each product based on how the part will be used and in what capacity. In addition, we have separate application codes defined in our system that prevent us from providing materials that are not specifically designed for that part. Most of our competitors cannot do that, they simply provide similar materials for each part.
For global companies that value quality, POSCO is always their first choice.
Q3. How has POSCO’s Solution Marketing helped customers improve production processes and manufacture better products?
Ajay Telrandhe: We recently worked with Tata Motors and Royal Enfield to develop new fuel tanks. Tata Motors’ previous fuel tanks had a short life cycle and were prone to rusting with leakages while Royal Enfield was using galvanized electroplated material for their fuel tanks that was very expensive and had to be imported as it was hard to procure in India. So, POSCO worked with both companies individually and came up with a GA product with a chrome pre-razing coating. By making these adjustments in the production process, both companies have seen much better results with reduced costs and inventories.
Manish Kochar: One successful example was the time we worked with one of our customers to reduce the thickness of their Extra Deep Drawing (EDD) galvanized steel product for Dish application. At that time everyone was using 0.6mm thick galvanized steel, but the customer wanted it reduced to around 0.5mm. We met with our Quality Assurance Department with the goal of reaching 0.48-0.50mm. After planning, development, and testing we found that in addition to the reduction in thickness there was around a 10-15% reduction in weight as well – with no loss in stability. We are currently the only supplier in India who can provide EDD galvanized steel at 0.48mm.
Q4. How does POSCO Maharashtra plan to continue its success into the future?
Chetan Waghchoure: The Indian auto market is not yet saturated and it is still growing. We see constant growth in this segment and expect to see new investment opportunities with many of our global clients including electric carmaker Tesla, KIA Motors, BMW, and SAIC-China. Having developed strategic locations throughout India has given us an advantage and helped us have an upper hand in the competitive automotive steel market. We are prepared and expecting continued growth in the automotive steel market.
Ajay Telrandhe: As India’s economy continues to grow, all of the global players will also have a presence in India. Because of this, the demand for steel will continue to rise. At POSCO Maharashtra, we are preparing for this opportunity. We will continue to develop our galvanizing line in order to meet increased demand while continuing to focus on delivering the highest quality products to all of our customers.
Manish Kochar: The government of India announced its National Steel Policy in April 2017 that focuses on improving per capita steel consumption in India both in the short and long term. The demand for automotive & home appliances is increasing steadily every year. POSCO is already an established brand worldwide, and more and more global companies entering the Indian market want to work with POSCO. As such, we will continue to provide a very high standard of quality for our customers.
We have developed good relationships with local mills and consistently delivered high-quality products to our customers. We don’t see any issue with an increase in production and we don’t expect any gaps in quality as demand for POSCO steel continues to increase.
This interview was conducted as POSCO Group University held its Global New Leader Program in Korea. The Global New Leader Program brings together management from POSCO Family subsidiaries from all around the world so they can collaborate, share ideas, and develop new skills. This is just one global leadership program that POSCO organizes for its global employees. Find out more about POSCO’s global operations in our interviews with POSCO TCS in Thailand and POSCO China.