Kusters Calico Is Moving Towards Industry 4.0 Digitisation

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Sushil Verma, Managing Director, Kusters Calico Machinery Pvt. Ltd.

Kusters Calico has completed 25 years of successful operations in India. How are you celebrating and marking this milestone in the history of the company?
Completing 25 years of successful operations in India is a big milestone, which has been achieved with hard work of our employees, our business partners and associates and customers’ support. We have lined up many programmes throughout the year from quality enhancement, production infrastructure upgradation, weekly training to employees, contacting customers and sending emailers, employee engagement, to recreation.

We are working to create a separate SBU of “Lifecycle Services” for the customers, which will hopefully be in operation by this year-end. We would be able to offer much more to our customers like 3D view of spare parts with SAP code in machine HMI, SCADA to enable production managers to see complete machine/production data on their computers, machine maintenance alarms at set intervals, digital operational and maintenance manuals, remote access of machines for online service support to name a few.

Tell us about your journey of these 25 years? What were the important achievements over these years?
A journey is always with a lot of sweet and sour memories, which gives opportunity to learn, practice and move forward after overcoming the shortcomings. The journey started in 1996 and encountered rough patch in 2004 when Kusters Germany decided to sell their stake worldwide including Kusters Calico. Later on in 2005, Jagenberg AG, Germany purchased the stake in Kusters Calico.

A new journey started when the company started to set up their own R&D to continuously upgrade designs. A separate SBU of Converting Business was started in 2016 to give boost to coating and lamination machines.

Upgradation of manufacturing activities started in 2017 when new assembly shed was constructed, new paint and blasting booths were constructed, new double column machine was added apart from addition/upgradation of many other machines. Jagenberg AG purchased 100% stake in Kusters Calico and it became 100% subsidiary of Jagenberg AG, Germany in the year 2018.

Kusters Calico added manufacturing of slitting machines in 2020 under license from Kampf, Germany, a Jagenberg Group company.

How do you rank yourself in the textile industry in terms of level of technology, environmental friendliness, quality levels, ease of operation, and position in the market?
The Kusters technology in wet textile processing is well known worldwide and Kusters Calico has further done a number of improvements in the designs for cost reduction and better results. We have developed anti deflection S-roll technology which reduces the residual moisture up to 15% less after squeezing than ordinary squeezers which results in lesser steam consumption, while the Super Flush and Flush Master concepts are already proven for efficient washing with lesser water consumption due to innovative washing concepts.

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Our swimming roll padders technology has no match even today. We use IE3 energy efficient motors. As explained above we are going towards Industry 4.0 digitisation in our machines. No competitor can beat us in technology and our motto is “Affordable Excellence”. We aim to give the best machines and technology at competitive prices.

What new can your customers and the industry expect from the company in terms of product, technology, service over the next few years?
We have developed new ceramic burner for 2 metre width singeing machine and another design is under development for 3.4 metre width singeing machine. We are also working on complete standardisation of the modules and customer has to select from the list of standard modules only, which will enable us to offer proven designs, optimise cost and delivery time. Another development is separate SBU of Lifecycle Services, which will enable us give to better after sales service to customers.

How has business been since 2020 when the pandemic resulted in lockdowns, etc, given that the textile industry is reportedly doing really well? How do you expect markets to pan out going further?
Initial months of 2020 were difficult as we lost almost three months in lockdown and then there were issues of supply chain, labour shortages, logistics issues, etc. In the second half, the activities picked up fast and our team worked in three shifts to meet the top and bottom line targets. Overall, the year was good.

Again, in 2021 beginning, Covid issues cropped up and slowed down the order booking although the production was going on this time. Hope that we will close this year also well. We hope going forward market will be good, provided there are no further disruptions in the economy.

Is processing a weak link in India’s textile industry?
Yes, you are right. Textile processors still do not give due importance to processing and still using old technology to process. But time is changing and competition itself is forcing them to shift to continuous process technology and over the years many process houses have shown interest and have installed machines with new technologies. Going forward this will further get better and more and more process houses will understand the environmental issues with water and energy and move towards quality continuous processing machines.

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Two important features that set apart Kusters Calico machines?
Our machines are designed and manufactured keeping in view the issues faced by customers in textile processing.The first one is swimming roll padders. Our swimming rollers used for dyeing gives best colour without colour variation in the width of the fabric.

These same swimming rollers are also used for dewatering or finishing applications in wet on wet application or in front of drying cylinders. Customers get even chemical application throughout the width of the fabric as well as lesser residual moisture content in fabric, which reduces utility consumption for evaporation of the moisture content.

The second one is super flush in washing, which is designed for various fabric processing like desizing, bleaching, mercerising, dyed washing and print washing. This is versatile washer and gives excellent washing efficiency for the various washing sequence of textile processing. Due to lesser distance between guide rollers, any critical fabric can be washed without any distortion or crease formation marks. Due to lesser volume of liquor, it consumes less steam and with vigorous circulation system, generates high turbulence in liquor, which results in effective washing of any textile type.

Two important features that are most relevant in Kusters Calico machines for the Indian market?
Due to stringent government norms on effluent generation and treatment in the processing industry in India, we see huge potential of continuous dyeing and bleaching ranges for process houses. Still many customers are carrying out dyeing and bleaching through “jiggers” which is very old technology. When compared with latest dyeing and bleaching processes, jiggers consume more utilities due to increased liquor bath size. With our cold pad batch and continuous bleaching ranges, customers can reduce manpower to operate the machine as there is full automation of water, steam and chemical dosing for every fabric type.

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Business ethics that make Kusters Calico stand out from the competition?
We are 100% German owned company and have similar processes and ethics as any German company will have. We deliver what we commit. With rapid module standardisation each customer will be assured the same quality. Being fully professional company we never cut corners in design and manufacturing.

What are the challenges that you face in the Indian market?
Many customers are not ready to pay for the improved good features in the machine which cost initially but would pay back later multiple times to customer. The whole chain itself works on cost conscious model so it is very difficult to convince a customer to invest more in better technology.

Secondly, they do not have concept of machine maintenance, no one includes that in their regular work schedule. Customers believe that supplier has given the machine he is responsible for everything now. Also they do not have proper trained manpower to run today’s technically advanced machines and maintain them.

Two important business goals for you in 2021-22?
Foremost to prepare 3D drawings for all the identified standard modules and write Standard Operating Procedures for all the activities we do in our company right from taxi booking to machine manufacturing. Both these activities when completed will definitely take us to next level of manufacturing unit where we can deliver cost effectively, in time and high quality every time.

Anything else that you would like to share.
The recent steep rise in prices of all commodities especially steel prices, logistics cost, containers cost, labour cost has resulted in sharp increase in manufacturing cost denting the profits badly. The government must intervene to stabilise prices now before it damages the industry further. We expect a reasonable growth in requirements as more and more wet processors will slowly switch to continuous processing lines for better quality and environment considerations.

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