With over 70 per cent of the plastics used in modern vehicles coming from four main polymers: polypropylene, polyurethane, polyamides, and PVC, the role of plastics and composites in the design and manufacturing of automotive vehicles has never been more essential. With this backdrop in mind, ET Polymers magazine held the 7th edition of the Global Conference on Plastics in Automotive in Pune on November 23. The conference centred its focus on four key words which are changing the way this industry functions – Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Repurpose.
The day-long conference, presented by Milacron India and co-powered by Covestro India, witnessed 20+ speakers, 200+ delegates, and over six panel discussions. The conference also saw the two Hall of Fame felicitations awarded to Spark Minda and Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd. (TAFE).
Commencing with a warm welcome address by Bill Shukla, Managing Director, Milacron India, the conference began with a discussion on ‘The Role of Sustainable Materials in Environmental Conservation’. Sitting on the panel were Mohammed Rahail Parvaiz, Head CoC (Material and Product Development), Varroc Engineering Pivate Limited; Sanjay Khare, Vice President, Safety & Sustainability Strategy, Skoda Auto Volkswagen India Private Limited; Amol Gaikwad, Head Supplier Quality & Supply Chain, Tata Motors Commercial Vehicles, and Jaiprakash Ramani, Chief Marketing Officer, Automotive BU, Supreme Group. The panel was moderated by Divakar Gokhale, Head of Mobility, Indian Sub-continent, Covestro India. While Parvaiz and Gaikwad shared their company’s strategies of using natural fibres and constructing scrappage facilities, Sanjay Khare shared his confidence in a promising future, saying, “Our Gen Z will bring about change.
his was followed by Bill Shukla, Managing Director, Milacron India, presenting a detailed case study on ‘Innovations in Plastic Processing: Milacron’s Leadership in Automotive Solutions’, as he walked the audience through a detailed insight into the solutions provided by the company.
The afternoon also witnessed a conversation on ‘Innovations in Lightweighting Technologies and Their Impact on Vehicle Performance,’ which shed light on how lightweighting is not just about sleek designs, but oh-so-critical in making them eco-friendly and efficient. Discussing the topic were RT Gugale, Senior General Manager, Purchase, TATA AutoComp Systems Ltd.; BP SHIV, Vice President, TAFE Engineering Plastics Division; Vilas Baviskar, Assistant General Manager, Corporate Purchase, Fiat India Automobiles Private Limited (Tata-Fiat Jv), and it was spearheaded by Nisha Shukla, Assistant Editor, B2B Division, Worldwide Media Pvt. Ltd.
Vilas rightly highlighted the core issue when it comes to lightweighting, saying, “Lightweighting technologies are expensive, and in our mass-volume vehicles, we still use traditional materials. This needs to change.’’ The sentiment was also shared by Shiv, who reckoned that implementing carbon fibres has been possible in Europe but is often found to be costly in India. Gugale pointed out that companies are using low-density fillers to reduce weight and keep the density around 0.9.
Dr. Christopher Stillings, Head CMF Global, Covestro, then took the stage and shared a case study on ‘Circular Design: Materialising the Circular Economy Together.’ From colour and material to its finishing, he indulged the audience in an interesting session on the workings of this leading company.
Soon after this, the conference saw Amit Pendse, Director, PMMAI, take the stage to deliver an insightful presentation that aimed to ‘Explore the Limitless Possibilities of Plastics at the Plastfocus 2024 Exhibition.’ Organised in the month of February, at Yashobhoomi, New Delhi, Plastfocus is an occasion where “We show the world what is available and what can be done,” said Pendse.
Then came the segment of the Festival of Manufacturing (FOM) Roadshow, which captured the attention of the attendees. Hosted by Rishi Sutrave, Business Head, B2B Division, and Rahul Kamat, Editor, B2B Division, Worldwide Media Pvt. Ltd., the roadshow gave the audience an insight into the celebrations of the first year and laid down the aim for this event. Set to take place on March 7, 2024, at Dr Ambedkar International Centre in Delhi, the festival’s second edition revolves around the theme of ‘Celebrating 10 Years of Make in India.’
The next panel delved into ‘Designing Sustainable and Aesthetically Pleasing Vehicles’, an area of discussion that impresses many but is mastered by a few. Panellist Dr. Sandeep Waykole, India Business Director and Global Programme Director, Faurecia Clairon Electronics India Pvt. Ltd., urged us to focus on long-term value and said, “It is not always that sustainable products are costly. You have to see end-to-end results, and many times in the long term, they prove cost-effective.” and Dr. Christopher Stillings, Head CMF Global, Covestro, took a straightforward approach, saying, “If you want to create a positive impact and achieve carbon neutrality, then designers need to think ahead.” The panel was led by Jaiprakash Ramani, Chief Marketing Officer, Supreme Group, Automotive BU.
The conference further dived into the realm of ‘Driving Automotive Innovation through Research and Development’. The session was moderated by Rahul Kamat, Editor, B2B Division, Worldwide Media, and comprised of Christopher Marsh, Head of Surface Solutions, ContiTech, Continental India; Kaushalya Gaonkar, General Manager, Sales and Marketing (Mobility Group in India), Eaton Industrial Systems Pvt Ltd.; and Uday Narang, Chairman, Anglian Omega Group, and Omega Seiki Mobility.
What Gaonkar said could possibly be the core issue of this sector, he highlighted, “There is a knowledge of automotive missing in the electrical and a knowledge of electrical that is missing in the automotive sector.” Marsh then added his insight with respect to India and said, “As Modi coined, ‘Made in India’, India today has reached a phase where a lot of core components are even ‘Developed in India’, or even ‘Engineered in India’,” The discussion concluded on a futuristic note as Narang gave a glimpse of the future, saying, “I think engines are going to be there, but as I see it, engines will be much smaller in the coming 5–10 years.”
Talking about ‘Breakthrough Technologies Revolutionising Plastic Recycling’, Manish Agarwal, Managing Director, Vrindavan Plastics Industries, revealed that he himself has witnessed a shift in the attitude of people towards recycling, and it has changed from an option to reduce cost to one where people recognise its value and look at it happily. Sandeep Patel, CEO, NEPRA, brought to light that people today are aware of and expect certified recycled material and predicted that there will be a discrepancy between supply and demand. Sameer Joshi, Vice Chairman, Governing Council Indian Plastics Institute, and Rohit Sawhney, Vice President Sales, Milacron India, also contributed to the discussion and urged people to rethink and eliminate the plastics we do not need and innovate those that we actually do. The sentiment was echoed by session moderator, Satyabrata Das, Senior General Manager, IAC International Automotive India Pvt. Ltd.
The event concluded with a topic that is gaining momentum in the automotive industry. Divakar Gokhale, Head of Mobility, Indian Sub-continent, Covestro India, and Mukul Singhal, VP R&D and Engineering, TATA AutoComp Systems Ltd., came together and sparked conversation on this panel of ‘Plastics for Electric Vehicle Batteries’. Gokhale strongly attributed that India is focusing on safety requirements for EV batteries, and unless these compliances are met, companies have to rethink and redesign. Stating a plan of action, Singhal outlined that the focus should be on virgin materials in the short term, and then a transition to recycled materials would be feasible.
The conference made it certain that people are changing their ways of thinking, and the plastics segment of the automotive industry is undergoing a drastic change. What ultimately happens will be discovered when the conference reconvenes for its 8th edition.