Making Robots Work

Under Sonali Kulkarni, FANUC is helping manufacturers automate in a big way.
 Goutam Das   New Delhi     Print Edition: October 8, 2017
Making Robots Work
SONALI KULKARNI President and CEO, FANUC India (Photo: Nilotpal Baruah)

It wouldn't be entirely wrong to call Sonali Kulkarni the first lady of Indian manufacturing. She has been with the factory automation company, FANUC, for 19 years, selling CNC (Computerised Numeric Control) to machine tool manufacturers as well as small and giant robots to the automotive industry, among many others. So much so that every second car in India is welded by FANUC robots. Also, almost all motorcycle engine blocks are machined on FANUC.

Kulkarni's role as President & CEO of FANUC India will become even more significant as Indian companies go for advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0. FANUC's performance is, in many ways, a barometer of the intent of Indian manufacturers to automate. So far, the company has done well despite moderate capacity utilisation in Indian factories. According to a FICCI survey, the average capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector was between 75 per cent and 77 per cent in 2016/17. How did she do it? "We worked hard. We keep pushing the limits on every application." The number of Fanuc installations in India was 1,16,993 units in 2015/16. This grew to 1,29,165 in 2016/17; the current number is 1,34,000. Revenues grew 35 per cent in 2016/17. "This year, the market has been very strong. We are looking to cross 10,000 units in CNC billing," says Kulkarni.

While CNC is FANUC India's biggest vertical, Kulkarni has done well in robots too, selling more than 6,000 thus far. FANUC's manufacturing is centralised in Japan, which makes its products standardised in terms of quality and reliability. Kulkarni says she has ensured good after-sales service, something that is behind the company's high marketshare. The firm offers life-time support. "Service is the backbone. Fifty per cent of our employees are in service," says Kulkarni. "We have 22 offices in India. And there is no obsolescence for our products. We will not say no to service even if the product is 40 years old."

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