On Season 4 of Swarfcast, we’re talking to people involved in the machining industry around the globe. On this week’s show, we visit India.
Today’s guest is Mayank Patel, director of Mayank BrassFit in Jamnagar, India. In the interview Mayank tells Noah his company produces Brass fittings primarily for Tribal Manufacturing and Parker Hannifin, both located in the United States. Mayank produces the majority of his parts on an expensive Buffoli Transfer machine. This is in stark contrast to his competitors who use cheap but slow single-spindle CNC lathes that require considerable manpower.
Noah introduces Mayank Patel, talking about the used Buffoli Transfer Machine Graff-Pinkert sold him a few years ago. (2:30)
Mayank says he has two Buffoli Transfer machines, one he bought new and other he bought used from Graff-Pinkert. He says that the new one cost 800,000 Euros. (3:20)
Mayank gives his background. He lives in city called Jamnagar, which is the hub in India for manufacturing brass parts. He went to boarding school from ages 6-15, which he says is standard for a certain class of people in India. He spent two years in Bombay to complete is undergraduate degree. Then he went to London for four years and got a Masters Degree in international business. He says he later learned machining on the job, as opposed to having formal training. (4:30)
Mayank talks about his family’s business. His family has been in business for a long time in the brass machining sector, and he wanted to join the company when he came back from studying in London. He wanted to run the international business operations of the company, but unfortunately he was 8th in line for this position. Mayank says the company did not want to expand into international markets like he did, but just keep the status quo, focusing on India’s domestic market. Ironically, Mayank says his father had explored opportunities to bring high production machines back to India and to export parts to the American market, but the family had never bought in. So, Mayank went on his own to start his own shop. (6:00)
Mayank talks about exporting brass parts to US customers, Tribal Manufacturing and Parker Hannifin. He says it took him two and half years to get his first PO cut for those accounts. In 2018, when he came to the United States to dismantle the Buffoli he had bought from Graff-Pinkert he visited Parker Hannifin. He says before he started selling parts to Tribal and Parker Hannifin he was shipping parts to second tier distributors in Kansas City and Michigan.
Mayank says the main reason he bought his first Buffoli was to machine lead-free parts, which had not yet been done before in India. Mayank had to import lead-free brass rod samples from Italy to prove he could machine the material. At that time mills were not producing led-free brass in India because plumbing in India is entirely made up of iron pipes. Mayank says that before he proved he could run lead-free brass his own workers doubted him, saying it was impossible to run the material and he was wasting time and money attempting to. Mayank believed that if other countries required parts made from lead-free brass it had to be possible for him to machine it. He also knew that if he didn’t start machining it, a competitor would be the first to do it. (9:20)
Mayank shows some parts he makes on the Buffoli for plumbing applications such as compression elbows machined from profiled bar. (See video). The parts are lead-free and he can machine them in 3.5 to 4 seconds. He also shows another part he makes from ECO BRASS with a volume of 1-2 million pieces. He says the tolerances are pretty wide open for brass plumbing parts (see video above). (14:00)
Mayank says his competitors are now making parts with lead-less brass. He is using high quality ECO BRASS because he is sourcing OEMs in the United States, while his competitors are machining lower quality alloys for India’s domestic brass market. (17:00)
Mayank says that his competitors machine with inexpensive single-spindle CNC lathes. He says for each part it requires requires two machines. One lathe machines a blank, and then a second machine completes the part. Usually one person has to operate each machine. He says with this two machine process parts often have a 2 minute cycle time (one minute for each machine). Mayank runs the same parts on his Buffoli in 3.5 to 4 seconds.
Mayank says the machine shops running the single-spindle CNC lathes have to run lights-out to be profitable. He says he runs his Buffoli 20 hours a day. He also has 10 of the cheap single-spindle lathes in his shop for lower volume runs. (19:00)
Mayank says he personally works for 10-15 hours per day running the Buffolis and employs one other person to run them. He says he likes to be on the shop floor, solving problems and adjusting setups on the complex and powerful machines. (23:00)
Mayank says that engineering is a very popular field for young people to study in India and that many companies send employees to their own engineering schools to groom their own workforce. (24:00)
Mayank says a huge problem with running the slow single-spindle machines is that the large number of operators required creates tons of variables. He says the human factor decides the efficiency of a shop and the quality of the parts. If there are 50 machines, there are 50 different operators, 50 difference cycle times, and 50 different tolerances. (25:20)
Mayank says when he was in Italy to get a demonstration of his Buffoli he observed a more efficient and focused work ethic than he generally sees in India. (26:50)
Mayank says a typical machine operator in India makes less than the equivalent of $200 per month but this amount of money can go much further in India than many other countries. He says in India the cost of living is cheaper and often extended families live together sharing a house and car, which cuts expenses. (28:30)
Mayank says a skilled machine setup person in India might make $600-$700 a month. He says that operators have the opportunity to climb the professional ladder and make more money as they acquire skills. He says his company also trains its own employees. (30:00)
Mayank says nobody India wants to spend much money on technology. He says his peers tell him he is crazy to buy a million dollar machine when he could buy 50 single-spindle CNC lathes for the same money. Mayank says the stereotype that Indians like to negotiate is valid. He says there are negotiations on everything in India, from buying a carton of eggs, to buying materials, to buying machines. (33:00)
Mayank says he sees India’s economy modernizing but says “change is always slow when you’re talking about a nation of 1.3 billion people.” He says the current Prime Minister is trying to change the country from what it was during the last 40-50 years, and obviously India is a huge market. He says there is a lot of high quality machining there but not for brass. He does not sell his parts domestically because Indians mainly want cheap brass products rather expensive high quality parts. (36:00)
Question: Do you expect products from India to be good quality?