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INTERVIEW - Jayant D. Patil, President & Board Member, L&T

News International-French

1 Aug 2019

Discover the journey of India’s major systems developer and manufacturer in aerospace, throught an exclusive interview of its President, Jayant D. Patil, who answer JEC Composites Magazine questions.

INTERVIEW - Jayant D. Patil, President & Board Member, L&T
JEC Composites Magazine: Could you briefly tell us about L&T and its journey in advanced composites?
Jayant D. Patil: L&T, a USD 25+ Bn multinational corporation and today’s most formidable technology builder of aerospace composites systems in India, commenced its work in composites more than two decades ago. Composites then had just arrived in the Indian aerospace industry. Our journey started as an R&D initiative with the design and manufacture of supersonic blast deflectors and helo decks for Indian Navy warships. Quite soon, we were handpicked by BrahMos to partner in the technology development and serial production of some of the most prestigious and intricate composites products in their platform – storage and launch canisters and missile airframe sections. Our engineering team developed the complete technology, right from nuts and bolts. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) also entrusted L&T with the manufacture of parts and components for ALH Dhruv helicopters.
Over the years, L&T has been manufacturing advanced composite sub-systems and products for Indian defence, and for space programmes for BrahMos Aerospace, VSSC – ISRO, DRDL, ADE-DRDO, BDL and HAL. The company also builds and exports unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sub-assemblies to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) as a production partner.
Today, we have a well-established manufacturing centre for advanced composites at Ranoli (Gujarat). We are at an advanced stage of getting our second composites manufacturing facility at Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) qualified to meet the scaled-up requirements of our customers and to cater to new requirements.
L&T’s advanced composites capabilities now include Build to Specifications (BTS), the development of new processes for missile programmes, a NADCAP-accredited centre for aerospace programmes, a dedicated skilled team for Indian space programmes and a state-of-the-art NABL-accredited laboratory for advanced composites. Other certifications include AS9100 Rev D, ISO 9001-2015, ISO 17025 and product-specific certifications from NPOM-Russia, IAI-Malat, VSSC-ISRO, DRDO and HAL. Our design capabilities reside in our CEMILAC-accredited product and technology development centre in Powai.

JEC Composites Magazine: Can you give us a rundown on your career and current responsibilities at L&T?
Jayant D. Patil: I joined L&T’s corporate R&D in the field of machinery development with an M.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering and a specialisation in production engineering/machine tools. I was a member of a core team that designed and developed super-heavy rotating industrial machinery systems for cement, chemical, fertilizer and mineral processing plants. A few of these were the largest in South East Asia, and with contemporary technologies, generations ahead of those in India. These machines had far more efficiency built from design, and in league with the best in the world.
Having built a strong gamut of our own technologies, L&T’s journey in the defence sector started in the mid-eighties, about 15-16 years ahead of the sector's opening up to participation of private industry. I was privileged to lead the development of the first orders for weapon delivery systems from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, and realised complex weapon launch systems by combining the exacting specifications and broad user requirements of defence users with ultimate reliability as required in industrial environments, leveraging our in-house R&D prowess.
Over the years, we built a wide-ranging portfolio of indigenous, in-house products, systems and technologies both on our own and by teaming up with DRDO and with the Indian Navy. Today, we provide local solutions across the defence spectrum – from surveillance to strike capabilities, complete platforms to solutions, systems and equipment, and new build from basic requirements to through-life support of our offerings.
As full-time director on L&T’s Board, I oversee the Defence & Aerospace Business, which consists of three R&D centres, three design & engineering centres and production centres at nine locations across India to serve the defence and aerospace sectors.

India’s major systems developer and manufacturer in aerospace

Products and facilities of L&T Defence

JEC Composites Magazine: What is the share of composites in India's aerospace business? Do you see it increasing in the next five years?
Jayant D. Patil: As per a recent survey, the aerospace and defence market for Indian suppliers of advanced composites will be over a billion USD up to 2022.
Aerospace composites are a small part of L&T’s business, but an important one given the technologies involved and our ability to customise special solutions for unique customer requirements. This part is increasing given the successes our team has built and the trust garnered within our customers. I see it tripling over the coming 5-6 years subject to the sustained allocation for space launch vehicle programmes and scale-up in missile airframe requirements. For defence, it is mainly driven by programmes such as combat aircraft (LCA-Tejas), helicopters and unmanned systems.

JEC Composites Magazine: What are L&T’s key products and processes for advanced composites?
Jayant D. Patil: L&T’s advanced composites facility uses processes streamlined to achieve high efficiency and benchmarked to the latest technologies. The key strength lies in its ability to offer a vast spectrum of processes and handle a huge variety of advanced composite materials.
We achieved a true expertise in building primary structures for critical articles. Products as diverse as 5.2m-long sandwich construction structures to 0.5m-long transparent radio cones produced with a VARTM process were developed and manufactured at L&T. We also supplied deck panels for polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) rockets and positioned ourselves to export key structural assemblies. L&T houses all the resources for advanced composites manufacturing, from tool design to part manufacturing to testing and assembly. Today, the company builds missile airframes, launch and storage canisters for missiles, satellite payload fairings, heat shields, honeycomb deck panels for launch vehicles, as well as composite wing assemblies for fighter aircraft, helicopter structural parts and subsystems. We also develop composites sonar domes for ships and underwater applications and UAV sub-assemblies for domestic and export markets.
The important processes we developed include prepreg manufacturing, Resin Transfer Moulding (VARTM) up to 15 bar, tape winding, filament winding, wet layup, resin film infusion, vacuum sputtering and automated ultrasonic testing.
L&T has the NADCAP certification for prepreg lay-up and autoclave curing.

JEC Composites Magazine: What are the core competencies that make L&T stand out from the competition?
Jayant D. Patil: We are CEMILAC accredited for the design and development of aerospace parts. We successfully developed and supplied many composite assemblies under the “Build to Specification” category. We developed major missile airframes with DRDO support and participated in redevelopment programmes in the interest of indigenization.
However, what propels L&T to the future is our young team of passionate engineers with domain knowledge groomed to a continuous improvement culture in processes and manufacturing.

Product & Technology Development Centre (PTDC) - Powai

Product & Technology Development Centre (PTDC) - Powai

JEC Composites Magazine: What is L&T’s contribution to India’s space programmes?
Jayant D. Patil: L&T has been supporting Indian space programmes for over 40 years. We have been supplying motor casings for almost every launch from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Our company is extensively involved in the manufacture of honeycomb deck panels for PSLV and GSLV (geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle) satellite launch programmes. We supplied more than 350 honeycomb deck panels to the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and our assemblies are used in all recent launches of PSLV, including the Mars Mission, the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) launch and single-flight launch of 104 satellites by ISRO. We have been supplying deck panels since 2007 and we are manufacturing cryogenic non-metallic brackets using glass-epoxy composites for launch vehicles. We also manufactured composite heat shields and payload fairings for GSLV.
We recently signed a consortium agreement with HAL for a PSLV industrialization programme. The stage is set for L&T to play an enhanced role in space programmes by way of industrializing PSLV production and programme management.

JEC Composites Magazine: Considering the huge amount of home-grown processes at L&T, how does your company manage innovation?
Jayant D. Patil: L&T fosters continued innovation and excellence. Our ethos to serve the Nation and excellence manifest that we strive to do better than what we did previously. These continue to nourish our sheer track record to be the ace business incubator. Add to that our structural need to target and build future leadership that also provides unmatched opportunities to our people to continue to excel and grow, and strive to enhance value for themselves, the company and the Nation as they progress in their career.

JEC Composites Magazine: Does L&T partner with its clients for product innovation? If so, could you describe a few accounts?
Jayant D. Patil: L&T does partner with its clients for product innovation to help our customers attain success in their endeavours. An excellent example is the manufacturing of canisters and airframes for BrahMos. We have been a partner with DRDO for process innovation. We designed and developed a composite sonar dome in association with the Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL). Currently, we are working with DRDO’s R&D team for new process development for underwater domes. We optimized the processes by minimizing the operations and product movement during its realisation. This led to significant savings in the product manufacturing costs and, in the process, creating value for us as well as customers.

JEC Composites Magazine: How is the cooperation between industry and educational institutes in India, vis-à-vis innovation and an industry-ready workforce for composites?
Jayant D. Patil: It is growing and will continue to grow. L&T is interacting with most of the IITs and other educational institutes to bring about new ideas and innovations. Several L&T senior executives are on the industry academia panels of educational institutes. Our company has been providing internships to several engineering students from engineering colleges across the country. We recently collaborated with an academic institute for the development of a lightweight bulletproof material. The industry academia model is a win-win situation for both parties. This model is working successfully in the west and we hope to imbibe the same here. Through this, we hope to generate an industry-ready workforce for composites design and manufacturing.

ATGM5 : Fifth-generation, Multi-target land combat weapon

ATGM5 : Fifth-generation, Multi-target land combat weapon

JEC Composites Magazine: According to you, what are the new areas where composite applications in aerospace should be researched?
Jayant D. Patil: Composites have been used in aero-structures for quite some time. Composites can be researched for making 3D-printed parts, which will ease the manufacturing process and make it affordable, once volumes are adequate. Composite applications include aero-engines, hulls for mine counter measure vessels (MCMVs), lightweight ballistic applications, health monitoring sensors embedded in wings and rotor blades.
Thermoplastic composites are a new avenue that needs to be explored. Automated tape layup is another avenue for manufacturing process development. Eventually, more work needs to be done on building self-healing composites.

JEC Composites Magazine: What is your dream for L&T in defence?
Jayant D. Patil: While L&T does not brag about its successes and ambitions, it is a fact that we are the largest defence company in the private sector. While we aspire to grow in keeping with our spirit and track record of decades of existence, we have put in infrastructure, built teams, capabilities and skills, and look up to policy makers to allow us to play an even larger role in Nation building by contributing significantly to achieve self-reliance in the aerospace, defence and strategic sectors. We have the capability to be among India’s leading platform and systems builders and system integrators with an ability to address the Indian and international markets.

JEC Composites Magazine: Where will your upcoming investments be?
Jayant D. Patil: We have established state-of-the-art dedicated work centres, including a globally benchmarked naval shipyard as well as submarine construction facilities at Kattupalli and Hazira, an armoured systems manufacturing and testing complex at Hazira, a precision manufacturing and systems complex for aerospace and missiles manufacturing and integration at Coimbatore, advanced composites facilities at Vadodara and Coimbatore, a specialised strategic systems complex for weapon and engineering systems and sensors at Talegaon, Pune, a strategic electronics centre at Bangalore, and a marine switchgear and control systems unit at Navi Mumbai.
We have always believed that the indigenizing defence sector calls for “Design in India”. Accordingly, we have three R&D centres for targeted products, systems, technologies, solutions and platforms development as well as dedicated design and engineering centres for warship design, submarine design and weapon and engineering equipment design and engineering.
We are planning to enhance our Coimbatore production facility for composites and metallic precision manufacturing requirements to cater to upcoming aerospace opportunities.

JEC Composites Magazine: Could you describe a few policies of the government of India supporting the industry involvement and growth?
Jayant D. Patil: Over the last four years, the Government has taken significant steps to ease licensing defence production, promote the flagship “Make in India” initiative in the defence segment by encouraging private sector participation and prioritising local procurement. The push for indigenization is clearly visible through various policies introduced by the Government, i.e. strategic partnerships, the Simplified Make II Procedure created focusing on import substitution, the announcement of defence industrial corridors, and a new draft defence production policy with clear import substitution targets for the industry to achieve self-reliance in 13 domains spanning from complete platforms to key systems. Positive steps are being taken to create a level playing field, and to facilitate business.
In the aerospace sector, two major events – clearance for industry-led launch vehicle production through industrialisation and the announcement of the Gaganyaan mission – are expected to create significant opportunities for the industry and to fuel growth in coming years.

JEC Composites Magazine: What are the key challenges faced by private companies in this business?
Jayant D. Patil: The availability of aerospace-grade raw materials at competitive prices and with short lead times continues to be a constraint except for the ISRO segment. Product development and certification times for advanced composite products by OEMs are too long. Development and production partner approaches have not yet been fully implemented across aerospace and defence programmes in India. Procurement processes in the defence and aerospace segments need continuing reforms to recognise certain capabilities and act expeditiously.

JEC Composites Magazine: How does L&T support supplier and skill development in the country for composites?
Jayant D. Patil: L&T developed a supply chain of small and medium-scale companies for sourcing non-core jobs and tooling for composite products for aerospace and defence projects.
Our company supports skilling up manpower for composite manufacturing and provides training for specific composite processes. Our organisational processes call for building skills in fresh recruits who join as apprentices and grow with the company as skilled hands. For this, L&T has been recruiting from local institutions and training them in composite manufacturing processes, even before specific government policies such as Skilling India.