Belgaum, a backbone for automobile industry and nerve centre for foundries in Karnataka, will soon have a foundry cluster. The work on the Belgaum Foundry Cluster (BFC) project started three years ago at an investment of close to Rs 25 crore, is nearing completion and is expected to be operational in August this year.
The project once completed will benefit 135 foundries and over 1,000 machine shops in and around Belgaum and hundreds of other units in the neighbouring towns of Hubli-Dharwad, Shimoga, Harihar and even Kolhapur, and Shinoli in Maharashtra, according to Manoj Kulkarni, chief executive officer, BFC.
The foundries from Belgaum are currently dependent on Bangalore and Pune for some of the high-end machining work. With the opening of this cluster they will make substantial savings in their production costs.
According to Kulkarni, foundry units at BFC are expected to produce 1.6 lakh tonnes of castings during the present fiscal, a growth of 60 per cent over 2007-08 and generate a combined revenue in excess of Rs 700 crore per annum, a growth of 75 per cent. The exports are expected to touch Rs 350 crore per annum, a growth of 700 per cent.
The foundry cluster is likely to generate employment to 12,000 persons, a growth of 50 per cent.
Belgaum, in north Karnataka is known for its foundry industry for decades. One third of the state's foundry units are located in six industrial estates of Belgaum. They produce 110,000 tonnes of castings per annum. However, the units were hit by the infrastructure bottlenecks and a lack of common facilities.
The project was sanctioned by the Union ministry of commerce under the Industrial Infrastructure Upgradation Scheme (IIUS) in 2003 for Rs 24.78 crore. While, the Centre sanctioned Rs 18.58 crore, the Karnataka government put in another Rs 2.49 crore while the balance is contributed by the user industries.
The objective is to strengthen the existing infrastructure and to create additional infrastructure with a view to enhance efficiency, competitiveness, raise export capabilities and make the industry environment-friendly by reducing pollution.
Under this project, a 34,000 sq ft building has been constructed at Udyambag Industrial Estate, which houses common tool room, testing laboratory, training centre, modern communication and information centre and a library. A convention centre has also been established. A new vertical machining centre for making patterns, spectrometer for conducting metal analysis and coordinate measuring machine have been installed.
The BFC has acquired five acres land on the outskirts of the city to build the common effluent treatment plant (ETP). The work on which is nearing completion. The sand reclamation plant is the first of its kind in the country as it will help reclaim 10,000 tonnes of waste sand per month. A modern sand reclamation machine has been imported from England and is being installed presently.
The cluster will also have modern software for 3D modelling, simulation and ERP for foundries will be made available to foundries. The foundry cluster will not only help improve the quality standards of material produced here but also protect ecological balance and conserve natural resources apart from growing exports, Kulkarni said.
"Our vision is to make Belgaum Foundry industry a global sourcing hub for castings and machined components by the year 2010. Despite slowdown in manufacturing sector and rising prices of steel and metal scrap we anticipate foundry units will register a healthy growth of 15-20 per cent during the current financial year," he said.
As part of the project, nearly 23 kms of road is being rebuilt in Udyambag industrial estate.
Foundry units in and around Belgaum are serving the automobile industry, general engineering and agriculture sectors. Automobile majors like Mahindra and Mahindra, Bajaj Auto, Ashok Leyland, TAFE, Caterpillar and engineering companies like Kiroskar Oil Engines Ltd, Alfa Laval, Simpsons are some of the companies sourcing castings from Belgaum. The Belgaum foundries also export to countries like the US, Germany, Belgium and West Asia.