MIKROTEK, India is a young and vibrant organization focused on providing superior products and superlative service. In about three decades, MIKROTEK has reached an enviable position due to their passion and commitment to excelling in what they do. They benchmark themselves against themselves and strive to achieve a measurable improvement in a consistent manner. MIKROTEK has self-belief, indefatigable energy, and professional culture that pervades at all levels in the organization. With this belief and push, MIKROTEK can overcome the most difficult challenges. In this interview, I had a chat with Kamal Babu, Managing Director, and Ms. Anitha Kamal, Director of Mikrotek Machines Ltd.
Your product range is very broad, ranging from dies to die inspection equipment. What was the best-selling product of 2020?
Kamal Babu: True. Mikrotek has a wide range of products to meet different applications. Our dies range from super fine sizes from 0.010 mm - 30.00 mm in natural diamond, SSCD, PCD dies & Tungsten Carbide dies, and so on. While wire drawing dies is the core of our business, we also have equipment for die polishing, die resizing & die inspection. We are also a one-source supplier of all the die shop consumables. In the services segment, we offer die polishing, die refurbishing, operator training, machine installation, and maintenance.
We have a fairly balanced spread of business among all products and services. Of course, high-speed multi-wire drawing dies is the leader in our product range and has drawn considerable global interest among cable and wire manufacturers. Small and mid-sized cable manufacturers also find our re-polishing services very valuable and we have received a lot of customer patronage in this area too.
Some of the most well-known products are multi-wire drawing dies. What are the main features of these dies?
Kamal Babu: Our multi-wire drawing dies have been recognized as one of the best by highly reputed, discerning manufacturers across the world. Our customers find them contributing to higher productivity, minimal wire breakages, better surface quality, and running at optimal speeds.
What are the main applications and markets?
Kamal Babu: The main usage is in the manufacture of cables and wires. Mikrotek caters to every segment and has devised customized solutions for each industry segment. Some of them are very specialized and needed an in-depth understanding of the user's critical needs. That way, we are as much an application solutions provider and not just a seller of products. Our products are sold in several countries in Europe, South East Asia, and the Middle East. This year we are actively working to enter the unrepresented areas and companies. Our market share in the large Indian domestic market has always been strong and is consistently growing. We can meet the need for dies in several sectors of the cable and wire industry – house wiring, power cables, submersible cables, HT cables, automobile harnesses, medical wires, enameled wires, and so on. Thus, for every need, we have a product.
Anitha, what makes Mikrotek different from the competition?
Anitha Kamal: Firstly, we have only one competitor – ourselves! Yes. We only compare ourselves with what we were yesterday to what we are today. We strive to become better each day. We consider other die manufacturers as fellow members of a common industry. Most of our “competitors” are firstly our friends and we maintain an excellent relationship with them. Even if there are situations where others too are vying for an order from the same prospective customer, we compete in a spirit of sportsmanship. There is no bitterness involved. The market is vast and there is room for everyone. The best thing we relish about our business is the way we have grown. Most of our growth came through word-of-mouth spread of information about our quality, delivery, and dependability. Every customer became a referral point for us.
Can you mention a case history related to these dies, or references of companies that use them successfully?
Kamal Babu: There have been several cases where our customers could tide over major challenges through the use of our dies. There are cases where global companies who were initially reluctant to experiment, later moved to us and have standardized their requirements on Mikrotek. They have been able to derive better performance ranging from 1.2x to 2.5x using our dies. On account of reasons of privacy, it would be inappropriate to divulge names and specific details. On broad terms, I can mention that we always rose to the challenge of meeting very stringent requirements. Our customers are now so strongly bonded with us that they have no hesitation in depending on us to commit to meeting the high standards set upon them by their own customers.
What do you consider as the main secret of Mikrotek's success?
Kamal Babu: TRUST. We do not compromise on product, quality, ethics. We build on these pillars and are proud of our impregnable integrity. We believe in bonding with our customers to support them in their endeavors than in spending time on conventional sales efforts. We are used to handling our customers’ needs in a thoroughly professional manner, which has resulted in a “Win-Win” situation for both of us. We provide technical support to our customers covering subjects such as periodical die maintenance, customization of die profiles, analysis, and reduction of wire breaks. We have enabled our customers to reach wire breaks as low as 0,05 to 0,1 per ton of copper wires, measured at an optimum speed of 30 plus m/s, and for an average wire diameter of 0,20 mm.
I must mention that PCD Dies is one product where it is very difficult to trace the actual blank used. Usage of the right selection of blanks ensures optimum die performance. We believe that educating the customer is our very important duty. To ensure that our customers are fully protected, we initiated the concept of marking every diamond with its PCD blank number than the generalized “D series” code. We passionately followed this practice and gained immense customer confidence.
As a matter of policy, engineers of Mikrotek closely coordinate with our customer’s technical teams and design customized die profiles to suit their drawing conditions which depend upon the type and condition of the drawing machine, quality of input material, condition of lubricant, etc.
Our biggest success and satisfaction comes when our customers acknowledge that we have made a meaningful and tangible impact on their operations. We have numerous customers where we have achieved this.
Could you tell us something more about your raw materials selection?
Kamal Babu: The selection of the right natural diamonds is one of the most important factors in diamond die manufacturing. We, at Mikrotek, strictly use Kimberly process certified natural diamond stones. Only flawless diamonds are selected and flattened with respect to the 111 access to give maximum strength to the die and to withstand rough and tough drawing conditions and the maximum number of recuts.
We use PCD blanks from Hyperion, Sumitomo, and other reputed manufacturers around the globe depending upon the material to be drawn and drawing conditions. We also use SSCD (Mono) crystals from Element 6. In general, we strictly use what our customer specifies in their specification chart. We have provided the blank selection charts on our website for everyone's use.
Does the pandemic have impacts on your ability to deliver products? Have you been able to stay operational over the last while?
Kamal Babu: While Covid-19 came as a shock to many and disrupted their businesses beyond repair, we took it as an opportunity to clean up several things in our company for which sufficient time was not previously available. It has turned out that the Covid-19 period was one of great productivity and innovation at Mikrotek. During the months of Covid, despite restrictions and hurdles, we took several steps to service our customers with uninterrupted die supplies. As an example, with special permission from the Government, we were able to maintain a nonstop supply of dies to medical wire manufacturers and the same has been highly appreciated by our customers.
Covid allowed us to streamline our production processes as a result of which we retired a significant number of old machines, refurbished some of our vital machines, and set up an in-house “CNC tool room”. Also, we could identify resources under stress and, as a result, we have brought in new infrastructure in the inspection department by adding three more “state of the art” Conoptica equipment. This new investment reinforces our commitment to quality and strengthens our journey towards a zero-defect regime. Without a doubt, Mikrotek is now one of the few organizations in the world to have such a large and well-equipped Inspection and Quality Assurance set up. All in all, during the crisis, Mikrotek made every effort to improve customer service.
Did you notice a shift in the product selection or any other trend concerning the wire industry caused by the global downturn?
Kamal Babu: Obviously, we too were not fully immune to the global downturn last year. But neither were we shattered. As mentioned earlier, we used it as an opportunity to do things that were important and valuable.
What innovations and/or business areas do you plan to focus on next?
Anitha Kamal: We believe in constant innovation, expansion, and improvement – whether it is in the market or our factory. I would like to highlight one specific activity – LEAN, SIX SIGMA, KAIZEN. LEAN PRINCIPLES were always at the heart of Mikrotek’s production philosophy. COVID gave us a perfect setting to renew our faith in LEAN principles and made us work towards Single-Piece Flow in conformance with Lean Thinking. We have rededicated ourselves to the principles of LEAN and have rolled out a logical plan to instill LEAN concepts in the daily routine of every member of our organization. We are confident that our rededication to LEAN will carry us closer to our mission of being the most preferred drawing dies supplier to the wire industry very soon.
How do you make Mikrotek's presence felt in the market? What do you do to gain visibility?
Anitha Kamal: Mikrotek has always been an active participant in industry forums and events. We have regularly positioned our stalls in different wire and cable exhibitions across the world for several years and shall continue to do so. Prominent among them are exhibitions and fairs held at Düsseldorf, Atlanta, Istanbul, Bangkok, Mumbai, and Moscow.
We have the privilege of being co-organizers of the Wire Symposium conducted every alternate year in India. It is a one-week moving symposium that starts in Daman and moves to Delhi and Bengaluru to complete the cycle. This unique event is to appraise product users and participating factory teams to upgrade themselves to the latest technology and skills made available by us. We bring in guest speakers of international standing and no participant would like to miss these sessions. This has been highly appreciated by all participants who have consistently applauded us for this invaluable service.
Another very special knowledge sharing activity we have commenced a few years ago is a Technical Conference in Turkey. This has been very well received because of the quality and in-depth knowledge that we impart to the user industry. We plan to continue this service in the future too.
Our engineers make sure that they visit every key exhibition or conference about our industry. Thus our team is always updated, instinctively innovative, and highly self-motivated. Now with online fairs becoming the norm, we are geared to participate in every important event to help visitors get full info about the product range and our strengths.
Let’s try to envision the course of 2021. Do you expect a rise in demand or do you think the industry will continue to struggle?
Kamal Babu: Mikrotek is driven by a passion to meet international standards expected by industry leaders. 2021 will be no different. Being a young and dynamic team makes it easy to work towards our goal. The very fact that our customers are spread across the globe, including Europe is a testimony to our efforts. We are in a growing market both domestic and international. We expect the demand for wire and cable to increase given the projected rise in infrastructure & construction activities around the globe in 2021 and beyond. We have already added extra capacity to attain shorter deliveries. We strongly believe that demand will rise as the world has to keep moving forward notwithstanding the challenges that will surface from time to time.
Anitha and Kamal. It was great to hear from both of you about the amazing things that Mikrotek is doing. I wish you the very best and thank both of you for your time.
Kamal Babu and Anitha Kamal: Thanks to you too, Daniela for this interaction. It has been a pleasure speaking to you.