Henry Timken believed that a man who could devise something which would reduce friction fundamentally would achieve something of real value to the world. Born in Germany and migrated to the US in the mid of 18th century, Timken was a carriage maker in St. Louis, Missouri. In the 1890s, he recognized that heavy freight wagons had a difficult time making sharp turns. To solve the problem, Timken applied a tapered roller bearing design that could handle both radial (weight) and thrust (cornering force) loads, which eventually led to the foundation of The Timken Roller Bearing and Axle Company in 1899, a global enterprise that today helps keep the world in motion.
The Timken Company is now synonymous with quality and unmatched engineering everywhere they do business. Since its inception, the company has dramatically expanded its product portfolio through innovation and acquisitions as well as its reputation by solving problems for our planet and beyond. The Timken Company now designs a growing portfolio of engineered bearings and power transmission products and offers a spectrum of powertrain rebuild and repair services. To this day, Henry Timken’s vision of making the world move more efficiently and reliably remains at the core of Timken Company’s business.
Entering the Indian Market
In 1987, Timken India Limited (TIL) was incorporated as Tata Timken Limited (TTL), a joint venture between Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) and The Timken Company. The company started commercial production at its Jamshedpur plant in March 1992, with TISCO and TIMKEN each holding 40 per cent equity stake. In 1999, Timken acquired from Tata Steel its 40 per cent stake to become Timken India Limited. At the helm of TIL’s affairs is its Chairman and Managing Director, Sanjay Koul, who joined Timken in 1990 as a Production Engineer and was among the first set of employees of the company in India.
A mechanical engineer from the prestigious Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Sanjay has responsibility for business and manufacturing operations, financial performance and acceleration of growth in the markets in India. He shares, “As the leading authority on tapered roller bearings, we apply our deep knowledge of metallurgy, tribology and mechanical systems to improve the reliability and efficiency of equipment, machinery and vehicles worldwide. Timken collaborates with customers from diversified markets that span India and the globe.” Today, Timken offers the most diversified product package among its peers, which has helped the company to strengthen its position in many markets, including renewable energy and in global industrial distribution channels.
“The Timken Company has always been a key contributor to a well-functioning world — from reliable transportation to secure food production to renewable energy. Greater efficiency and sustainability have been at the core of our innovations,” says Koul. A bearing touches every piece of running equipment, so there are always growth opportunities. While remaining a leader in core industry applications, Timken has expanded its product portfolio with all types of ball and roller bearings, including machine tool bearings and power transmission products. Koul adds, “We continuously work to penetrate our products across diversified markets and invest for the future to stay ahead.”
Serving the Global Market
In India, Timken started manufacturing bearings in 1987. Today, the company has state-of-the-art manufacturing plants in Jamshedpur for tapered roller bearings smaller than 8 inches that are used largely by heavy truck and rail customers. “ABC Bearings, which we recently acquired, expands our footprint of tapered and cylindrical roller bearings as well as industrial bearings, such as spherical roller bearings and slewing rings. Our Chennai plant produces single- and double-row case-carburized tapered roller bearings, including cups, cones and assemblies of 8-inch and above outside diameter,” explains Koul. Timken works directly with large automotive, truck and equipment manufacturers, as well as end-users through a network of authorized distributors to help increase the performance and reliability of their equipment, which can be anything from the cars we drive to the wind turbines and solar panels that provide us power.
The Timken Technology Centre in Bangalore, one of four such centres in the world, provides customers access to engineering expertise and the latest technological advancements. “It is our second-largest, behind only the one at our headquarters in Canton, Ohio,” pinpoints Koul. Timken Engineering & Research India (TERI) takes up all kinds of assignments, including those relating to global engineering on product technology for all user segments. Apart from product technology, Timken has a reliable team at TERI for manufacturing advancements, such as additive manufacturing. It also has a metallurgy team working with steel makers in India and abroad.
Overcoming the Challenges of the Pandemic
“Governments and private enterprises around the world are taking actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. At the Timken Company, we have taken steps outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and state and local authorities to protect the health and safety of our employees and visitors while continuing to operate our business,” opines Koul. Timken has been able to automate its processes, using robotics and self-managed teams to operate safely. Koul adds, “I am pleased that not only our output has increased, but our workforce has also become more responsible. The relentless communication has helped the cause. The list of challenges is long, but the solutions have been very productive, and our innovations have enhanced safety for our employees.”
Timken has adapted to the changing environment very quickly. However, the company’s top priority continues to be the health and safety of its employees, customers and partners. “We have added strict operating procedures in line with WHO and government guidelines to protect our associates and our communities. Our plants are all functioning at 100% capacity,” states Koul. Timken has a robust action plan in place which are implemented with a lot of precautions before they started the operations. “While uncertainty remains elevated and we expect significant continued challenges from the virus, we will continue to advance our business, making investments in capital and digital platforms to deliver for our customers,” says Koul.
Like any businesses across the globe, technology has been a boon for Timken during this pandemic, which has opened many channels of communication to help them connect and stay engaged with their 2,000+ associates. Koul shares, “We have regularly been connecting with our associates through virtual town halls, offering them the flexibility to work from home, providing them with medical assistance, and even offering organized pep talks from life coaches to help keep them motivated and focused during these challenging times.”
The Road Ahead
Be it in terms of increasing capacity at plants or the acquisition of ABC Bearings, Timken has been expanding in India. In fact, the company has always been on the lookout for further expansion as demand warrants. “We have improved our resilience and readiness for the future. In the last five years, not only have we fortified our core bearing business and strengthened our presence in our industrial distribution channels, but we have also successfully invested to become more diversified and more global,” claims Koul. The company has grown its expertise as a power transmission solutions provider with a stronger presence in growth markets like renewables, food and beverage and automation.
Pre-pandemic, Timken’s challenge was identifying and entering new markets that have the greatest growth potential. This continues to remain its biggest challenge and opportunity. “We are optimistic that our market position, our balance sheet, our talent, and our strategy are all strong and position us to continue to perform well in the current environment, while we prepare for the better times ahead,” concludes Koul.
About Sanjay Koul, Managing Director
Sanjay Koul joined Timken in 1990 as a Production Engineer and was among the first set of employees of the company in India. Since then, he has served in additional positions within the rail and supply chain & Sales organizations. In 2007, he was named general manager of the Jamshedpur Plant. Two years later, he was named general manager of supply chain operations in Asia working out of Wuxi, and in 2011, he was named director of manufacturing and supply chain management for Asia. Koul is now the Managing Director of all operations in India for The Timken Company. He was named to this position in October 2012.
Before joining Timken, Koul served with the Union Carbide India Ltd. as a production supervisor and also as an engineer with an urban environmental agency of India. Koul holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, a master’s degree in business management from Xavier Labour Relations Institute. He completed the EDGE executive development program for senior Timken leaders at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business in 2008. He has been recognized as among the top 100 business leaders in India by Business Today Magazine in 2016 and 2017. He is the Vice-Chairman of AMCHAM India and sits on the Board of ELCIA, Bangalore.