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Schneider Electric and ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India Strike Deal to “Revolutionize Smart Manufacturing”

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In June, Schneider Electric, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of digital solutions for energy management, announced a partnership with ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India (AM/NS India) to establish a smart manufacturing campus in Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat state on India’s western coast. AM/NS was established in December, 2019 as a joint venture between ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel, the world’s two largest steel companies.

The new smart manufacturing campus is part of the collaboration between the two global giants on the New Age Makers Institute of Technology (NAMTECH), a first-of-its-kind institution for higher education. NAMTECH will initially offer two unique curriculums: a Professional Master’s Program in Smart Manufacturing, and a Professional Technologist Program in Automation.

Despite having only just been announced five weeks ago, NAMTECH will begin teaching students next month on an interim campus, at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Gandhinagar, about a half hour from the new campus planned for Ahmedabad. Although NAMTECH is focused on all topics comprising Industry4.0, it also seems like the institution will place a particular emphasis on clean energy, which is fitting given Schneider’s role in the project.

Filter 3D printed on HP Metal Jet S100 for Schneider Electric. Image courtesy of Schneider Electric

In a press release announcing NAMTECH and plans to build a new smart manufacturing campus in Ahmedabad, India, the CEO of AM/NS India, Dilip Oomen, said, “This initiative reinforces our commitment to fostering innovation and equipping young people with essential skills and knowledge required to excel in the digital era of manufacturing. We are pleased to partner with Schneider Electric and look forward to drawing on their industry knowledge and expertise in designing cutting-edge training labs and smart campus for the upcoming NAMTECH institute. Together, we aim to provide the necessary skills to the next generation of manufacturing leaders to help shape a sustainable future for India.”

Deepak Sharma, the CEO and managing director of Schneider Electric India, said, “As part of the [memorandum of understanding], we will leverage our solutions to foster the development of digitally skilled technicians, empowering them to contribute effectively in a digitally-driven world. Together, we envision transforming the education sector and empowering the youth of India to become industry-ready professionals, poised to contribute to the nation’s growth and development.”

Image courtesy of NAMTECH

Whether or not it is deliberately modeled on it, there is already a very clear model for what NAMTECH aims to do: IIT Madras, southeast of Ahmedabad on India’s opposite coast. Located in Chennai — “India’s Silicon Valley” — IIT Madras has a comprehensive advanced manufacturing curriculum, as well as a very active startup incubator, the IITM Incubation Cell. At least one additive manufacturing (AM) startup has come out of IIT Madras: the construction company Tvasta, which has gone on to partner with organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

Thus, beyond NAMTECH’s offering of novel secondary degrees, and its apprenticeship programs, it may ultimately have the most potential as a catalyst of India’s homegrown startup potential. The Indian government has made the encouragement of startup growth in general, and the growth of AM startups in particular, utmost priorities of its industrial policy. Western corporations have been eager to fall in line with that strategy, in anticipation of the Indian economy’s being perhaps the prime beneficiary of broad efforts to diversify manufacturing operations out of China.

Schneider Electric and the parent companies of AM/NS India, meanwhile, have been huge backers of R&D into AM for years. In November, 2022, for instance, Schneider and GKN Additive collaborated on a filter for Schneider’s NSX breaker using the HP Metal Jet S100, and in January, 2022, ArcelorMittal Ghent announced it was using wire arc AM to do repairs and print spare parts.

Of course, both AM/NS India and Schneider Electric have more general long-term interests in the success of AM: creating markets for metal powders/wires and automation equipment, for starters. But even more generally, they are exactly the sort of two corporate leviathans that need to act now or risk undermining the source of their own profits — the planet — because of the destructiveness of the supply chains they both control and depend on. It may be that the problem is so urgent that such corporations are going to actually change the way that higher education works to try to solve it.

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