Indian machine building industry is considered to have the capability to build any machine as long as a prototype is available for copying. This may not be a universal truth because there are some excellent fabricators boasting of original design capabilities with reasonably good credibility and dependable credentials. Weakness in the area of equipment design has been attributed to limited demand for original machinery and unless business volume reaches some critical levels, investment on the necessary infrastructure for designing and prototype building cannot be justified. With no more import restriction on capital goods and reduction of import tariffs under the WTO regime, most of the industries in India opt for sourcing their equipment needs from out side the country, a further disincentive to design activities in the country.
One of the most critical deficiencies being experienced by the machine building industry in India is availability of right quality of materials of construction which only can ensure long life and high performance efficiency. Indian built machinery generally do not enjoy good reputation and they are mainly marketed in African countries because of significant price advantages vis-à-vis those from western countries. While low prices can give temporary advantages in the market place, sturdiness, performance efficiency, trouble free operation and responsive back up-service can only help to get universal recognition and assured business.
Food processing industry in India is looking for equipment that can perform as efficiently as imported models and there are only a dozen fabricators who do have the expertise, wherewithal and infrastructure to build good quality machinery at costs which are lower than those imported from the West but higher than some of the items offered by China, Korea, Taiwan, Turkey etc. Take any equipment, be it a washer, grinder, blender, expeller, extruder, flaker or extractor the models available in the market vary in price by a factor of 50-500% making it difficult for any one to take a decision regarding the right one to be bought for one's requirements. Form-Fill-Seal machines with same capacity are available for less than Rs 1 lakh while high end models can cost as high as Rs 10-12 lakh. Same is true with all other machinery items used by the food processing industry, especially in the small scale sector.
It is time that the vast number of tinker shops and other small facilities that offer many machinery to the food industry is organized on a sound technical footing and a streamlined mechanism evolved to assess their capabilities to manufacture dependable equipment based on performance, durability, energy efficiency, back-up service etc. Food industry in the country will be able to grow and develop further if such an environment is created. Like the ISI certification for domestic appliances or the star rating for energy consumption by refrigerators, a rating system for different categories of food processing equipment will go a long way in improving the performance of the small scale industry in food sector. The Food Engineering and Design Center of the MFPI, located at CFTRI, Mysore should be mandated to take up this task on a priority basis and bring socour to the industry, many of them languishing for want of guidance in procuring appropriate processing machinery.