A national machinery design institute was planned to be set up in the late 1990s under Pakistan-China Scientific and Technical Cooperation Agreement, but has not materialised so far. The project was put on hold in 2001 by the Pakistan side and never taken up again for implementation.
China, South Korea and India have hundreds of machine design institutes specialising in various industries, like cement, sugar, steel, chemicals, power generation, etc., and a variety of disciplines including architecture, civil, electrical and textiles. Sadly, industrial technology and machinery design, which are precursor to industrialisation, have been accorded the least priority in Pakistan.
Product design is a vital input for all the manufacturing industries. One of the reasons for lacklustre performance of the manufacturing sector is its limited capacity to undertake product designing, which too mostly remains dependent on foreign sources. There is a definite need to strengthen the national capability of product designing for accelerating industrial activities. This will also result in high value addition, product diversification and import substitution in the large-scale manufacturing as well as the SMEs. This will also require upgrading existing research and development infrastructure, development of linkages between R&D and industry and of technical manpower.
The need of a machinery design institute will be, however, met to some extent, by the Heavy Mechanical Complex (HMC) at Taxila. The government has approved in January 2011 the capacity-building project of its existing in-house Design Centre, which already has computer-added design( CAD) and computer-aided engineering (CAE) facilities, at a cost of Rs666 million. On completion, the HMC Design Centre, which will now be equipped with latest hardware and specialized software, will develop indigenous design and engineering for industrial plants in the areas of hydropower, coal-based thermal power, renewable energy, chemical and fertiliser plants, construction equipment, mining machinery and industrial control systems, besides upgrading technology of its other products.
Other facilities to be provided include computer-aided-learning (CAL), computer modeling and simulation, and services like renewal of software licenses and specialized training. More than one million dollars in foreign exchange would be spent in the first phase on acquisition of cutting-edge technology and training of engineers abroad.
The project is currently under execution and scheduled for completion in three years. Design Centre will not only support the production programme of the HMC, but would also supply product design, engineering and management services to other engineering and capital goods manufacturing units on commercial basis.
Machine tools provide CAM solutions through 3D modeling and high-precision high-speed machining, whereas machining software integrates with CAD packages. Yet another proposal pending for approval is an institute of machine tools and auto-parts technology at Pakistan Machine Tool Factory (PMTF) Karachi. The project is designed to provide hi-tech CAD/CAE facility for downstream industry, which could result in shortening design process and production time, thus reducing product cost.
The project, estimated to cost Rs280 million, was to provide design and engineering services for development of gearboxes for passenger cars being manufactured or assembled domestically. The project, however, is pending with the ministry of science and technology for last three years and there has been no progress towards its approval.
Luckily, a pool of trained professionals in product design and development is already available within the country. The National Institute of Design and Analysis (NIDA) of the ministry of production has established CAD/CAM training centres in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and Sialkot, having trained some 9,000 skilled work-force since 2007 in basic as well as advanced CAD/CAE/CAM applications. More training centers are planned for Bahawalpur, Kasur, Sargodha, Okara, Larkana and Hyderabad. The government has allocated necessary funds in the 2012-13 budget for the purpose.
The writer is ex- Chairman of State Engineering Corporation.