Maruti’s mega car plants lean on new technology to be future-ready
New Delhi: With one car rolling out every 12 seconds—over 2,400 robots aiding 20,000 workers—Maruti Suzuki India’s mega car factories at Gurugram and Manesar are embracing new technologies to keep pace with demands of the 21st century.
It is a far cry from nearly 35 years back, when the company first rolled out the now-discontinued iconic M800 model with around 900 people and negligible automation at the then Gurgaon factory. With over 4,000 trucks criss-crossing the premises, supplying components and picking up fully built vehicles, the two factories buzz with activity for 280 days a year to roll out over 15 lakh units of 16 models with 1,100-plus variants.
The company has already started looking beyond 2020 when it looks to sell 2 million units annually. In fact it is aiming for 3 million units annual sales in the next decade. According to Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) Executive Director Production, Rajiv Gandhi, the challenge for manufacturing operations to meet the demands of maintaining dominant market position is enormous.
Almost every second passenger vehicle sold in India is from the stable of MSI. It calls for modern technologies that assist operators, improve their efficiencies and bring down fatigue to keep the factories running flawlessly. “In order to handle the complexity in manufacturing, we have invested in deploying new technologies at the shop floor,” Gandhi said.
While newest, lean and efficient robots have made a big presence at the factories, which witness over 1.25 crore welds a day, the company hasn’t done away with simple techniques that ensure smooth production. “Over 5,100 fool-proofing tools have been installed across all shops to ensure high product quality. They use simple signs like glowing of a bulb to warn the operator if a wrong part is picked for fitment,” he said. Such practice ensures that the company has a direct pass record of 93 per cent of completed vehicles. “Several automated quality checks of this type ensure world class quality levels,” Gandhi said.
Skilling of workers: With the company selling 16 models with 1,100-plus variants in the market, it also calls for flexibility at the production unit to meet varied demand by training its workers. “We are systematically training people and skilling them for multiple operations. This helps faster turnaround in new model launches and introduction of new technology in existing models. The entire manufacturing is well orchestrated with support from strong IT system,” Gandhi said. He said MSI has such enhanced flexibility in its lines that it is able to produce multi-models on a single line. “Our weld lines can produce two models on one single line. Our top selling models like Alto, Swift and Dzire can be produced in more than one line,” he added. Besides, multi-skilling has been one of the key focus areas in the shop floor, wherein, one operator is supposed to know the job of one station before and one station in advance, Gandhi said.
MSI also relies on suggestions of its workers to enhance efficiency and improve productivity at its factories. “With support from employees we were able to achieve record suggestions of 7,43,147 and cost savings of Rs203 crore,” Gandhi said.
Raw material handling: Another aspect of churning out of over 5,000 units daily from the two facilities is handling of the raw materials that are being brought to the factories by around 3,400 trucks on a daily basis. Another 650 trucks transport assembled vehicles from the factories to around 2,000 dealerships across the country.The amount of steel that MSI uses a year can build 32 Eiffel Towers every year.
Different components, including nuts and bolts, rubber parts to tyres come from 444 tier one suppliers and 2,050 tier II vendors. Here also, Gandhi said the company has been relying on technology to improve efficiency and reduce time taken for preparing the raw materials to be used in production.
For instance, MSI relies on conveyor belts that measure up to a total of 10 km to transfer various parts to different works stations. The company’s first plant at Gurugram rolls out models such as Alto 800, Wagon R, S-Cross, Vitara Brezza, Ertiga, Ignis, Omni, LCV Super Carry and Gypsy. At Manesar, it produces Ciaz, Dzire, Celerio, Alto K10, Baleno and Swift models. The company’s parent Suzuki has also come up with a new plant in Gujarat. Suzuki supplies vehicles and components exclusively to MSI from the plant. PTI