Automotive Manufacturing Solutions


Technology workshops

The conference included 15 specialist sessions on the different technologies used in production, or which affect it. Delegates were able to attend the workshops of their choice. They are listed in the index (right), which links to a report on each of them hosted on this page (or scroll down).
The workshops included a mixture of OEMs and suppliers, and generally had three detailed presentations with Q&A follow-ups.

A mixture of high-level plenary sessions, which had presentations from the most senior OEM production executives, along with these 15 specialist workshops, meant that delegates gained both overall insights and focussed information.
Copies of each of the workshop (as well as the plenary) presentations are available for conference delegates to download via a private link.
This mixture of the general and the specific is a feature of AMS conferences. We'd value your feedback on this format, or on the specific aspects of manufacturing or production which you would like to see covered. Please email the conference chairman.


                                      Workshop sessions engaged delegates in questions, reflections and lively debate

Automation and control systems

Siemens – Jürgen Nolde, Director
Bosch Rexroth Dan DeTroy, Head of Industry Sector Automobile Industry
Zebra Enterprise Solutions Mike Mulligan, Director Global Automotive Solutions Management

“There is money lying around on the floor,” said MM Singh, managing executive office for production at Maruti Suzuki, during the opening plenary session of the conference. “All you need to do is pick it up.”

The theme was picked up by Siemens’ Jurgen Nolde, in analysing the advances that could be made in shopfloor networking and communications. He said there were still discussions going on about whether copper wire was free of interference, or whether the jump to fibre optics was needed. “Copper can do the job,” he asserted. He also noted the value of taking a new look at cabling, and pointed the way to a wireless future.

He gave an instance of an (unnamed) plant which had reduced its 18km of cable to 8km by amalgamating three different diagnostic systems, as well as getting other savings on components etc. 

He also pointed the way to a wireless future with a report to delegates on Siemens’ first wireless installation at BMW’s Spartanburg plant in the US. There was a 20% saving on maintenance, savings on cabling, and over 1000 areas could communicate, he said. It needed planning, and sufficient channels, but added: “it makes life much more simple.”

For broader automation, Nolde also reported a pilot project for Daimler which was a complete digitisation. This included creation of documentation, PLC software, hardware plans and HMI plans, including safety zones.

Recommendation on choosing a networking standard came from Dan DeTroy of Bosch Rexroth. After a fascinating history of the development of Ethernet, he identified time (“real time is related to the application”, and is not an absolute) and jitter (variable time periods of messages) as two of the current boundaries to improved speed.

Dan DeTroy on Ethernet standards

DeTroy also focussed on the choice of busses, showing a slide of many different vendor offerings, but then progressively filtering them down to those which: comply to an international standard; have a user organisation; have high performance (nanosecond capability); and are independent of any one company. That left EthernetIP, ProifNet and Sercos3, he said, noting that the latter two are very similar and are anyway modifications of Ethernet.

Zebra’s Mike Mulligan concluded the session with examples of how the company’s technology, best-known in barcode applications, can be applied to locating, tracking and managing assets or people around the assembly plant. He focused on gate/yard management inbound to the plant, plant floor visibility (eg locating stamping dies, forklifts or racking), and the containment area holding finished vehicles – the latter a manufacturing, rather than logistics, issue when there are vehicles with faults which should not be despatched.

Mulligan instanced a project at Land Rover which had a less-than 12 month payback after installing the company’s technology.

back to top  


Mahindra & Mahindra Selvam Ganesan, Manager, Projects
STADCO Paul Jaggers, Global Project Engineering – India
KUKA Systems India – Amit Bhingurde, President & CEO

Selvam Ganesan highlighted the benefits of individual hemming processes, comparing each with regards to output quality, capacity potential and capital investment.

He discussed methods for reducing ‘bleed through’, and how to prevent minor defects in the supporting inner panel from showing through on the outer skin.

Selvam Ganesan: avoiding defects

Following this, Paul Jaggers outlined the importance of having manufacturing and design teams working together from the start of vehicle development in order to optimize body panel usage across a multi-version production line. Reinhard Rupprecht at Stadco (Saarlouis) went on to explain how the company had developed such a system at this Ford plant in Germany, in order to streamline production of 100,000 welded parts per day for both the previous and new Focus range.

Rounding out the session, Amit T. Bhingurde of Kuka Automation described how improved manufacturing flexibility to meet demand could be aided by robotics that offer carmakers such elements as ‘jigless’ and flexible grippers, which come together to create a single framing station capable and thereby support six-model production.  

back to top  

Control of production and IT

SICK – Andre Hack, Strategic Industry Manager
Rockwell Automation – Bob Honor, Information Solutions Vice President
Schneider Electric – Veer Madhusudan, Manager

Complementary presentations from SICK’s Andre Hack and Rockwell Automation’s Bob Honor described the detail of vision sensors in identifying flawed components, on the one hand, and the big picture of linking MES (manufacturing execution systems) to general business systems on the other.

“I want to look at ways of getting business returns out of sustainable manufacturing,” said Honor. He described how linking together disparate systems could bring efficiencies to production (“sustainability is more than a ‘green’ issue”), but conceded in audience questioning that such an approach was at present bespoke and project-based. Rockwell is working with a ‘very large’ non-automotive manufacturer on this, he said, which he hoped in time would lead to some off-the-shelf software products. The company had co-hosted – with Microsoft – a round-table for executive level production chiefs in a prelude to the conference, a meeting organised by AMS (see report at bottom of Home page of this website).

Schneider Electric’s speaker looked at the power consumption embedded in vehicle production, with data illustrating that a single car needed between 500-700kW of power in its production, representing between 9-12% of the build cost. A project for Tata had saved some 20% of the power cost of the vehicle build, said Veer Madhusudan, as well as 15% of the power cost of the plant infrastructure and 30% of the power cost of the data centre and network, he added.

back to top  

Environment – plant and process

Ford India – Tom Chackalackal, Vice-President Manufacturing
Castrol India – K Uday Kumar, Area Director, Industrial Lubricants and Services

Ford's Tom Chackalackal applies the 4 R's 

Ford India is using its ‘4R’ principle – reduce, re-use, reclaim and recycle – to reduce waste, said Tom Chackalackal. When applied to areas such as water usage, this will ultimately lead to zero liquid discharge at a Ford plant, he said. Chackalackal covered how the carmaker was delivering paint sludge to a local cement maker for use as both a fuel and also as an element of the cement product, further reducing the company’s waste-to-landfill percentage.

Castrol's Uday Kumar told workshop delegates how improved machining fluids could result in reduced VOC production, achieved by eliminating chlorine and formaldehyde in the products, replacing sulphur content, and ultimately delivering new formulas that reduce misting. 

back to top  

Heavyweight manufacturing

Ashok Leyland- M Sankarananth, R Srinivasan and K V Subramanian
Volvo Eicher – Rajesh Jain, Deputy General Manager Product Development
Tenneco – Akshoy Gopalkrishna, Head of Engineering for Emission Control

The progress being made in India’s truck manufacturing was illustrated by the challenge set by senior management for Ashok Leyland’s new Patnagar plant, which was to double output with the same manning and no increase in cost per vehicle. The problems for automation in these circumstances, in contrast to passenger car assembly, is the range of vehicle sizes. This leads to big variations in the weight, size and shape of components, to differences in cycle time, to the need to skip some discrete operations for any particular vehicle type, and to other similar issues.

Nevertheless, it can be done, said M Sankarananth. He went on to instance Ashok Leyland’s Ennore engine plant, which produces 105 variations of engine. Selective automation had changed its performance of using 37 man days and 20 test pads to create an output of 296 engines per day, to an output of 210 engines per day using 14 man days and just five test pads. Engines produced per test pad had gone from 15 to 40 per day, while work in progress had gone the other way in being reduced from 40 to 10.

Volvo Eicher’s Rajesh Jain focused on the pollution-saving aspects of hybrid, or even fully electric, commercial vehicles. He described the various options open to OEMs, from stop/start technologies upwards. The environment was picked up by Tenneco’s Akshoy Gopalkrishna, who pointed out that different manufacturing and performance regulations had lead to “as complex as a system can get” for managing the level of noxious emissions. 

He noted that the introduction of regulations in India in this area often slip due to the variable standards of the diesel fuel available. However, they are now coming into place for commercial vehicles, and are scheduled for next year for agricultural tractors and the year after for gensets (a key piece of equipment in the land of frequent power cuts).

The presentation included some revealing pictures from China of trucks which had been retro-fitted in order to reduce pollution during the Beijing Olympic Games. Retro-fitting can reduce particulate emissions by 90%, said Gopalkrishna, but at the space cost of up to one third of the load-carrying capacity of the vehicle. 

back to top  

Hybrid & electric vehicles

Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles – Kartik Gopal, General Manager, Business Development & Mobility Solutions
Exide Industries (India) –  Subhas Chalasani, PhD, President, R&D

Reva Electric Vehicles was recently bought from the Reva company by Mahindra, for reasons which included what Kartik Gopal described as “an approach to sustainable automotive developments”.
With the largest fleet of electric vehicles in the world on the road, he added that the cars were ideal for commuting, with design and production optimised for city drivers. Also in this session, Subhan Chalasani described how Exide had developed lead-acid batteries for use with mild and full hybrid vehicles, so that they could compete with lithium-ion in terms of performance.

back to top  

Light vehicles: two- and three-wheelers

Hero Honda – Avinash Joshi, Deputy GM, Project Engineering and Yashpal Sardana, Head of Quality, Haridwar plant
TVS Motor – Dr Subramanian Devarajan, Senior Vice-President, Production Engineering
Bajaj Auto – Ashok Pilankar, Motorcycle Division

The conference workshop series included three on, respectively, the non-car manufacturing segments of motorcycles, hybrid/ electric vehicles and heavyweight bus and commercial vehicles. 

For two/three-wheelers, Avinash Joshi of Hero Honda reported that the apparent threat from the introduction of low-cost cars, such as the Tata Nano, was actually benefitting the series motorcycle manufacturer. With a 44% market share to maintain, he focussed on the the human factor in production, where Hero uses such activities as quality circles.

India currently exports about 1 million motorcycles, which the country's overall Automotive Mission Plan says should double by 2015. So also looking to quality was Bajaj Auto's Ashok Pilansker, who told delegates about the company's efforts to increase exports, which required an improvement in build quality. Ease of assembly on the production line was one of the keys to reducing the number of defects per unit, he said. 

Dr. Subramanian Devarajan from TVS Motor highlighted the company's increased volumes from reduced takt times and station process improvements. Echoing the market backdrop to the conference, he noted the direct correlation of per capita income to personal mobility, in a country currently growing its GDP at 9% per annum.   

back to top  

Material handling & automation

General Motors India – Amit V Patel, General Manager – Control, Conveyors and Robotics
ABB – Alan Stapelberg, Body In White Product Leader
KUKA Robotics – Alwin Berninger, Managing Director Asia-Pac Region

GM’s robot strategy is worldwide, Amit Patel told delegates, and described it as: common specification (process control etc); common purchasing; and a policy of seeking high-value-add from the investment in robots but only as constrained by low technical risk.

He presented a case study for stamping applications, where he said that the familiar advantages of robots over humans were augmented by the freedom to design components without including the need for human hand-holds, and by the fact that ‘safety’ levels could be reduced since any failure would damage only robots, not people.

New generations of robot, which are more compact, can repay their investment in a reduced footprint which allows the reduction of stations in the assembly process, said Patel. He illustrated this with a welding example, where 12 standard robots across two stations had been replaced by six standard plus four ‘compact’ robots set at only one station. He told delegates of a real case in India where detailed pre-construction planning had reduced the number of stations, using compact robots, and had avoided an estimated $700K of investment in pallets, rollers and electrical installation etc.

New applications for robots are replacing traditional conveyor and handling systems, said Patel. An extra-large ‘robo-veyor’ had replaced a whole lift/conveyor installation at a GM plant overseas, although that application had yet to be brought to India. In Australia, Q3 of 2011 will see GM implement a robo-based vision and tracking system to fit tyres to vehicles on a high-speed line, he added.

Expanding on GM’s expertise in this area, Patel reported that the company had working with NASA to put a high-dextrous robot on the space station just two months ago. Although such advances are being made, they are “too far ahead as far as India is concerned,” he observed.

ABB and Kuka doubled up with good-natured competitive presentations of their respective products in handling and automation. Alan Stapelberg noted how the price of robots had fallen by 40% over the 20 years of their use, and showed delegates some good animations of ABB’s Flex range of robotic processes. They included flexible heads for welding guns, which save on changes and storage. He said that the investment required to achieve general flexibility was typically justified when three or more models were to be produced on the line over the life of the bodyshop, and added that Tata Truck was one such installation. In the past three years some 1500m of Flextrack – variable length conveyor – has been installed, said Stapelberg, the latest being 200m at the Ford plant in Chonqing, China.

  GM's Amit Patel on robot applications, and ABB's Alan Stapelberg reporting sales in China

Alwin Berninger matched Patel’s NASA story with news that the new Harry Potter ride in a theme park in Florida was based on Kuka’s products. Audi in Germany is reporting a 25% increase in speed, and a similar reduction in space occupied, from using the Quantec range, he said. For Chrysler’s Jeep Wrangler plant in Toledo, USA, Berninger reported that Kuka was being paid on a per-unit-produced basis, so giving it both the incentive and the opportunity to push technology use to the maximum.

back to top  

Outsourcing – from supply to manufacturing

General Motors India – Nilesh Shah, Director – Supplier Footprint Optimisation
Magna Steyr – Joern Reimers, Director of International Contract Manufactuting Projects
Rieter Nittoku – Ralph Ruthner, CEO

GM's India operations are looking to export locally-made parts to other global GM locations, said Nilesh Shah, and explained how the company’s Supplier Footprint Optimisation could help suppliers deliver bids to GM Global on time and at the right price point.

Jorn Reimers at Magna Steyr outlined the company’s range of production, which extends from the Mini Countryman (100,000 units per annum) to the Aston Martin Rapide (1,500upa). Line flexibility was the underlying key to success. he said, with complex multi-model and multi-marque production at the Austrian facility using a single, shared paintshop.

The final speaker in this session was Ralph Ruthner of  Rieter Nittoku, who outlined how the Swiss and Japanese companies, which joined forces back in 1967, had recently opened a fourth part production plant in India.

back to top  

Paintshop 1 

DURR – Dirk Gorges, Senior Vice President
Eisenmann –  Ralf Voellinger, Chairman of the Executive Board
Taikisha –  Koji Nakanishi, Engineering Director

As the single most costly investment for an assembly plant, the paintshop was the subject of two workshops at the conference. Durr has installed the paintshop at Mahindra's new Chakan plant, which started production in May 2010, after a 22 month project which came in ahead of time, and was described by the OEM's manufacturing CEO, Louis Pereira, as "we challenged them and they challenged us".

"We challenged them and they challenged us"

Dirk Gorges described the company's primerless paint system to delegates attending the workshop, and reported that Durr was now installed at each of China's top 10 carmakers. He added that their current new installation was for Mercedes-Benz plant in Kecskemet, Hungary, a greenfield plant currently in the later stages of construction.
Partner to Durr at the Kecskemet site is Eisenmann, and Ralf Vollinger confessed that the company is "the new kid on the block" in India. Noting that this market is particularly cost-sensitive, he explained that paintshops could have a dual use, as the ovens used to flash off painted cars could also be employed to cure parts bonded with adhesive.

Koji Nakanishi of Taikisha said his company had done some extensive work on the source of topcoat paint faults, and that 80% could be traced back to the electrode position process. As such, the company was looking to develop a process by which the EV coat step would be eliminated from the overall paint job.

back to top  

Paintshop 2  

GEICO – Luigi Lazzari, Vice President, Innovation & Propsosal
COMBAT – Tan Cha Yong, Managing Director
TAL Manufacturing Solutions – Nitin Kulkarni, Assistant General Manager

Geico has recently won six paint contracts in India, said the company's presenter Luigi Lazzari, at OEMs including Renault-Nissan, MAN, GM, and Fiat Tata.  He outlined the ‘Dryspin’ technology which, according to Geico, can return savings of up to Euro2 million per year when compared to a wet ‘hydrospin’ system.

Dr Ali Reza Arabnia, president & CEO of Geico during the worksop

There is a need for improved paint equipment and better processes for plastics production ,said Tan Cha Yong of Combat Enterprise. A major supplier to Hero Honda, he identified the lack of skilled workers, which in turn created a painted part delivery problem. As well as providing training in paintshop procedures, he said that a way of over-coming this bottleneck was to develop parts that are easier to paint.

back to top  

Powertrain – 1

MAG – Dr Heiner Lang, Chief Technical Officer
Kennametal – Santanoo Medhi, Managing Director, and Michael Grimm, Director Sales, Transportation, Asia
TRUMPF Laser – und Systemtechnik – Oliver Muellerschoen, Industry Management Automotive/Powertrain

In the first of two powertrain sessions at the conference, Dr. Heiner Lang described his company's expanding range of dual-use equipment for milling and grinding, honing and hobbing. This was the basis for the introduction of a new crankshaft milling process, he said, one that allowed the part to be completed within a single machining centre, instead of machining and finishing the crank in separate processes.
Volkswagen and Daimler have taken on MAG's recently-introduced cryogenic technology, said Dr Lang, by which liquid nitrogen is injected into the tool head via the spindle in order to extend tool life. 


Not just a machining company

Santanoo Medhi and Michael Grimm told delegates that new tooling carbides developed by Kennametal were allowing machining speeds to increase to up to 600m/min. Carbide was also a feature in the company's new tapping heads, they said, which allowed machining speeds to rise from 25 to 100m/min.
Also new to the company is a machining head that delivered coolant fluid directly to the cutting head via the spindle, which was claimed to improve control of chip size.
Improvements in laser welding were described by Oliver Mullershoen from industry leader Trumpf Laser, who outlined higher welding speeds and improved weld quality from the $2 billion company.

back to top  

Powertrain – 2 

ZF Hero Motors – Saurabh Saxena, Genral Manager, Strategic Corporate Medhi, Managing Director
Stanadyne India – Sundar Balu, Director
WIDIA Products Group – Santanoo Medhi, Managing Director

ZF and Hero consummated their India jv only in March 2010, but the fit between the two is an obvious one, said Saurabh Saxena. The German company brings the technology, while the Indian partner brings the cost competitiveness which comes from producing 4 million motorcycles per annum. Hero is a vertically-integrated producer of almost all the manufactured components needed for the jv, he added.

Saxena described a seven-level business model for their joint approach to an OEM, from providing ‘simple’ components, up to front corner and complete chassis & axles assembly. The latter is being provided in India to GM, he said.

The specific challenges of the diesel fuel pump were described by Sundar Balu of Stanadyne Amalgamations, a partnership of the US-inventor of the rotary diesel pump with the Indian conglomerate. Their output of pumps, fuel injectors and filters is aimed at commercial vehicle, off-road vehicles and, especially, agricultural markets (“we leave cars to Bosch”, quipped Balu).

India has unique requirements because of the variability and generally poor quality of diesel fuel available in many locations, especially in small towns and rural areas. Pumps are also unique, since each different engine needs its own design. The company has capacity for production of 300,000 rotary pumps, plus 50,000 mono-bloc pumps, per annum, while India will have produced 425,000 tractors in 2010, the largest country output in the world.

WIDIA's Santanoo Medhi
Sundar Balu of Stanadyne Amalgamations also acted as workshop chairman during the conference

For cutting technology, Santanoo Medhi reported the continuing steady shift towards aluminium for engine blocks. He said that India especially wants both aluminium and hard parts machining expertise, alongside locally-provided manufacturing skills. WIDIA, a part of the Kennametal Group, sees improvements both ‘on-spindle’ and ‘beyond spindle’, he said, noting that cut time improvements should be valued as part of the overall cost of manufacture, and that the price per cutting tool should be viewed in the context of the overall cost per component. 

back to top  

Stamping – tool and die

Mahindra Vehicle Manufacturers – M C Silus, Senior Manager – Projects
International Cars & Motors Ltd – Sanjeev Puri, Chief Manager – Press Shop
Faurecia – Claude Colasse, Stamping Expert
AIDA – Klaus Rothenhagen, Vice-President, International Sales

Stamping linked to material handling and environmental concerns, and the implications for automotive production facilities, saw a workshop with several detailed presentations for delegates. M C Silus of Mahindra Vehicle Manufacturers discussed how the increased use of dual-phase steels had made their impact as carmakers looked to achieve reduced vehicle weights, but had also required press providers to develop solutions to counter ‘springback' properties to reduce problems such as twist and canter.

Claude Colasse explained how Faurecia used Uddeholm tooling steels to allow the Tier 1 company to meet the various national requirements for safety-critical parts (such as seat rails), while still managing to extend tool life and reduce costs.

Klaus Rothenhagen: keeping pace with complex forming processes

Covering the company’s range of press equipment, Aida's Klaus Rothenhagen outlined how technology had been required to keep pace with new, more complex forming processes. Energy regeneration systems were now available with Aida systems that could reduce energy costs by up to 30%, he said. This is significant in that this area is second only to the paintshop in its share of total plant energy usage.

The series tractor producer, International Cars and Motors, has created an Automotive Component Group back in 2009, said Sanjeev Puri. He outlined how the company could deliver tooling, dies and moulds for vehicle production.

back to top  

Testing, evaluation and production development

TATA Motors – Nitin Rajurkar, General Manager, Technical
Fiat India Automobiles –  Sivanesan Ramachandran, Vice President, Quality
Siemens – Ganesh Sethuraman, Automotive Director, Asia – Pacific Solution Centre

Fiat's Sivanesan Ramachandran noted that above all, design and development was fundamental to an organisation’s survival. For India that means developing vehicles that can operate in a wide range of climates, from rainforest to high mountains, with each model being capable in all types of terrain and weather conditions. As such, all models must undergo testing in a wide range of real-world conditions.

Carrying on this theme, Nitin Rajurkar of Tata Motors pointed out the need for the latest testing IT, which via a virtual dashboard could display BIW data such as gap and flush, while also verifying single-process data such as achieved torque values in final assembly. Siemens' Ganesh Sethuraman noted that traditional quality systems offered no interaction between individual items of analysis, which allowed misinterpretation of collected data. He said that closed-loop quality management could improve data usage, helping companies to meet what he said was a year-on-year 5% improvement in finished vehicle quality needed to maintain market share.

AMS India conference will return again in December 2011.