Demand grows for new routes to quality with flexibility

Managing rapidly-changing consumer demands, skills shortages and quality control in the supply chain are challenging for OEMs in India, as this year’s  conference revealed
PUNE 5 DECEMBER 2012:  Despite difficulties with a slowing economy and unrest in the workforce this past year, delegates at AMS India 2012 retained a positive outlook for the immediate future. However, there remain challenges to overcome if India is to develop its position as a global vehicle manufacturing hub.
Vinay Patil, deputy general manager  of manufacturing operations for GM India, summed up the general mood when noting the shortage of skilled and experienced IT and production team managers, the issues of costs and quality, which he said could be addressed with more localisation and the application of global standards, and the gap between Indian safety practices and global benchmarks. This latter gap needs to be bridged not only to improve conditions but also to raise productivity, he said. 
Returning to Pune for the 5th in the annual series, this year's event focussed on new production strategies with technologies that allow flexibility while raising quality.  Some 300 delegates gathered for a series of high-level presentations and market analysis, mixed with detailed workshop sessions across the whole range of manufacturing and assembly technologies. As always, the conference was carefully structured to allow networking and social interaction, including a welcome cocktail reception and mid-conference gala dinner.
The event was preceded by an exclusive plant tour to Tata/Johnson Controls facilities producing seats, radiators and other components. At the culmination of the conference, awards were made by AMS in conjunction with Siemens for thought leadership and the best contributions heard in the areas of innovation, environment and safety. 
The conference also gave delegate a detailed analysis of the country's automotive sector from Rajiv Bajaj of consultancy Roland Berger.  While contending with the increased cost of materials and inefficient infrasructure, Bajaj forecast that India is expected to be the fastest growing market for commercial vehicles over the next decade. Although the market for passenger vehicles has slowed of late, India remains one of the few high-growth markets in the world. His analysis, along with the other presentations made at the conference, is available to delegates to download and use within their own organisations.  

Closer co-operation with tier suppliers  

It was Tata Motor’s head of corporate planning for manufacturing, Niranjan Kulkarni, who highlighted the need for flexibility in production as product life cycles shorten. He advocated concurrent engineering projects to speed up the time-to-market for new models, which would require much closer co-operation between OEMs and tier suppliers, he said.
Kulkarni explained that the need to involve suppliers from the very beginning of the production process would mean a move away from traditional contracts towards agreements based on projects and payments linked to delivery. He felt it was important for suppliers to have a stake in a project and for greater operational transparency and more data sharing by OEMs. This, he noted, would help develop common standards and practices.

Platform sharing not yet delivering the benefits

Automotive Logistics GlobalThe presentations stimulated lively Q&A sessions

Global vehicle platform sharing has become standard practice but it’s an area that Sitangshu Goswami, managing director for Magna Steyr India, feels hasn’t been fully exploited by Indian OEMs. He pointed out that India is essentially a small-car market, and has a large number of models produced in small volumes. Domestic vehicle makers have focused on developing their own platforms with very little sharing. Goswami believes that the benefits in production efficiency and cost reduction from shared platforms have been overlooked.

But he did note the challenges, such as different homologation rules in different countries, supplier capabilities and capacity, and the availability of materials. Echoing the comments of many other speakers, he also called for Indian suppliers to improve quality in line with global standards.

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AMS India goes interactive A new feature of the conference this year was interactive Q&A sessions, using both electronic key pad voting and askign questions via the new AMS conference app. Voting revealed that 42% of delegates felt that a shortage of skilled labour was the biggest challenges to making vehicles in India.

Automotive Logistics GlobalMM Singh: the Indian way is ethical and  value based, and rooted in local culture

“India can be a leading vehicle manufacturing hub,” claimed Maruti Suzuki's COO  for production, MM Singh. “This is from an OEM perspective but there is a need to improve other areas of the industry,” he added. The market has been changing rapidly with customer expectations becoming more demanding, which requires OEMs to continually adapt and improve, explained Singh. More localisation will be key to the continued development, but this will require greater investment by suppliers in R&D, equipment, services and the development of workforce skills.

Singh also pointed to the continuing challenges of improving the sustainability of the automotive sector, and the strains on infrastructure from industrialisation, where the levels of growth are mismatched. This causes disruption to the supply chain and impacts on the costs and efficiency of production, he noted. Calling for an ‘Indian Manufacturing Way’, Singh said that the model for the domestic automotive industry needed to be different to that for China or Brazil, and couldn’t be based solely on cheap labour. He outlined an ethos of localisation which was: “Ethical and value based, rooted in the local culture and community, and people inclusive.”

Workforce management a key to avoiding workforce violence

Automotive Logistics GlobalThe conference provided excellent opportunities for networking

Workforce relations have been a major issue in India over the last 12 months, with serious unrest in a number of locations. In a thought-provoking presentation featuring headlines about murder and violence across all sectors in the country, Abhay Nevagi, a lawyer specialising in industrial relations, highlighted some of the issues that lead to unrest.

They include rising costs of living but stagnation of incomes exacerbated by the growing aspirations of blue-collar workers. He commented on the poor management of contract worker employment, which created a great deal of resentment. Companies faced with industrial disputes had been very slow to react, so giving the workforce the impression they were being ignored, he said. 

Solutions included improving communications between management and workforce, addressing issues in good time, and better management of the recruitment process to ensure the right people with the appropriate skills are being appointed. This tied into the subject of a shortage of skilled workers that had been raised by a number of speakers throughout the conference.

Asked what had been the main causes off industrial unrest in India, 49% of delegates believed the cause to be the unfair use of contract labour. 38% felt that the disparity of wages was to blame. (Results of interactive voting by delegates)

Lack of government support, little investment in R&D and a very limited electric/electronic supplier base were problems for Indian OEMs highlighted by Pranab Ghosh, assistant general manager at Tata Motors. Given that the automotive industry’s turnover represented 5% of India’s GDP, he felt that focusing on growth, improving efficiencies and developing a skilled workforce were vital for the country’s economy.

Manufacturing plants should be innovative in their design, using renewable energy sources, maximizing the use of vertical space and creating space for suppliers on or near the assembly site to improve the supply chain. Ghosh also called for a standardized approach to training to help create a pool of appropriately skilled workers. He said that Tata was very active in education and skills training in the communities around its production facilities, with the result that many from those communities have gone on to be employed by the company.

Plant visit – three tier supplier facilities

This year’s conference attendees were treated to not one but three plant tours on a visit to Tata Johnson Controls Automotive facilities in Pune.

TTR was the first plant in India to produce aluminium radiators, and now produces radiators, intercoolers and EGR valves with an output of 4 million units per year. The radiator and intercooler structures are pressed rolled and induction welded on site; the cooling fins brazed to the tubes use a special coating (applied to the required side of the piece) on the aluminium and a controlled heating process in an oven. All of the finished components are vacuum and pressure tested (using helium) before shipping.

TJC encompasses engineering, design, manufacturing, assembly and testing operations for the production of vehicle seats. Production processes include foam seat pad moulding, seat fabric and padding cutting and stitching, and some seat frame assembly. There is also a testing centre, which evaluates the material and structural durability of a test sample of seats. Production is by both manual and automated operations, from automated material cutting and foam moulding processes to manual stitching and assembly.

IPC produces a variety of injection moulded front and rear bumpers, door trim panels and dashboards. With a capacity of 6,000 units per day, this compact plant features a central moulding area with finishing, quality control and storage sections surrounding it. There is a separate, fully automated paintshop for colour keying components. 

AMS Siemens Thought Leadership Awards 2012

Now in their second year, the AMS Siemens Thought Leadership Awards 2012 were presented at the end of the conference to speakers who were judged to have made the best contribution to the forum in the areas of Environment, Safety and Innovation.

This year’s winners were:
• Environment – J Nirmal Babu – Ashok Leyland
• Safety – Andre Hack & Abhay Kumar – SICK Sensor Intelligence
• Innovation – Subramanian Devarajan – TVS Motor

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From left to right: Innovation winner Subramanian Devarajan –TVS Motor (accepted on his behalf); Safety winner Andre Hack & Abhay Kumar – SICK Sensor Intelligence; Environment winner J Nirmal Babu – Ashok Leyland 

Technical Reports

Link here to all technical session reports, or go to the specific report using the links below:

Link here to all technical session reports, or go to the specific report using the links below:

Powertrain – engines & transmissions
Stamping – tool & die
Light vehicles – two & three wheelers
Heavyweight manufacturing solutions
Material handling & automation
Production control & IT 

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Delegates enjoyed relaxing and networking at the Cocktail reception and Gala dinner

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