Commercial sense

by 16 Aug 2006


The vehicle retailing business in India is undergoing a metamorphosis. High-tech trucks, spare parts logistics, speedy service and customer care are becoming de rigueur, particularly as companies in India fast-forward their growth plans. This has led to foresighted companies like TV Sundram Iyengar & Sons (TVS & Sons) sighting new business opportunities.

In a bid to improve vehicle servicing dynamics, TVS & Sons is revamping its service outlets. Gearing up to cater to the burgeoning demand for organised CV aftersales service, particularly in the light of modern HCVs which need expert care, TVS has kickstarted a kaizen project at its Salem outlet. Once completed, these best practices will be deployed horizontally across all its outlets, says N Krishnamoorthy, head of the dealership business. “The project will help us double our turnover in two years without increasing either manpower or infrastructure like number of service bays,” he adds. The company has 33 outlets in six states — Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal.

Like many TVS Group companies, it is banking on kaizen to effect a change that is primarily aimed at doing more with less. What’s more, it plans to set up a satellite service centre every 100km in Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the next three years. “No business has ever gone down by meeting customers’ requirements and these initiatives will help us to convert every customer into a client,” he says. As a prelude, the company has introduced toll-free numbers in Tamil Nadu to facilitate customers and hopes to introduce this facility to other States also.

CALL FOR KAIZEN

What made the company to get into kaizen? Krishnamoorthy says that though TVS & Sons has an overwhelming 90 percent market share in CV sales in the States it operates in, it has a meagre 10 percent share in aftersales service. In any CV dealership, the dependency of customers on dealers is very low since the prevailing technology does not warrant expert service. However, with the newer CV technology which is driven by stringent emission norms making its presence felt in India, a proactive TVS & Sons decided to equip itself to cater to the anticipated demand. It conducted qualitative and quantitative studies among various customers and found that quality service and timely delivery are primary requirements while price is secondary.

“While attractive lounges for drivers and restrooms could make their stay in dealerships comfortable,it is not their primary reason for coming to us. Also, only one-third of the total time (from vehicle entry till it returns) is spent for actual value addition and the rest is spent during entry and at reception, job card preparation, billing, gate pass and delivery,” says Krishnamoorthy.

This meant that the company targeted reduction of wastage of time by optimising every process. For instance it has introduced a token system for vehicles coming in for service, thereby eliminating queueing up of vehicles. On the shopfloor, kaizen has helped reduce physical movement of workforce and also eliminated certain activities without compromising on quality. The Salem branch, which the company has taken as a model unit, has been completely refurbished by redesigning the layout of the workshop. Where there once was considerable movement on the shopfloor due to a production shop design, the present-day shopfloor follows a circular movement with the stores positioned at the centre.

Vehicles stand at one side while the aggregates are serviced/overhauled on the other. The stores department is provided with three counters and a walk-through entrance connecting both sides, thereby cutting down on unnecessary physical movement. While the first counter is meant for under-chassis parts, the second and third are for engine parts and aggregates respectively. Racks have been designed to meet one-touch pick-up requirements and the computer in the stores department depicts the position of the part number once the requirement is keyed in. This helps locate the parts instantaneously, says Krishnamoorthy.

TVS & Sons has adopted the cellular concept for dismantling and overhauling of engine, transmission, clutch, and differential pot. Every cell follows a single-piece flow with three distinctive categories such as pending job, work in progress and finished job. By restructuring the shopfloor, the company has created four more service bays. At present, the Salem outlet has 22 bays which service more than 40 vehicles a day. Moreover, the technicians are encouraged to acquire multi-skills to tackle all types of jobs.

##### That’s not all. In order to further improve the process, the company has initiated a project to identify 12 high-frequency schedules in CVs including free services at 8,000km and 16,000km, clutch, gearbox/differential overhaul and wheel greasing. The project helped arrive at a standard solution for the regular services by optimising every process. Earlier it took six hours for service to be carried out at 8,000km and 13 hours for the 16,000km service — now that time has been halved, quips a pleased-as-punch Krishnamoorthy.

For clutch overhaul, an integrated work bench has been introduced, which has a customised dismantling/assembling platform and a wash area coupled with a machining centre. It could end up in reduction of clutch overhaul time from four manhours to only one manhour. With the success of these special projects, TVS & Sons has now taken up an engine overhaul project designed to drastically cut service time from 100 to 75 manhours. What is of note is that all the work/service benches are fabricated with unused/condemned spare parts and scrapped materials, without the need for heavy investment.

The company has also introduced ‘spot service’, where a company vehicle manned by technicians visits different places based on a predetermined time-table. Not only does this help customers save fuel on a trip to the service station but being a 24-hour service customers, especially bus operators, need not reschedule their trips. Similarly the repair time taken for most jobs has been reduced by 25 percent. The net result is that there has been a smart upsurge in vehicles driving in for maintenance and service jobs, even for run-of-the-mill services, which had earlier been carried out at unorganised garages.

UNIFORM SERVICE EXPERIENCE

In order to bring uniform experience to customers across all company service outlets, TVS & Sons has appointed an external agency to document every process on the shopfloor, right from dismantling till re-assembly and despatch of vehicles. The voluminous detailing that went into this activity has helped the company get ISO 9001–2000 certification. “In fact the purpose was not getting certified but it is a byproduct,” says Krishnamoorthy. At present, outlets in Tamil Nadu are ISO 9001/2000-certified for service while the Kerala outlets have been audited and certified for both sales and service activities, he adds.

The company has appointed AC Neilsen to implement a ‘Customer Engagement Study’ at two or three outlets every year, primarily to enhance customer satisfaction and overall performance. Last year this project covered outlets at Salem, Calicut and Ernakulam. The company believes that happy employees will do their best to keep customers happy. In line with that vision, it has appointed Cerebrus Consultancy to study its satisfaction levels among its workforce, both at junior and senior levels.

What is difficult is sustaining these initiatives but TVS & Sons has a solution for that. It is setting up a training facility in Madurai to impart two-month training for employees at its service centres. It will also offer refresher courses for further developing and honing employee skills so that they can capably handle today's high-tech commercial vehicles that demand a scientific way of aftersales support. Future plans include setting up training centres in Kerala and one in north India. Clearly, TVS & Sons is not resting on its laurels but making sure it has a firm grip on the future in its chosen line of business.

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