The Hyundai Motor India shopfloor

Behind the scenes at the Korean major’s Sriperumbudur plant

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 13 Sep 2011 Views icon6906 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
It’s one of Hyundai Motor Company’s largest facilities worldwide. At the company’s Sriprerumbudur facility, handling the production of over 1,050 specifications in around 600 variants that use close to 20,000 parts for seven different models – it is all in a day’s work.

The models are shipped out to more than 120 countries across the world including the Middle East, South America and Africa. “Given that we do not maintain stocks for more than one shift, i.e. eight hours, it is, indeed, a very complex situation,” says SVN Prasad, general manager, production planning and control.

Asked if a maximum of an eight-hour inventory is too much dependence on the vendors, Prasad says that the vendors know what’s happening at every moment in the factory lines and are trusted with their responsibilities. “Of course, there are penalty clauses for the vendors if they default,” cautions Prasad. Most of Hyundai’s vendors are located close to the factory. “Our vendors can see what the plan of the day is. They can even see which car is being manufactured on a particular line at a point in time. Depending on that, they send us their inventory and it is immediately put to use,” Prasad adds. “If the vendors face any unforeseen problems, they can inform us as early as two hours ahead of production. We can then alter the lines in the required order. Our lines are very flexible and since we produce cars for both export and domestic sales on the same lines, it’s easy to shift between the two in case of any problems,” says T Sarangarajan, vice-president, passenger car I and II units. “Even recently, when the domestic markets slowed down due to various reasons, we concentrated more on export production,” he adds.

Given the sheer number of specs that go into all the models, it can get very complicated. “Planning is very crucial,” says Prasad. Hyundai Motor India makes its production plans on a monthly basis, from which daily plans are extracted. “In our monthly meetings, volumes for the month are fixed, based on the sales trends collated from different regions. Tentative plans for another two months are made too,” Prasad explains. “Based on the monthly plans, we extract daily plans and this is the plan that is communicated to suppliers,” he adds.

“The monthly plan is important to decide on the specifications that are to be rolled out and the daily plan is important to fix the sequence of the bodies that are to be loaded on the conveyor belt,” Sarangarajan says.

Explaining the unique yet complex bar code system that Hyundai uses, Sarangarajan says that the bar code sticker on the quarter-glass of every Hyundai car can provide information ranging from the engine displacement to tyre size. “As a result of the bar code system, the parts are arranged in a sequence and it cannot go wrong,” Sarangarajan says. “All that the operator on the shopfloor has to do is to pick up the part and fix it,” he adds.

Given the complexities, adding a new model to the production only compounds the difficulty. “When a new model is introduced, we are intimated 20 months before mass production begins,” says Sarangarajan. Three levels of pilot tests are conducted. In the first stage, hand-made moulds are used and only what is vital for testing is made. In the second stage, problems that were encountered during the first phase is intimated to the vendors so that they can make the changes. “Vendors for the current model don’t automatically qualify for the next model,” Prasad says. “If a vendor has a record of causing problems, he is not likely to be considered,” he adds.

Phase three is the pre-production phase and some 200-300 cars are made in this phase. “This tests the workability of the workers on the line too,” reveals Sarangarajan. The workers undergo training for an entire year in the Korean plants of Hyundai to improve their skills and make them come to terms with a new model’s assembly.

“For every new model, we add some vital equipment to the lines,” Prasad said. “For the new Verna, we added a brake fluid filling machine and an air-conditioner gas filling machine,” he adds. The ‘hangar’ in the plant also undergoes some vital changes, he says. The ‘hangar’ is an elevated level on which robots transport the under-construction cars from one line to the other, thus saving space on the floor.

The plant is split into two units and involves high automation. The spot welding process in the body shop is 100 percent automated with the paint shop being 60 percent automated. The assembly shop has the least automation at around 10 percent.

As HMIL races to fast expand capacity, its shopfloor systems are well placed to deliver on time.
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