Lucas-TVS shows the way ahead
In a remarkable achievement, the auto electrical systems supplier has bagged a top Japanese award for the second time and set a new record.
In 2002, the company won the JIT Grand Prix award for adopting the best practices resulting in significant savings. However, this did not lead to any complacency and only served as a catalyst to improve even further. The JIT Grand Prix is given to companies based on the process and results which lead to just-in-time supplies. In addition, it takes total employee involvement as a criterion.
The five basic elements which the JIT Management Laboratory considers are awareness revolution, 5-S, flow manufacturing, levelled production and standardised operation. These are supported by quick change tooling, multi-process handling and Jidoka (integration of men and machines). In parallel, the laboratory also looks at to what extent TQM, Poke Yoke and kanban are practised. It physically audits all the parameters and gives the ratings. The best company is chosen for the JIT Grand Prix.
RAISING THE BAR
Lucas-TVS has been constantly raising the bar in quality, delivery and total employee involvement. In the process, it became the obvious choice for the award. The fact that it has bagged this honour for the second time is testimony to its efforts in continuously upgrading its manufacturing process capabilities and eliminating waste. It may be mentioned here that Lucas-TVS is also the recipient of the Deming Application Prize.
Between 1985 and 1995, the company began working towards becoming more product-oriented rather than processes. The operator became more accountable for quality. The objective then was to hone skills and capability in new product development, world class manufacturing capabilities and total employee involvement. The conventional manufacturing processes were converted into cells. Initiatives like these helped Lucas-TVS challenge the Deming Application Prize in 2004.
After the JIT award in 2002, it began integrating all island cells into large cells which translated into greater flexibility and manpower savings. It also helped integrate small subassemblies into large cells. Introducing Jidoka also helped in the transformation exercise. It separated men and machines since it is only the latter that adds value. In that sense, there was no time wasted by workers in watching the machine as is the case generally.
##### The process of unloading components was automated which led to optimal use of manpower. It also resulted in time saving at every workstation which, when considered collectively, was a significant achievement. Eventually, as Ravichandran says, this reduced cycle time in every product made by the company. Lucas-TVS also introduced many Poke Yokes in the machines to keep errors at bay. At present 1,263 workstations have in-built Poke Yokes and all these initiatives have reduced cycle time and rejections.
This was not all. The company reduced the length of each line by introducing ‘single point feeding’ for input components. The width of the workstation is determined by the size of the tray containing the input material for assembling/manufacturing. By optimising the size of the tray, the width of each workstation reduced significantly. This resulted in reducing the length of the workstation by about 30 percent. What is equally significant is that Lucas-TVS reconfigured the machines without compromising on safety and periodical maintenance. This increased machine availability time substantially.
When compared to 1995-96, the company has grown 215 percent in terms of total sales while manpower has fallen significantly. During this time, over 200 new products have entered the picture from barely 15 some years ago. By optimising space and integrating cells, Lucas-TVS created nearly 600 percent additional room within the factory. Sales per employee also increased during this period and the number of suggestions from them was up 12.6 times. Machine breakdown was down 92 percent.
The Padi plant in Chennai is characterised by complete employee involvement. Since the past five years, they have been coming on Sundays (of their own volition) to carry out kaizen, TPM, kanban, quick change tooling and 5-S activities besides taking initiatives in safety, health and environment. In 2004 (when the company got the Deming prize), about 200 employees would come to work on Sundays. Today, it is three times the number! Top experts who visited the plant were not sure if this enthusiasm could be sustained but the fact that the number is on the increase only reflects unique commitment.
Lucas-TVS has come a long way since the time it had only three plants (Padi, Pondicherry and Rewari) less than four years ago. Today, the list includes Chakan and another facility in Pondicherry with Uttaranchal in the pipeline. Forty-five years after it was set up, Lucas-TVS continues to make news. And when the acknowledgement of excellence comes from those who practice — the Japanese — what they preach, there's reason enough to celebrate.
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