Transparency mantra at Precision Camshafts

by 04 May 2007


Business journalists are known to have select obsession points when it involves getting into the core of any company. These typically include production, sales, investments, expansion plans, growth, bottomline and so on. But is this all that makes up an organisation? Not quite. Very often, most of us tend to forget the role of people who have contributed to its growth.

In today’s context of attrition, this becomes especially relevant. The role of human resource development assumes greater importance especially when the industry is facing a crisis of not only finding the right talent but retaining it as well.

BASELESS CRITICISM

Yatin Shah, managing director of Solapur-based Precision Camshafts, knows this well. He also has a complaint. “The Solapur labour has been maligned for being lazy, non-cooperative or militant. I am not ready to accept this, simply because had this been the case we would never produce a world-class product using our people.” Precision makes its camshafts at Solapur and supplies them to the European operations of General Motors, Ford, BMW and Porsche.

Shah believes that it is the company’s work culture that is largely responsible for its success. “We have tried to create a unique culture and high level of transparency in our working that is displayed to everyone in the organisation including the shopfloor workers. Only when you are transparent can there be a sense of ownership and participation,” he points out.

BOLD STEP

When this reporter visited the plant, one of the more striking features was a display board titled ‘Good, Bad, Ugly’. This board revealed the company’s performance, quality problems and its corrective steps as well as comments from customers who were not happy with Precision’s working. A bold step considering that even first time customers visiting the plant became aware of its production problems but Shah accepts that each one of us has flaws. So what’s the harm in giving the complete picture, he contends.

He also concedes this was started many years ago when he heard from the grapevine that the company was not projecting what it really was. “The unanimously agreed philosophy is to display everything. A customer knows when there is a problem and no one has shied away from us because of this,” he says.

All this has put Precision in good stead with its workers and union, who Shah says, has played a very instrumental role in understanding the company in both good and bad times. The 850 plus workforce is also happy because Precision has other support systems in place as well. Shah’s wife Suhasini Y Shah, a medico by profession who also heads the company’s legal cell, provides free basic medical help to workers and their immediate family.

As founder of the Precision Foundation, she also plans to fulfill the corporate social responsibility by working in the areas of healthcare, education and social welfare. “We needed a common platform and he (Shah) obviously could not become a doctor. So I decided to join him in business,” she fondly recalls.

##### Suhasini joined the business in 1988, and then backed it up with graduating as a lawyer from the Shivaji University specialising in taxation and labour laws. She recently cleared her Diploma in Medico Legal Systems as well. According to Suhasini, the Precision Foundation is a public charitable trust registered last October, and will look into the areas of healthcare, education and social upliftment starting first with Precision’s workers and then spreading to other areas.

“We are still looking to raise more funds. At the moment though, we have done work in healthcare and educational scholarships. We are also tying up with some hospitals in Solapur so our workers get good treatment and are not held back for payment,” she says.

HOUSING ASSISTANCE

Apart from this, Precision has recently supported 70 shopfloor workers in getting land to build small houses, which they will occupy before Diwali. “As a company, we have given assurance to the bankers to secure loans and also made lots of efforts in getting electricity in that area,” Shah says.

Then, there are blood donation drives, health camps, education camps and contests for workers’ children. At the same time, Precision buys workers’ provisions in bulk as a company, and then distributes it to each worker’s stated needs. The payment for this is collected over a one-year period without interest.

Shah further recalls that when the company was first set up in 1994, there were about ten people together who all by chance decided to have lunch together in the canteen and then ended up washing their own plates. He adds proudly that this practice is continued to this day. And in the heat of summer when the mercury rises to 48 degrees Celsius in Solapur, the management, executives and workers all share the same sizzling canteen. And everyone still washes their own plates including the managing director.

Moving on, when it comes to quality, the organisation’s subsidiary Precision Valvetrain (formerly Clancey Precision Components, a joint venture with G Clancey of UK) has a woman quality chief. She is the final authority on the quality in the company, Shah stresses, and adds that she has stopped production in the past in this regard. “I think women in many ways are responsible for maintaining decorum on the shopfloor. Of course this is not why we hired them but they are very strongly competent,” he adds. Presently, there are 50 women on the company’s payroll, most of whom are in supervisory positions or part of the office staff.

FOCUS ON TRAINING

Naturally, workers would not be happy if salaries and promotion opportunities were not good. To begin with, Precision only hires people who at least have passed out of vocational colleges so the minimum education is required. However, a large amount of time and fervor is spent on training its workforce. Part of the salary increment, incentives or promotion is based on the amount of training a worker has completed in the previous year, Shah explains.

“You may be very committed and loyal to the company, but you will not be promoted if you have not upgraded your skills. This is one strong message we are trying to send to the organisation,” he adds. More importantly, the company is not formulating salaries or incentives based on Solapur levels. Instead, it looks at market corrections driven by the demand-supply formula, a practice which is done every three years. “We may not have achieved it yet, but best to industry is what we are aiming for,” Shah concedes.

Precision has announced in the past that it wants to achieve a turnover of Rs 350 crore by 2010-11. And Shah knows his people namely workers and staff will be the critical force behind reaching this target.

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