Domestic automotive major Mahindra & Mahindra is no stranger to taking up challenges, be it developing new products, deploying new manufacturing processes, plugging into electric mobility or going carbon-neutral.
In what the company says is a proud 'Make-in-India' achievement, M&M's team at the Nashik plant in Maharashtra has successfully conceptualised, designed and built a state-of-the-art 'robotic weld line'. Importantly, it substitutes the company’s need to source a similar line from foreign markets.
Speaking to Autocar Professional today, Vijay Kalra, Chief of Manufacturing, Automotive Division, Mahindra & Mahindra, said: "The welding process has undergone a lot of changes, from manual to use of robotics, among others. The dimensional integrity over the years has moved on towards robots."
Vijay Kalra: "Today, any of our Mahindra products can challenge global brands in terms of their manufacturing quality, fit and finish."
The importance of getting the right weld not only makes a difference to the stability of the vehicle but also its life and safety. While the welding process may look simple to the naked eye, mastering the technique and ensuring consistent precision is difficult from manual processes.
Sharing details on the new multi-model robotic line deployed at its Nashik plant, Kalra revealed that while the company has deployed the solution in its passenger vehicle manufacturing now, it started using the robotic line in its commercial vehicle line a few years ago.
"It is not just about cost savings. It is also about the structural integrity and making our products globally competitive. Today, any of our Mahindra products can challenge global brands in terms of their manufacturing quality, fit and finish," points out a confident Kalra.
The new line, which undertakes geo welding, can accommodate most of M&M’s new products including the Marazzo MPV and the XUV300 compact SUV amongst others, with the "flexibility to have more products on the same line."
In terms of other advantages of having an in-house-developed system, Kalra says it helps particularly in new product development and in bringing out refreshes for existing models too. "When you have this kind of in-house capability and systems, you have the ability of having simultaneous engineering. Earlier, when we developed new products we were relying on systems available in the Japanese and Korean markets, but with the system deployed in-house not only is the cost reduced, but we are able to achieve huge time savings on the engineering front."
Explaining the same, he says new vehicle development earlier used to take a lot of time since it involved shipping products between two countries and things going back and forth in the event of changes. Now, equipped with the in-house capability, M&M can integrate changes in almost real-time. What's more, the robotic weld line has a robust capability of delivering 8 jobs per hour, which translates into 64 vehicles in a single shift from that process.
Mahindra and smart manufacturing
Mahindra, a forward-thinking company, has successfully deployed many new technologies as well as adopted new global trends. Responding to a query if Industry 4.0 and the increasing use of automation would lead to downsizing or reduction in its workforce, Kalra is quick to respond with a vehement "No."
He says, "We are using a number of new technologies and processes in our manufacturing and even on our shopfloor. The idea behind using these new technologies and deploying Industry 4.0 solutions is not to have lesser number of people but to reduce stress for our workforce as well as enrich them with new skills. In addition, all this new technology is part of the Mahindra Group's vision to be a global Indian player."
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