Gurgaon-based Sona Comstar, the automotive supplier of bevel gears and differential assemblies with 90 percent market share in the domestic CV segment, has restarted operations at its plants after a month-and-a-half-long lock-down imposed by the government. The Tier 1 supplier has resumed manufacturing operations in Haryana at its three factories in Gurgaon and one in Manesar, which got up and running on May 4.
Over the past two days, the company has also restarted its starter motor plant in Chennai, in Tamil Nadu. Its plant in Pune (Maharashtra) is still shut given the criticality of the coronavirus pandemic in the state which has been demarcated as a 'red zone'.
In an interview with Autocar Professional, Sunjay Kapur, chairman, Sona Comstar, said: "In India, our plants are now open mostly for exports because we have a lot of pending US-bound orders as farm equipment is an essential service in America, so it never shut down. Also, we have other customers that are still operating there. We are happy that we are back, up and running."
Sona Comstar is currently operating with 50 percent shopfloor attendance in accordance with the government's guidelines for functioning in an 'orange zone' such as the Gurgaon district in Haryana and the initial production capacity is also low at 2,000 gears per week.
"We have just restarted operations and are making 2,000 differentials a week. It took us a couple of days to fire up the presses and restart the heat-treatment equipment. Since we were allowed to have frequent maintenance checks going on, it didn't take us that long to restart.
"We will hit almost 50 percent of our forging capacity and 100 percent of assembly capacity over the next couple of weeks. We forge gears and then assemble differentials. The differentials are primarily meant for exports," Kapur told Autocar Professional.
"From the domestic supplies perspective, once forging takes off, only then we will start with the production meant for the domestic market," he added.
Stringent safety measures in place at plants
The company is strictly adhering to social distancing norms recommended by the government and has ensured proper sanitisation and thermal testing measures being undertaken at its sites.
"We have built our own SOPs in conjunction with ACMA and CII that include aspects on thermal testing, sanitisation and maintaining social distancing, to having a two-hour gap between shifts so that workers don't come in contact with one another. Our customers have also given us very strict guidelines because safety is of utmost importance, and the automotive industry has always been driven by safety concerns and standards," said Kapur.
While it expects the entire supply chain to reopen in bits and pieces and aid the automotive industry to put products on the road, the challenges of unavailable migratory labour loom large.
"The big challenge is really the migratory labour and given that the supply chain in automotive is very complex and inter-related, we need everyone to be up and running before we could put even one vehicle out on the roads.
"I don't think another few months of this and companies will be the same anymore. I am glad that we have restarted. I am a big believer that we need to go back to work," concluded Kapur.