Tata Motors raises the diversity bar with all-women assembly line at Pune plant

A dedicated team of 1,500 ambitious, skilled and hardworking women are the driving force behind building the Indian carmaker’s flagship Harrier and Safari SUVs at its Pune plant.

By Mayank Dhingra calendar 12 Mar 2023 Views icon14326 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

Homegrown carmaker Tata Motors has set a new diversity benchmark in the Indian automotive industry, with its TCF-2 (Trim-Chassis-Fitment-2) assembly line at its Pune plant transitioning to an all-women assembly line where the company’s two flagship SUVs – Harrier and Safari – are assembled by women from scratch.

The TCF-2 or the Omega Factory is part of the sprawling Tata Motors Pune campus, which was the birthplace of the iconic Tata Indica hatchback, which marked the automotive major’s foray into the passenger vehicle segment in 1998.

Tata Motors has stationed 1,500 women, between 18 and 25 years old, at this assembly line which was planned to become an all-women assembly shop in June 2021. The company inducts these personnel on its shopfloor under an earn-and-learn (Kaushalya) programme, wherein it reaches out to ITI and 12th-standard girl students in the hinterlands of Maharashtra, and onboards them to do a company-sponsored three-year Diploma programme.

Empowering women, ensuring safety

The project, which envisaged only women on the shopfloor, was seeded in April 2021 as a vision from the Tata Group leadership to empower young girls to take charge of their lives, was a challenging one. According to company officials, the journey towards turning this project into reality had a number of roadblocks, and was only achievable after several rounds of deliberations, meticulous planning, due diligence and successful execution by a number of cross-functional teams. The company says the focal point of the entire project revolved around ensuring safety of women, both inside as well as outside the Tata Motors campus.

Within a short span of two years, the Tata Motors Omega Factory in Pune has seamlessly transformed into an inclusive, all-women assembly shop, where women are equipped to work on the 66 main, and 22 sub-assembly stations, that roll out high-quality premium SUVs they take immense pride in.

At present, the TCF-2 assembly line rolls out 120 cars every shift, and operates 24x7, since graduating to a three-shift format in June 2022. While the project began in April 2021, the first made-by-women SUV was rolled out from this assembly shop in February 2022, with the women associates undergoing a rigorous 45-day training before being stationed on the shopfloor. In August 2022, this Tata Motors plant achieved its highest production output.

Focus on manufacturing excellence

The company has made several innovative engineering adaptations to the assembly line to counter the ergonomic issues arising due to the shorter average staffer height of 4 feet and 8 inches.

The TCF-2 line has leveraged robots, redesigned tools, lifts and manipulators to enable women to lift and assemble even the heaviest car components, as well as reach out to the highest locations inside the vehicle when it is on the assembly line. The company has mitigated some of these challenges by implementing a fixed under-body platform, and deploying manipulators for mounting the windshield and fuel tank in the vehicle.

Assembly line has manipulators and lifts to enable the personnel to easily access difficult-to-reach places in the body-in-white.

The Tata Motors management has also taken special focus on prioritising infrastructure, including hygiene, residential options, secure workspace, transportation, cafeteria, and medical facilities with women attendants.

With the Kaushalya programme, the company has created a regular stream of women employees joining every year to assemble cars on its TCF-2 assembly line, while setting a benchmark for the entire Tata Group, the automotive industry, and other sectors, to emulate its actions to enhance diversity in the manufacturing ecosystem.

The company aims to make this line a centre of manufacturing excellence by focusing on maintaining highest quality standards and a highly engaged, skilled workforce, while ensuring optimised operational expenses and environment sustainability. To continue on the path of enhanced diversity in its manufacturing operations, Tata Motors now plans to set up the first-of-its-kind body shop with an all-women workforce. That will be yet another shot in the arm for diversity and inclusion at India Auto Inc, where women representation stands at only 10% of the total workforce. 

All photos by Mayank Dhingra

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