Ceat aims for Lighthouse Certification for Chennai plant
The Indian tyre maker is cross-deploying Industry 4.0 technologies from its flagship Halol factory into other units to improve quality of products and efficiency of its operations.
Ceat, the flagship company of the Mumbai-headquartered Indian industrial enterprise RPG Group, is accelerating its push to deploy Industry 4.0 technologies at six of its tyre manufacturing plants in India. The tyre maker which dominates the electric-two-wheeler tyre segment with a 40 percent market share, is eying the World Economic Forum’s Lighthouse Certification this month for its Chennai plant.
In January 2023, Ceat became the only tyre maker in the world to receive the WEF’s Lighthouse Certification. This certification evaluates implementation of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies for its flagship Halol (Gujarat) factory which began its digital transformation in 2021 in four key areas: Data and technology platform; People and capability; Use-case deployment and value delivery, and change management.
The company, which is also the only tyre maker outside of Japan to have received the coveted Deming Prize in November 2020, is confident of repeating its Halol performance at its passenger-car radial (PCR) and motorcycle radial tyre plant in Chennai. Ceat believes that the Lighthouse Certification, which makes it part of the Global Lighthouse Network (GLN), enables it to imbibe best practices from other GLN members, as well as helps strengthen its presence with global vehicle OEMs in both domestic and international markets.
“Being part of the 132-member-strong GLN gives us the opportunity to network with other global companies and learn from them. It also further improves our reputation as a progressive and agile organisation, helping us strengthen our presence with global OEMs in both domestic and international markets,” Jayasankar Kuruppal, Senior Vice President, Manufacturing, Ceat, told Autocar Professional.
Kuruppal further added that while Ceat started its smart factory journey more than a decade ago in 2012, the real transformation began in 2021, which could be considered as the starting point of its Lighthouse Certification milestone. “We conceived the idea of a digital factory in 2012, however, at that time the transformation was only limited to digital barcodes, and deployment of a manufacturing execution system or MES from the standpoints of traceability and mistake proofing on the shop floor,” he said. “Between 2012 and 2021, we scaled these digital initiatives across our manufacturing sites, and in early 2021, we switched to a mega digital transformation to improve our operational efficiency in all Productivity, Quality, Cost, Delivery, Safety and Morale (PQCDSM) parameters, and to set a benchmark in the industry,” Kuruppal added.
Leveraging AI, machine learning
The deployment of advanced Industry 4.0 solutions has enabled Ceat to improve the cycle times in the critical tyre-manufacturing operations by around 20 percent, reduce process scrap by 45-50 percent, and lower energy consumption by 15-18 percent. The company says that these measures have augmented its domestic OEM and exports businesses in the last three years.
With growing SKUs and introductions of a range of new products, the digitisation transformation has enabled Ceat to improve productivity, as capacities grew with its increasing share of business with leading passenger vehicle OEMs in the country. "Such supplies call for adherence to very tight specifications, which we could easily achieve with the digital transformation," Kuruppal said. “Since early 2021, we have developed several use cases that touch various aspects of manufacturing, right from material procurement, production-equipment maintenance, training, warehousing, and despatches,” he added.
Apart from developing a digital analytics model for inventory management, Ceat, to a greater extent, has deployed artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models, as well as virtual reality for training. “We have also deployed several IoT-based sensors for real-time decision making, along with various dashboards that have reduced the troubleshooting time in case of any abnormalities in the manufacturing process,” Kuruppal explained. The company has also digitised all operator test points at its flagship Halol PCR and truck-and-bus radial (TBR) factory in Gujarat and made it go completely paperless at the shop floor.
Ceat, which has six factories — Bhandup, Nashik, Nagpur, Ambernath, Halol, and Chennai, says it is cross-deploying its digitisation initiatives taken at Halol at three other key sites — Chennai, Nagpur, and Ambernath. On the other hand, it is being realistic and only deploying point solutions at its Bhandup and Nashik factories, which are on the verge of completing 70 years of operations.
While it has incurred multi-crore Capex in upgrading its facilities with the state-of-the-art digital back-end technologies, the company says it will continue to invest in strengthening its back-end technology for plant operations over the next two to three years. “We have charted a three-year digitisation roadmap, as well as shortlisted a few use cases to improve customer experience to a large extent,” Kuruppal said.
Upskilling workforce, going green
With the foray of digital tools, the company has also seen a restructuring of its organisation, with increasing recruitment of computer engineers, in what typically used to be a mechanical engineer's domain. "We have a centre of excellence (CoE), where 20-25 engineers including business translators, data scientists and data engineers are working together to enhance our digital drive. We are consistently building our capabilities even amongst the front-line workers and those in managerial roles as well," Kuruppal mentioned. “We are reskilling our front-line associates to digital profiles so that they can adopt digital solutions in their day-to-day working,” he said. With tyres and their manufacturing process being extremely carbon intensive, Ceat aims to lower its carbon footprint by half by 2030, and claims to have already achieved 20 percent of its targets in the last three years. In terms of its sustainability drive, Ceat is taking several measures, including reducing overall energy consumption, which has been lowered by 15-18 percent across all six factories.
Ceat has also stepped-up usage of renewable energy, which now accounts for 36 percent of its total energy consumption from being pegged at zero in 2021. The company has also slashed its water consumption by 60 percent in the last two years. On the product side, it is transitioning towards increasing composition of Silica, which, while is a greener material than carbon, requires longer processing time, therefore impacting productivity. "We are continuously working on reducing the rolling resistance of the tyres," Kuruppal mentioned.
Ceat says the EV domain is one of its strategic areas where it is making disproportionate investments. While it claims to have a 40 percent market share in the e2w segment, Ceat is confident of having a significant OEM presence in the upcoming e2w models in the next two years.
With 300 different SKUs currently being manufactured from every factory, Ceat is also developing various digital twins to ascertain the impact on processes and capacities when it adds more products in its portfolio going forward. The company has been incurring Capex of around Rs 900 crore every year, with a large part of it for adding capacities. It is improving its capital productivity through various initiatives, and has added 300-320MT/day capacity in the last four years.
This feature was first published in Autocar Professional's August 1, 2023 issue.
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