RTSSL makes QC a shopfloor mission

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 01 Jul 2009 Views icon5971 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
RTSSL makes QC a shopfloor mission
In its quest for excellence, Rane TRW Steering Systems Ltd has made quality control a mission with its workforce.

Rane TRW Steering Systems Ltd (RTSSL), the steering gear division of the Rane Group and an equal joint venture between the Group and TRW Automotive of the US, has laid the roadmap for its product development programme in tandem with global trends. The company believes that the success in the globalised scenario is based on identifying and removing inefficiencies in material and man management. Employing the Japanese methodology of TQM (Total Quality Management), it roots out inefficiencies through countermeasures including ensuring quality at source, moving from inspection to assurance and building stability in the manufacturing process.

Quality consciousness is an ongoing movement at RTSSL, at all its facilites which include Plant 1 (fully integrated gear, in Trichy), Plants 2 and 3 (pump and power rack and pinion division, in Chennai) and Plant 4 (seatbelt systems, in Chennai).

In October 2005, the company bagged the prestigious Deming Prize, reputed to be one of the highest awards on TQM in the world. The company follows TQM principles and gives paramount importance to the Japanese concept of mistake-proofing or poka-yoke. V Madhavan, general manager — Operations, Plants 2 and 3 — Pumps & PRP Division, says: “The Toyota Quality Management initiative was kickstarted in 2000. We practice the Japanese principle of lean production system and believe in single-piece flow, rather than adding up to the inventory.”

The company also practices the Japanese concept of kanban or visual cards at both the plants. The entire facility is replete with posters and photographs of achievers. However, the major highlight is poka-yoke. “Steering gears being a critical item, it is very important that we ship the right product to the customer. In the assembly line, you can see hundreds of poka-yoke. In fact, if you see the customer line PPMs, it is less than 50 today in both the lines and our customers are extremely happy about our quality,” claims Madhavan.

RTSSL has a unique manufacturing engineering department, which is responsible for ensuring that these types of poka-yoke are properly installed in all the equipment. The company has a high level of automation for manufacturing pumps and has various certifications including ISO/TS 16949: 2002 recertification in the year 2007 (FIG & Valve), ISO 14001: 2004 recertification in the year 2007 (pump & PR&P) and ISO/TS 16949 second edition 2002 recertification in 2007 (pump & PR&P). “As we are Deming award winners, all the innovative concepts originated from our plants will be replicated to our Group companies as well,” Madhavan points out. Madhavan adds, “We follow TQM principles to manage our plant and also follow the lean production system as a manufacturing philosophy. We have a 450-strong workforce and state-of-the-art CNC machines installed in our plants to manufacture precision components. We also have a high level of poka-yoke and have installed around 700 mistake-proofing mechanisms in our assembly plant to ensure customer quality. Our customer line PPM is around 50ppm per PR&P and around 100ppm for the pump plant.”

“The main highlight of the plant is the practice of 700 poka-yoke; you will not be able to see that in any other plants. In fact, when we started our plant, we used to get lots of inputs from TRW — it is the other way around now. TRW officials are getting inputs from this plant and are trying to replicate it in their plants,” Madhavan adds.

On the shopfloor what catches attention is the Daily Routine Management Report (DRM) chart. Each morning, the workers write down the previous day’s production and the actual production target. Then, they take gap analysis and accordingly take counter-measures to ensure that those kinds of gaps do not recur. “On a daily basis, our workers identify the issues, solve them and apprise us. We have empowered our employees at all levels to handle the issues by themselves and to solve the same without escalating to our level,” says Madhavan.

Quality products all the way

SP Kolappan, manager – manufacturing engineering, Plant III, PR & P division, says: “We make 12 LMP, 5 LPM and 1 LMP pumps. We have a varied range in both the 5 and 12 LMP pumps. We import cams, rotters and wheels from Japan and machine them here. We also have an engineering test lab, where we have the capability to design, validate and deliver. We also have accurate machines and a test lab to validate our products. It is only after in-house validation that delivery to customers takes place."

Sunderasan, who is in charge of manufacturing at the pump plant, says: “We want to make our factory visible and that’s why we have created considerable visual impact. We have a separate metallurgical lab while another lab has CMM, testers, and visual measurement. For all the parts we manufacture, we have the capability to inspect and then deliver. We have three lines here — passenger cars, heavy commercial vehicles and commercial vehicles. In the passenger car section, we manufacture for Tata Motors, Ford and Mahindra-Renault Logan. The entire assembly line is dust-free and fully air-conditioned, which not only keeps our machines working at their best but also ensures a fatigue-free environment for our employees. Our workers are able to multi-task and from day one have been handling two to three stations at a time. On the shopfloor also, each employee will handle two to three machines at a time.”

He adds, “We have hourly production monitoring in place. In case of a major problem, we get feedback from the machine, which records output automatically and stops production. Based upon the cycle time, the output is recorded on the electronic board. So each time a cycle is complete, we get the exact output. So, once the poka-yoke is done, then the machine resumes production.”

RTSSL has separate sub-stations for the Mahindra Xylo, Ford and Tata Motors. It also promotes 5S (the key targets of 5S are workplace morale, safety and efficiency), suggestions, QC and kaizen programmes. This gets the workforce to voluntarily participate to improve quality levels. The company also organises a QC competition, selects the best three teams from each of its plants, and finally has an external judge to assess the teams. The winners then participate in Rane Group level competitions. All this serves to motivate people and further enhance in-house talent. There is a monthly review meeting of the quality control circles; those who have completed the quality control circles are rewarded in the presence of all staff. To further boost employee satisfaction, the successful staffers’ photographs are displayed. The company has spent close to Rs 2 million to reward those who have given valid QC suggestions.

Last month, RTSSL honoured its long-serving employees. “We presented an employee who had completed 20 years with six grams of gold coins, and others, who have completed 15 years, with four grams. Since our company’s inception in 1996, almost all employees continue to work with us. Attrition is unheard of in our company. In fact, during the lean phase, our senior management staff took a cut in salary and all the workers were protected. Now that the bad phase is over, our shifts have returned to normal. In our rack and pinion plant, we are running two shifts and the pump plant has one-and-a-half shifts. Normally we used have only a one-day stock but we also stock in advance in our warehouses located in Nashik and Pune. We are capable of responding to the peak requirements of our customers,” Madhavan signs off. Just what a company needs when it's gunning for global business.
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