Honda’s car plant in Tapukara is state of the art with efficient processes galore.
Honda entered the Indian market in 1997, setting up their first manufacturing unit at Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh. It is spread across 150 acres with an annual production capacity of 1 lakh units that was enough to churn out their petrol powered product lineup. Honda India is on a roll since they launched their first diesel powered car, Amaze, last year. Now, with the launch of the new generation Honda City having diesel engine option and a promising future product lineup from Honda, the demand is bound to increase tenfold. To meet the potential and existing demand, Honda has come up with a new manufacturing facility in Rajasthan and we were there to witness the first car roll out.
The new Honda facility is situated in Tapukara and interestingly it is the first car manufacturing plant in Rajasthan. The plant is spread over an area of 450 acres with an installed production capacity of 1.20 lakh units per annum. The cumulative investment done by the Japanese automaker is Rs. 3526 crores and the plant currently employs about more than 3200 associates. The Tapukara plant already started its first phase of operations in 2008 that included press shop and powertrain unit for engine components. The huge facility now involves almost all crucial functions of a manufacturing unit that helps in achieving optimum localisation level to churn out affordable products.
We got an opportunity to see the working of the new production facility. The plant consists of forging, press shop, powertrain shop, weld shop, paint shop, plastic moulding, engine assembly, frame assembly and engine testing facility, of which, we got to see a few sections. We headed straight towards the weld shop, where we saw stockpiles of different components coming from the press shop. The components were ready to be welded together to create a car body frame.
The components to create a frame includes front floor, rear floor and front panel for the under body and side components, roof, dash, doors, bonnet and trunk for the upper body. Some crucial panels are welded manually, while most of the welding is automated. The welding shop also has a basic skill training facility, where the workers were being trained for manual welding, bolt tightening, nut tightening, welding gun, tip removal and similar basic activities of the weld shop.
The weld shop has some advanced equipments for speedy operations. It has an efficient twin roller hemming cell, conveyor lines with low noise level and less power consumption, automatic coordinate measuring machine, transient facility for fast track new model development, etc. Honda has done some clever space utilisation in the plant (as they do with their cars). They have good amount of space left for future expansion in every department.
Now that the entire car body frame is complete with the necessary welding, the car moves towards the paint shop and finally to the assembly line. After the weld shop, we went straight towards the assembly line, skipping the paint shop. The assembly line is the most interesting department of the manufacturing unit, where we see all the components of the car getting together and a spanking new car rolling out of the production line like a fresh cake from the oven.
The assembly department is well lit and Honda consumes minimal power for lighting. The facility is designed in such a way so that the maximum utilisation of natural light can be done. The assembly line is ergonomically sound for the best interface and control of man, machine and logistics. The efficient layout with double U formation of different lines helps in direct sight of the workings. There are integrated sub lines for reduced handling, markings for safety, ergonomic process elevation and display of information on different lines.
There are main lines and sub lines for systematic assembly of components. The main lines consist of chassis line, interior line, wiring line, exterior line and complex line. The sub lines include door line, engine dress up line, IP line, rear axle line and tyre line. The assembly line has a comprehensive training centre, where workers learn about the quality check, techniques to install all the components in the car and how to use the advanced tools.
The vehicle gradually gets fitted with components as the conveyor moves. The mechanicals like suspension, engine, wiring, etc. are installed first then the car gets fitted with interior components. There is a special modus operandi followed in every line so that the components fit well with ease and for achieving high quality, fit and finish, operational efficiency and safety. It is interesting to see the repetitive procedure and attention with which the car is being made.
After the installation of all exterior, interior and mechanical components, the car moves towards the Complex Zone, where they do quality checks. They fill the car with minimum amount of fuel needed (varies with every model, around 1.5 litres of diesel for the Amaze), each and every panel gap is checked, operation of doors and similar quality checks are conducted. The car is ultimately driven towards the VQ Line (Vehicle Quality), where they conduct comprehensive checks and tests, after which it is rolled out.
All in all, we are quite impressed with the new production facility set up by Honda in Rajasthan, having all the functions in place that work effectively and efficiently. The spick and span practices of workers in the plant and neat automated operations makes it look quite an easy task of manufacturing a vehicle. So much so that it seemed like assembling a scale model car kit to us. However, it is a really complicated and tortuous task to set up such a state of the art facility, providing rigorous training and investing a huge amount of money.
For the time being, the Tapukara plant is manufacturing the Honda Amaze that will be followed by the new Honda City and the rest of their lineup. With the commencement of production of cars in the second plant, Honda’s total production capacity has increased to 2.4 lakh units per annum, which can be ramped up in the future if necessary. Honda claims that the plant is focused on conservation of the environment and efficient use of energy and other natural resources.