Toyota’s famed philosophy of constant improvement is well represented at its plant near BengaluruIt’s a given that all automotive manufacturing plants are continuously monitoring costs and efficiency, but at Toyota Kirloskar Motor’s (TKM) Bidadi plant there has been a real sense of urgency revealed in the detail of the operation’s processes to find improvements.
Like many others in India this plant currently suffers from a big gap in capacity and utilisation (210,000 vs. 75,000 upa), but positive steps are being taken to maximise efficiency and cut cost where possible. This has lead to the minutiae of each operation, in each section, in each production area being scrutinised and data recorded, analysed and compared to identify any areas of weakness in hitting targets. As with all things Toyota this process has been given a Japanese title: ‘Kikikan’, roughly translated as ‘sense of emergency’
Raju Ketkale, senior vice president, Plant 1 & 2 Production Division, explained that the people at the plant had become the central focus in improving operations and finding efficiencies. He noted that this process involved everyone at the plant, at all levels, involved in production operations.
The Bidadi plant will build new models including the new Innova Crysta
Close attention to costs In the ‘Ohbeya’ room deputy general manager Plant Administration, Vishwanath Sharma explained the Cost Reduction Innovation (CRI) process that had been initiated. The function of this room is to collate all the production data in one place to offer a complete view of targets, costs and efficiency across all operations. This in turn creates a flow of information that reveals in detail which targets have been hit and those that have been missed, and how those missed targets in a particular section impacted on other operations. It also helps to visualise where solutions that have been put in place have proved successful and the level of improvement achieved. In the case of the missed targets it is possible to look in detail at where the issue is, if it has changed and why, if the solution in place needs to be adapted or completely rethought.
The biggest focus is on the in-plant fixed costs which can be up to 30% of the overall in-house costs. According to Sharma a key part of the process is absorbing the annual inflation of these costs. The in-house costs are broken down into: direct materials (steel, etc.), in-direct materials (PPE, etc.), energy, labour, depreciation
Smooth and simple operationThe CRI process undertaken at Bidadi has three pillars: Smooth (consistency in production, operations and quality); Slim (minimising the number of operations and equipment needed); Simple (reducing complexity). These are intended to provide guidelines to each section when developing solutions.
“We are in the process of up grading Plant 1 and we have so far invested INR400m (US$5.9m) in this project. This will see big changes to all production operations bringing them inline with those in Plant 2. The aim is to have the project completed by 2020” – Raju B Ketkale, TKM
When reviewing the targets it’s those missed which are given priority, with a ‘bad news first’ approach taken, examining and critiquing the areas of concern. This is seen to be the most motivating and useful approach to take.
An example of the detail involved is highlighted in energy efficiency (Slim). This looks at demand and supply, in this case compressed air, which is used throughout the plant to power tooling. The data showed to me identified the demand (for compressed air) from individual areas of operation, establishing patterns of peaks and troughs in demand and highlighting the consistency of these patterns. Also how effective any energy saving solutions implemented had been. These might cover compressed air system integrity (leakage) and wasteful usage (un-necessary operation).
Similarly labour is subject to scrutiny. Production efficiency targets (PEFF) are intended to identify inconsistency and any wasteful assembly operations. These also help to demonstrate to the workforce a clear link between working practices and efficiency.
Individual production areas (paint, press, body, assembly) are also looked at in terms of profitability. The generation of cost cutting ideas always exceeds that required by targets but this excess allows for the solutions that don’t work. Although Kikikan creates a sense of emergency (which there is) it also serves the plant’s development in the longer term as production increases. What becomes apparent is the development and implementation of multiple small, low-cost kaizen to create a larger overall effect.
Three line press shopThe Plant 2 press shop has three lines utilising fully automated Komatsu servo press technology, which I was told offers significant energy savings. The two larger press lines produce class-A panels and are capable of operating at a maximum 16 strokes per minute (spm). The smaller class-C line produces smaller structural parts. Other sub-assembly pressed parts come from an outside supplier
Blanks are also delivered from an outside supplier and are inspected and batch checked for steel thickness, quality, etc. In-line with Toyota’s just-in-time philosophy the press shop carries only a 2 hour inventory of blanks at any time. Since 2013 the press shop has been using a new cleaning process for the blanks that reduces the chances of defects in the pressed panels.
One of the large presses was producing large side frame parts in a three stage process. The material handling is automated at each stage, using Motorman robots, until the final removal. Then, as is common, the final handling is done manually as the workers visually inspect each panel and carefully place in to the specialised racking to avoid any damage to the class-A finish.
Complete die change over takes around 30mins including changing the handling tools for the robots. The next batch dies and a frame carrying the appropriate handling tools are fed in to one side of the press as the others are taken out the opposite side. Using the tried and trusted Kanban system the press shop currently processes various parts batches (for both vehicle production and spare parts) on monthly production schedule.
Bodyshop kaizenCurrently operating on two shifts, this area has standard mix of automation and manual operations. It uses 131 Kawasaki robots and has 134 manual (mainly subassembly) operations. The majority is resistance spot welding but CO2 welding is used for certain parts, mainly where higher strength is required (floors, sills etc.). It produces vehicles using Toyota’s Global Body System architecture and can produce up to eight different models.
A takt time of over 3 minutes in this section reflects the current low level of utilisation and as the senior managers had discussed, the focus on individuals taking responsibility for improving operations and efficiencies was evident. There were a lot of small kaizen throughout the bodyshop and some of these were demonstrated at one station for hood assembly. The panels have to fit into a special jig and placing and removal needs to be quick and precise. The team member demonstrated the use of some simple and unobtrusive tabs that helped to quickly place and accurately locate each panel for processing without risk of error or damage. Also removal of the panel was very tricky due to a number of locating pins, again slowing process. A very simple foot operated lever had been devised and installed to release the panel from the jig. The team member demonstrated the operation both with and without the release lever and it obviously made a considerable difference. This station also had a lot of small ergonomic changes not obvious to the casual observer. The digital count display for the team member had been repositioned to eliminate the need to look up from the job and a parts cart had been repositioned to improve the work station ergonomics along with the production data sheet also relocated for ease of viewing by the operative. Small but effective changes devised and implemented by the line worker to improve the efficiency of the operation.
[sam_ad id=17 codes='true']Low tech automation was also in evidence here. A final step at this station requires sealant to be injected into various parts of the hood assembly. This could be automated using a robot as an alternative to the team member applying the sealant manually, however, the team had developed a simple but effective system to complete the sealant operations in one step. Locating the hood in position the team member lowers a multiple nozzle sealant dispenser designed to fit exactly in all the access points and dispense sealant in one operation; in operation very simple and effective.
Dojos to inspire ideasTo encourage and assist in the creation of useful kaizen there are a number of Dojos or class rooms around the plant. One such Dojo is in the general assembly area called the Karakuri room. This is a really intriguing area. Set up are various examples of pivots, cams, spring loadings, etc. as a means to actuate gates, lifts and latches. The idea is for the team members to apply these basic principles to developing solutions to improve the operation of their section or station. There were some neat and very simple examples: a nut-driver tool holder assembly is suspended above two containers one holding nuts, the other bolts. When the team member places the nut-driver tool in its holder the weight causes the assembly and two magnetic rods to lower via a carefully balanced spring/hoist mechanism. Each of the magnetic rods rests in one of the containers. When the nut-driver is retrieved from its holder the assembly rises up lifting a nut and bolt from the respective container ready for installation.
‘Zero touch’ operation Line-side racking has also been looked at to minimise manual operations in feeding fresh boxes of parts and removing the empties. Various solutions have been tried out with the final version having a simple cam system that when the tugger driver pulls into a set of guide rails along side the empty line-side racks the cam on the racks actuates a lever on the re-supply cart releasing fresh boxes of parts to the station. At the same time empty boxes are returned to the re-supply cart all vie a gravity fed mechanism. This operation is called ‘zero touch’ in that neither the driver nor team member has to touch any of the parts boxes. This very simple, low tech and importantly low cost solutions seems effective and given Toyota’s strong adherence to a JIT philosophy clearly this has to work consistently.
Walking down the assembly line something more obvious catches the eye. On the chassis line, the point at which the bodies are fitted with steering, suspension, braking system, fuel line etc. (mainly underbody work) the vehicle bodies are turned so that they are orientated 90° to the direction of the flow of the line. This is said to be a more ergonomic positioning of the vehicle for the installation of underbody parts and reduce the space taken by each vehicle as it passes this point on the line. Toyota calls this a Yokonagashi line.