Setting a benchmark for diversity and inclusion in the manufacturing sector, Tata Motors has entrusted the job of assembling its most powerful and premium SUVs to a team of women. This makes it the first automotive company to have 100% of the passenger car assembly done by women. The TCF-2 passenger vehicle line at the Pimpri plant, which is assembling the Harrier and Safari, has become the favourite destination for the leadership of Tata Group companies, their vendors and other industries. They are eager to know how the automaker achieved this feat and look to replicate it.
The latest visitor to this assembly line was Sudha Murthy, philanthropist, author and engineer, with whom the journey of employing women on the shop floor began. Sitaram Kandi, vice president, HR, (passenger vehicles, electric vehicles), Tata Motors, said this was not a tick-in-the-box or good-to-have initiative, but serious business and closely linked to the volumes of these SUVs in the market.
Three years ago, the company had 1,110 women on the shop floor across all seven plants which was around 3% of the total workforce and the company decided to work on improving this ratio. A decision was taken in April 2021 to set an entirely new line, which would deploy only women and they would be those without any background in the industry, from rural and semi-rural areas and straight out of schools, either class XII or ITI
Onboarding began in June 2021 and they were deployed after a 45-day training schedule. The first SUV rolled out in February 2022, a second shift was added in March 2022 and the third shift commenced in June 2022 with 100% women working across three shifts.
The TCF line today employs 1,500 women between the ages of 20 and 25 who work on 97 stations and currently roll out 100 vehicles a day on average with their best performance being 252 vehicles in August 2022. They even test the SUVs on their test track. The company carried out structural adjustments on the line to enable women to work easily and supported them with robots and manipulators. This was the quickest production volume ramp-up seen in the company.
What the company has seen so far is lower attrition, lesser absenteeism and sincerity leading to a focus on quality and expansion of the talent pool. At present, Tata Motors employs 4,500 women on the shop floor and this accounts for 9% of the total shop floor strength. Further, 25% of all the new recruits are women. The company is not stopping with just an assembly line, the next milestone at Tata Motors is an all-women body shop.