Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL) has completed 20 years. It has announced that its Sriperumbudur-based manufacturing plant, near Chennai, is “future-ready to meet the safety and emission norms well in advance before the mandatory implementation in 2019”. S Ganesh Mani, the senior vice-president of Production at HMIL, says that numerous innovations at the 535-acre plant, over the years, have made it one of the best car manufacturing facilities in the world (the plant has produced 80 lakh cars in 19 years, 9 months).
Overseeing production of 11 car models and leading a team of 10,000 people, S Ganesh Mani says automation hasn’t led to any job losses at Hyundai plant. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that job losses happen only when the workforce becomes redundant, not when a company constantly upgrades the skills of its employees. Excerpts:
How has manufacturing changed for Hyundai in the age of automation?
Automotive industry is buoyant, so automakers have to be on fast-track. We work at what we call Hyundai-speed—leading the industry in terms of bringing out advanced products. We’ve had many innovations at the Chennai plant; for example, we adopted the internal vibration analysis at the press shop itself, thereby improving the quality of our products manifold. Similarly, at the body shop, we have built in such flexibility that whenever we want to increase the production of a particular variant or model, we can quickly do it. These innovations have meant we are future-ready—we were ready for BS-4 norms before they came into force, and we already are making BS-6 engines for the export market.
The plant works 294 days in a year—24 hours per day and six days per week. Sunday is the time to upkeep the equipment, so that we can ensure it keeps running efficiently for years to come. We are running at 98% capacity utilisation.
How are your suppliers able to meet the demand for this capacity utilisation?
We teach them the Hyundai culture of how to remain competitive in terms of operational efficiency, especially in terms of adopting new technologies and being more efficient at their own level.
Hyundai India is using fourth-generation robots to increase productivity in welding, material handling, machine tending, etc. Has that led to job losses?
Job losses happen when the workforce becomes redundant. Let’s take the example of a worker who used to operate machines for loading and unloading—a job now being done by robots. Rather than making the worker redundant, we focused on upgrading his skills. Today, the same worker is making the robot do the job, which otherwise a highly-trained person would do. Automation only takes away difficult and dirty operations.
But the argument goes that since a single robot can do the job of many humans, more robots means they have to displace even more humans…
No. Hyundai India is also expanding its market and its reach, so we increasingly need more workers, who have to be more trained. Over the last few years we have send 700-800 technicians to South Korea for skilling; we train our engineers at IIT Madras. We are at a stage that for paint and body shops, we don’t have to invite experts from Germany or Japan or Korea, our own workforce can do the job.
What is ‘My Place My Pride’?
This programme focuses on making the people feel proud of what they are doing. They also take the responsibility of their job. When the lines are running at a car plant, there are a few major parameters that get measured—safety, quality, productivity. The workers are given the responsibility of recognising what can go wrong, which earlier a higher level guy would do. This process has been a notable success—the Chennai plant has being declared the safest amongst all Hyundai manufacturing plants across the world.