Bajaj Auto becomes robot maker; installs 120 Co-bots at three plants

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Pune | Published: August 19, 2016 6:18:22 AM

Bajaj Auto is not just a motorcycle and three-wheeler maker. The third largest motorcycle maker has also been making hi-tech robots at its Akurdi plant, which have found their way to the assembly lines of its plants in Chakan, Waluj and Pantnagar.

Bajaj Auto is not just a motorcycle and three-wheeler maker. The third largest motorcycle maker has also been making hi-tech robots at its Akurdi plant, which have found their way to the assembly lines of its plants in Chakan, Waluj and Pantnagar.

These have also gone to the shop floors of vendors who supply components to the company.

Bajaj Auto MD Rajiv Bajaj has taken great pride in building a world class factory to make motorcycles that will compete with the best in the world. And do all this while defending high EBITDA margins and making motorcycles at costs is difficult to replicate.

Robotics, automation and Industry 4.0 may be buzzwords now, but Bajaj Auto started this journey long ago. It operates close to 300 robots at its plant. A large chunk of these robots are the ones the company has made on its own.

Bajaj Auto discovered a start-up in Denmark called Universal Robots (UR) that could meet its need for a low cost, economically viable, lower footprint, smaller pitch with greater flexibility and low running costs.

Bajaj was looking at creating flexible manufacturing systems that could deal with demand for multi modelling and higher number of variants, says Vikas Sawhney, GM of Robotics and Automation at Bajaj Auto.

Two wheelers manufacturing is labour intensive, spatially challenged, physically challenging but requiring high precision so they were looking for widesperad automation.

In 2010 nobody in India used Co-bots but Bajaj Auto saw benefits of using hthem, says Pradeep David, GM, Universal Robots (India).

“That was a pioneering effort and needed vision,” says David. Universal Robot came to India only in 2015 and since then sold 200 C-bots bulk of it going to Bajaj Auto.

Bajaj signed an agreement with Universal Robots to assemble the Co-bot in India.

“We localized around 70% of  the components and built 30 Co-bots in 2011 with software and electronics coming from UR,” Sawhney said.

This brought down costs by around 30% to 40%. Bajaj has so far installed 120 Co-Bots at Chakan, Pantnagar and Waluj.

Some of these sit in man-less cells and others work with the workers on the shopfloor.

These 5 kg Co-bots do welding, deburring, machine tending, bolt tightening, sealant application among other things.  The decal applications by the Co-bots has also been patented by Bajaj Auto.

Apart from Co-bots, Bajaj also uses equal number of other robots of up to 50 kg for other heavier operations.

Sawhney says it not just robots and automation that has helped the company. It has simultaneously launched initiatives such a lean manufacturing, TPM, off-loading manufacturing to vendors which has contributed to Bajaj Auto’s productivity and cost structures.

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