Hyundai refines its mantra on factory flexibility

As the Director (Production) of Hyundai Motor India, Ganesh Mani uses a cricket analogy to explain the pace of change at the Chennai plant.

“It’s like going from Test cricket to one day and T20. Speed ​​of execution after a decision has been made is our strength and that will help us be ready for the future, ”he says.
Hyundai, he continues, has constantly pushed the boundaries of manufacturing processes so that the plant is capable of meeting any challenge. This is thanks to the enormous flexibility of its production lines coupled with efforts to improve capacity through debottlenecking.

“Who would have thought that something like Covid-19 would happen? This is why improving capacities, which is our strong point, is important in order to be quickly ready for the future ”, explains Mani. Beyond the Chennai plant, this reflection extends to Hyderabad and Delhi which house its R&D and marketing establishments.

While 100% operational efficiency in production lines is a given, Hyundai places great importance on flexibility as a cardinal principle of manufacturing. “And now with Covid, we are now working on flexibility at the power of 2”, he adds.

It is thanks to this reflection that the company is able to meet at any time the needs of its customers in gasoline / diesel which never cease “to vary for a multitude of reasons”. The engine plant can produce both fuel options on one line, which is very important “as we go along”. It also explains why “we are able to give so many choices to the customer”.

The same thought process extends to the transmission where the choice is left to the market while the available options include manual transmission, AMT electrically controlled automatic as well as intelligent manual transmission. “All of these fuel and drivetrain initiatives have been completed and we are now preparing for the future to convert that into 2 horsepower flexibility,” Mani explains.

Industry 4.0 at work
In addition, Hyundai wants to continue working on enabling IoT in the factory. As he says, when we talk about Industry 4.0 for five years, very specific equipment has been used by the company for a larger purpose. The old machines, the existing ones and also the future where more are likely to arrive… “nearly 2,430” have been connected in the last three years.

Mani says this spawns over 12 billion data points every day which are used for many purposes. “When you want your machines to run all the time, there is only a 12 to 2 pm window on Sunday and problems can be predicted a week or a month in advance,” he adds. .

This helps the company to manage these problems through planning and has helped to improve the production of cars to a great extent. The team also developed 105 self-learning machines that can self-correct and there’s really no need to worry about the quality.

Hyundai has already defined its future as a mobility solutions provider that deals with electrification, range and ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) as key focal points. In terms of connected cars, the company started with 33 features in the Venue, growing to 40 in Verna and over 50 in Creta and now over 65 in Alcazar.

“Beyond connected features, the next priority is ADAS to make the customer’s job easier. We have started to facilitate new technologies in the workshop and various other activities to modernize our existing facilities, ”continues Mani.

Based on the Global Electric Modular Platform (E-GMP), 25 vehicles are already ready at the headquarters in South Korea and when India is ready, “we will produce and deploy them from here”. What is critical here is the infrastructure where work is already underway to seamlessly integrate the existing platform into the global manufacturing system.

“We’ve already introduced the Kona and learned how to handle it,” he says. Going forward, the demands will be higher as more models enter the mass market, but the team is confident they can rise to the occasion. When it comes to “preparing people” for the challenges ahead, Mani says the average workforce experience on the lines is 10 to 15 years, where their skills are constantly being improved.

These are the same people who handled the situation when the robots came on the scene and “even EVs and ADAS systems are learning all the time”. More importantly, it will also mean managing all four options – gasoline, diesel, CNG and electrification – on one line at all times.

And for future talent, Hyundai is preparing to implement HATS (Hyundai Academy for Technical Skills) because finding the right talent is absolutely essential for the future. HATS will annually train qualified, employable trainees who can learn on the job.

Maintenance is another important area for understanding electronics and this is where hybrid knowledge is the way to go. As Mani says, people have to go beyond mechanics, electricity or electronics to better understand mechatronics.

“There are a multitude of colleges in Chennai that train brilliant people and we have our own staff to train where we have links with institutions like IIT Madras,” he adds. The idea is to hold and create data scientists working in the workshop who go beyond the role of engineers. “We have 100 different young data scientists helping us and a few years ago they came from reputable universities,” says Mani.

Plans are now underway to forge alliances with IIT Delhi as well as with other institutes in the country. The key change today is that everyone in the factory today works as if it were a start-up “and this mindset is important to constantly raise the bar”. There is constant learning about new technologies and it is an “incredible journey to freedom and creativity”.

Last year’s lockdown in the wake of the pandemic ended up giving valuable lessons in virtual reality. “In 2020, when the lockdown was announced, we had no idea what was to come next in terms of working from home,” Mani recalls.

With two months of downtime, 30 to 40% of people started working digitally on the exercise of installing new machinery. The key was to visualize whatever was to come, which meant design, digitally verify and then act. When the opening happened, there was a brief hiatus of a week and installation followed quickly as digital sequencing was already in place.

In the workshop it was also important to ensure the safety of the workers and this is where contact should be minimized as much as possible. The company realized that each individual gets 1,200 points once they enter the factory, so it was important to realign and reorganize a multitude of changes between sites. It included people, equipment and “the execution has been flawless since our reopening.”

Hyundai has been in India for 25 years now, and the Chennai plant is one of the first to go into service globally before the Korean automaker began to expand its footprint to a multitude of countries. Mani travels every six months to share working practices in Hyundai operations. In the future, more Indian teams will likely travel to other factories to help with projects and install machines.

Ultimately, it is about sharing experiences and learning from others, whether from factories in North America, Europe or Asia. “We have to be open to cross-learning.
Our ideas are also effectively implemented elsewhere at Hyundai, ”explains Mani.

This feature was first published in the September 1, 2021 issue of Autocar Professional.




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