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Lean manufacturing the Maruti way

S RONENDRA SINGH

Streamlining systems and reducing waste for efficient


production
Poka-yoke in Japanese means mistake-proofing and it is followed whole heartedly in the lean
manufacturing industry, not only in their land, but in India too.

And, Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL), the countrys largest passenger cars manufacturer is been
following the same system since its inception in 1984, in order to improve its productivity and lesser
defects in the products.

With the advent of recalls and its exports to global markets, the company has become stricter in
terms of maintaining quality standards, not only in its plants in Guragaon and Manesar in Haryana,
but to its vendors too, so that the components that the company get is par with its demand.
Therefore, it started a programme called Maruti Centre for Excellence (MACE) involving 21 of its
component vendors -- to replicate best practices from shopfloor of MSIL which translates into better
quality and better productivity.

Aiming for excellence

MACE was started with a corpus fund of 10 crore from MSIL and the vendors contributing 25 lakh
each and identified areas where the vendors can improve in quality on global levels and also follow
some parameters of operations.

Headed by IV Rao, Managing Executive Officer - Engineering and Head of R&D, the company helps
the suppliers deploy lean processes to improve productivity and reduce resource wastages. There are
four main activities -- training, audit, implementation and up-gradation of smaller vendors who
supply to these tier-I suppliers so that the quality is maintained in the chain of products.

Based on some basic requirements, MSIL decides on certain topics and train both blue collared as
well as the white collared employees in the vendors factories. Then, the team audits which quality
systems are to be followed in every operation. For every operation, there is a prescribed ways of
doing it as the quality standard is the backbone of the company in how it operates.

Lean, mean efficiency

It is the implementation of lean manufacturing system at its vendors -- based on what Maruti has in-
house production systems -- based on Suzuki Motor Japan and Toyota Quality Management (TQM),
which means improving the productivity, eliminating the waste and reducing the defects.

The company through implementing lean manufacturing systems has 720 projects completed so far
for productivity improvement, quality, inventory control and energy conservation. MACE has worked
with 146 tier-II vendors for overall improvement in performance resulting in reduction in rejections
from 10,933 to 1,180 products per month and defect reduction from 432 to 146 per month.
However, while the tier-I suppliers have developed the art of such productivity, the company has a
big task now, which is, to enable similar trend in the tier-II and tier-III suppliers and even the
smaller vendors.

Right now, we feel that tier-II are the weaker links in the supply chain and therefore, we are now
working along with tier-I suppliers to basically implement lean manufacturing again, Rao said.

That is why the company has also started clusters consisting of about 10-12 suppliers, all supplying to
a tier-I and have made counsellors to work all with all those smaller vendors to figure out what is
going wrong on a daily basis.

Zero rejection

But, the task doesnt end there too, especially when such smaller vendors have more of contractual
workers.

Rao said one of the major issues Maruti is facing is with the ratio of regular to contract workers who
are actually working on production lines with tier-I and tier-II and therefore trying to implement the
pokai-yoke method.

It means if we feel a particular process or operation, is critical for quality, we install devices, which
will give audio or visual alarms and the person working there gets alerted that something wrong is
happening.

Therefore, it prevents from something totally wrong is happening beforehand. For example, if a
worker has to pick up a part amongst various types of parts and if he picks up a wrong part, there will
be an alarm. Therefore, he knows he has to change the part and pick up the right part, Rao explained.

Through such programmes, many of its vendors have now got zero rejection in its parts and wastage
is also controlled. For example, part of the MACE since its inception, Superfine Components is been
supplying parts to MSIL with zero rejection, continuously over the last three years.

Going forward, the company would work more under the MACE programme, not only for its
vendors, but for overall small scale industry in the manufacturing lines.

To begin with, MSIL has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of
Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), mandating the 35 counsellors of MACE to go to the
factories and companies, and suggest how to implement certain processes.

MACE has also become part of Quality Council of India for such activities and has tied up with
Kaizen Institute India in Ahmedabad, Gujarat to spread such activities in Western and Southern
parts of the country, from only doing at Guragon-Manesar belt, Rao added.

(This article was published on May 22, 2014)