Hyundai Motor India (HMI) took to technology change way back in 1998. I would say we were perhaps the first to go in terms of product delivery, best-in-class for products and manufacturing; we have also been process-specific.
Automation in the body shop started in the 1990s at about 50-60 percent. The point is not just adopting automation but how we are going to make people’s jobs easier. That’s where we give a lot of focus. The idea is to make the worker’s job safe and for this we started automation. Now that industry 4.0 has come, we are taking it to the next level, using our own technology adaptation for the use of this data.
The Generation-1 robot generally does the same job, but Hyundai kept on improving every two years so that we are now with Generation-4. Automation is not just replacing the manpower but ensuring quality and being assured of what is made on the line.
The other important point to note is how the data is being used. About 1.2 billion data points get generated yearly at HMI. What is important is how we are going to use it to the next level of automation. This is where big data analytics come in for predictive and preventive maintenance of all our machines as we have always been stretching ourselves to fulfil the requirements of the Indian market. The machines are run 24×6, so prediction for prevention is an important factor.
A well-known Korean proverb says ‘Cheotbunjae danchoo neun… cheotbunjae goomung eh Kiwohya handa,’ which means if the first button of the shirt is wrongly put, all the others will surely go wrong. So always be careful in your first step, others will automatically become correct. Hyundai has been applying this to all its models, from Santro, introduced in the 90s with MPFI engine, to the new cars bringing best-in-segment features.
We have adopted digitisation in a big way that such disruptive changes bring in opportunities for growth. Automation and Industry 4.0 is completely redefining outdated manufacturing processes and will help support continued growth of businesses. It’s a particularly exciting time for the manufacturing industry, and manufacturers must respond to these technological developments to ensure they are meeting the ever-changing demands of the marketplace.
In terms of people, whether they are ITI-trained and came in 15 years ago or diploma engineers who joined five years ago or engineers coming in now, what we want them to do is understand the machine and its own difficulties. Could those be addressed and taken to the next level of advantage?
Introducing automisation and robotics is one part but how you interact with them is the other. Still we are largely dependent on external makers from South Korea, Germany and Japan. Now our people are gradually being trained to take over those kinds of jobs, which give us a lot of cost advantages.
More has been done in the last two years. We are using a very unique concept here; any automation process, after a certain period has to be maintained, overhauled or replaced. This has to be done by the manufacturer but gradually we have started doing this internally. We were very successful in maintenance in 2016; in 2017-18 we have begun doing the complete line replacement of machinery. By 2020 we will introduce nine models for new segments with relevant platform changes. We have tied up with certain agencies who train our people in robot programming; the makers don’t do it now – they just install and go.
This means that the employee involvement factor will go up significantly. They would know what to do if something goes wrong. It would bring in many innovative ideas. When opportunities come the thinking process also goes up; the CTS concept has come from this. Small modules of programming are kept ready to handle issues as and when they crop up, akin to plug-and-play. This has gone back to their parent company, to a division called Factory Automation, which has started adopting some of these ideas. Hyundai has made a programme to train a set of 10 people with some additional incentives given to them if they impart the same training to another set; the ‘mentor and mentee’ concept comes in here. They have already lined up 20 projects where training would be given by the second layer of personnel; this ensures multiple projects can be done at the same time.
However, big data analytics is the one where integration is really becoming a challenge. Currently in India we are only into the first phase of display, which is actually in front of you; if you see something is wrong you can go and attend to it. But what is important is to get to the root cause; why does it happen and what is the historical reference for it. You have to ascertain the correlation factors that have led to the fault cropping up. Predictive maintenance should be in place before preventive; lead and lag indicators have to be taken into account. This work is presently going on using certain set data and we are also introducing some real-time sensors that are predominantly coming up in the industry for the machine tool life calculations. It enables planning for the next six-months on what I have to do.
We do have our own unique methodology of multi-skilling with the 3+3+3 concept. The worker should be aware of three stations; his own as well as the ones before and behind him; he should be at the third skill level where he can work independently without creating any defect or quality deviation; and every station should have at least three people. These enable employees at the shop floor and in managerial roles to up-skill and familiarise themselves in the various streams of operations. This structured programme covers maintenance engineers and supervisors who must have certain specific skill-sets like robot programming. They should have expertise in two other areas than their own.
In my opinion any change to be sustainable, must be complementary to one another. Anything that acts against the interest of humans can never succeed. Humans and technology are evolving in parallel but the pace at which technology evolves is faster. So we all have to match to our unique signature initiative, ‘My Place My Pride’ (MPMP) which is an innovative voluntary programme geared to be a powerful movement; it has been recognised globally with the ‘The Change and Innovation Leaders Award’ by the Hyundai Motor Group. We homogeneously merged and aligned the thoughts of all to a common goal. This is an example of how technology and humans align towards each other.
As technology evolves rapidly, human beings need to update themselves by up-skilling and by specialising in big data analytics which is the key to strategic thinking of millennial innovators and business executives. The future belongs to well-informed executives who are data-driven and who can synthesise them. Hyundai has gone in for a tech upgrade. The second generation robots are being replaced with the fourth generation that take higher payloads and generate more data. They capture around 1.2 billion data points a year across the manufacturing process. Some of these data points are currently used to gain actionable insights and fine-tune operational parameters. They serve as prospects for exploring big data analytics solutions.
Overall, an awareness level has been setting in, at industry forums like ACMA. Since the number and variety of Tier-1, 2 & 3 organisations were very high, they were finding it difficult to come out and decide what they were going to do. Hyundai’s adoption is slightly different; we are doing it in an altered way for our Tier-1&2 suppliers. It was started in 2017 itself. Instead of asking suppliers to invest heavily in new methods and technology, we have initially used a small-scale IoT programme to help them take baby steps in this new field.
For example, a die maintenance schedule system can be done in multiple ways: keep sensors, take it down to common data, web serving, etc. If you tell them all these, they get scared. Instead we give them the local specific solution by using this alone, taking one tap to our parts development area also. So we can see their input through Intranet to know if they are following what has been decided upon; a monitoring mechanism to hand-hold. This ensures they maintain the quality we expect from them. Our vendors are accepting this in a big way as we also do on-the-spot shop floor analysis wherever possible. We have a capsule mode for every vendor specific to his way of working with different options that he could select depending on his own strengths.
Whatever we are doing is transferred to the vendor companies also to speed them up. We have a star rating system for them; currently 70 percent of our vendors have a four-star rating. Industry 4.0 gets transferred gradually to their level also. This is the differentiation we provide that has been very successful.
We have adopted these technologies across the board wherever we have found them useful. If you consider it by industry, then body-shop is the segment where it has been done without difficulty. Implementation by vendors of robots covers a wide area as they need only to identify the potential and start doing it. Any industry that does not adapt to evolving revolutionary technologies to reach out to their customers according to their requirement will become obsolete.
I believe that the role of HR in manufacturing has become more important in terms of the right set of skilled professionals with adequate brain wiring. To ensure their skill-sets get upgraded and to retain and nurture the best brains for the benefit of the organisation, we had introduced a whole lot of ‘Step up Programmes’ for post graduates from IITs and VIT.
We also initiated the ‘Grooming Plan for Robot Specialisation’ where we identify a talent pool and give them training in robotics and different levels of software specialisation, who in turn groom and train other people. We offer incentives for them to come back and transfer the learnings to their colleagues. This is our unique feature and we will continue to invest in such knowledge enhancement activities. These youngsters have really helped in solving many problems in our day-to-day operations. The intention is to trouble-shoot internally; do everything ourselves without falling back on the principals outside the country. Our digital manufacturing engineering division has come out with many solutions for the daily shop floor problems. This also includes vendor truck movement optimisation; gauging and assessing traffic movement.
(S Ganesh Mani is Senior Vice President, Production, at Hyundai Motor India Limited)