Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Robert Frittrang, Managing Director, BMW Plant Chennai, in an interaction with T Murrali on the shop floor, explained the thought and technical process that went into the choice of the local vendors. He says the company’s  strategy is to go slow in the local manufacturing of all parts to ensure quality and economies of scale. Edited excerpts:

Q: What are the key factors you look for when selecting local vendors?

Frittrang: Our primary criterion in selecting any supplier is quality. Most of the selected suppliers are known to BMW for decades. Force Motors is new. We have been closely observing this supplier from the very beginning. We chose the company for its knowledge and experience in supplying to some of the premium vehicle manufacturers in India. It has in-built competence and quality that are valuable to us. The production facility of Force Motors is just a kilometre away from our plant. The company procures engine kits from Germany and assemble the engines for us.

DSCN0569Q: When will the local manufacturing of engine parts begin?

Frittrang: My experience is that you should never go all steps in one hit as you may fail in terms of quality. We have chosen a secure path. In the first phase, we made Force Motors to assemble the parts sent to them by BMW Germany. In the second phase, some of the parts can be manufactured and procured in India. And this depends on our volumes.

DSCN0590Q: How long was the process to strike the deal with Force Motors?

Frittrang: The whole process took about 18 months until they launched the engine in last January. However, most of their time was spent for getting land and licenses to set up the plant.

Q: What about transmission?  

Frittrang: The transmission sub-assembly is directly delivered by ZF in Germany to Force Motors, which couples it with the engine. At our Chennai facility we carry out the engine dressing, assembly of the front axle and propeller shaft. ZF Hero Chassis at Oragadam supplies axels to us and also to BMW in Thailand and Malaysia.

DSCN0589Q: How did you plan for the exhaust system?

Frittrang: The key process in making the exhaust system is the welding process. The Tenneco plant in Chennai has been given the welding unit by BMW to secure the process. The exhaust system has to be air-tight. We have set up a test unit in our plant to check it.

Q: What about the HVAC?

Frittrang:  As we build globally- built cars at BMW Chennai, there is no deviation in the HVAC system. We use ‘the hot country package,’ which means the cars assembled here have larger cooling system. This is something similar to what BMW cars in Florida have. The only addition that we provide is the under body protection to prevent the impact of bad roads.

DSCN0587Q:  The initiatives on seats?

Frittrang: BMW has been working with Lear for decades and Lear India has a plant close to this facility. We have close connection with them; our quality engineers at Lear India continuously monitor the production process to ensure our quality standards.

PS: See full story in the June issue 

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