With a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and well -defined work practices, Komatsu India (KIPL) has created a niche for itself in its domain. A Special feature on the construction and mining equipment major´s Chennai manufacturing facility.
Founded by Meitaro Takeuchi in 1921, Komatsu Ltd. has evolved into a multinational conglomerate, boasting of 45 manufacturing facilities established globally over 95 years of its existence. India was the first country, outside Japan, where Komatsu established its presence, way back in 1958 at Kolkata (erstwhile Calcutta) for supply of crawler dozers by collaboration with Indian Government. Starting from the delivery of the first dozer in 1958, Komatsu created an impressive track record of launching an extensive range of excavation and mining equipment in India. The launches include Komtrax, the company´s proprietary, aftermarket, centralized equipment monitoring system.
Currently, Komatsu manufactures 60-100 tonne capacity off-highway dump truck and 7-45 tonne class hydraulic excavators in India. The rest of the construction and mining equipment supply is imported. However, all equipment are exclusively sold and serviced by Larsen & Toubro Ltd. In addition, KIPL has also set up a facility at Chennai for supplying remanufactured engines for Indian customers.
It is noteworthy that Komatsu´s association with L&T was an alignment of two of the world´s biggest engineering giants towards a common business objective. This significant association has propelled the business to great heights. Historically, L&T had been the first to introduce hydraulic excavators in the country under the brand name ´Poclain´. L&T being the pioneer in India in the excavator segment partnered with Komatsu to provide unmatched sales and after-sales infrastructure to develop India´s high-end market for Komatsu´s premium hydraulic excavators which have now become synonymous with quality, reliability and productivity. L&T has also been instrumental in sustaining the overall market share of more than 20 per cent for hydraulic excavators since the alliance commenced in 1998. Under the long term relationship, the two have focused efforts in their respective areas of expertise, i.e. Komatsu in production of equipment, while L&T concentrates on sales and service operations. Together, the two continue their joint endeavours to further grow this business in India.
State-of-the-art delivery capability
KIPL has set up an ultra modern manufacturing unit at Chennai, matching the global standards of Komatsu. The facility comprises three production lines: one each for mining truck, hydraulic excavators and engine remanufacturing.
The moment one enters the Genba, the Japanese term for work place, The Komatsu Way of working is strikingly visible in every aspect of the production activities. Every entrant is greeted by sparkling, squeaky clean, well laid out and well managed production ship. The applicable shop layout, Process Data Sheets (PDS), Kaizen activities, safety communication, production data, QC circle and other relevant information are prominently displayed on strategically placed signboards for maximum visibility to all concerned.
For each production line, the globally implemented Process Data Sheets (PDS) are provided by the mother plants of the group located at Osaka and Ibaraki, Japan. Similarly, the manufacturing plant set up is also designed in exact compliance to the company´s global standards, thereby enabling the desired level of safety, quality and productivity without compromising on costs.
In line with Komatsu philosophy, the first-ever straight flow production line for off-highway dump trucks has been set up at Chennai. This manufacturing set up integrates the welding of the frame to begin with and continues through various interim assembly stages, eventually ending in these heavy vehicles rolling out of the plant. Thereafter, the large prefabricated dump body (received from an outside vendor) is mounted to complete the assembly process.
Interestingly, the assembly time from ´Line on to Line off´ process performance is measured as ´Tack Time´ and the same is flexible.
The excavator manufacturing set up comprises three continuous flow lines: One for bottom frame; second for re-volving frame and the third for final assembly. The entire production process is conveyorised and has different assembly stage stations. The entire process is benchmarked on lean manufacturing principles and is replete with hi-tech facilities like advance torque system with counting facility to ensure that no bolt is inadvertently missed.
All welding processes start with tack welding and flowed to three-axis, programmable and fully welding robots. The software is developed by Komatsu Ltd, Japan and directly loaded on the robots, by Japanese technicians to maintain global uniformity. Final welding of inaccessible areas is done manually, using the CO2 welding process. Both Dump Truck and Hydraulic Excavator lines are benchmarked with lean production targets. As a result, adequate flexibility is embedded in the system to produce a diverse range of equipment, without disturbing the essence of the ship layout.
As regards made in India content in the equipment, all A class items (critical for equipment performance) like engines, transmissions, electronics and others are fully imported from Japan. So far, this is mandatory for India, B and C class items like chassis, frames and fabrications are produced locally, either inhouse or through vendors. Many sub-assemblies are assembled in India using CKD kits, imported from Japan.
All paint booths are designed for zero pollution to environment. Currently, all frames are painted with epoxy while polyurethrene paint is used on the rest of the equipment components.
Quality assurance: An imbibed culture
Quality at KIPL begins with the formation of QC Circles for each aspect of production. The individual teams have the freedom to select their own team leader. Yearly competitions are held and the winners are further encouraged to participate in the annual global quality circle competition held at Japan and the winners are awarded. Hundred per cent dump trucks are put on running trials on the test track created within the plant premises before we dispatch. Similarly KIPL tests all Hydraulic Excavators that produced in the factory. All performance tests like brake, stall and others are performed on each machines to ensure quality and safety. To ensure daily revisit to PDS by the team, PDS are displayed at the most visible locations inside the shop floor.
All welded joints undergo stringent ultrasonic testing as per standard quality procedure.
Kaizen, the Japanese way of continuous improvement is an imbibed culture. All employees are encouraged to develop innovative solutions to expedite the job at hand, in a better way. All entries are evaluated by the management and all approved new ideas are adopted in the related process. Nearly 90 per cent of Kaizen are contributed by India team and visibly displayed on Kaizen boards.
SAFETY AT GENBA
Safety is paramount at Genba - the work place. All shop floors are clutter free, clearly marked with walking aisles and safety communication are displayed prominently.
Wearing safety helmets, safety glasses and safety shoes are mandatory for all persons entering Genba. Similarly, it is compulsory for individual workers to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) commensurate to their respective work profile. All plant and machinery inside the shop floor is provided with suitable protective enclosures. All welding robots are surrounded with translucent inter locked safety enclosures. Even if the enclosure is inadvertently opened, the operation stops automatically. It is mandatory to use both hands to operate the robots by design. This special feature ensures that the operator cannot accidently activate another operation, with his free hand.
During the manual welding process, the job is mounted on huge manipulators which position the work piece for performing the weld of a specific joint. The workers stand on scissor lifts to reach the work point. Unless and until the lift has moved back to safe area, the manipulator cannot rotate the loaded work piece.
Daily safety patrols are carried out by the authorized persons, including the plant manager. Monthly reviews are held. All actual and near miss accidents are analysed and corrective actions are taken. Every six months, the corrective measures are re-evaluated for their effectiveness.KIPL has a very impressive safety track record. This year they have won the Komatsu President Safety Award for its safety excellence.
Dojo - Skill development
Quality and safety assurance cannot be guaranteed in the absence of the required sets for each aspect of the companies activities. In line with this requirement, KIPL has created several Dojos (training centres in Japanese) within the plant premises. Welding Dojo: Theoretical and practical training is imparted to welders by champion trainer. In addition to imparting training on reading engineering drawings and symbols, a novel way of using specially created welding samples to train the welders has been adopted. Post training evaluation, the Komatsu certified welder is put on the job. Thereafter, the welders are retrained and upgraded periodically to next skill levels.
Assembly Dojo: This is meant for equipment assembly procedures. Training is imparted through drawings, videos, onsite job tools usage, etc.
Safety Dojo: Training on accident prevention techniques and safe work methods are trained in addition to usage of safety gears.
Way forward - The Komatsu way
Having set up an impressive state-of-the-art manufacturing plant at Chennai, KIPL has not over looked the compliance to environment. The installed facilities ensure zero waste water discharge and other such aspects.
In light of the accelerated infrastructure and mines development slated for India and duly supported by Government initiatives, Komatsu expects enormous growth in the coming years and are fully geared to meet the challenges of increased demand. The future is bright!
´The Komatsu way is a concept introduced and shared amongst all Komatsu organisations, including India. Through Komatsu way we commit quality and reliability to maximise corporate value. By corporate value, we mean the belief and trust of all stakeholders and society. To improve quality and reliability, Komatsu always tries to strengthen corporate governance, manufacturing competitiveness and brand management development.´
S:Safety - 100% zero accident
Q:Quality - 100% zero defect
C:Cost (must make profit)
The above doctrine is focussed on in all business decisions.
- SHANKAR SRIVASTAVA