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Product and service quality are not destinations in themselves but part of a longer, ever evolving journey towards continuous improvement. At Mahindra, quality focus is part of our core values and is synonymous with excellence, value to customers, conformance to specification and standards, fitness for use and ultimately, customer satisfaction.
Efforts taken on our quality journey have enabled businesses within the Group to establish themselves as leaders in their specific domains by delivering world-class products and services. Across the Group, companies such as Mahindra Holidays and Mahindra Lifespaces are setting industry benchmarks in their respective sectors on what defines high-quality products, equipment, services and business operations.
One such journey is of the Farm and Equipment Sector (FES). Driven by a vision to continuously innovate the future of farming, today the sector offers advanced end-to-end farm mechanisation solutions through a portfolio of global brands that cater to the customised needs of farmers around the world.
Mahindra Farm and Equipment Sector leads the way
The tractor business of the Mahindra Group was established in 1963 and later became a part of the Farm and Equipment Sector. From the very beginning, the business contributed to the growth of agriculture in the country and has been driving farm tech prosperity in rural India.
Its quality journey was initiated as part of the ambitious vision 'to become the number 1 tractor manufacturer in the world' under the leadership of KJ Devasia, then President & Executive Director (Tractor Division). The sector's quality journey was set to realise the vision of meeting global standards by deploying the total quality management (TQM) processes. TQM provided a broad-based business excellence architecture across the entire value chain of the business i.e. from suppliers to customers.
"Quality is the culmination of many things at Mahindra," explains Pawan Goenka, former Managing Director and CEO of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. "It is not just the inspection of incoming parts or an outgoing finished product. It is the way you plan the product, design it, validate it, do supplier development, do tooling, inspect quality, do the manufacturing, deliver the product and then provide service to it."
Initially, the quality journey at the company was largely confined to manufacturing and logistics. It was in the 1990s, that the company set in motion improvements in its internal processes that included upgradation of manufacturing facilities, adoption of industry specific and sector specific quality standards certification.
In 1995, TQM movement finally came to the forefront with focus on all the processes and was extended to functions such as sales and marketing and new product development. The journey got further impetus when FES initiated the process for the application for the Deming Prize*, the highest awards on TQM. During this process, TQM became embedded in every function within the sector, going beyond just the traditional quality control at the manufacturing plants. Business Process Re-engineering took place in 1997.
"I think, overall, the process of applying for the Deming awards resulted in a culture of continuous improvement, a process to achieve results with the involvement of all employees," says Shrikant Sarwate, former Vice President of Mahindra Research Valley.
Further, the sector evolved its own TQM model to communicate and align the entire organisation and set the path to achieve its vision. There were challenges along the way. In 2000-2003, like others in the industry, the sector faced a huge downturn in tractor business in India. During those challenging times, the division further enhanced its focus on product and process quality, extensively utilising Deming guidelines. This enabled the sector to establish a differentiated quality management approach across the organisation. In 2003, Mahindra & Mahindra became the first tractor company in the world to win the prestigious 'Deming Prize', the longest-running and one of the highest awards on TQM in the world. Further, FES became the only tractor company to win the Japan Quality Medal (now Deming Grand Prize) in 2007.
In 2010, Mahindra became the world's highest tractor brand by volume and maintains that leadership till date.
A quest for quality
Talking about the robust TQM journey, Shubhabrata Saha, CEO, Farm Division, says, "While strengthening our own systems and process during our Deming journey, we also made sure that we are cognizant of the external environment by benchmarking global organisations and thereby imbibing the best global practices in our systems."
The TQM process laid a strong foundation for the quality journey of Mahindra. In 2008, Mahindra Quality Way was flagged which later evolved into The Mahindra Way (TMW), which is the Group's business excellence model. This is an integrated approach to promote excellence across all processes and operations of a company to help it efficiently achieve business objectives.
Parallel to the TMW process was the learning and development journey on quality. The Group set up the Mahindra Institute of Quality (MIQ) in 2006 to provide an international level of TQM education and training while linking it with business.
Set up in Nashik, Maharashtra for educating people on the actual application of the quality process, the institute initially hosted Japanese professors who were brought in for yearly assessments. "It is the only corporate institute dedicated to quality," remarks Rajinder Singh, Dean, MIQ.
Under the guidance of Vijay Kalra, Head, MIQ, the institute focuses on instilling the principles of TMW. Additionally, various programmes on quality management, reliability, problem solving and more are currently available in MIQ. This includes, post-graduate diplomas in quality and operation management. For its efforts, MIQ boasts of awards such as the National Award for Excellence in Training and Development, the Asian Quality Leadership Award for 'Quality Excellence in Teaching and Learning Practices' from Dubai Chamber of Commerce and many more.
The institute focuses on not just establishing an environment of learning and outperformance within Mahindra but to colleagues from other companies too. "Almost half the people residing and learning in MIQ today are outsiders," says Singh.
On the journey taken by FES, Hemant Sikka, President, FES, Mahindra & Mahindra says, "Customer centricity is our core value and customers have always been the driving force to propel quality improvements in FES."
Efforts like Crusade of First Time Right (FTR), Every Time Right & Delightful Customer Experience were launched at AFS in 2014. They gave a strong impetus to the entire business for faster and stronger transformation towards a world class quality culture.
A lot of efforts have been taken by the organization to achieve the same. To achieve FTR in the domestic market, FES worked extensively with customers to first understand what FTR means to them. The engineers then converted these insights into a matrix of dimensions of quality. Engineering and product development was re-oriented to FTR and has been widely digitised over the years. This not only enabled FTR but also hastened new products development.
Following these processes have led to the successful launch of products like NOVO, YUVO and JIVO in domestic markets. Similar quality planning concepts were used in the US markets for the successful launch of the 6000 series of tractors by Mahindra Ag North America.
Today at Mahindra, quality is no longer limited to product performance or reliability but extended itself to encompass the total customer experience. This process has now been institutionalised at FES.
Sikka adds, "All quality related initiatives were driven with intense focus, fanatic discipline and an 'all hands-on deck' approach. This immensely helped FES to achieve a differentiated customer experience." Through all the initiatives undertaken, there has been an 80% reduction in defects, accidents and breakdowns leading to higher operational efficiencies and customer satisfaction.
Leading with a difference
Today, with the changing times and ever evolving customer experiences and expectations, along with competitive intensity, there is a need to consistently keep improving the quality processes.
To make the company future ready and more adaptive to the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world, quality needs to be transcended. It needs to look beyond what is obvious and stated and aim to address what is unspoken but desired demands of the customers.
Digisense, an Internet Of Things and artificial intelligence-based technology is being offered on Mahindra Tractors so that customers can be equipped with the complete know-how of their tractor's performance on a real time basis. With the advent of Industry 4.0, the company has also embraced connected machines, robots and cobots, and analytics and predictions that have enabled the manufacturing and supply chain processes to deliver world class deliverables. This has helped new products development, sales and customer care to deliver superior results in product and customer satisfaction. This has also helped the sector stay ahead, not only the domestic tractor industry but also in the international markets.
On the need for being technologically inclined, Sikka says, "With the levers of digitisation, analytics and customers insights, we will be able to further sharpen our focus on quality and prepare ourselves for the future."
Mahindra's continuous improvement efforts on quality have earned many other accolades along the way. Some of them are:
*The Deming Prize today is the longest-running, and one of the highest awards on TQM in the world. It recognises both individuals for their contributions to the field of TQM and businesses that have successfully implemented TQM.
The Deming journey
M&M decided to contest for the Deming Application Prize in the beginning of the financial year of 2003, and this acted as the whetstone for sharpening the quality focus of the company.
The application required the involvement of everyone in the company because every process across the organisation needed to work in perfect synchronisation to achieve the quality standards required for the prize. This created a new environment of inclusion and leadership, giving way to the philosophy of 'Many People, One Purpose.'
The application was led by the then President & Executive Director (Tractor Division), KJ Devasia. And he rallied everybody to the cause. "A lot of credit for the Deming Prize goes to Devasia," says Shrikant Sarwate.
The first part of the process for the application was to get the TQM process entrenched in the system. So, the team created Quality Circles, consisting of workmen volunteers led by an officer acting as the Head of the Team to regulate internal proceedings. The group would meet once a week, come up with solutions for problems and take charge of the implementation process. They would then monitor the results. Between 2000 and 2007, during the overall quality journey of the sector, the company had strengthened its processes for understanding the stated as well as latent customer needs. They worked closely with the product development team to translate customer needs into product concepts. By following the structured Mahindra New Product Development process, they were successful in introducing many new products.
As part of the application, examiners from Japan visited the company for a preliminary assessment of the M&M processes in mid-2003. They also met some of the suppliers to assess their involvement in the TQM process. Through persistent hard work and by completely overhauling its quality processes and systems, Mahindra won the prestigious Deming Prize. On 11th November 2003, Devasia and the core team flew to Tokyo to attend the ceremony in which M&M was honoured with the award.
As part of the TQM process, concepts like policy deployment, daily work management, standardisation, Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle and systematic problem-solving methods were introduced. One of the unique activities that were implemented at FES was the Mahindra Sales System which ushered in a scientific and systematic way of managing sales within the organisation.
This would reap benefits even post the Deming journey. The MSS from 2004 onwards was responsible for increasing the market share of the company from 25% in 2004 to 29.1% in 2012. The major learning from the process was how to become a customer-centric organisation.
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