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Driven by excellence: Journey to Industry 4.0

Mahindra Group, which began its journey in 1945, has had manufacturing excellence at the centre of its operations since the very beginning. Mahindra’s plants score high on manufacturing technology, operational excellence, environmental sustainability and social responsibility.

Becoming a global manufacturing hub

At the beginning of its production journey, Mahindra had to depend on help from its global partners, and these lessons have fuelled its quest for continuous improvement. In the last two decades, India's manufacturing sector has evolved, and so has Mahindra. The company’s latest launch the XUV700 sporting a new SUV logo, depicts Mahindra’s identity of limitless boundaries and exploring the impossible.

The beginning

Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. began as a steel trading hub focusing on collaborating with international companies to improve its production chain. Its automotive journey started as the first company in India to assemble Jeeps. First of these Jeeps arrived from Willys overland export corporation, US and were assembled at Mahindra’s Mazagaon plant, located in the heart of Mumbai. This versatile automobile made Mahindra a craze in the domestic market, and this would remain so for the next few decades.

In those early days, Mahindra was still busy perfecting the art of manufacturing and was involved in partnerships with various international firms.

Auto sector development

Mahindra’s first integrated manufacturing plant located at Kandivali, established in 1965, is still manufacturing vehicles and retrofitted with the latest technology. In the 1990s, Mahindra had only three manufacturing plants, producing about 40 vehicles a day. The company, during this time implemented Business Process Reengineering. This process entailed re-engineering the entire plant layout and processes. It included reducing non-productive activities, implementing Total Quality Management (TQM), Kaizen, quality processes, and forming focused cross-functional teams. The results of this exercise included the rise in productivity across plants, improvement in the plant’s capacity utilisation, better inventory control, sourcing, and order distribution across plants.

Today, Mahindra’s state of the art manufacturing plants focused on auto, collectively churn out over 2,500 vehicles a day. With strategically located plants, Mahindra is one of the largest automobile manufacturing companies in India. The company has also kept up with consumer demands. In the late 1990s, Mahindra decided to expand the range from the rough and rugged off-road vehicles it made primarily for rural markets to include modern, urban sports utility vehicles. The Group designed, developed, and launched the Scorpio in 2002 and revolutionised the entire industry. The automobiles that Mahindra now manufactures are aimed at the Indian middle class, with cost-effectiveness along with style and comfort as the focus. Through this journey, Mahindra’s manufacturing plants have more than delivered.

Then came the tractors

For over three decades, Mahindra has been India’s undisputed number one tractor brand and the world’s largest tractor manufacturer by volume. Having worked with generations of farmers, Mahindra tractors are known for their exceptional built and performance on rugged and unforgiving terrains. Today, with a presence across countries, Mahindra focusing on its quality processes, is the only tractor brand in the world to win, both Deming Prize and the Japanese Quality Medal.

A lot of this credit also goes to Mahindra’s research and development facilities, which have drastically changed the outlook of manufacturing for the sector and helped Mahindra unveil products that compete in the developed markets of the US and Europe. These world-class equipment used in manufacturing require extensive maintenance to work smoothly so that the production lines are uninterrupted at Mahindra plants. As KG Shenoy, Senior Vice President, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., says, “At Mahindra, we have reached the point of excellence; we rarely have major breakdowns. As we progress on implementation of Industry 4.0 in our plants, we will be restructuring operations through self-managed teams, where associates will manage shop floor. Equipment maintenance is getting centralised; this team will focus on enhancing the life of the equipment and optimising overall maintenance cost.”

Thus, with structured management teams and planned maintenance runs, the production facilities work smoothly, and no major breakdowns interrupt Mahindra’s production targets. The Group follows the Mahindra Quality system, which is unique to each sector’s business requirement. The plants also deploy various lean practices, Total Productivity Management (TPM), Kaizen initiatives to ensure frugality in their operations. Explaining Mahindra’s innovation on the manufacturing front, Vijay Kalra, Head – Mahindra Institute of Quality and Member – Central Safety Council, says, “The company in the past has not just adopted technology from outside the country for its vehicles but also innovated. They have developed solutions that were better, less expensive, and more affordable in the Indian context. Mahindra is betting on its in-house R&D and innovation for being the benchmark for the new global standards.’’

In a world where globalisation and automation have become de rigeur, Mahindra has an advantage over its peers. It had started focusing on the automation of its factories and used modern equipment from the very beginning of the 21st century.

Role in Indian manufacturing sector

For the discerning Indian customers, Mahindra’s manufacturing facilities, through the adoption of cutting-edge technologies, have produced SUVs and other automobiles at affordable prices, which gives them a decisive advantage over its peers.

India has recently moved towards a domestic manufactured product-oriented market. Several companies are proving their capabilities in producing world-class products. Mahindra is one of the leaders demonstrating the prowess of domestic manufacturing. The new-age facilities are not only limited to providing cost-effective solutions to Indian customers but also enriching the entire manufacturing ecosystem.

Nasir Deshmukh, Vice President – Operations, who has headed Mahindra’s Igatpuri and now Heads Chakan plant, says, “We at Mahindra believe in supporting and encouraging the entire manufacturing ecosystem to become self-reliant.” To this end, Mahindra handholds several small and medium suppliers to become better and achieve global standards. The company has a structured mechanism to groom and train people at the grassroots level like no other. Such initiatives reaffirm Mahindra’s role in building the auto components ecosystem in the country.

As Kalra puts it, “At Mahindra, we have been manufacturing vehicles for the last 75 years with a continuous focus on delivering vehicles of customers’ choice with the highest quality standards. This glorious journey has made Mahindra a flag bearer of India’s auto-manufacturing prowess.”

Mahindra’s story is that of an Indian company paving its own path to become a global powerhouse in the manufacturing space.

Mahindra’s manufacturing ethos has been to excel at value engineering. This translates into being both efficient and effective in developing products that delight its customers as well as instil pride amongst the workforce.

Onward journey

Globally, manufacturing is moving towards a new paradigm – Industry 4.0, which incorporates next-gen technologies in automation, big data and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The 4.0 framework also includes cyber-physical systems, cutting edge analytics, cloud computing and cognitive computing. It focuses on the increasing use of information by machines to execute complex, hazardous tasks and comprises instruments that are interconnected, inclusive and intelligent.

At Mahindra, the company is taking rapid strides to keep pace with these developments and are also among the first to adopt 4.0 in its manufacturing plants. The key enablers in this journey have been identified and will aid the automation and integration of shop floor processes and machines. Mahindra is committed to making its systems more transparent and interoperable, backed by analytics, helping make these 4.0 tools into instruments for a sustainable competitive advantage.

This will enable it to anticipate and deal with the disruptive technologies that will embody the future of manufacturing in India.

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