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A veteran in the auto sector, Vijay Kalra, Chief of Manufacturing Operations, Mahindra and Mahindra Limited [AS], has over three decades of experience with leading organisations and an in-depth understanding of TPS and other global manufacturing practices

Image: Mahindra & Mahindra

Production Planning & Control “Being lean, flexible & agile are the new rules of the game”

Oct 23, 2017

According to Vijay Kalra, Chief of Manufacturing Operations, Mahindra and Mahindra Limited [AS], the trends that will shape the auto industry in the future include diverse mobility, autonomous driving, electrification, 3D printing and connectivity. In this interaction with Megha Roy, he briefs on his company’s approach towards Industry 4.0 practices. Excerpts…

How do you see the Indian automotive industry in terms of know-how for manufacturing processes that helps in increasing its foothold to become a prominent destination for the global manufacturing industry? What are the concern areas in this context to be addressed?

In the last decade, the Indian auto industry has emerged as a very strong player, thanks to the high level of customer expectation & fierce competitive environment from the global players. We are moving ahead and need to keep up the pace by adapting to new and emerging technology trends. To become ‘world-class automotive manufacturing hub’, there must be concentrated effort from both the Government and the automotive industry to create an enabling ecosystem. These include an enabling regulatory environment, developing the requisite talent and skills, fast tracking of infrastructure development, incubating R&D and innovation culture and enhancing supply chain competitiveness.

Manufacturing enterprises, big & small, today have increasing focus on optimising performance, productivity and asset management as well as an effective technology management. How is your company’s approach towards this?

At Mahindra, going beyond the operational efficiency, which is more of hygiene, we also focus strongly on operational effectiveness. We want to utilise our resources in doing right things, rather than doing too many things which does not give us the competitive edge. Being lean, flexible & agile have become the new rules of the game. We are focusing on developing capable and engaged teams who can meet the global standards at an optimum cost and deliver right value to the customers.

Mahindra & Mahindra not only has a vast presence in the Indian market, but also has a remarkable demand in the overseas market. Going forward, how do you strategise your business model so as to become one of the top auto manufacturers globally?

We are focused on developed markets, such as, South Africa, to build the Mahindra brand in an extremely competitive environment. We continue to dominate the South Asian markets (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka) with our complete range of auto and farm products and are developing markets in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda), North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco), West Africa (Ghana, Nigeria), and South East Asia (Indonesia, Philippines) to build the Mahindra Brand across the world.

Increased environmental concerns are also driving the auto industry to continual weight reduction of vehicles and lower CO2 emission. What steps are being initiated by your company to address such challenges?

The CO2 discussion in the automotive industry is continuing at an intense pace, we are the first Indian company to announce its internal carbon price - US$ 10 per tonne of carbon emitted, also first in India to sign “EP100” project (The Climate Group). We use Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as a tool to assess the environmental impact associated with all the stages of a product’s life from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling.

As an organisation that places keen emphasis on sustainability and eco-friendly practices across every process and product, we introduced a hybrid technology on the Scorpio. By reducing fuel consumption, Intelli-Hybrid helps Scorpio owners contribute towards a cleaner and greener tomorrow. India’s first fuel efficient smart truck ‘Blazo’, ‘Jeeto CNG’ & ‘eSupro’ are testaments of our endeavour in the same direction. We continued our electric ambitions with the launch of the innovative e-Verito, India’s first zero-emission all-electric sedan, e2oPlus, the all electric city smart car.

Given that Industry 4.0 defines the future of manufacturing, how is your company aligning towards such advanced concepts to achieve a cutting-edge in the manufacturing industry?

Industry 4.0 concentrates on the end-to-end digitisation of all physical assets and their integration into digital ecosystems with value chain partners. We have partnered with experts in digital manufacturing / design innovation and trying to look at our entire value chain for leveraging digitisation for our competitive advantage.

Our approach is both top-down & bottom-up and we are doing pilot digital projects at our plants, supplier interface & customer interface so that we understand it better & then go ahead in big way if it really makes business sense. We have identified these 5 levers: Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Analytics & Additive Manufacturing for improving quality, cost, productivity, speed to market & asset utilisation. However, technology is an enabler and not an objective.

We understand people capability is the key here & hence giving special emphasis on the training and development of current skills / future skills in our talent management process. We need to work on re-skilling and upskilling. To conclude, as an industry we need to move from the catch-up mode to a more defining targets mode. Here ‘Make in India’ has to move beyond just manufacturing in India, to more designing and engineering in India.

Moving ahead, how do you foresee the importance of inculcating sustainability initiatives within organisations in the manufacturing vertical?

At Mahindra, we view sustainability as a vital business strategy. For us, sustainability is to enable enduring business by rejuvenating the environment and enabling stakeholders to Rise. Our company has a mission to adopt & enable benchmark sustainable practices to be a top 10 global automotive brand and to deliver FarmTech prosperity.

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