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Rajeev Wasan,
Senior Vice President – Manufacturing,
Honda Cars India

Interview Experiment with new technologies

Dec 1, 2016

Change is inevitable and moving to the next stage of industrialisation is a part of it. Question is, at what speed and till what depth we have to adopt it to our area of operations. It will surely impact productivity and growth, especially in the manufacturing industry.

Can you highlight some of the continuous improvement rogrammes practiced in your shop floor with focus on operational excellence models?

We are working on 4 pillars to achieve operational excellence:

a) Strategic planning and deployment: There is a welldefined system of developing business goals at the company level, which are then broken down into broad sub-business goals. Against each of these goals, business targets are set at each business unit head level and then there is a Hoshin chart that is made which indicates the activities that need to be done to achieve these broader business goals.

b) Performance management: There is a system of reviewing monthly performance of each of the activities and result against the set target in the Hoshin chart. PDCA is rotated in case there is a gap against the target and actions are initiated to bridge the gap.

c) Process excellence: Many tools like New Honda Circle (small group activity), Kaizen, TPM, 5W2H, IT systems are being extensively used to achieve process and performance excellence in all business operations.

d) Skill development and motivation: Knowing fully well that operational excellence can not be achieved without engaged, motivated and skilled associates, we are investing in skill development of all the associates including those directly working on the shop floor.

Even the best of automation and advanced technologies could fail to give ROI if the strategy or timing of automation is wrong. What would be your recommendations?

Investment in technology, IT system, automation, etc must be purely driven by the business needs. All investments have a risk associated with it as the business environment is continuously changing and not 100% certain. In this kind of scenario, all investments must be made looking into the business need while avoiding excessive risk. Big investments must be done with the involvement of top management or the board.

What are the latest/smart technologies and systems incorporated in your shop floors as well as in supply chain?

As we have already made huge investments in setting up global scale full backward integrated manufacturing facility at Tapukara, all new investments are being made depending on the business need. As far as implementing the newer technologies is concerned, we are experimenting with these on few equipment and then make a business case based on our experiences before we implement these horizontally across the plants on a big scale. We are implementing many new IT systems to improve the flexibility in our supply chain as well as achieve cost reductions through efficiency improvements.

What, according to you, are the major challenges faced in today’s shop floors? What would be your recommendations?

Major challenge is to keep all associates engaged and maintain healthy working environment. In such a situation, it’s important to follow/focus on the basics, for example, respect for the individual, putting in place robust grievance redressal system, maintaining healthy and open communication specially with the associates working directly on machines/shop floor, having fair HR/IR practices, etc.

Global technology analysts suggest that Industry 4.0 will boost the productivity and growth in manufacturing industries. What are your views on this?

Change is inevitable and moving to the next stage of industrialisation is a part of it. Question is, at what speed and till what depth we have to adopt it to our area of operations. It will surely impact productivity and growth, especially in the manufacturing industry. As I said before, we must experiment with these technologies and adopt it purely on the basis of business need, but as this change is going to happen we must start upgrading the skills for the adoption of these future
generation technologies.

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