How is Honda ramping up its manufacturing facilities after the long lockdown period, with new normal conditions, social distancing norms and a lesser number of people available on the shop floor?
Honda Cars India (HCIL) has partially resumed productions at both its plants following all the government regulations and the company’s safety protocols. The company gradually started its powertrain operations in Tapukara Plant from June 8, 2020, and car productions in Tapukara plant and Greater Noida from June 15, 2020. While a majority of associates working in the corporate office, including zonal and regional locations, continue to work from home, the company has been following a roster-based attendance for associates in areas that require physical presence or minimal staffing in critical activities.
We have been progressively ramping up our production while exercising utmost caution in our plants in Tapukara and Greater Noida. The approach has been to target & achieve safe, stable and efficient operations. The plants have been started with limited capacity and lesser manpower to ensure strict adherence to the safety and distancing norms, which are a must in the current prevailing scenario. HCIL production has currently reached about 60% of a pre-COVID level, which was at 25% when we resumed operations in mid-June. We hope to ramp up further in the coming months and reach pre-COVID level by the end of September’ 20.
Now, with scenarios changing on the shop floor, what are some of the modifications implemented by Honda for employee safety in the long run?
HCIL has been following comprehensive safety precautions, like temperature screening, non-biometric entry and exit, mandatory face masks, regular sanitisation & disinfection of facilities, equipment & vehicles, no movement of associates from hotspot and containment zones, ample placement of sanitisers/handwash across the facility, training and awareness modules for COVID-19 prevention to be followed in office & homes, transport guidelines, etc. Strict social distancing measures across offices and manufacturing plants for seating layout, marking on the production line, partitions to maintain social distancing and increased production tact time are being followed.
As a corporate philosophy, we are constantly striving to be a company that society wants for to exist, & it is during such times that these values become more relevant than ever. Resuming operations with highest safety protocols amidst COVID-19 further strengthens our belief and responsibility to support the country’s economic sustainability while reinforcing our commitment to protect community well-being through responsible operations.
How is Honda’s manufacturing attaining sustainable production? In what ways can automotive manufacturing practise sustainability in the time to come?
For sustainability, we have carefully planned a phased ramp-up at our end as well as the supplier end. We have been able to develop the ability to screen a large number of asymptomatic individuals and have a built a robust contact tracing with the ability to rapidly inform and quarantine the affected individuals. At the same time, with specialised knowledge, we created playbooks for how company business should operate in areas that are at different readiness levels, including that of our supplier and dealer partners. This approach ensures that employee unions and other key players are actively engaged in and supportive of the business continuity process.
How much of a key role has Industry 4.0 technology played in smooth restarting of shop floors? Do you think technologies will replace the workforce during this present period to ensure compliance with government guidelines?
We have invested in the upgrading of skills of our people while they were home and have looked at developing ideas for implementation that improve production efficiency. We have used Additive Manufacturing as a tool to improve overall efficiency and are moving ahead with the strong belief that through the use of Industry 4.0 tools, we need to scale up the operations and not use it as a tool to reduce manpower.
The automotive industry is foreseeing growth, considering personal mobility is being deemed as a necessity now. How can the manufacturing end of automotive cope up with the demand?
As social distancing will continue to be the way of life, personal mobility will gain more significance as compared to shared mobility or public transport. Besides new car sales, certified pre-owned cars have huge potential due to the affordability factor for a well maintained, nice looking car. Studies suggest that the pre-owned car market as a whole and organised OE dealerships share, which was 18% last year, will continue to grow in the COVID scenario.
To cater to this demand, Honda Cars has a dedicated a pre-owned car sales programme ‘Honda Auto Terrace’ that operates through our pan India dealer network. The programme has been recently refreshed and with it, customers can choose preowned Honda Certified cars from the company’s virtual market, sitting in the comfort of their homes. With almost 350 quality checkpoints before certification, warranty, free services and a transparent deal with complete service history, this programme offers complete peace of mind for the consumer.
How is Honda working on ensuring a resilient shop floor operation in the times to come? What new strategies is your organisation planning on implementing the same?
One thing is clear — the concept of remote operations is here to last. Most manufacturers will be unwilling to risk facing a similar situation in the future as they experienced during the pandemic. Remote work offers many advantages and can be implemented as a standard way of working if the proper rules, methods & tools are available. This, on its own, is a great shift in an industry that has historically required face-to-face contact for information exchange, collaborative problem solving or idea generation. Resilience in Honda has been built on the best practices of yesterday by combining them with the digital and automation capabilities of today.
We can’t be sure of how long the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic will last. But we can be sure that digital factory operations are better set-up to continue through any kind of disruption in the future. Honda embarked on the digital journey long before the pandemic struck, enabling our people and operations through technology. Purely paper-based operations with a manual workflow have been done away with by adopting digitalisation. This now requires fewer people on the shop floor and helps us to be prepared and resilient against whatever disruption the future holds. The ultimate objective is touchless manufacturing, where processes are automated and people move on to roles involving more strategic decision-making. For me, ‘resilient operation = digital transformation’.