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Study visit to Mahle Behr India, Pune

Piyush 2015-12-28

Rome was not built in a day and neither was Delhi. It takes gargantuan efforts, people and time to build cities of such proportions. Likewise, building a great organisation takes a collective effort. It requires commitment from all – from the top management to the bottom of pyramid. Mahle Behr India Ltd is such a factory located at the 29th milestone on the Pune-Nasik Highway in the industrial area of Chakan. Every employee here contributes towards its growth every day and at each and every corner of the factory.

Last month I had the opportunity to lead a team of 30 participants from Bharat forge on a study visit to Mahle Behr Factory in Chakan, Pune. The manufacturing facility is an assortment of the best shop floor practices that can be conceived. It is a joint venture between Mahle, a leading German automotive supplier and Anand Group, a prominent Indian manufacturer and supplier of original equipment. Together they manufacture air conditioning and engine cooling systems for automotive, commercial vehicles, and for other industrial applications. It is a quite interesting fact that almost half of the automobiles produced worldwide use components manufactured at Mahle Behr factory.

Mr Raghavendra Deolankar, Operations head of the factory and his team comprising Naresh Tyagi, Yogesh Pawar, Vikram Govind, Amit Desai and Ajesh Chandran welcomed the delegation. The opening session began with the introduction of the company with a presentation on their products, people, processes and culture. Safety procedures were instructed to the delegates before moving on to the tour. The group was divided into two teams and a guide was allotted to each team.

The tour began with my team heading to the “War Room”. The War Room presents an exceptional overview of the Anand Heijunka Production System (AHPS) which drives manufacturing excellence to progress beyond traditional manufacturing and apply world class manufacturing practices to its process. The room is used to reduce “departmental thinking” during product and process development to facilitate faster communication and decision making. Every individual who is involved in managerial planning meets here to brainstorm and improve upon their methods of production. The room contains visually engaging charts, graphs depicting information such as milestones, progress-to-date and countermeasures to existing technical or scheduling issues. The AHPS framework follows the PDCA methodology where everybody from top management to bottom reviews the planned activities according to a calendar full of events.

The flow of materials and information is mapped through V-Maps to visualize various elements such as production variations, productivity, efficiency and layouts of the machines, cells, lines etc. V-Maps are quite different from Value Stream Maps (VSM) and look into each aspect of production like mapping production cycle, KPIs in terms of productivity, quality whereas VSM captures only material and information flow. The V-Map is drawn at three levels – first for the COO’s outlook, second for the Production manager’s outlook to highlight production fluctuation and lastly at machine or cell level to highlight productivity, effic [VMap] iency etc. The delegates were very enthusiastic and raised a lot of questions. Our guide, Amit Desai, Production Engineers, patiently answered all of them.

Our next destination in the tour was “Dexterity Centre” or “Learning Centre”. The delegates were introduced to the immense focus on the Training and Development of the people. Dexterity Room is where the Induction of the Trainees takes place. Each new recruit is trained here initially and trained about the company, their vision and mission and also its commitment to the customers. This room has a prototype of the product they make; also the physical product is placed in the room with labels to give a visual and tangible touch to aid the learning. The next place on our list was the innovation room where the employees of Mahle Behr get together to brainstorm and formulate new ideas and methods.

After having covered the initial part of the tour, we finally reach the Gemba – the place where real action takes place. The Lean-Kaizen culture at factory can be witnessed immediately upon entering the shop-floor through the impeccable deployment of visual management. Real time data is available at all times. Every problem is punched into the system developed by the company to capture all kind of data needed to improve the system. The Operators and supervisors are empowered with special authorities to stop the production line in case the number of defects increase or get out of range. Andon systems inform the management, maintenance and all stakeholders about the problems occurring on the production line ensuring that action is taken to resolve it. The commitment is to maintain 100% delivery to the customer even by going out of the way to produce & supply to the customer as per the demand. The Heijunka system is modified every three weeks to ensure optimum performance. The suppliers are also trained and aligned with the AHPS to achieve JIT production.

There are Andon Lights, Work Station Standards, and Point of Use Storage, Movable Trolleys for Material Input and Output as well as Guided Storage for the Finished. They produce for multiple customers, who have dedicated assembly lines working for their specific requirements. Material Handling is facilitated by Collapsible Storage Trolleys, which shrink in size once not in use. The Material that is to be dispatched is arranged in a sequence before the Truck arrives to check the viability of a quick loading cycle. A display similar to the Flight Schedule is available in both the Incoming Material and Outgoing Material Area. They handle approx. 90 vehicles per day and that too on time.

Total Employee Involvement is at full stretch, involving even the trainees in the cycle. The enthusiasm is visible in the vibrancy at the shop floor where Operators are totally involved in the overall Organizational Goals defined by the Top Management. It cascades for the lowest value adding person. Employees have a Growth File, get incentivized Educational Programme and are on a Continuous Improvement Cycle all the time. Standards are maintained to a fault. Kaizen Gallery is a feature of the Visual Factory.

The scrap yard is well maintained and Colour coded. The organisation has collaborated with an external agency to collect, recycle the materials and certify every job done in compliance with norms.

At the end of the tour, the participants asked our tour guide to share his experience with the company. He said that, “our organisation is open towards continual learning and allows us to run the factory with best systems. The top management is ever approachable. Their commitment is amazing and inspiring. I loves the culture of Continuous improvement. The organisation gives us an opportunity to learn, to collaborate and to share the learning with all people including the suppliers and vendors. Every employee is involved in product and process development.” He reminisced an incident that some time back an auditor was asking questions during an audit. For every question that he asked, four to five people raised their hand to answer them. The auditor was amazed to find that everybody knows everything – in and out.

After visiting the shop-floor, we assembled at the conference room to meet the whole team again. Mr Deolankar thanked everyone and shared that, “We started this journey in 2011. The industry was hit by a recession and the sentiments were not very high among stakeholders. We visited a lot of organisations to benchmark with them and looked for normal things that are being done in a different way. The question before us was that if the market is not very active then how we achieve the bottom line! We looked for internal improvements and also learnt the Japanese techniques. In the same year, we launched the Continuous Improvement Program. We involved everybody from operating engineers to department heads and everything was put into a big basket. So we have been continuously learning and implementing our learning. We will continue to do so as an organisation and learning each day.”

The delegates again had many questions for him, which he answered gracefully. One of the participants asked, “Your people are fully devoted, what is the secret!” Mr Deolankar said, “We don’t treat our people as workers. We believe that we need only 10% of their brain and 90% commitment of their heart, therefore, we develop people and train them for excellence. We send our people to IITs for higher studies and to Japan for study visits, keeping them open towards knowledge. We keep raising the bar.”

Mahle Behr factory is one big family where everybody can interact, learn and share with each other. I feel it has become the mecca of industrial learning. Every year we conduct Best Practice factory tours as a part of our flagship event, Lean Kaizen Mela. The participants are taken on different routes to visit factories who have exemplified the modern industrial practices. Study visits, Benchmarking practices, guided factory tours are the doorway of learning to global organisations that open to impart a thorough understanding of the strengths of the organisation. Adopting such a practice will help improve performance by constantly identifying, understanding and adapting the Best Practices of the industry. You too can be a part of this tour in Lean Kaizen Mela, next summer, and witness excellence in progress!

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