Hinduja group flagship company Ashok Leyland today launched their Pantnagar plant with trend-setting technologies. Set over 190 scenic acres, the Pantnagar plant of Ashok Leyland is also its largest manufacturing facility. 200,000 sq.ms of built up area houses one of the most integrated manufacturing facilities in Indian commercial vehicle industry. Best in class industrial architecture combined with the latest manufacturing technologies has created a truly modern facility that is also ecology sensitive as reflected in the selection of machinery and processes.
Highly energy efficient, the plant is designed to be remarkably operator friendly. The shop floors receive the maximum natural light and ventilation while the insulated high roof reduces the inside temperature by up to 8oC in the summer months.
Designed on lean manufacture principles, process control for high quality of output and flexibility to manage variety with quick changeovers are built into the machine and process selection. The factory boasts of latest generation equipment sourced from global leaders in Japan, USA, Europe and India.
The plant is a study in layout optimization and flow, contributing to the high benchmarks in high productivity and operating cost efficiency.
The facilities have been so designed as to accommodate further expansion in terms of capacity and future models.
At full capacity utilization, 75,000 vehicles will roll out of the Pantnagar plant.
A large capacity water body has been created for water harvesting, with water treatment and recycling ensuring zero discharge. Over 75 acres, representing around 40% of the total area, is designed green cover area and over 10,000 trees have already been planted.
The plant will be supplemented by neighbourhood facilities put up by key vendors, further boosting employment opportunities.
Frame manufacturing shop
For the first time in India, CNC flexible roll forming technology has been introduced for frame manufacture, offering manufacturing flexibility to form the entire variety of frames and accommodating future model requirements and design changes with no fresh tooling. The flexibility comes with minimum model changeover time, allowing low batch quantities in the manufacturing plan.
Powder coating instead of conventional liquid painting eliminates hazardous pollutants while bestowing high corrosion resistance to withstand well over 500 hours of salt spray bath. The change of technology also ensures zero wastage of paint.
The CED coating system is led / tin free, employing robotics and reducing paint wastage. While propane gas cuts atmospheric pollution, the camel back type baking ovens reduces fuel consumption and heat dissipation. All material movement is automated to enhance operational safety and output quality.
Crown wheel and pinion shop
Even as it significantly speeds up operations, migration to dry cutting with carbide blades has eliminated, use of cutting oil pollution. A closed loop software connected to inspection and cutting machines dramatically quickens the fine-tuned machine setting, in managing the complicated three dimensional geometry of the aggregates. Clean propane instead of LPG makes for environmental protection and low operating cost.
Chassis and vehicle testing shop
The chassis assembly is designed to be extremely dexterous to produce the smallest to the largest of vehicles in Ashok Leyland’s product range, including the U-Truck range and other cabbed vehicles. The single chassis testing line can test all the models and variants covering various tests, to generate instant test reports.
The integrated axle machining and assembly shop has highly automated front axle machining lines and conveyorised front / rear assemblies, all in one shop. Hazardous operations are performed by robots.
Cab weld shop
High on automation, the shop employs robotics in framing and rear body lines, for better quality and improved ergonomics. Manufacture of door assemblies is performed by robotic roller hemming.
Integrated Horizontal Machining Centres (HMC) complex fed by Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) bestow great flexibility to manufacture a range of engine variants, using components rough machined in an adjoining shop. Auto docking and in-process verification systems directly reduce testing cycle time and optimize test cell requirements.
Dust-free enclosure for assembly on skids and material supply in kits for right component assembly of variants are two other features. The shop has the capability to produce both the H and the Neptune family of engines.
Past testing, the engines are mated to gearboxes (5, 6, 8 or 9 speed) in an adjoining area.
All the shops have real-time manufacturing monitoring systems installed which will get hooked and integrated to a centralized computer controlled automated manufacturing management system. This will facilitate order tracking, maximization of machine utilization, quality trend monitoring, prediction of tool life and prompts for preventive maintenance, among others.
The plant has a state-of-the-art Fire Hydrant System, backup power generators (75%), 24 kms of rain water drains and wide concrete roads for taking care inbound / outbound logistics.
The latest generation electrical lighting reduces energy consumption significantly. The manufacturing, canteen, office buildings have been designed on the principles of green building.
Ashok Leyland seeks to utilize its presence in this new location to spread the benefits of industrialization to reach the youth of the region, by creating a stepping stone for them to start a career. Ashok Leyland will sponsor them for 3-4 year courses offered in association with a reputed technical training institute. During the training, they will learn and earn. The curriculum will cover contemporary management and manufacturing concepts, side by side with an opportunity for practical hands on learning at the modern plant. This training will give them the skills and knowledge to be effective shop floor associates and will qualify them for managerial positions eventually, cueing a breakthrough practice aptly called the integrated workforce as it seeks to break the conventional hierarchical divisions on the shop floor.
Local value addition
The primary considerations for Ashok Leyland in putting up the new Pantnagar plant have been to maximize local value utilization and create employment both directly and indirectly for the local population of Pantnagar and its immediate vicinity. The Company aims at reaching over 50% of local procurement by the end of the year.
The increase in procurement and utilization of local resources from areas like Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh translate into excise duty exemptions and VAT rebates which can be passed on to the end customer.
Several key vendor partners of the Company, accorded Preferred Supplier Status, have accepted the invitation to set up their own facilities in Uttarakhand. For Ashok Leyland, this translates into better supply chain management, obviates the need for stores and enables ‘produce to deliver’. The suppliers, on the other hand, enjoy the accruing tax benefits apart from the guarantee of assured business from a captive client. Another positive is the creation of direct and indirect employment opportunities for local talent.