Despite a slow start, car manufacturing in India has shifted into the international fast lane. The nation’s automotive industry – still in its infancy as late as the 1960s – has since accelerated. Today the world’s largest democracy is the sixth-largest producer of passenger cars and commercial vehicles.
Tata Motors has played a pivotal role in transforming transportation in India. During most of the 20th century, a car was a luxury reserved mostly for the rich. Additionally, the majority of those vehicles either were imported or manufactured in India by multinational automotive companies. Tata Motors set out to become the first indigenous car manufacturer.
In 1998, Tata Motors launched the first fully indigenous Indian passenger car, the Indica. In 2008, Tata Motors launched the Nano – the world's most affordable car.
Tata Motors is committed to achieving world-class quality in every vehicle it produces. So when the company decided to replace the aging manufacturing execution system (MES) in one of its existing factories, it chose the FactoryTalk® ProductionCentre® system from Rockwell Automation, as a step towards standardizing its MES landscape.
The Tata Motors passenger vehicle plant in Pune, India, manufactures the Zest, Bolt, Indica and a variety of other models in multiple variants. In 2011, plant managers and engineers recognized that their 6-year-old Manufacturing Execution System needed an upgrade.
The existing system was beginning to show early symptoms of ageing.
“We were facing system availability issues stemming from sporadic server failures.” said Satarupa Roy Sarkar of Tata Motors, IT “If these continued or became worse, it would prove difficult to meet high availability expectations of users.”
“If a defect is detected, corrective actions need to be taken quickly,” said Satarupa. “We needed this to happen more quickly with automated alerts and traceable communications.”
To improve the speed of interlinked quality related communication, system based feedback and feed forward mechanisms were implemented. This would help faster actions to support achievements of quality benchmarks.
“We realized we needed to have a revamp of the entire MES,” said Jagdish Belwal, Chief Information Officer for Tata Motors. “When we went for this upgrade, we also treated it as an opportunity to do business process re-engineering. Besides improving production performance, we wanted to standardize applications, processes and technology with two sister plants, both of which were greenfields.”
Tata Motors already used FactoryTalk ProductionCentre (FTPC) software in its two newer plants. Based on their successes with the state-of-the-art MES, the Tata Motors team decided to changeover to FTPC in the Pune plant as well.
By transitioning to the FactoryTalk system, the team knew they could strengthen operational consistencies and provide visibility for decision support within the Pune plant. Plus, they could also help enable a Connected Enterprise by integrating all three plants and standardizing communications, applications, processes and technology.
Under normal circumstances, a transition of the magnitude required at Pune – including server installations, network redundancies and application switch-overs for six assembly-line shops and 93 functions – would have resulted in a major shutdown.
However, the Tata Motors team and its technology partners decided to overcome this challenge and go live while the plant was running – with little or no downtime and minimal effect on production.
The 20-plus-member transition team included application partners from Tata Technologies Limited, IT infrastructure-support providers from Tata Consultancy Services, systems integrators from MESTECH Services, and technology experts from Rockwell Automation and the business IT team of Tata Motors.
The first step in the planning process was to hear what capabilities were needed in the new MES. To do so, consultations were held with all internal stakeholders in the Pune plant – including top managers from engineering, the assembly line shops, quality control and overall plant operations.
With that wish list in hand, the team went to work on the MES migration, but they quickly discovered the brownfield conversion would be more complicated than expected.
“We started with the simple assumption that when a system is working and is visible to all, we didn’t need to define the necessary checks and balances in-depth,” Belwal said. “We soon found out that we had underestimated the amount of customization that the existing MES had undergone in last 6 years.”
So the team focused on identifying the requirements, including those that had been built into the older MES over the years.
After developing and extensively testing of the manufacturing scenario, the team was ready to tackle the challenge of a live transition to the new MES.
This required an innovative approach. The team built data bridges between the old and the new system that could run parallel during the migration process. The data captured by one system was transferred via a data bridge to the other system. The progressive migration approach meant that if any failure occurred during transition, the development team could switch back and forth between the two systems without affecting production.
“The transition took one and a half months,” Satarupa said. “We went shop by shop, function by function. We proceeded very carefully, because our primary goal was to avoid downtime.”
The Tata Motors team met that goal. In fact, the migration was achieved with a downtime of just 0.1 percent – and that too with no loss in production.
“We had a total of two hours and 45 minutes of downtime out of about 1,600 hours, that the shops were running,” Satarupa said. “And that downtime was planned into the process with the manufacturing team, so we could keep normal production levels.”
Since the completion of the project in fall 2013, the new system is being monitored and measured.
Rather than relying on each shop to handle its own operating documentation, the MES software systematically collects and sorts millions of data points, and turns them into actionable information.
Satarupa explained the alarm escalation process using the FactoryTalk system. “As soon as a defect is detected at a quality gate, an alarm is issued through the gate and depending on the defect category, messages are sent to the supervisors and managers through the system. Prompt corrective and preventive actions are taken
Tata Motors IT team also need to spend less time developing and deploying new applications with the FactoryTalk system. “With the new system, they don’t have to go to each station to deploy the same application or write the same code again and again,” Satarupa said.
Besides reducing manual processing, the new MES connects the plant to the enterprise, opening the door to a multitude of production and efficiency gains. For example, data formats, modeling and design approach are all unified among the three sites.
“Adopting the Rockwell Automation solution has helped to standardize our MES landscape,” Belwal said.
Now that Tata Motors have harmonized its technologies across three manufacturing plants, they are evaluating the potential to implement Rockwell solutions in other plants as well.
“From a strategic point of view, we saw clear advantages in replicating the technology from our other sites into Pune,” Belwal said. “What we have done here has the potential to be replicated in other plants.”
The results mentioned above are specific to Tata Motors’ use of Rockwell Automation products and services in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for other customers.