Dr jochen stallkamp, md, bmw group plant chennai, has structured the manufacturing process at par with global standards.
by jayashree kini mendes
At a time when mass-market brands are pouring resources into ‘premiumising’ some of their models, in a drive for bigger margins, a 102-year-old company, has for long been the benchmark for success in the motor industry. The world’s biggest maker of premium-priced cars is well run, has grown steadily and made profits consistently for years. BMW Group India, along with its German counterparts, has all but cornered the worldwide market in expensive, high-performance saloons. BMW Group, globally, has confounded its rivals by maintaining an image of luxury and exclusivity even as it has introduced an ever-broader range of cars.
Today, the BMW Group India is emulating its global model and filling every imaginable niche. The BMW Group Plant Chennai started operations in March 2007, and in India alone the Group employs around 650-plus. The Chennai plant produces the BMW 3 Series, the BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo, the BMW 5 Series, the BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo, the BMW 7 Series, the BMW X1, the BMW X3, the BMW X5 and the MINI Countryman.
Dr Jochen Stallkamp, MD, BMW Group Plant Chennai, says, “We have one BMW Book standard to describe quality and regardless whether we build a BMW 5 series or a BMW 7 series, in any of the 31 production and assembly site of BMW, we ensure the same outcome in terms of quality, and make 50-plus variants at the Chennai plant.”
Perhaps, this is one of the rare MNCs in automotive that is strongly dedicated to the Make in India programme. Since the campaign began, BMW Group India has been proactive in achieving maximum localisation in its cars. In February, when the company launched the BMW 6 Series GT, it took the locally produced model tally to nine, which includes the MINI Countryman. Following the approach ‘Production follows the market’, the Indian company has accelerated its localisation programme in India.
The BMW 6 Series GT is not only a unique concept but also makes a significant mark through its advanced engineering, technology and innovations. The locally-produced model will create a novel segment and set new benchmarks in the Indian luxury car segment.
Feeling at home
BMW believes that each of its car pushes at the frontiers of technology and innovation. Every new generation model has seen changes in its hallmark kidney grille, futuristic technologies, more lightweighting, increased wheelbase to offer more comfort to passengers, among others. Importantly, the German automaker has further increased the level of localisation in India to up to 50%. Some of the major auto components sourced for local production of cars at BMW Plant Chennai are: Engine and gearbox from Force Motors; axles from ZF Hero Chassis; door panels and wiring harness from Draexlmaier India; exhaust systems from Tenneco Automotive India; HVAC and cooling modules from Valeo India and Mahle Behr and seats from Lear India. In terms of initiatives, BMW Group Plant Chennai constantly builds a closer relationship with local partners and suppliers. “They know we have 50% of local content in each vehicle produced and assembled in India. Our core competence, which is the engine, is also assembled in India,” says Dr Stallkamp.
He adds, “From the production perspective, efficiency is most important. Besides being cost competitive, an organisation is most effective when it has the right processes and people. We have inculcated the processes through our BMW Production System through value-added production system (VPS), which focuses on the product and processes. Highly-skilled employees, advanced manufacturing processes along with state-of-the-art machinery and technology provide all the necessary ingredients to achieve our tough standards.”
Flexibility and efficiency are the distinctive features of the Chennai plant. Within the two production lines, BMW Group India has clustered the more complex cars on one line and the less complex cars on another. “More complex means the bigger cars with more work content, and the lesser complex ones are the smaller cars. Within this we have established the second element of being efficient in generating a mix of models between the two lines, to quickly react on customer demand instantly on the minute or from one day to another, we can shift the production of a car which runs on one of the lines to another,” says Dr Stallkamp. The nine models are produced on two assembly lines and the plant is a fine example of dexterity and orderliness.
Taking history everywhere
With BMW, MINI and Motorrad, the BMW Group has its sight its set firmly on the premium sector of the Indian automobile market. Along with automobiles and motorcycles, the BMW Group’s activities in India comprise financial services for its premium clientele. Till date, BMW Group has invested Rs 12.5 billion (€182.5 million) in its subsidiaries in India. (BMW India – Rs 5.2 billion (€72 million) and BMW Financial Services India Rs 7.3 billion (€110.5 million). The wide range of BMW activities in India include a manufacturing plant in Chennai, a parts warehouse in Mumbai, a training centre in Gurgaon and development of a dealer organisation across metropolitan centres of the country.
In terms of procurement, BMW Group Plant Chennai has a global supplier network that that makes a valuable contribution to value creation, quality and innovation, thus enhancing the success of the Group. In India, the International Purchasing Office (IPO) established in Gurgaon identifies and assesses potential suppliers for BMW, MINI, and BMW Motorcycles taking into account BMW Group’s requirements for quality, technology and logistics. The IPO strongly focuses on facilitating the sourcing of production material (components) as well as IT and engineering services from India to the BMW Group international production network.
The company also has a standard procedure on its tendering process so as to assure adherence to processes, quality, and the technology that is employed. And, this, along with the right supplier management tools helps maintain quality. “We have KPIs on which we measure and these are derived from the ISO 9001 and a basis of our undertaking,” says Dr Stallkamp. “At the end of the chain we have the customer. Their wish needs to be fulfilled. And from a production point of view, I produce what our team in Delhi, the market and the product team determines what works for India.” BMW Group Plant Chennai relies on the Product Management team to decide the model that should be made available in India. “Before the product is introduced to the market, we have closed room product introduction sessions with the customer,” he adds.
In its 11th year, BMW Group India launched SKILL NEXT and will provide 365 BMW engines and transmissions to leading engineering and technical institutes across every state and union territory in India. It is an opportunity for engineering and technical students to get hands-on training on advanced technologies of BMW engine and transmission.
Circling the earth
Globally, the BMW Group has consistently been among the top-rated companies in major sustainable rankings for many years and rules the roost in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the Carbon Disclosure Project. In order to live up to the claim of being the most sustainable premium manufacturer, the BMW Group is continuously reducing CO2 emissions and resources used per vehicle. Since 2006, the BMW Group has reduced its global consumption of energy and water in vehicle production, waste and waste water volume as well as solvents and CO2 emissions per vehicle produced by an average of 53.2%. In the same period, due to efficient use of resources, cost savings totalling €161 million were made.
In line with its ‘Design for Recycling’ approach, it creates vehicles in such a way that their components can largely be reused or recycled efficiently throughout their whole lifecycle. “Some decisive influencing factors are the choice of materials, production technologies, supplier selection, the choice of drivetrain types and the recyclability of the vehicle’s components,” says Dr Stallkamp.
All BMW Group vehicles brought onto the market since 2008 meet the requirements for the recycling of end-of-life vehicles, components and materials (95% total recycling, 85% reuse and material recycling). The environmentally-friendly use of raw materials is taken into account as early as the vehicle development phase via ‘Life Cycle Engineering’.
Up to 20% of the thermoplastic materials in the vehicles are now made from recyclates. These materials account for an average of 12% of vehicle weight. The company uses up to 50% secondary aluminium in high-strength cast aluminium parts. Wherever it makes technical, business and environmental sense and is socially viable, it replaces artificial materials with renewable materials. For example, it replaced supports of door trim panels with natural fibres. These are used in the BMW 7 Series and BMW 5 Series models, among others. Renewable raw materials such as textile fibers, wool, eucalyptus wood, recycled granulate and plant fibres are carefully chosen to create a sustainable interior for the cars.
The BMW i range is a classic example of BMW’s philosophy of cradle-to-grave sustainability. Innovative manufacturing technologies and the application of new materials characterise the production process for BMW i cars. Compared to the conventional car production, making a BMW i model requires 50% less energy and 70% less water. Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) roof panel of BMW i cars is made partially with recycled CFRP from the manufacturing processes of other components. The CFRP components are sustainably produced in Moses Lake, WA, where the factory uses hydroelectric power. In Leipzig, Germany, assembly plant uses wind-generated electricity. Moreover, 25% of plastic used in the interior is comprised of recycled materials. The instrument panel and door trims are made from Kenaf plant fibres. Dashboard wood trim is crafted from responsibly-forested eucalyptus and olive-leaf extract is used to tan interior leather surfaces.
Dr Stallkamp says that the Chennai plant too uses solar cells on its roof, which converts into electric energy. “Out next endeavour is looking into using wind energy which is also available in surplus in the Southern part of India,” he adds.
At BMW Group Plant Chennai, the 1350kwp solar photovoltaic system caters to 61% of the plant energy consumption. It saves 50% of the lighting usage by utilising LED lighting. Besides this, fresh air fans have been replaced by energy efficient HVLS fans, saving 30% of energy in the ventilation system. About 99.4% of waste generated at the Chennai plant is recycled. Waste water from the plant is recycled.
Such moves should see an increase in momentum for BMW Group in the Indian luxury car market.