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In the fast lane

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Faurecia Interior Systems, Chennai has accelerated to success in less than a year of setting up base in India | By Indira Rao | That companies go miles to satisfy their customers comes as no surprise. But when a company literally travels miles to cater to only one customer, that is when you stand up and take notice. This is exactly what Faurecia Interior Systems (FIS) did when it set up its base in 2013 in India to cater solely to Ford India.

Situated at Chengalpattu Chennai, FIS started producing door panels (DP), instrument panels (IP) and central consoles (CC) for Ford Ecosport last year. The factory is spread across 4,900 sq-mt and has 300 employees. Around Rs 30 crores was invested in this plant and this investment is now being duplicated to create one more plant (to be ready by Jan 2015) to support the increasing customer demand.

The FIS factory has experienced stupendous growth in the past one year. Explaining this phenomenon, David Duval, plant manager, Faurecia Interior Systems said, “The initial capacity at our current plant was 48,000 cars per year but we have produced three times more. For every function we have defined certain rules and everyone on our shop floor follows this to a ‘T’. This discipline enables us to satisfy the customer, which has lead to our rapid progress.”

The management pays a lot of attention to visual aid and this is quite evident on their shop floor. At every station you will find charts and figures updating and explaining the process flow of the product manufactured there. This transparency has further lead to a well-organised workforce. Add to that their lean management principles of Just in Sequence, pull system production, Kanban, and milk runs between Faurecia and its suppliers and you have a formula for success ready.

Just in Sequence is where they produce their door panels in sequence in less than two hours. “These two hours include not only making the door panels but also organising, shipping and delivering it,” explained Duval. “This specificity requires a lot of anticipation and this is where the rules help. We are a very transparent company and each person on the shop floor has defined roles and this enables us to function smoothly.”

Milk run is another interesting system followed by the company. Duval elucidated, “Milk run is a common term used by the UK milk community. It basically is a system that times exactly when which house wants the milk delivered on their doorstep and in accordance with that, the suppliers organise their route. Similarly, we organise the bringing of our supplies from the suppliers.” For instance, if Faurecia needs five parts from various suppliers to be delivered at their factory at 12.00 pm the logistics is timed in such a way that their pick up vehicle will collect the first part at 10.00 am and then go to the next supplier and collect the other part by say 10.30 am and so on and so forth. Thus, by 12.00 pm they will have all the parts with them-no more no less.

“This system ensures that nothing is wasted not even the space for storing and also that each of our suppliers is efficient and punctual. This is all a part of our lean supply chain management. As of now, this is not working as smoothly as I would have liked it to, but we will keep trying and I’m sure it will happen someday.” Faurecia is headquartered in France and the Indian subsidiary borrows its working principles from its global counterparts.

While India does not contribute majorly to Faurecia global it has indeed emerged as a critical market for them. Agreeing, Vidyadhar Limaye, director, India, Faurecia Interior Systems, averred, “India has emerged as a critical market and cannot be ignored anymore, enabling us to be on the priority list in terms of business allocation.

Faurecia India has one of the largest technology and design centres within the group. By designing exhausts and interior parts of the car, we are attracting more than 50% of design activities in India. Also, from a capability stand point, close to about 90% CAE and mould flow work happens from here and as far as manufacturing is concerned though small, we are growing very fast.” This is quite true especially with respect to the FIS plant. The factory outdid itself the moment it started production. They started off in May/June-13 from making 0 to 200/day, which was akin to 15 jobs per hour (JPH). By July/Dec-13 they started running at average 280/day (17 JPH). This year in April that average was upped up by 320/day (19 JPH) and from May/Oct-14 they were operating at 400/ day (24 JPH). “With us working in three shifts now, by end of the year we aim to produce 550/day, which is three times more than from where we started off,” declared Duval.

The factory houses five plastic injection moulding machines ranging from 1300T to 1800T. They also have high end technologies like heat stacking, US welding and vibration welding available for plastic welding. Duval illustrates another technology that is unique to India called airbag weakening by milling. Elaborating he said, “When you look at the instrument panel of a Ford Ecosport there is no visible demarcation for the airbag. This is because it is done from behind the IP. We do the weakening in the sequence of the instrument panel and this is done through a milling process, .which is highly technology intensive.”

He further adds, “We keep the thickness of 0.3mm to ensure that when the airbags get deployed it will break the skin of the IP at the defined area and will open like a flap and nobody will be injured. This technology has been used worldwide by a lot of OEMs but in India we were the first ones to introduce it.”

Quality and safety are given top priorities. In fact, they have their own methodology to assess the best in quality of the product. “We do not wait for our product to come back from the customer. Everyday once per shift we assess the quality of all the products manufactured and if something is wrong we identify the flaws immediately and find ways to rectify it,” specified Duval.

Not limiting to themselves they further have supplier development programs. “More than 80% of our suppliers are local and we call them to our factory and teach them how to make their supply chain more efficient. We recently held a program in our office wherein we identified seven best practices and taught them to follow it.

The company faces stiff competition from the local market players when it comes to “build to print” kind of programs. However, cars made and sold in India are still with basic technologies like simple injection moulding, welding, painting, cubic printing etc. “Faurecia comes with solid experience in higher segment technologies like soft IP’s, cut and scew which requires higher level of skills and investments which is still not a demand in Indian markets unfortunately,” detailed Limaye.

Right now they produce for the right hand drive vehicles; moving forward by the end of 2014, Faurecia will be localising the Ecosport left hand drive IP and CC business, which is today supported from their China and Brazil locations. Faurecia has also won another business order of door panels and quarter trims for the upcoming SUV of ISUZU.

Passenger vehicles too are experiencing fundamental transformations across all segments as they become cleaner, lighter, more comfortable and premium in the coming months. “Through Faurecia Interior Systems we are relentlessly working towards developing lighter materials which could replace plastic in constructing vehicles, thereby making them lighter, faster and more fuel efficient. Thus, we are making sure that we have a sustainable business model with diver- Assembly line IP – screwing Airbag. sified customer portfolios,” added Limaye on a concluding note.

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