VECV joining the Volvo family

VECV is the latest and perhaps most anonymous addition to the Volvo family, but that is soon going to change. In mid-October 2010, the groundbreaking ceremony took place for the plant that will be producing the base engine for Volvo Powertrain’s medium-duty platform within the next few years.

This plant is being built on the same site as the current facility in Pithampur, where VECV is already producing engines, transmissions, axles, trucks and bus chassis. 

VECV is a joint venture between the Volvo Group and Eicher Motors. Eicher Motors Ltd has been running production operations here since 1984, at which time it was collaborating with Japanese Mitsubishi. That partnership was terminated in 1993, but VECV still works according to the Japanese Kaizen method.

“Some 96 per cent of our vehicles are totally correct when they leave the production line and the remaining four per cent generally have only minor defects,” explains quality assurance manager Lakshmipathy. “However, that’s still too many and we’re working the whole time to reduce the number of defects.”

Some of the strategic components for the finished vehicles are made at VECV’s own plant. The rest are sourced from more than 300 suppliers, most of whom are based in India. Half these Indian suppliers are based in the local region. Around 3,000 people work at the plant, but only a small percentage are permanent employees.

“By tradition, Indian companies often use trainees, apprentices and staff with temporary contracts,” explains Lakshmipathy. “Here at VECV, however, we are working to increase the number of permanent employees, as this would help to enhance the quality of the work.”

“Working with Volvo quality imposes rigorous demands on all the employees, but it’s also going to be stimulating and it will give us much more satisfaction.”, says Dr Rajeev Mishra, head of HR.
One clear-cut difference between a “normal” plant in the Volvo Group and the plant in Pithampur is the lower level of automation.

Gajrulad inte workshop conducts the final inspection on engines before they continue to the assembly line.

“I have been working with engines for 20 years,” he says. “I started with blocks and then I gradually worked my way up to final inspection.”

Gajrulad’s inspection takes between five and six minutes for each engine and it is largely based on him inspecting everything with his eyes and hands to make sure that the engine is OK to continue. He also uses some instruments to measure values, but, compared with the Volvo Group’s plants in other places, this inspection is more hands on and less automated.

“At the very end, we still conduct a test run and that shows if I have missed anything,” says Gajrulad. “So no engine makes its way to a customer with a defect.”

Now that VECV is building a totally new engine plant in Pithampur, this will initially result in the recruitment of some 80 people. This number will double when production is in full swing. 
“We have good recruitment opportunities here, says Rajesh Mittal, senior vice-president of the medium- and heavy-duty engine project at VECV.

“When this plant was built at the beginning of the 1980s, there were plans to make Pithampur the ‘Detroit of India’ and substantial investments were made in the automotive industry. However, the infrastructure lagged behind and Pune and Chennai overtook Pithampur as the important area for the Indian automotive industry.”

VECV is also boosting its investment in its component division in another industrial area in the city called Dewas, situated around 60 kilometres from Pithampur. This plant supplies all the gears and axle components required by the Pithmapur Plant and also has many large external customers, such as Caterpillar and John Deere.

“We are hoping to make this plant a major supplier to Volvo Powertrain in the coming years,” says Sudhee Ranjan Mukherjee, the vice-president of Eicher Engineering Components.

The government is also funding a test facility for heavy-duty vehicles in the country, just a few kilometres from the plant in Pithampur.

“This will complement our new fatigue lab facilities very effectively and will give us access to the best-in-class test infrastructure," says Rajesh Mittal.

Image: In India, the vehicle plant normally delivers trucks with half-cabs. The customer builds the rest.

Read more in Global Magazine 1, 2011