Making of Honda Cars and Engines – Tapukara Plant Visit
Honda Cars India Ltd took the initiative to give us a plant tour at Tapukara, giving us an insight into the enormity and continuity of work undertaken by robotics and workers.
Honda Cars India Limited manufactures cars and components at two plants situated in the north of India. The first was set up at Greater Noida, U.P. and the newer plant at Tapukara, Rajasthan, about an hour’s drive from Gurgaon. Car manufacturing at the Tapukara plant started in 2014.
Tapukara plant Phase I operations dealt with parts production for engine components back in 2008. Vehicle manufacturing was started in Feb 2014. Cumulative production at both plants stand at 2.4 lakh units.
Installed production capacity at the Tapukara plants stands at 1.2 lakh units at present, and can be scaled upto 1.8 lakh units. Employees work in two shifts, and car manufacturing is undertaken in batches, i.e., 120 units of Honda Jazz, then 120 units of WR-V, and so on.
The Tapukara facility spans 400+ acres. With ample open space, more than 25,000 trees have been planted. Staying green is supported by large sheds that allow natural lighting. Giant sized air circulation fans keep work areas cooler. There’s also a 1200 KW solar power plant. All water is recycled making it a zero discharge plant. 97% rainwater is harvested through recharge wells and rainwater harvesting pond.
Honda manufactures City, Jazz, BR-V, and WR-V at Tapukara. The plant stands in its present form after an investment of INR 5,441 crores, and provides employment to 5,901 employees. Daily output is pegged at 490 units, with a new car rolling out every two minutes. Time taken to build a single car is about 20 hours.
The Honda Tapukara plant also holds other distinctions. It is Honda’s largest manufacturing facility for manual transmissions, and diesel engines, both of which constitute huge export volumes for Honda, globally. Components are supplied to over 15 global markets. For India, HCIL manufactures the 1.2-litre i-VTEC four-cylinder petrol, 1.5-litre i-VTEC four-cylinder petrol and 1.5-litre i-DTEC four-cylinder diesel engines here. CVT units are imported from Indonesia.
With 90% localization in car manufacturing, the plant houses units to manufacture parts in-house. Various functionalities are undertaken at the forging (cylinder blocks, engine blocks and crankshafts) section, machining line (pistons and piston rods), powertrain – engine components (transmission cases) unit, Press Shop (Body panels), Weld shop, and Paint shop. Plastic Moulding, Engine assembly, and Frame Assembly are also undertaken in-house.
We saw the forging line first. The line is largely automated with a tag time of 9 seconds between processes. Starting life as an iron billet, forging a crankshaft requires passing through a myriad of machines in extreme temperature, and under huge pressure (4500 tonne press). This includes chambers heated to 1250 °C and finally a chamber of 100 °C.
Each unit is manually inspected and passed from station to station, before finally being barcoded and stored for export, or for use at the plant. It’s fascinating to see blocks of metal take on the form of integral parts under the watchful eye of floor inspectors who keep a keen eye on temperature maintenance, and machining faults, if any.
At the onset, the process looks easy but here’s where automation has excelled to keep human contact at a minimum to prevent any accidents in the heart of furnaces. The die-casts set precedence while automated robotic arms make the actual transfer from station to station overseen by floor managers. The pattern is set and repeated to perfection day after day.
With diecasts for every process of machining and building, it’s only a matter of following set systems to ensure error free production meets daily capacity targets. Whether it’s engine blocks, pistons that facilitate an engine’s heartbeat, or car body parts, door panels or more, the blueprint is of essence. Depending on output and process, human intervention across floors varies.
Transmission (CVT and manual) production facility has two manufacturing lines, and a capacity of 2,000 units per day. The Press Shop takes care of car body panels (roof, doors, fenders), and it all starts out with a single metal sheet. Once cleaned and trimmed, they are enclosed in the press area. The machines used are capable of exerting pressure between 1,000 – 1,500 tonnes.
As each car takes shape and moves from one shop to another, the transfer is done through a series of overhead conveyor belts, and then moved across stations on ground level attached to a conveyor. Once all parts are machined to life, they’re racked and kept in specified storage areas before being transferred to different welding lines to create the car framework attached to pillars. All scrap from machining is automatically loaded onto a conveyor belt for collection at a specified area, so, at no time are dangerous jagged edged metal bits found left behind at any shop floor.
At the welding shop, the underbody comes on board first after which the side panels and roof are attached forming a skeletal framework. Next, the boot, doors and hood are welded onto the framework.
Engines are put together at the Engine Assembly line. Honda Tapukara plant is charged with manufacturing the 1.2-litre petrol, 1.5-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engines. A diagnostic system scans each engine block as soon as it’s loaded onto the work station. This automatically notifies workers as to which engine parts are required for the engine block at hand. Pistons are placed, and it moves station to station as more parts and wires and pipes are attached to help it grow into the giant beast it finally turns into before being hung from overhead conveyor belts and inspected for perfection.
In the meantime the skeletal form is fortified and painted to precision for its debut. Once returned to the assembly line, the doors are detached so workers can enter the vehicle at ease as it passes through various stations for interior fitments. With the car having taken shape, it’s raised for the engine to be fitted ground up into the chassis. Suspension and brakes are next, followed by connecting the steering, functions, and engine once wiring, pedals and levers are placed. Along the way liners and seats are fitted before the doors are reattached. Tyres are sent to the alloy fitment counter before taking the long route through an underground travelotor to reach the assembly line.
Each car is rigorously tested at the engine testing facility, test course and hot & cold test chambers before being approved for sales. Below is a short video from the plant.
(Disclosure: My visit to the plant was sponsored by Honda Cars India.)