Focus On Low-Cost Automation, Increased Localisation

TKAP Low-Cost Automation Increased Localisation

In the area of passenger vehicles, most OEMs have engine and transmission assembly as a part of their in-house operations, with very few companies carrying this out through a separate entity. Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) is the only OEM in India with a standalone manufacturing company for these critical components. Toyota Kirloskar Auto Parts Pvt Ltd (TKAP) manufactures petrol engines for the Etios range, manual transmissions for Etios, Innova Crysta and Fortuner models, and axles and propeller shafts for Innova Crysta and Fortuner.

The TKAP plant is situated in Bidadi, near Bangalore, at close proximity to the TKM manufacturing facility. Mohan Kumar KG, Joint Managing Director, TKAP, took us through the manual transmission assembly section of the plant, provided details of the company’s manufacturing techniques, and described the roadmap ahead. The plant has a total built-up area of over 70,000 sq m, with about 70 % of the business of TKAP coming from the manufacture of manual transmissions.

IMPORTANT MILESTONES

TKAP was established in 1999, when it was called Kirloskar Systems Ltd. The company began with the production of parts for the Toyota Qualis, under a technical collaboration with Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC). TKAP came into existence in 2002, with a joint venture between TMC, Toyota Industries Corporation and Kirloskar Systems Ltd, and took over the unit. TKAP began exports in 2004 by making transmissions for Innova and Fortuner, which are under the intermediate motor vehicles (IMV) category. TKM phased out the Qualis and began manufacturing the Innova in 2005, for which TKAP began production of front and rear axles, as well as propeller shafts.

The next major milestone of expansion for TKAP was in 2012, when the company forayed into engine assembly operations, and began assembling petrol engines for the Etios range in August 2012. In December the same year, TKAP also began assembling transmissions for the Etios’ petrol engines. 2016 was the year TKAP expanded its operations into the assembly of transmissions for the Etios’ diesel engines as well. The Innova Crysta was also launched in 2016, for which the company is currently manufacturing rear axles and propeller shafts.

TMC is the holding company of TKAP, with 64 % of the shares, followed by Aisin Seiki Co Ltd, Japan, having a share capital of 26 %. The final 10 % share of TKAP is held by Kirloskar Systems Ltd. Aisin Seiki bought over the shares held by Toyota Industries Corporation and entered the joint venture in August, 2016. Kumar said that TMC has restructured its strategy on the production of components, and in line with this, Aisin AI has been awarded the manufacturing of manual transmissions for the company globally. Similarly, diesel engines will be produced by Toyota Industries Engines India Ltd (TIEI) that has been set up in Jigani, near Bangalore. Brakes and other chassis components are manufactured by ADVICS Co Ltd. This restructuring was done to allow the parent company, TMC to focus on next-generation powertrains for products, including hybrid, fuel-cell and electric vehicles. This is the main reason Aisin Seiki took a stake in TKAP, since a major part of the volume of TKAP’s business comes from manual transmissions, explained Kumar.

FOCUS ON LOCALISATION

TKAP has an annual production capacity of 110,000 sets of axles and propeller shafts, and 220,000 units of R 150 T/M manual transmissions, which are all for Toyota’s IMV models. While the entire capacity of axles and propeller shafts is consumed domestically by TKM, 60 % of the R 150 T/M transmissions are exported, mostly to Toyota’s Thailand location.

In terms of production capacities of components for the Etios range, TKAP manufactures 108,000 units of petrol engines annually that are for TKM’s domestic use. The plant also has a combined annual production capacity of 240,000 units of its C 550 T/M and EC 50 T/M, petrol and diesel transmissions. While almost the entire capacities of petrol and diesel transmissions for Etios are consumed by TKM, about 1 % is exported, mainly to Indonesia.

Kumar said that TKAP has a large domestic supplier base, most of whom are Toyota group companies also located in the vicinity. There is a good mix of Japanese plants, MNCs and domestic companies among the suppliers, he noted. This leads to localisation of above 80 % for transmissions, and about 71 % for axles and shafts, for the IMV models of Innova Crysta and Fortuner. Meanwhile, the transmissions and petrol engines of the Etios family have local content of 57 % and 27 %, respectively. The lower volume of sales of these vehicles acts as a bottleneck in achieving higher levels of localisation for these components.

The first unit with which TKAP began production is the axle and shaft unit, and this is where there is a high level of localisation of machinery. Subsequently, there is about 32 % of localised machines for the larger IMV transmissions, which was set up as a global transmission unit for Toyota. The lower level of indigenous machinery for the larger transmissions is caused due to imported machinery being used for gear-cutting operations. Being a machining unit, the localisation level of cutting tools at TKAP is close to 100 %.

TRANSMISSION MANUFACTURING

TKAP has 1,300 employees, with the direct to indirect ratio of operators being in the ratio of 60:40. Operators primarily work in two shifts. It follows a three-pillar approach of Safety, Quality and Productivity for daily management, in order to maintain high levels of production. This has resulted in improvements including reduced number of accidents/incidents, and in-process rejections from machining. It has also lead to the efficiency of machining line crossing 92 %, and that of the assembly line coming in at over 98 %. Kumar noted that all this efficiency has led to a significant cost advantage to the company. TKAP is the first plant in the Asia-Pacific region to achieve gold level certification from the TMC for cleanliness and process standardisation.

The process of manufacturing transmissions begins with receiving raw components in blank turned form from a supplier of forged parts. TKAP carries out gear cutting, heat treatment and finishing operations for the gears and shaft. Likewise, for die-cast transmission cases, the company carries out machining processes in-house, with the die-cast parts being supplied by its TIEI. TKAP manufactures 4x2 and 4x4 R-series transmissions for IMVs, with a total of nine variants being produced. However, with regards to the petrol and diesel transmissions for the Etios range, the blank turning is also carried out in-house.

TKAP has separate machining and assembly lines for transmissions that go into the IMV and Etios models. It utilises a common facility for heat treatment of components for both transmissions, and has also consolidated logistics operations in a single area. The smooth flow of raw materials into finished components is assisted by following Toyota Production System (TPS) manufacturing processes.

The plant makes use of Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV) to supply parts from the machining lines to the assembly lines. As is the case with most component manufacturers, TKAP also designs jigs used to load parts at various stages of assembly in-house, which are then manufactured by a supplier. The main assembly line for the IMV transmissions is made up of a number of sub-assemblies that carry out pressing operations, as well as an after-assembly line that carries out testing. All nine variants of IMV transmissions are assembled on the same line, with every single transmission being inspected for gear ratio, gear noise and shifting ability. All these inspections are in addition to performance testing that is carried out with pre-identified samples. The above mentioned inspection and validation processes are carried out with transmissions of IMVs, as well as those of the Etios range.

A unique factor of the Etios transmission line is that the same one produces petrol and diesel engine transmissions. The company has incorporated simple setup changes through which only a small amount of time is used in the changeover between the assembly of petrol and diesel transmissions. With machining operations, which also differ between the transmissions, the company is at a stage where it can make the setup changes to the line within 10 minutes. This ensures quick switch-over between the manufacture of petrol and diesel transmission, resulting in negligible idle time.

TRAINING FOR IMPROVED EFFICIENCY

The main training centre covers coaching of operators in basic safety; skill training for engine, axle, transmission, assembly processes, visual inspection and welding; and machine maintenance. This is followed by shopfloor training, which includes three-day basic training and three-day line side training.

Karakuri refers to low-cost automation that uses gravity, levers, cams and inertia in material movement, which TKAP has employed in its processes. The company has incorporated certain Karakuri practices to move transmissions across the line, by tapering the line, results in lesser number of actuators in the line. Similarly, the company uses a system comprising of rope and pulley with counter-weights, along with a motor that consumes less power than a single tube-light, to lift the transmission into place.

Kumar said the company is looking towards low-cost automation, primarily targeting a return on investment in less than two years. The performance of the business at present does not really allow the company to afford much investment into high-tech automation, he added. However, on critical processes that involve tough environments, as in the case of welding, TKAP has opted for complete automation by robots. Even for such automation, only the welding robot and the equipment are imported, with integration and logic built locally by TKAP with its suppliers, to help attain lower costs for automation, noted Kumar.

CONCLUSION

Over the last three years, there has been a downward trend in the sales of all the four products that are manufactured by TKAP. Both the export, as well as domestic markets to which the company caters to, have not been performing well, said Kumar. The primary export market for TKAP is Thailand, which saw political instability that affected domestic demand there. The company is making use of low-cost automation, as well as increased localisation, to increase efficiency in manufacturing, while also lowering the cost of manufacturing.

Additionally, with the re-structured strategy in place, TKAP is looking at expanding its transmissions business to customers outside of TMC. Kumar said that TKAP would like to use the Aisin group companies and their brand to extend the customer base for transmissions to other OEMs as well. While there are no specific plans on this front yet, he said TKAP is in discussions with a number of OEMs, to work with them during their product development cycle. Kumar concluded that this expansion to customers outside Toyota would subsequently be realised with newer models and platforms in the future.

TEXT: Naveen Arul

PHOTO: TKAP