The recently-inaugurated plant of Kia Motors India is one of the newest in the country, filled with modern technologies for the production of its vehicles
One of the newest entrant to the Indian automotive industry, Kia Motors India has made rapid progress in the short time it has been in the country. Its first, and by far the only product – the Seltos SUV – has been a runaway success, and sometime soon, the company will bring to the market its premium MPV, Carnival. With exports scheduled to commence soon, the manufacturing facility in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh will be a busy hub of activities for the Korean major, and will become one of the group’s key locations.
Spread over an area of about 536 acres, Kia Motors India’s Anantapur plant has an annual production capacity of around 300,000 units, with the Seltos SUV currently being the company’s only vehicle that is being manufactured there. This plant has created 3,000 direct and 7,000 indirect jobs across the Andhra Pradesh region. This facility reports zero emission and water wastage, with 100 % water recycling carried out within the plant.
Construction of the plant had commenced in Q4 2017, while trial production of the Seltos SUV was kick-started in January, 2019. The facility has been set-up with a total investment of $ 1.1 bn (around Rs 7,800 cr), and is equipped with the latest production technologies, including over 450 robots automating the press, body and paint shops, as well as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.
The facility also includes a training facility at a separate location, which offers a basic technical course (BTC) in automobiles in collaboration with the Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC). This course is aimed at helping develop manufacturing skills among youth, as well as propagate safety performance during vehicle production.
The plant is divided into four main areas of production – press shop, body shop, paint shop and assembly. There are numerous processes that are carried out within these areas, which are all separated into different buildings across the plant.
The first production process begins in the press shop, spread over an area of 4.7 acres, where 0.6 mm steel sheets are supplied to a series of automated press machines, which includes a 5,400 tonne press machine. A total of 17 parts are produced in the press shop, which include various body panels that are manufactured after passing through five processes of stamping, cutting and finishing. With a 97 % level of automation, the press shop aims to produce adequate stamped steel components to enable the production of 42 vehicles per hour, which is in line with the final assembly goal at present, the company noted.
The components of the press shop, in addition to a few other components are then supplied to the body shop of the plant, which is spread over an area of 8.4 acres. The body shop has a total of 183 stations on the lines, which carries out production in two forms. The first is called structure production of the vehicle, which is formed by components such as floor, sides, roof and roof rails. The other line in the body shop is referred to as moving parts production, for the assembly of the bonnet, doors and tail gate. The body shop carries out the processes of assembling and inspection of the body in white (BIW), which is essentially the shell of the entire vehicle. The body panels for both the structure production and moving parts production are fixed onto the vehicle’s chassis by means of arc welding. Robots are used for the welding process to ensure a finish that is of high quality, maintaining consistency.
The paint shop is restricted to employees alone as it must maintain a dust-free environment. The vehicle body is shifted into the paint shop, following which four main processes are carried out. The body begins its journey in the paint shop with pre-treatment to remove any form of dust, dirt and impurities that may have been left through the previous production steps. It is then put through electric coating that helps the body to attract all the paint that will be sprayed onto the vehicle in subsequent steps. The next step includes the application of a primer that forms the base coat to the bare metal of the body panels and chassis, with the final stage coming in the form of a dual coat of paint. The paint shop is spread over 8.2 acres.
The final assembly is where all the components from suppliers, who have set up shop in and around the Kia manufacturing facility, come together to complete the Seltos SUV assembly. The assembly begins with the trim line, where the vehicle’s doors are removed for easier accessibility for smooth assembly of the various components. The trim line includes the assembly of components into the cabin, which include wiring, headliner and cockpit installation. This is followed by the chassis line, engine, suspension, fuel tank, as well as brake and fuel tubes are fitted on to the vehicle.
The next stage of assembly constitutes the final line, where the first step includes reinstallation of the vehicle’s doors. Other major components assembled onto the vehicle here are the windshield glasses, seats, bumpers and tyres. Once the vehicle has completed assembly on the final line, it moves to the OK line, where the assembly of the vehicle is assumed to be completed. Kia said it rolls out one vehicle every 10-15 seconds from the OK line.
The final stages of vehicle production involve the test track, where every single vehicle produced goes through a test drive. The test track covers a total distance of 3.4 km, and offers varying road conditions to simulate various driving conditions that one could encounter in the real world. After the vehicle completes the drive on the test track, it finally undergoes a shower test to check for any minute leaks from the doors, windows or any other water-related occurrences.
All in all, the cumulative time taken to roll out a fully assembled Seltos is 1 min 42 s currently. The company is currently addressing the growing market demand by utilising its production capacity of 16,000 units per month, which it said can easily be scaled-up should demand increase. The facility has flexible lines, and can accommodate the production and assembly of new models as well as electric vehicles. This flexibility is expected to enable the company to offer multiple models to the Indian market with varying levels of demand quite effortlessly.
While focussing on the current domestic demand, the company is also mulling exporting the Seltos mid-sized SUV to global markets like Africa and South America. Kia also confirmed that it will begin rolling out its premium MPV Carnival in early 2020. The announcement of the launch of the Carnival MPV, along with the healthy sales number for the Seltos make it seem that the company’s manufacturing facility is indeed going to be busy in the times to come. The Anantapur plant is well positioned to be a key part of the overall global operations of Kia Motors Corporation, which has clocked annual revenues of over $ 47 bn globally.
TEXT: Naveen Arul
PHOTO: Kia Motors India