SHOPFLOOR INNOVATION

Maruti Suzuki India is trying to ensure that its workers walk around less on the shopfloor. The country’s largest car manufacturer has found that every little stroll away from the assembly-line costs both time and money.

“We pay salaries to work and not walk. There is time spent to pick up spare parts or tools from the racks,” said Rajiv Gandhi, Executive Director (production — Gurgaon).

To tackle this challenge, the New Delhi-headquartered company turned to the Japanese management practice of Kaizen, which had helped in the reconstruction of that country after World War II. Simply translated, it means change for the better.

Kaizen’s ‘One Operator, One Step Reduction’ initiative helped Maruti reduce 21,500 steps from worker walks in FY13.

“This was achieved by providing belt pouches to workers (to keep spare parts), introducing ‘synchronised trollies’ (with parts moving along the line) and moving certain racks closer to the line,” said Gandhi.

However, he said that there was no way to “quantity the financial gains from this practice”.

Other Kaizen practices offer measurable financial gains. For instance, the ‘Employees Feedback Initiative’. The company received 397,000 suggestions under the scheme, and their implementation resulted in savings of Rs 350 crore in FY13. In the year-ago period, the savings under this practice added up to Rs 294 crore. Under its ‘Quality Circle Activity’ programme, the company halted the manufacturing line for an hour on the first Wednesday of every month. It then encouraged workers and supervisors to brainstorm over issues such as defects and rewarded employees with the best suggestions.

Implementation of Kaizen practices also led to recurring savings in scrap elimination (Rs 26.6 lakh), tractor trips (Rs 1 lakh), reduction in labour (15 per cent), and the amount of water used to wash cars (50 per cent less).

rajesh.kurup@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 22, 2013)
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