How Hyundai beat Covid to ramp up production

G Balachandar Chennai | Updated on January 07, 2021

Ganesh Mani, Director-Production, HMIL

Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL) ended calendar 2020 with a production of 5.2 lakh units, one of the lowest in recent years. But, India’s second largest car maker and top automobile exporter is not unduly worried. It finds the pandemic has only made it more resilient and accelerated efforts to realise its objective of becoming an all-weather company.

From zero production in April 2020, the company achieved a record production of 71,000-plus units in December 2020, the highest-ever single-month output in its 24 years of existence in India.

This rapid ramp-up was possible due to HMIL’s early focus on adopting smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 practices at its Sriperumbudur factory, located on a 530-acre area near Chennai. The facility could reach 85 per cent capacity utilisation in August 2020 itself, when most of its peers could achieve only about 40 per cent, weighed down by labour non-availability and supply-chain disruptions.


“With well-focussed efforts, the company exhibited resilience in absorbing the shock created by the pandemic, recovering critical functions and flourishing in a new normal scenario,” said Ganesh Mani, Director-Production, HMIL.

The lockdown came when the company was all set to ramp up its capacity just after the launch of its flagship SUV, the all-new Creta, in February. Suddenly, everything came to a standstill. For instance, the paint shop had 50,000 litres of paint that could not be taken out.

“It took us a few days to adjust to the new normal. We spent nearly 300,000 man hours to make sure that executives-and-above started working with new technologies such as mixed reality. The technical team, which is involved in the development of new models, embraced virtual working. We were in constant touch with employees, vendors and dealers to boost their morale while also discussing the impact of the pandemic and preparations (for it),” recalled Mani.

Challenging period

The next stage — operations with Covid-19 norms — was the most challenging period as the company had to implement social distancing norms using a limited workforce.

Through a ‘no-touch manufacturing’ study, the company identified a couple of hundred places where direct touch was required, and addressed them to ensure prevention of infection. The installation of an ultraviolet disinfection process for cars on the conveyor belt, camera-based social distancing (which will raise on alarm if violations are spotted) and the deployment of medical staff, among other measures, created confidence among the employees.

As the pent-up demand took off and export orders revived, the company had to mobilise additional resources with a quick hiring of about 2,000 people.

“We had bookings for close to 60,000 units of Creta, and had to ramp up the daily capacity from 300-320 units to 600-plus. Close to 125 operational changes have been done from May onwards. This has been possible due to our sustained focus on becoming flexible and smart manufacturing practices over the past few years,” said Mani.

The factory operations started focussing on remote monitoring, virtual correction, augmented reality-based training (to avoid physical training), etc.

Onward journey

“Our journey in this will continue. We will take it to the next levels and speed up the implementation of more practices such as AI and data mining of Industry 4.0,” he said. HMIL was awarded by Frost & Sullivan three times for implementation of smart manufacturing practices and benefits achieved through Industry 4.0 practices.

“All our launch plans are intact and our objective is to reach 2018 levels of sales (7 lakh-plus, both domestic and exports put together) as early as possible,” he added.

Published on January 07, 2021

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