For 16 hours every day, a serpentine production line coiled inside a 600-acre facility in Manesar shapes and slots steel, rubber, and plastic into shiny new Maruti Suzuki cars.
The largest facility of India’s biggest carmaker, some 55 kilometres away from New Delhi, works at a prodigious pace. Amid a somewhat dystopian industrial township of glass-fronted buildings, boxy manufacturing units and dusty sidewalks, this sprawling factory typically spits out 3,100 cars in 960 minutes daily. The rate of over three vehicles every minute helps Maruti Suzuki, majority owned by Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp., maintain its control over 47% of India’s passenger car market.
Inside the factory’s cavernous hangers, some 7,000 workers and 1,100 robots work in tandem. Around noon at the welding shop, where steel beaten into various automotive shapes is hauled in, there is a constant whirring of yellow robots fusing disparate pieces into the familiar frame of a car. Sparks fly as the robotics welding arms hit the metal, the action unfolding safely enclosed within secure pens. An array of green and orange light blink intermittently, signalling to a handful of yellow-helmeted operators who watch over carefully.
At one point in the production process, some 20 half-built car bodies in a straight line are worked on by 250 robots, providing a display of robotic gymnastics that can prove bewildering to the untrained eye. But there is a method to the madness.
The company’s underlying philosophy for deploying robots instead of humans in certain operations is outlined by three Japanese terms, or the 3K, explains PK Roy, Maruti Suzuki’s senior vice president for the Manesar plant.