A driving force for quality
A 100 per cent subsidiary of Tata Motors, responsible for the production of its axle and transmission aggregates, TML Drivelines has created huge value for its parent company through its tireless pursuit of quality and efficiency
Founded in 1868, the Tata group is one of the world’s best known global enterprises. Headquartered in India, the group operates in more than 100 countries and comprises over 100 independent operating companies. A major part of the group is Tata Motors Limited, a $42 billion organisation, which is a leading global automobile manufacturer with a portfolio covering a wide range of cars, sports vehicles, buses, trucks and defence vehicles.
In 2000, Tata Motors’ Axle and Transmissions manufacturing divisions were spun off as two separate 100 per cent subsidiaries, dubbed HVAL and HVTL. In 2011, the boards of the two companies came to the decision to amalgamate HVAL and HVTL in order to harness their respective synergies, and in the process created TML Drivelines. “Our core role is meeting Tata Motor’s requirements for commercial vehicle related axle and transmission aggregates,” explains Pramod Choudhary, TML Drivelines’ Head of Manufacturing.
Axles and transmissions as aggregates are critical components for Tata Motors, and TML Drivelines provides close to 150,000 gear boxes and 400,000 axles to Tata Motors every year to the highest of industry standards when it comes to quality and cost. Recognised as India’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicle transmissions, traditionally the company’s synchronised manual transmissions, in five through nine speeds, have been used across a full spectrum of applications in medium and heavy commercial vehicles manufactured at Tata’s Jamshedpur and Lucknow plants. In more recent years it has expanded into the light commercial vehicle segment, supplying aggregates to Tata’s Pune plant.
“Over the years, we have worked hard to forge a blueprint for the modernisation of our own business and our manufacturing capabilities, making it lean and flexible, laying the foundations for a strong and sustainable future, and we are currently benefitting from this across the board,” Pramod enthuses. “Our efforts have resulted in our machines being among the very best in the world in their class and has meant that we have been able to focus on costs, specifically how we can differentiate ourselves from our competitors in this respect. Through tireless hard work we are proud to state that we are now able to supply aggregates to Tata Motors that are up to 15-20 per cent cheaper than those of other companies in our field. It means that we are able to guarantee internationally recognised standards of quality, but at a cost which is local.”
TML Drivelines occupies more than 70,000 square metres of space inside of Tata Motors premises in Jamshedpur. In line with Tata’s own ‘growth with quality’ philosophy, new equipment is strategically acquired and integrated into said premises to enhance core competencies. Investment to date has been made in a broad range of state-of-the-art technologies and tooling for machine shop and heat treatment facilities, assembly, forge and laboratories. A programme of improvements and investment has taken TML Drivelines’ capabilities to the point where, unlike in 2000 when it was producing an average of 200 vehicle sets of aggregates per day, it now operates at a level of up to 700 vehicle aggregates per day in the same shop floor space. By simultaneously retaining its cost competitiveness it has further assisted Tata Motors in its own mission of improving on its competitive edge within the automotive marketplace.
As part of its blueprint for growth, TML Drivelines made the decision to invest capital into developing its own in-house Engineering Research Centre (ERC). “We realised early on that if this company was to grow then what it needed was its own research and development hub where we could work on optimising our products on a continuous basis,” Pramod states. The ERC caters for activities involving the design, development, manufacturing, and pre-testing of world class axles and transmissions through the provision of hardware and software for extensive digital validation before proto testing. Prototyping facilities like machining centres, assembly and CMM facilities and a metallurgy laboratory also feature within the ERC.
“The world is moving very fast,” Pramod says, “and as such the excellence journey that we have embarked on to date needs to increase by leaps and bounds. Consumer expectations are only getting higher and as a result we have to make sure that our efficiency and quality is retained, while making sure all the right methods and tools are available to our teams so that they can continuously improve their own performance and ensure that the position in the market that TML Drivelines has cultivated is built upon. On the path of quality excellence, TML Drivelines became the first company in the Tata Motors fraternity to achieve the prestigious milestone of World Class Quality – Level 3. This journey has helped in further reinforcing the confidence of our customers in us, and also helped us to improve our Incidence Per Thousand Vehicles (IPTV) figures to reach a benchmark level in our segment.
“We appreciate that a lot of effort and strong personnel involvement is required to sustain the above, and that there is still a long distance to travel to ensure that our processes are able to withstand the test of time, and that our benchmarks remain recognised as being among the best in the world. Key points for us to focus on will be taking care of our human capital, including the world-class engineers we have helped to develop, improving our manufacturing and delivery lead times, improving our process efficiencies, selecting the right KPIs, raising the bar continuously and further perfecting our excellent safety record. TML Drivelines has spent the last few years driving world class quality, to the ultimate benefit of ourselves and Tata Motors, and this is what we need to take with us into the future.”
Products: Axle and transmission aggregates