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At a glance….

The Pune facility of Tata Motors is located in the Pimpri-Chinchwad industrial belt of Maharashtra. It is spread over two geographical regions – Pimpri (800 acres) and Chinchwad (130 acres). Established in 1966, the Pune facility is one of the most advanced manufacturing facilities in India. With two flexible assembly lines, the plant has a capacity of producing 1,000 cars per day, working on a double shift. The facility has introduced many popular models like Indica, Indigo, Marina, Vista Manza, Zest, Bolt, and Nexon.

This state-of-the-art facility also sets the benchmark for automotive research and development in India

It houses some of the best manufacturing facilities in the Indian automotive industry; for example, its Product Engineering Division has one of the biggest and the most versatile tool-making divisions in the country.

The Pune facility is a full-range supplier of both commercial and passenger vehicles. It produces around 60 base models with three or four variants each. Six assembly lines cope with the diverse range of vehicles that roll out of the plant, like HMCV, ILCV trucks, ICV bus chassis, ICV Ultra range trucks and bus chassis, UVs, pickups, Winger vans, SUVs, etc. Tata Motors’ range of Defence vehicles is also produced here.

The ERC is equipped with state-of-the-art testing facilities like:

  • Outdoor testing
  • Indoor testing (testing of individual components, sub-assemblies, various vehicle systems like wipers, door locks, window winding, etc.)
  • Materials lab
  • Homologation and product evaluation
  • Noise, vibration, and harshness
  • Advanced engineering (hybrids, EVs, etc.)
  • Electronics
  • Crash testing
  • Environmental science and IPR
  • Climate control
  • Engine development and testing
  • Prototyping
  • Styling studio
  • Vehicle integration teams

After the media briefing by Sujan Roy – Head, International Business, Passenger Vehicles Business Unit, Tata Motors, our chauffeured trip across the giant facility finally started on a modified Tata Winger van. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to bring in our phones or cameras.

The tour started with a visit to the in-house training facility, where all the new recruits are given classroom knowledge on the engine, gearbox, chassis and various other components before they are sent to the shop floor. We were quite amused to see a classic Mercedes-Benz truck on display inside the facility. Upon asking, our tour guide said that it was Tata’s first truck in collaboration with Mercedes Benz from 1954-1977. Yes, Tata’s first trucks wore the Mercedes badge because Tata Motors (then Telco) and Daimler Benz had a pact to jointly manufacture medium commercial vehicles. Another interesting sight was a bespoke 1926 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, which according to our guide, was put on display to provide the trainees a glimpse of the 1920s.

THE PRODUCTION PROCESS:

How sheet metal turns into a car in 4 steps:

Press Shop:

It’s here that raw steel is shaped and molded to form the body panels. Tata Motors has a state-of-the-art press shop technology with automated mechanical presses and tandem press lines from world-renowned manufacturers. The raw steel roll is cut into sheets and made into specific individual panels under a header presser capacity of 1200 to 2000 tonne. These header presser capacity have to be equipped with specific dies – metal blocks used to create body forms and shapes. In simple terms, the machine cuts the metal to mass-produce specific shapes like the engine block, doors, roof, bonnet, side panels, and etc. A total of 13 cranes capable of carrying 50 tonnes each are used for transportation of dies. It also makes and supplies dies to other OEMs like Renault, Toyota, Honda, and TVS. The finished panels are stacked into racks before they enter the weld shop.

Weld Shop:

In the weld shop, the finished panels from the press shop are welded together to create a bodyshell. The state-of-the-art welding facility at the company’s Pune plant is developed from German line builders like Kuka, HLS, and Notheifer. The weld shops are designed to be flexible enough to handle 8 models simultaneously.  On a 3 shift basis and a cycle time of 54 to 90 seconds, the facility outputs a total of 1900 bodies. While the shop uses welding robots to bring together different components using a variety of welding techniques, skilled welders are also needed for sub assembling the small components. From here, they are taken into the paint shop.

Paint Shop:

Automotive paint shops must meet the highest demand when it comes to cleanliness and maintaining a dust-free environment. Hence, entry to the paint shop was restricted.  Although the painting process may be different among manufacturers, the basic process is moreover the same.  In all, there are over one dozen stages where the body is washed, degreased, electro dipped in zinc phosphate, oven-baked, sanded, sealed, dried, cleaned (with chemicals), primered, baked, painted, baked, clear coated, baked and then inspected for faults (which are repaired), before moving into the final vehicle assembly line.

 Final Vehicle Assembly Line:

The final vehicle assembly line has a production capacity of 1000 vehicles per day on a 2 shift basis with a cycle time of 67 seconds. The manufacturing process is based on TQM (Total Quality Management) philosophy. As soon as the bodyshell arrives from the paint shop, all doors are taken out and sent to another line to have their trim-specific components installed. The doors then travel on a conveyer back to the mainline to reunite with the car body. Everything from the wiring harness and the monograms to the sound damping materials, and rubber fittings etc. are put in. The assembly line is basically like a conveyor belt where the cars keep moving as various items get added in. The assembly line also has an automated filling system for the coolant, brake, PS Oil, AC, etc.

The engine assembly, transmission, headlights, and tires are fitted later.  Before rolling out the assembly line, the vehicle has to pass through the end-of-line testing and diagnostics system where the headlight focus, wheel alignment, and suspension operation is checked. The car is then driven on rollers to test the engine and the transmission. After this, the car has to undergo a shower test for vehicle leak detection. At the final stage, the car is passed through a light tunnel to ensure that there are no scratches or dents. Now, the car is finally ready to be dispatched to dealerships!

After the guided tour of the entire production process, we were treated to a Saatvik lunch at the company’s cafeteria. During the lunch session, we also got to know from Sujan Roy that the Harrier will be named as the H5 in the Nepalese market. Why H5? Because there’s a Toyota SUV with the Harrier name that has been on sale in global markets since 1997 so it was obvious that Tata Motors will ship its Harrier to most or all export markets with a different name. The H5 badge comes from the ‘H5X’ concept name it has been derived from.

 A quick track session followed shortly…

A quick drive at Tata’s test track gave us a lot of insights into the H5. Ever since Tata presented the H5X concept at the 2018 Indian Auto Expo, it has garnered a wealth of attention from the customers and enthusiasts alike waiting to see the final model in the Nepalese market. Because SUVs are all the rage at the moment, it was very much expected for the H5X to receive extensive attention from the crowd. So, when we were invited to the track to drive it, we were thrilled. Unfortunately, it was only a short drive at the company’s test track at its Pune Plant, but, here’s our first impression.

We found the company’s upcoming products like the Altroz and the Buzzard driven around the facility, fully camouflaged.

What it’s like to drive?

The Tata H5 is only available in a diesel-manual form for the moment, though automatic and petrol versions are in the works. A seven-seat version by the name of Buzzard Sport will also come by end-2019. The Fiat-sourced 2.0-liter diesel unit puts out 138 bhp at 3750 rpm and 350 Nm at 1750 rpm and comes mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.  The H5’s engine is responsive and performance is more than adequate for the most part; you do wish there was more punch in the mid-range. The six-speed gearbox is easy to shift and the clutch is light. Although it may lack all-wheel drive, the H5 doesn’t feel out of place, thanks to the Terrain Response System it comes loaded with.

During our short stint in the test track, we also discovered that the H5 fares well when it comes to handling and ride quality.

We would like to thank Tata Motors India and Sipradi Trading for providing us this one-of-a-kind opportunity

Fact File of the Pune Plant:

  • Commercial vehicles plant started in 1964
  • Passenger vehicles plant started in 1998
  • Sprawls over an area of 930 acres
  • Asia’s first anechoic chamber
  • India’s biggest engine development facility
  • India’s first full vehicle crash test facility
  • India’s only full climate test facility
  • India’s only pedestrian test facility
  • Facilities include world-class press shop technology, state-of-the-art CED painting facility, robotic flexible welding cell, conveyorised vehicle assembly lines, steering robots, BUZZ testing, full environment testing, and suspension parameter measuring machine
  • Over 11,000 permanent employees
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