An Indian role model

September 8, 2015

It isn’t easy to build a new manufacturing plant in India, let alone one that meets the highest standards for environmental excellence and lean manufacturing. But Atlas Copco did it in just 18 months.

Shalini Sharma, Head of Corporate Communications for Atlas Copco in India.

“It was a huge task for the people in charge,” says Shalini Sharma, Head of Corporate Communications for Atlas Copco in India. The new state-of-the-art compressor factory is located in Chakan, within the city of Pune, southeast of Mumbai. “Before construction could begin, Atlas Copco had to obtain 34 separate government licenses,” she says. “And there were 90 different vendors that had to be coordinated. In all, it took 1.5 million work hours to construct the new plant.” Since its completion in February 2013, the factory has become something of a showcase. “This is a model plant,” Sharma says. “Many colleagues from product companies across the world have visited, to learn about the concept it demonstrates.” The Chakan plant was designed according to lean principles of production optimization. These include:
  • Continuous flow of production, from parts reception to finished goods.
  • Supermarket layout, allowing customers to walk in and select items as needed.
  • Data management throughout the production process.

In addition, the Chakan factory has a feature unique to India, called gurukul. This hands-on training program – related to the word guru, or teacher – prepares workers before they are put on the job. “The gurukul training facility has been a big help with efficiency,” Sharma says. The plant is also unusual for its energy-saving features, which meet targets for LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). “The building’s design allows hot air to exit at the top, keeping the temperature inside about six degrees lower than the ambient temperature,” she says. “As a result, the plant does not need air-conditioning.” Overall, the factory receives high marks from its employees. “People find it pleasing to work there,” says Sharma. “The plant facility provides safe work conditions, and much attention has been paid to ergonomics. During the workday, people don’t feel tired.” To date, the factory’s safety record is impressive: more than 18 months without a single accident. Above all, lean-style transparency of production has made a huge difference, Sharma says. “The new plant allows visibility of both problems and waste. In the past, problems might have fallen between the cracks, or employees might have said, ‘That is not something I need to take care of.’ But now everyone sees where the problems are, and this improves both teamwork and production efficiency.”

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