Maruti stretches lines to meet demand surge



The country’s leading carmaker, Maruti Suzuki, has put in place an innovative programme by which it is increasing the production capacity of its four plants located in Gurgaon and Manesar by 20 per cent, pending the commisioning of its fifth plant in 2012. With this, Maruti will be able to produce 1.2 million cars this year, compared with 1 million last year, or simply have the plant work at a capacity of 120 per cent.

The need for greater capacity than was earlier anticipated has come about because of the unexpected surge in demand for the multi-seater Eeco and also of the Swift. Company executives say that sales of the Eeco, launched a few months ago, are three times more than the initial target of 6,000 units a month.

“We are absolutely stretched to the limit, but still the demand is much more than what we can produce. From a generous expected growth of 14-15 per cent in sales, we are recording a rise of 30 per cent every month,” said Mayank Pareek, executive officer, marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki.

The company, which has around 43-45 per cent share of the domestic car market, is desperately seeking to free up any available space at its mega plants to make way for increased production. The investment tag for the innovative changes: Rs 130 crore.

One innovatibe way out is to go in for flexi-lines. In simple terms, Maruti is increasing the number of models that can be assembled on a single line. For instance, the Swift, Dzire and Sx4 are made on the same line at the Manesar plant.

Through this method the number of additional cars that they can produce in each line has gone up by 30,000. Two flexi-lines have been set up and the plan is to add more.

M M Singh, managing executive officer (production), Maruti Suzuki, said, "We are forced to make 30,000 extra units of the Swift to meet demand by manufacturing the model at all the plants. We are setting up flexi-lines in the body shop, which can handle different models."

Also, around half the 7,000-strong workforce is going through multi-skill training so that they can assemble three to four different models of cars, rather than specialise in only one. "We are rotating workers between different units, so that they can assemble different models in our product range. This again gives us flexibility in production," he added.

Singh also says that the utilisation of the machines has been upped from 85 per cent to over 90 per cent by increasing their efficiency. Maruti is investing Rs 1,700 crore to add another 250,000 units a year to its present tally of around 1.2 million.