The process of human birth is a special one, isn’t it. It’s nothing less than a miracle of how a human being comes into ehh, being! But being automotive journalists and having such a deep connection and passion for cars, there’s also something else that can be as fascinating and miraculous as human birth for us; it’s the birth of a car! The manufacturing process of any automobile, be it 4 wheeled or 2 wheeled, right from scratch, is something you have to see to believe. Last month we got a chance to visit Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant and this month we are taking you inside another Japanese manufacturer’s manufacturing facility. We got an exclusive opportunity to visit Honda Car India’s 2nd manufacturing facility in India that is located in Tapukara, Rajasthan. Let’s step inside!
The tour of the Tapukara plant began with a tree planting ceremony. Here, journalists from different publications got a chance to plant a tree. This was an amazing experience in itself, because at that moment you get a feeling of contributing to the environment. After this session, we were taken to the halls where we were briefed about dos and don’ts. We were also handed over wireless earphones and caps in preparation for the near two and a half hour journey inside the almost 400 acre plant. Honda inaugurated this plant in 2008, but it was only in 2014 that the company started assembling cars here. The cumulative investment here stands at a whopping Rs. 5,441 crores, and employs 5,900 workers. The plant has a production capacity of 1.2 lakh units per annum which can be scaled up to 1.8 lakh units according to the demand. Currently, 490 cars are produced here daily, that include 4 carlines from Honda India namely – the City, WR-V, Jazz and BR-V. This is also one of the first automobile plants in India to get ISO 9001, ISO 14000 and OHSAS 18001 certifications from the central government. We headed first to the forging shop where we were handed over helmets, because it’s always safety first.
The plant operations are basically divided into two major parts – Engine assembly and Frame assembly. The first process in the engine assembly is forging. Here, the crankshaft and connecting rods (con rods) are made from a single piece of metal by high pressure stamping. The company sources cylindrical iron rods which are then cut into the required length for the crankshaft. Next up, a huge stamping machine applies a force of up to 4,500 tonnes in 6 different stages, as can be seen in the above picture. The excess metal is cut and then the crankshaft is forwarded for polishing. This machine is capable of stamping 4,155 units a day or 1.1 million units annually. The output is used for both, the export and domestic market. The con rods are also made here and are then supplied to the next stage of assembly.
Next stop was the powertrain lines where engine block for the iron and aluminium engines are manufactured. The gearbox casings are also manufactured here, so that the engine and gearbox components can be assembled in one place and then sent further to the Frame assembly line. The 1.2-litre and 1.5-litre petrol engines that Honda manufactures in India are made out of an iron block while the 1.5-litre diesel engine is an all aluminium block. Hence there are two separate lines for these two different materials. Honda’s Tapukara plant has the capacity to produce 3,000 iron engine blocks a day, while the diesel is currently limited to 1,200 aluminium blocks a day. Some of the components that comprise of the engine block are the cylinder sleeve and the cylinder head.
Honda manufactures 2 manual gearboxes in India – a 5-speed unit and a 6-speed box. This is the largest manufacturing facility by the company for manual gearboxes, and the Tapukara plant is the largest exporter of these transmissions for Honda globally. The Tapukara plant is capable of producing 2,000 gearboxes daily, which is quite a number. Next step is where the engine and gearbox unite along with all the necessary wiring etc. These engine-gearbox units are then transferred to the Frame assembly line and also shipped out to export countries as completely built units. Well, you will also be happy to learn that this very plant is also the biggest manufacturer of diesel engines for Honda globally. A new 1.6-litre diesel is said to be manufactured here, starting next month for export markets. But we being passionate automobile lovers, cannot help but think that this very same engine could also be used in the domestic market for the respective next generation models of the Civic sedan and the CR-V SUV, which until now have been petrol-only.
The actual car parts that we touch and feel are first sourced as simple sheets of metal. Here is where the actual car assembly process starts. The large metal sheets are fed to huge stamping machines, where are force varying between 1,000 and 1,500 tonnes is applied to get the desired shape of the part for that particular car model. Some of the parts manufactured here are the front and rear door panels (L & R), outer side panels (L & R), boot/tailgate panels, fenders (L & R) and hood skins of 4 car models. The press shop as it is has a capacity of 3.8 lakh car sets annually that cater to the domestic as well as global markets.
All the parts that are manufactured in the press shop are then sent to the weld shop. The stamped body parts are welded together and this is the first time that you can see the car actually take it’s shape in the form of the frame. It is known as the Body in White (BIW) with reference to the process that follows. The BIW is sent to the paint shop where is undergoes through various processes like primer, several coats of the respective paint colour and then a couple of coats of clear paint as well. There are different painting blocks for different colours that are offered by Honda. This process also includes baking of the paint for a predefined time, which helps the paint adhere to the metal surface well.
The next step is the most beautiful sight of the entire manufacturing process. Here the painted outer shell meets the engine-gearbox unit and is fixed to the chassis. Other parts like the suspension system, brakes, exhaust system, exterior lights, etc. are also fitted in this step. Further along the same lines, the interior comes together. The dashboard, internal wiring, seats and the windscreens are fixed now coming close to finishing it all off in style. After getting it’s set of wheels, the car now lands on it’s feet for the first time and makes a final run along a brightly lit line that helps detect any final defects, which are then rectified on the spot. A new Honda car is born!
Each new car that rolls out from here undergoes a couple of tests. The first one is a hot and cold testing chamber where the cars are put through a wide range of temperature conditions and tested accordingly. The next is a test course that mimics real world road conditions. After passing these tests, the cars are then taken to the CBU yard. From here the cars are supplied to the respective dealer according to their specific demands, and even exported. Every 108 seconds, a car rolls out from the Tapukara plant, while the entire process of assembling a car takes approximately 20 hours.
Being a environment conscious company, Honda follows a few initiatives at it’s Tapukara plant. For example, more than 50 percent of the entire land here consists of open spaces and the company has planted more than 25,000 trees in the campus as well. There is natural lighting and air circulation fans are used inside shops. 1,200 kw of power is drawn from solar energy. 100 percent of the water is recycled, while rain water is harvested, maintaining a positive water balance through recharge wells and ponds.
At the end of the day, we had a sense of satisfaction of seeing something that was quite miraculous. Trust us, unless and until you see a car coming to life, you wouldn’t know the effort and love that goes into making one. It was also a joy to see our favorite mass market, naturally-aspirated engine come to life, live at the Honda factory. As we headed to the airport to make our return journey, we were left with fond memories of weld sparks flying off the metal and bright, shiny surfaces of the finished product. A big thank you to Honda Car India for letting us click to our heart’s content. Check out the entire photo gallery below.