AT THE HEART OF THE INDIAN CAR INDUSTRY
Although auto rickshaws still
hold sway on Indian roads,
modern vehicles like the
Passat are on the rise.
One of the initial factors in Pune’s favor was that the Maharashtra state government was eager to add a global player such as Volkswagen to the region’s industrial structure. A suitable site was proposed without delay. “The region of Pune is traditionally one of the centers of the Indian automotive industry and there is an infrastructure of potential suppliers already in place,” explains Dettmann. As well as this, the climate is favorable by Southern Asian standards.
Another important factor is that Pune is seen as the “Oxford of Asia”, with an enormous university and hundreds of colleges. It is here that the country’s future technical experts are produced. There are also very close ties with Germany. Neeti Badwe, Professor of German at the University of Pune, proudly tells us that “German has been taught here for over 100 years.” Ms. Badwe smiles as she relates various cultural pitfalls: “For example, we have no word for ‘leisure activities’ because leisure time is the exception for most Indians.” An appreciation of subtleties such as this is vital for those who wish to understand India – a country with over a billion inhabitants, two dozen official languages and a rich culture to rival Europe’s own.
Olaf Dettmann and his colleagues know this only too well. Even the Indians themselves sometimes have problems communicating owing to the sheer linguistic diversity of their country. And there is even more scope for misunderstandings between Indians and Germans. A prime example are the different conceptions of time planning. “I never ask my Indian counterparts when they will be finished,” explains Dettmann, “instead, I ask them when they plan to start.” Based on this information, he can then gauge when a construction phase will be completed. Not to the day, but to the week. “Try and explain that to someone in Wolfsburg who wants to dispatch the production machines and needs to have a roof on the hall,” says Dettmann with a touch of exasperation, “he won’t ask me for the week, he’ll want to know an exact time on a particular day.”
However, the quality that the Indian workers produce in spite of unfamiliar methods never fails to impress their German counterparts. “They don’t use prefabricated reinforcing steel mesh here yet,” says Dettmann, “instead, each layer of concrete is reinforced by hand. The mortar for plastering is mixed by the women, transported upwards in wok-like steel containers via scaffolding – which can be up to seven meters in height – and then applied by the men of the family.” Many Indian families earn their living that way. “It might seem strange to Europeans, but for many Indians it is a question of survival,” explains Olaf Dettmann.
Left: ACTIVE WORLDWIDE – The Wolfsburg-based experts from the Plant Structure Planning department coordinate the construction of new production plants around the globe.
Middle: MADE IN INDIA – By the end of 2010, a total of 2,500 people will be employed at the Pune plant. With the plant working two shifts, 110,000 vehicles will be produced every year.
Right: STATE-OF-THE-ART PRODUCTION TECHNOLOGY – The new plant in Pune is the only production facility in India operated by a German carmaker that caters for the entire production process – from press shop through body construction and paintshop to final assembly.
HIGHEST STANDARDS OF QUALITY AND SAFETY
Volkswagen Group tenders and standards contain very clear social and safety-related rules for working on building sites. For instance, it is strictly forbidden for pregnant women to work there. However, this does not necessary go down well with the local workers: “Why are you depriving us of this opportunity to earn money?” Olaf Dettmann was asked. It is not always easy to act as a buffer between the contrasting demands and value systems of two fundamentally different societies. Nonetheless, it works very well for Volkswagen in India: “We have ensured that the children on our grounds have a place to play, a school, decent food and clean drinks,” Dettmann explains. Summing up, he says that all those involved are proud of their new plant, particularly given the tough conditions involved in building it: “Not everything was on time, but thanks to our joint efforts it is now possible to produce cars here that meet Volkswagen’s high quality standards.”
“We understand the markets of the future.”
BRIEF INTERVIEW WITH PROF. DR. JOCHEM HEIZMANN, MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF MANAGEMENT OF VOLKSWAGEN GROUP WITH RESPONSIBILITY FOR GROUP PRODUCTION, ABOUT FLEXIBLE PRODUCTION NETWORKS AND WORLDWIDE QUALITY STANDARDS
The Volkswagen Group produces vehicles on almost all continents. Just how large is the production network?
We have 60 production plants in Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia. Vehicles are manufactured at 41 of these plants.
How exactly do the production facilities interact with each other?
Our aim is to establish a production network that is immune to external factors such as currency risks and which predominantly meets regional market demand. A key factor in ensuring competitive production, for example, is our turntable concept, which enables us to adapt production flexibly at our plants to suit demand.
All vehicles meet the same quality standards worldwide. How do you ensure this?
We have developed a uniform quality benchmark across the Group for auditing and quality control. This also forms the basis for training our international staff in Production and Quality Assurance.
How does an Indian Polo differ from its European counterpart? Apparently, the horn is particularly robust …
Needless to say, we meet the market-specific needs of our customers in India, too. And the Polo which is built in Pune is indeed fitted with a horn designed to last three times as long as a standard one. Anyone who has been to India will know why – drivers there use the horn as often as the clutch.