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Hyundai i20 Launched: Company Reveals Challenges Faced In Production During Coronavirus Lockdown


We spoke to the Director of Manufacturing, Hyundai India Ltd., Ganesh Mani, about the state-of-the-art production facility that helped them launch the new i20 during these uncertain times

The new Hyundai i20 comes to our shores after the breakout of a pandemic and right in time for the festive season. We spoke to the Director of Manufacturing, Hyundai India Ltd., Ganesh Mani, about the latest production technologies and the challenges that his team faced in the production of the new car during the lockdown. 

Q: Can you tell us what it was like launching the i20 during these testing times?

GM: The i20 has been our iconic model. We have sold more than 1.1 million units in the domestic market and 1.6 million in the export market. It has been on sale since 2008. Along with the market and technology, Hyundai has also been moving a step ahead. Since the i20 is one of our iconic cars, we wanted to go ahead and launch it. It comes with Sensuous Sportiness design, which has four important characteristics: proportion, architecture, styling and technology. Keeping these things in mind, we think customers deserve this product, especially during this festive season. 

Q: In terms of manufacturing, has there been a significant change when compared to the Elite i20?

GM: Yes, indeed. The new i20 comes as an Industry 4.0 enabled product. The Sensuous Sportiness design features a modern outlook and we need to be careful right from designing the sheet metal to the shape of the body. We have utilised new technologies to ensure it is free from any defects. 66 percent high tensile steel has gone into the car to make it more robust, lighter and easier to drive. We started doing a hot spot analysis during the design stages to ensure that sheet metal cracks can be detected and rectified. 

We started 3D scanning right at the inception stage to ensure the entire intricacy of the body matches at the beginning itself. These are the technologies we have incorporated into the manufacturing of the new i20. We also have 450 robots which were connected to a single server during the lockdown and used in a smarter way. 

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Q: What are the advantages of connecting 450 robots to a single server?

GM: There are a couple of advantages. Hyundai has always been a technologically rich company. These 450 robots are integrated into a common network. They have the ability for self learning and adaptability. The schedule will be sent to the shop supervisor’s phone and he or she can plan the day well in advance. This technique was successfully used for manufacturing the new i20. The i20’s 50 plus connected car features are also checked via 240 different parameters via the F-scan so that any fault can be rectified using our technology. 

Q: Are all these robots manufactured by Hyundai?

GM: Yes, we manufacture our own robots in Korea. They are imported and our own engineers install these robots in the plant. 

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Q: Coming back to the i20, how long does it take for you to manufacture cars ahead of launch?

GM: That’s a very interesting question. Irrespective of the pandemic and lockdown, we took a clear decision that none of our investments and model launches will be delayed. Our planning was so well defined that we were able to do it in an overlapping manner with multiple teams. We also worked digitally and virtually during the peak of the pandemic using AR so that we can see whether things would work the right way or not. These technologies helped us launch the i20 during the festive season.

Q: Through all these upgrades and new technologies, has there been any change in efficiency during manufacturing?

GM: Yes, we were able to churn out more cars, especially SUVs, and bring down waiting periods. These machines go through periodical maintenance every Sunday when production is halted for 12 hours. The time taken for maintenance is also low and our lines are 99.5 percent running all the time. That’s a great number during these testing times. 

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Q: As an end-user, how will these technological processes benefit me?

GM: The benefits are huge. We ensure vehicles that roll out of the assembly line meet Hyundai’s quality standards. We can also troubleshoot any issues that have popped up during the manufacturing stage itself and diagnose the car through Hyundai’s diagnosing unit so the vehicle that the customer receives is free of problems. 

Q: Is the i20 manufactured in the same production line as other Hyundai cars?

GM: Our DNA is being considered by manufacturing petrol and diesel engines together, a very big decision which we took 10 years ago. Similarly, the i20 is made on a global body line, which is very unique. We can introduce this new model seamlessly in the assembly line as the existing model is phased out. In simple words, the new i20 shares its production line with six other models. 

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Q: In terms of production of the 1.0-litre turbo-petrol and DCT, where are you at right now as this powertrain is being introduced in more new Hyundai cars?

GM: We always design a line keeping the overall capacity as a standpoint. We are able to churn out 3.5 lakh to 4 lakh engines per annum from the production line. So we will be able to manage on the basis of the demand. The 1.5-litre diesel engine is also made on the same production line and we can be flexible based on the demand. 

Q: The turbo-petrol engines and DCT were imported earlier. Are they being manufactured in the country?  

GM: The 1.0-litre and 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engines have been made in India right from the word go. But parts for the DCT are imported and assembled in India. 

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Q: The Creta was launched moments ahead of the lockdown. How did you manage to import parts?

GM: That’s a good question. Our problems started way back in December as that’s the time when the change of location for logistics was happening. In fact, very few parts are being imported from China. We ensure our vendors are flexible so manufacturing doesn’t get affected. So if there is a problem in China, we quickly rely on Europe and now all parts are coming from Korea. We also maintain a higher inventory and are able to manage. 

Q: What’s the initial capacity for manufacturing the new i20?

GM: We have been making close to 10,000 to 12,000 i20s per month. As demand increases, we will be ramping up production to ensure smooth supply. 

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