ACI_DEC14December 2014

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Tough Call

Two significant events rocked the world automotive industry last month. One was from Ford, which rolled out the 2015 F-150 pickup made with aluminium body and bed that saves up to 320 kg in weight; a noteworthy milestone. Launched early last month, the vehicle with lightweight material is expected to increase fuel economy significantly. The second one was a recall debacle. Despite receiving the 2014 Good Design award for its ‘takata04-neo SF child seat’ and an ‘Award of Appreciation’ from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Takata Corporation, a leading global supplier of automotive safety systems such as seat belts, airbags and child seats, has been in the news for some time for all the wrong reasons. The safety equipment supplier has suffered big blows to its reputation as recently 4 Japanese OEMs have been forced to recall about 3.4 million vehicles globally because of faulty airbags supplied by the company. In India too, close to 10,000 vehicles have been recalled, to set right faulty airbags. It is reported that the recall is being conducted due to an investigation into an accident that occurred in Malaysia in July 2014; it was found that the moisture absorption control of the gas generating unit in some driver-seat airbags had not been correctly installed at the time of manufacture, on account of which an inflator canister could rupture when the airbag deploys. Vehicle manufacturers and the airbag supplier reiterate that the initiative is not a true recall; instead, it is only a safety precaution. However, the worrying part is that at least 4 lives were lost and several others injured owing to the slipup.

F-150 is Ford’s best-selling vehicle and the 2015 model is going to be a huge gamble for the OEM as the all-aluminium pickup will be costlier to repair, while the challenge for Takata is on dual aspects – it has to restore confidence to existing customers and retain the business in addition to preparing well for the new programmes initiated by OEMs. This is relevant as already Honda has approached a couple of other suppliers for airbags, though it is too early to understand whether this is an initiative to dislodge the existing supplier. It’s a Tough Call for both.

The Cover Story of this issue is: DeSkilling Machines. Machines have begun dominating the manufacturing operations for several decades now. It has reached to levels where even the smallest operation such as loading and unloading of non-heavy and non-hazardous components is carried out by machines. The story discusses the current scenario, compelling reasons for this transformation and the way forward for the workforce involved in hardcore manufacturing. It is a Tough Call for manufacturing companies to make, whether to resort to more automation and further deskill the workforce, or reckon with people considering the huge population of our country. In addition, to this article, we have some interesting stories on Central Railway’s initiative, Super Auto Forge, Tyrolit and ITC Infotec.

Trust you will find this issue interesting. Please share your feedback with us.

T Murrali


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