Text & Photos: Bhargav TS

Faurecia Interior Systems (FIS), a global leader in automotive interiors, is building its third plant in Chennai to manufacture instrument panels (IP), door panels (DP) and centre consoles (CC) at an investment of Rs 90 crore. The new technology plant is expected to begin production in October 2016. FIS already has 2 facilities in Maraimalai Nagar, near Chennai, which mainly caters to Ford India.

Faurecia manufactures RH and LH instrument panels for Ford EcoSport

Faurecia manufactures RH and LH instrument panels for Ford EcoSport

The up coming facility will supply IP, DP and CC for Isuzu’s recently launched “D-Max” and an upcoming MUV which will hit the market in the second quarter of 2018. FIS has also bagged orders from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) for supplying IP for their Jeep model which is expected to be on the road by the second quarter of 2017. It will also supply IP and CC for Renault’s forthcoming vehicle, which is expected to hit the road by 2017. For their existing customer Ford, the interior manufacture will be manufacturing IP, DP and CC from 2017 for EcoSport MCA, domestic and North America. By the end of 2016, FIS will open a small assembly/sequencing plant near Ranjangaon, Pune, to supply IP and CC to FCA for the same Jeep model. The company will be setting up a state of the art paint shop, developed through Faurecia expertise, to produce soft painted, high gloss and matte finished interior parts.

Vidyadhar Limaye, Director, FIS India

Vidyadhar Limaye, Director, FIS India

Vidyadhar Limaye, Director, FIS India, told Auto Components India that, “we sensed the need of technology inputs in IP from the recent orders we bagged. In order to meet those and future requirements we decided to set up a high-technology plant in Chennai. Spread over 8 acres, it will have a built-up area of 19,000 m². The plant will have a broad range of technologies under one roof and the best-in-class machines for high and low tonnage injection moulding, negative thermoforming, closed mould foaming, weakening by milling and weakening by hot knife technology. We have invested Rs 60 crore so far in the existing Chennai plants. With the new project, the total investment here in India will be Rs 150 crore.

Ford-certified plant

The plant in Maraimalai Nagar operational since April 2013, serves as a dedicated sequencing facility for Ford. From this plant, Faurecia supplies in-sequence micropits, door panels and consoles for Ford EcoSport RHD and LHD models. Since January 2015, this is a Ford certified Q1 facility. “Ford gives Q1 certification to its suppliers based on certain parameters and criteria. About 21 months after the inauguration of the plant, we were able to get this certification from Ford because of the robust implementation of the Faurecia Excellence System (FES) which ensures efficient manufacturing operations. When the new plant becomes operational, we plan to move all the equipment to the new facility to support the existing and upcoming MCA business for Ford EcoSport. The plant will have all the standard methodologies and global safety features,” he said.

Faurecia has added higher tonnage injection moulding machies at their Maraimalai Nagar plant

Faurecia has added higher tonnage injection moulding machies at their Maraimalai Nagar plant

Growing SUV market

The SUV market in India, as everywhere around the world, is growing faster. The buyers who were keen on sedans earlier are now going for SUVs, Limaye said. The soft-touch instrument panels are also gaining a momentum in the market as the customers outlook is shifting from basic variants to value-added and premium variants. Faurecia is gearing up to meet these future demands, Limaye said.

The company’s current strength is in the SUV market but it is also keeping a close eye on entry-level car segment demands. The entry-level segment was dominated by Maruti and Hyundai until recently. With the launch of Kwid, Renault has joined the league and revolutionised the entry level segment with SUV-like looks. FIS in also exploring opportunities for value addition in this segment to create an opening for itself in that market.

Hot knife weakening machine

Hot knife weakening machine

Limaye said, “We are confident to compete in the current system. Suitable investments have also been made. We are moving with the current trends where users are looking for comfort zone in the cabin space. Consumption of space by IP is proportionate to the style. There are two ways that Tier 1 suppliers execute the programmes -‘Full Service Supplier (FSS)’ and ‘Build to Print (BTP)’- based on which our involvement in the programme is decided.”

He further said, “In FSS, we have a freedom to suggest and implement our global and local innovations and could suggest lateral inputs to automakers. However in BTP, we have only limited options and have to go according to the design standards given by the car maker. In any case, our R&D engineering centre in Pune is capable of serving all design requirements. In this design center we have an innovation cell which is working on some cost-effective innovations which are expected by local automakers,” Limaye said.

At the Pune centre, the car makers can get service of design, development, testing and validation. Faurecia is capable of serving all 3 segments; base, value and premium. It has expertise in the value and premium segments globally. In India, it is the base segment that drives the market, but it is very small in other countries. This poses a big challenge for FIS India as the cost models have to be tuned accordingly. The way the company manage the cost model in India acts as a benchmark for Faurecia in other countries.

Kinematic Parts

FIS also forays into kinematic parts and produces glove boxes, air vents, cup holders, and docking devices. The company supplies air vents to the Brazilian market from the Pune R&D center. Faurecia is investing Rs 15 crore to set up a dedicated facility in Pune for air vents and other kinematic parts. “We should market FIS as a kinematic parts supplier too in addition to the current portfolio. With growing preference of buyers for decorated and sophisticated car interiors, car makers are coming up with innovative and high-end interior solutions. FIS in such a situation looks to add decorative air-vents in its product portfolio considering many automakers are importing them. It can fetch us some good business in the growing market, which in a few years would be the third biggest in the world. The engineering center at Pune backs us with the technical know-how in this area,” Limaye said.

Door panels for Isuzu D-Max

Door panels for Isuzu D-Max

“We also have solutions for docking devices and this is on a trial-run with customers. Any time from now the docking device solution could be launched. We can add 100% such additional businesses in the upcoming Pune facility,” he said.

Technology Day

FIS is planning to conduct a `Technology Day’ event in Chennai for its customers in July 2016. The idea is to enhance the technology content in vehicles and to promote the concept of exclusivity. FIS will demonstrate its global capabilities and technology solutions with an India-centric approach.

The company is efficiently developing and managing its people. “As we always believe in developing and multiplying the skills of our people, we are able to keep the morale of our employees very high. Operators, supervisors, production managers, functional heads, all have a defined set of goals and objectives in FIS. Everyone gets an opportunity at every stage for career development and this helps reduce the attrition in the company. The Faurecia Excellence System illustrates our success in this regard,” concluded Limaye. ACI


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