Steer­ing sys­tem in au­to­mo­tives is one of the di­rect ar­eas of con­tact be­tween the driver and the ve­hi­cle. It is an im­por­tant el­e­ment to ma­neu­ver the ve­hi­cle to ex­e­cute a turn or avoid ob­sta­cles. The mar­ket for steer­ing sys­tem has been driven pri­mar­ily by t

Auto components India - - CONTENTS - Text & Photos: Bhar­gav TS

Rane TRW Steer­ing Systems Ltd

In In­dia, the Chen­nai-based Rane Group man­u­fac­tures wide range of auto com­po­nents ex­cept tyres. In fact a ve­hi­cle can be made with the com­po­nents man­u­fac­tured by the group. The com­pany’s steer­ing gear divi­sion, Rane TRW Steer­ing Systems Ltd (RTSSL), a 50-50 joint ven­ture with ZF TRW, man­u­fac­tures fully in­te­grated hy­draulic steer­ing gears, hy­draulic pumps, power-rack and pin­ion, power steer­ing fluid in­clud­ing plas­tic reser­voirs, and sup­plies to ma­jor OEMs in the coun­try.

Re­cently Auto Com­po­nents In­dia vis­ited its Vi­ral­i­malai plant near Trichy in Tamil Nadu to un­der­stand its pro­duc­tion and process systems, and pro­duc­tiv­ity and qual­ity im­prove­ment method­olo­gies. We were able see the man­u­fac­tur­ing process, qual­ity lev­els and the deep in­volve­ment from the top man­age­ment to the grass root level.

The Vi­ral­i­malai plant, es­tab­lished in 1988 as Rane Power Steer­ing Ltd, has 2 di­vi­sions; FIG divi­sion and Valve divi­sion. FIG divi­sion man­u­fac­tures hy­draulic power steer­ing systems for com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles and trac­tors, and the Valve divi­sion man­u­fac­tures power-rack and pin­ion valve and sup­plies to its Gudu­vancheri plant.

In Oc­to­ber 2005, the com­pany bagged the pres­ti­gious Dem­ing Prize, re­puted to be one of the high­est awards on TQM in the world. Em­ploy­ing the Ja­panese method­ol­ogy of TQM (To­tal Qual­ity Man­age­ment), it roots out in­ef­fi­cien­cies through coun­ter­mea­sures in­clud­ing en­sur­ing qual­ity at source, mov­ing from in­spec­tion to as­sur­ance and build­ing sta­bil­ity in the man­u­fac­tur­ing process. The com­pany also gives im­por­tance to the Ja­panese con­cept of mis­take­proof­ing or poka-yoke. In the as­sem­bly line, you can see hun­dreds of poka-yoke.

RTSSL has dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ing cells based on the com­po­nent lines. The lines are dif­fer­en­ti­ated ac­cord­ing to the process se­quence the com­po­nent car­ries and are sep­a­rated based on the heat treat­ment. A lot of in­no­va­tion has gone into the man­u­fac­tur­ing process. Us­ing al­ter­na­tive ma­te­ri­als weight is re­duced. The com­pany uses Special Pur­pose Ma­chines (SPMs) to man­u­fac­ture dif­fer­ent parts. SPMs are man­u­fac­tured in-house in cor­re­la­tion with the sup­plier de­tail­ing req­ui­sites and the ap­pli­ca­tions of the ma­chines. SPMs are used for in­ter­nal, ex­ter­nal parts man­u­fac­tur­ing, valve pro­duc­tion and also for as­sem­bly op­er­a­tions. Ex­ter­nal parts, made up of cast­ing, once ma­chined will go to the in­spec­tion area. They are washed to re­move con­tam­i­nants and fi­nally sent to the as­sem­bly line. In­ter­nal parts will un­dergo a lot of pro­cesses like steel forg­ing, bor­ing, mount­ing hole op­er­a­tions and fi­nally fin­ish­ing. The fin­ish­ing op­er­a­tions in-turn goes through var­i­ous stages like milling, drilling, de­bur­ring, grind­ing, hon­ing and bur­nish­ing.

In­ter­nal parts of the steer­ing sys­tem in­clude rack pis­ton, cen­tral shaft and worm shaft un­dergo for heat treat­ment to get the hard­ness trait. Post the fin­ish­ing process these parts get the de­sired ac­cu­racy in di­men­sions, ge­om­e­try and sur­face. Be­fore heat treat­ment the parts have to cross 7 stages and af­ter heat treat­ment 5 stages. All the pro­cesses are con­veyor- driven. Af­ter these pro­cesses, the prod­ucts will go for per­for­mance test­ing. Fi­nally the ex­ter­nal parts, in­ter­nal parts and valves, re­spec­tively, will get fitted in the as­sem­bly lines.

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