CHENNAI, India — In late last June, the 200,000 per annum capacity Paint Shop at India’s Chennai plant had a potential problem. News came of irregular supply of propane due to suppliers’ constraints, and the plant had switched to propane from diesel just three months back as part of Ford’s commitment to Green manufacturing.
While Ford would be able to contact other suppliers to provide support, immediate supply would be difficult and likely to disrupt production. So plant management entered urgent talks with Manufacturing, Planning and Logistics (MP&L), which in turn consulted the Paint Shop, to find a solution.
The result: In a remarkable instance of going further, the Paint Shop team managed to convert baking ovens from propane to diesel (in just two days).
“Though we only learnt about the problem on a Thursday night, we estimated that the conversion was doable by Sunday, so we expressed our readiness and went ahead,” said R. Sankarakrishnan, a Paint Shop engineer who led the team in this endeavor.
Sankarakrishnan and (Ford Total Productive maintenance) FTPM manager U. Sajeevan took up the challenge to work on the conversion process online by working round the clock and over the weekend without affecting the production process.
"Doing it online meant we didn't have to wait till the annual plant maintenance shutdown or disrupt production in any way. On the other hand, it offered our team a chance to learn a lot,” said Sajeevan, who led from the front by guiding the team consisting of S.Ramachandran, K.Suresh, K.Sivakumar, P.Muthu Krishnan, K.Ramasamy, T. Andrews Victor, P. Paramasivan, R.Venkatesan, K.Haridoss, K.Emayachellapathy, M.Saravanan, P.Chandru, Thakoor Roop Singh and K.Annadurai to carry out the task with complete adherence to safety and process controls.
Though it sounds simple, the actual conversion involves an 11-stage procedure regarding replacement of burners, piping, joints and related wiring. The installation again had to be tested for leaks and certified safe for regular operation after a dry run. During the conversion, extreme care has to be taken so that the all residual gas is vented out from pipes and the scope for any sparks that can trigger an explosion is eliminated.
Within 48 hours, the team completely converted the major gas-consuming burners bringing down propane consumption by 50 percent.
“We stretched the available stock and this helped us tide over the crisis. After supply resumed to normal, the same team again went the extra mile to switch the plant back 100 percent to propane. Kudos to the team for taking the challenging risk and achieving this with extreme safety,” said Anand Misra, general manager, Paint Shop.
The Paint Shop team was helped by a cross-functional team consisting of Safety, Legal, Finance, Purchase, MP&L and Plant Engineering, along with MacLellan and suppliers to make the whole mission a success.
The team’s achievement was lauded by Ford India President and Managing Director Michael Boneham and Executive Director, Manufacturing, Tom Chackalackal. Boneham learned of the achievement during the “President on Shop floor – Paint Shop” and later congratulated the whole team by handing out recognition certificates.
“Well done boys! Bravo for going further with this extremely risky and challenging operation and showing your excellent readiness and flexibility. I am proud of you,” Boneham said.