Automotive industry has to invest in capacity building through quality-oriented skilling for sustainable competitive advantage


Post economic liberalisation in India, the automotive industry has been dominated by global players from Japan, Germany, Korea etc. and Indian companies has had challenges in coping with this environment by skilling their workforce. The need for skilling engineers and technicians in the respective domains is all the more critical for acquiring sustainable competitive advantage. In this Skill Talk, Dr V. Kovaichelvan, Director – TVS Institute for Quality & Leadership at TVS Motor Company, talks about his experiences in the automotive industry and how the entry level employees of TVS Motor go through a well-planned step-by-step process at their Institute for Quality and Leadership to attain the skills required for the industry.

Q: What are some of the challenges faced by the Auto industry in India?

A: If you look at India in the last 20 years of liberalisation, Indian companies had to compete with the global players from Japan, Germany and Korea. All these countries have a long history and experience acquiring their domain and technology capabilities.

They have experts in the areas like Product Engineering, Production Engineering and Lean Operations. Their overseas manufacturing plants are designed and installed by the global teams. They have a large number of expats, about 50 to 100 living in the country to transfer their culture and skills.

Indian companies need to match these capabilities of designing and developing attractive, high quality products, designing and installing high quality manufactuing plants. Also the local leaders of Indian companies becoming role models of their culture and processes.

These are the challenges we face today. Building equivalent capability in these areas is not easy with the kind of education system we have. The capacity for engineering and polytechnic colleges steeply went up due to the sudden liberalisation. Though the capacity went up, the quality did not match up to it. When I did my Engineering, there were only 7 colleges in Tamil Nadu, now there are over 500 colleges but not all seats are filled in many of them!

Automotive skill development TVS institute2

Q: How can the issues related to skills and education gaps be addressed?

A: There are initiatives from the government and academic bodies.

  • All Indian Council of Technical Education (AICTE) has released a mandate to improve the quality of technical education.
  • National board of Accreditation is accrediting the engineering programs with students’ attributes of Washington accord and National Assessment and Accreditation council is accrediting the institutions.
  • MHRD has initiated Technical Education Quality Improvement Program (TEQIP) with funding from the World Bank.

While there are many macro level initiatives to improve quality, similar efforts are required at the Micro level by every institution to improve quality and employability. Few important areas to be addressed are Industry-Institute interaction, Outcome-based curriculum and assessment, Faculty development programs,

On the skill development of large number of associates on the production lines, we need to develop an appropriate model that are relevant, at an affordable duration and cost. ITIs have outlived their relevance since they don’t have good faculty and infrastructure. Even here, there have been several initiatives by the Government. To quote a few, a dedicated ministry for skilling, creation of NSDC supported by Sector Skill Councils (industry bodies), establishment of NSQF and NOS.

While this is a good starting point, there needs to be few more elements to be addressed to improve quality like developing high quality training content, trainer development, assessment framework, validation post deployment and continual improvement. Industry is used to on-the job training for several decades without any major investment for training, need to understand the effect of good quality training and consider this as an investment.

I have been a part of founding team at Automotive Skill development Council (ASDC) from the Human Capital group of SIAM along with ACMA and FADA. We had developed few of the skill development courses as a pilot for Auto sector. We had developed three courses namely Auto Machinist Technician, Auto Service Technician , and Truck and Cab Drivers. The Auto Machinist technician course was offered by TVS, Toyota and Bosch, the Auto service technician course was done by Mahindra and the Drivers’ course by Maruti and Leyland. These were some of the best courses developed for ASDC.

Q: What should the government and the Sector Sector Councils do to handle the situation?

Automotive skill development TVS instituteA: As I mentioned before, there is a serious intent of the government to improve the engineering education and skills development with significant investments. But at a micro level the know-how quality needs to be learnt by the academic bodies and institutions. For example, post liberalisation, the industry had to improve quality of their products and processes by learning TQM, TPM, Lean concepts from Japanese mentors. In two decades the quality of products produced by the OEMs and suppliers are at par with global quality. This was owned by the companies and industry bodies and they have acquired business excellence with active involvement every employee. We need a similar transformation journey for academic excellence. I believe that with serious commitment of the academic leaders and consistent efforts for quality improvement, many Indian Institutions can achieve global standards in a decade by leveraging the learning curve of the quality journey of the industry.

During the Last 10 years, I have been working with few Engineering colleges, Polytechnics and an Arts & Science college, to develop high quality entry level employees for our company. I have carried out my action research in Competency Management and my doctoral thesis is aligned to outcome-based education and training. The model developed by my research is implemented in the institutions and in our company. This has made high impact at the institutions and in our company.

In my research, also I have found that there is abundant scope to improve quality at micro level, defining processes, content development, delivery management, assessment, creative ways of teaching and learning. This would need significant research on education by every institutions and not just the respective domains alone. This would create know-how for improving the quality of education and training.

Dr Kovaichelvan TVS

Dr V. Kovaichelvan

I was suggesting to ASDC that we must set up a regional centre which can become a model centre for the best infrastructure, trainers, delivery methodology and assessment. So, all this we need to have at the centre where we have dedicated resources, then they can spread the quality to delivery partners. This apply to other Sector council. NSDC could have a research group who can research on skill education and training and share this with Sector councils.

As mentioned earlier, one of the major initiatives of MHRD is the World Bank funded project for Technical Education Quality Improvement. I have been selected as the mentor and process auditor for this project. TEQIP program has a well – defined quality parameters, determined by various factors. The process of auditing, level of assessment and mentoring happens by moving from one level to another, funding is directly linked to the progress they make on the performance indicators. We can use the learning curve of this program to come up with similar initiative. We should develop model centres and others have to emulate.

Q: Can you share some examples from TVS academy on how you conduct the training?

Automotive skill development TVS institute1A: Quality is the key differentiator in automotive industry. We look at roles in the company, job descriptions with purpose and tasks to accomplish the purpose. Set of tasks determines the competencies required to accomplish the tasks effectively. Competencies required across functions are identified and defined at four proficiency levels. Competency development over career life cycle is managed using an IT system, Learning Management System. We have developed 140 courses across domains levels to cover all the functions. 

We have an annual assessment that determines the learning needs. We prepare a quarterly calendar and people attend the courses. They are qualified for the current role and we see how they are prepared ahead of the next role.

Let’s look at our concept of ‘do-and-learn’ and ‘learn-and-do’. For example, an unskilled person joins a truck driver as a Cleaner, by performing all the errand jobs for a driver, picks up driving skills over a period of time, and then he becomes a driver learning all the good and bad habits. Similar process followed in companies is called as ‘OJT – On-the-Job Training’.

On the other hand, to become a pilot one has to join a flying school and go through a structured off the job and on the Job training logging about 200 hours of flying and get certified by DGCA to become a Co-pilot. Globally the aviation industry has set a high standards for the safety by ‘Learn and do’ method where as the we can come across hundreds of accidents involving trucks every day in our country.

To get people certified and qualified for the intended role is crucial following the concept of learn-and-do. I have visited Switzerland, Finland and Germany part of a study mission and learnt about their vocational education. We have to actively consider to partner with these countries to develop know-how for high quality skills training.

Q: What do you think about the Apprenticeship programs in India?

A: I believe, if we improve the quality of the education and training and address employable skills, there will be an active engagement by the employers. Employers are also require to engage with institutions to co-create such programs. Then apprenticeship will become meaningful.

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