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Old 15th September 2011, 18:02   #31
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Default Re: Forster resigns from Tata Motors

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Originally Posted by sridhar-v View Post
Well I am not at all surprised.
That is the highest number of Thanks I saw on one post anywhere in TBHP
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Old 15th September 2011, 18:25   #32
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Default Re: Forster resigns from Tata Motors

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Originally Posted by sridhar-v View Post
As person in charge of ERC (Engg research centre or Enginners recreation centre in my days!!)
I worked with ERC people few years back on an engine modification project and I agree to "recreation" comment :-). Same is applicable to the so called Engineering/research centres of many MNC auto companies operating in India. Also you will be surprised to see the level of politics and "corruption" inside some of the luxuary car makers in India. Why blame TATA alone?
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Old 15th September 2011, 21:26   #33
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Although the thread is about Forster's resignation at an untimely juncture and not much should be looked into it, this is serving to be a good platform for all of us to actually discuss what might have gone wrong with Tata vis-a-vis its erstwhile competitors.


Do we see a problem in product positioning? By the word of mouth, they would like to capture the complete taxi segment (local taxis in small towns, cool-cabs, the 'private registration' cabs, call center commute, etc), but their marketing communication also tries to lure the private passenger car segment - what with ultra-cool gadgetry and opulence on Manza / Aria / limited-edition Safari. Indigo XL was squarely aimed at back-seat drivers, wasn't it? How many people would really want to be spotted dead in a Tata, trying to make a statement of arrival?

Those factors may be, but are not limited to :

- Incorrect/Ambiguous marketing communication from the manufacturer.
- Lack of consistency in quality.
- Brand's image of being a truck maker (They can easily do a Toyota-Lexus thing, or even a Toyota-Scion thing. Debatable, but possible).
- Extremely carefree and uninterested staff at dealerships and service centers (Largely).
TML started making the positioning mistakes around the same time Ravi Kant took over (coincidence?? or a result of his cut price stratergy ??). They started positioning the Vista as an alternative to the Alto. My friend who is a Marketing management Professor immediately predicted the ultimate destruction of the brand value.

And boy! are their dealers lousy.. I would rather pay double & buy a Hyundai 800 than a Tata Nano.
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Old 15th September 2011, 22:32   #34
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Default Re: Forster resigns from Tata Motors

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The niggles that many customers complain about in Tata cars is what indicates the "chalta hai" and QC issues at TML. After spending lakhs on a car, one wants peace of mind, not niggles which lead to multiple trip to A.S.S centers.

The market share of TML is declining in the passenger segment. While it may contribute just 10-20% of TML revenues, the bigger problem is the perception people have of TML making low quality cars. The big three US companies had similar perception till a decade back, when Japanese cars were considered to be of better quality than Ford/GM/Chrysler. And one would get better resale value for japanese cars compared to the US ones. It took a long time for the US companies to overcome those perceptions. I hope TML doesn't end up in the same boat.

One interesting strategy adopted by the Korean automakers(Kia/Hyundai) in US to overcome the perceptions of low quality was to offer 10 year/100,000 mile warranty on their engines and transmission. They were pretty confident of their QC and hence could make such a guarantee.

The market share is Tata's to lose. With the overall quality of cars going up, and the competition heating up, Tata needs to work hard to clear the perceptions of low quality. If it doesn't work hard on it now, it may be too late few years down the line.
It is mainly a matter of company culture that determines the product quality. I remember a major argument I had, sometime in 2010, with the QC head of their CVBU Gear Box plant. Rather than accept that the components were being produced out of spec he was trying to see if the acceptance gauges, supplied by us & validated by their experts, could be ground down so that it would accept the not ok components...mind you this was the qc head. He was more interested in his Incentive that was tied to the no of products productionised, rather than their quality.

Compare this to a situation in 1980. I was a trainee Engineer (1.5 months into training) in the Engines testing QC. I was doing a double General & 2nd. shift as there were a lot of problems in despatch. Mr. M was the plant head and had given instructions that certain field complaints had been traced back to engine sump paint quality.He specifically had instructed us, thru dept. head, to ensure proper painting before despatch of engines to Vehicle Assly. We worked out the procedure with production & things were going smoothly. Suddenly around dinner time the Sr. manager Production (Mr. P) stormed into the testing area and insisted that the time for painting was too much (which it was not) and that he would not allow it. So I refused to clear engines for despatch. Shut down the assly line for over 4 hours. All AGMs & Mgrs were running helter skelter. Mr. P even threatened to beat me to which I countered that I would have in in police lockup the next morning for assault. And all the workers ( who normally hate QC) sided with me as they hated him more. He was a chamcha of the AGM Prod. and everybody twisted their knives in him that night. ("Hit Him" was the universal support & advise I got). Anyways by midnight they had to relent & start painting the engines as required. Next morning I was called up by the HOD of QC and thanked for doing a good job!! In those days TELCO, as it was then known, managed to assemble only 30-35 trucks per day and to loose almost a whole shift's production was a big issue. But no repurcussions fell on me as I was well within my rights to stop despatch. In the good old days of TML even a trainee engineer could stop the line for QC issues (I did) and nothing adverse would happen to him. The Japanese philosophy well before it became fashionable worldwide.!!

Later on, when the professional managers took over, and the AGM Production became plant head he appointed Mr. P as HOD QC. . The guy ran riot and did all the compromises so that the new Plant head could make money on the side & also show short term profit at the same time. Quality suffered - it was so bad at one time that you had to pay money to get your goods supply unloaded at the stores.

Ratan Tata had a tough time gaining control and sidelining these assorted elements. Now he again seems to have relinquished control to a smoother set of operators.

I have seen the component level drawings of all their major components of their vehicles. I had a complete set of drawings of the Cyl Block & Head of the NANO 1 year before its launch. Their products are well designed as they are based on German designs. Specs. are also tight. What is hurting them is their maniacal obsession with lowering costs (what is immediately visible) without a well thought out strategy. So the vendors selected have dubious capabilities and lousy machinery. The only target is 10% price reduction every year. There are smarter ways of doing this, but it calls for a lot of time, effort & upfront investment in the vendor's capabilities & machinery.

For example a classical case - Alternator Mounting Bracket.
Wonder why all Indica fan belts screech - the brackets are manufactured on General Purpose machines & due to this the process capability for perpendicularity of 2 mounting holes is not good. So it becomes the end buyer's potluck. I designed 9 fixtures for this process. I knew the shortcomings of the process and the fixtures and desperately tried to convince them to shift to VMC(vertical machining centre) process. The capital costs of manufacturing the 9 fixtures would have served as a hefty capital subsidy for 2 VMC machines with 4th. Axis. per piece rate would have been lower & quality higher. But their ancillary dev. Dept. refused as they had a policy of vendors using only GPMs ( rajkot lathes, ludhiana milling & misc.).

Around the same time Toyota was developing some components for the Qualis. For one engine mounting bracket, that I was involved with, they specified VMC operation for bolt clearance holes with process capability & quality plan. No wonder their vehicles are better.

Hell!! I had a soft corner for TML as I started my career there and a learned a lot in the 3 years I was with them. I remember,as a design vendor in 2006, fighting up the chain to highlight a problem in one of their exhaust manifolds. Wall thickness near the mounting flange was a problem and it would have lead to field failures due to cracking of the hot gases passage.Even though the program manager understood the problems he was reluctant to take action as the project would get delayed. ( And he would loose his incentive- boy what damage a badly designed scheme can cause!!) Fortunately the 2nd in command in charge of ERC engines happened to be walking by while I was protesting loudly & recognised me from my Engine testing days. He stopped, took one look at my point and put the engine on hold. It turned out everybody in the design team was aware of the problem but were afraid to bell the cat. It took them 1 full year to rectify the problem & revalidate the engine performance with the new manifold.

Most of the new product developments get done in this slipshod manner. Mr. Sumantaran was trying to break this approach. It immediately pushed back a lot of launches but would have improved their product quality substantially. So he & Forster have been eased out. NO surprises.

So that is why you do not buy a TATA vehicle immediately after it is launched. Wait for a couple of years and the bugs surface, most get sorted out and you have a stable but niggly product.

Nowadays they are gradually shifting some components to CNC machining processes, but the rates they pay are so low that their vendors use very old machines and process capabilities suffers.

Compare this with the turnaround Maruthi did in the Mid 1990's. Specified strict process capabilities, QC plan and even dictated the machines to be used. Paid better rates so that ROIs were attractive. So quality improved dramatically.

Nowadays I have stopped caring about TML as I feel I have done more than my fair share, mostly unpaid, of trying to help.

All manufacturer's go through these phases. Some learn from their mistake & rectify. I remeber one case of Ford USA. They tried to save 1US$ on the cylinder head gasket. The purchase manager short cut the approval & testing process & got a hefty bonus. Later on they had to issue a recall for a large no. of engines and spent a few 100 million on that. They learnt the lesson & strengthened the approval process.

Last edited by GTO : 17th September 2011 at 15:08. Reason: Super post, thanks for sharing. However, it is best not to refer to people by their first names.
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Old 15th September 2011, 23:26   #35
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Default Re: Forster resigns from Tata Motors

Tata motors is a great example of a Mother trying to poison her children to a slow, painfull death. These guys seem to have completely lost it as far as design and quality control goes. they have their own meaning for QC(Qut Cost) it seems.

Manza : My friends & I are waiting to know of the guy who designed the Manzas rear so we could give his "Supari". Tata lost 2 Manza customers just because of that Fugly rear.

Vista : A car with a fantastic engine and gearbox (quadrajet).... Period. Nothing else in the car is worth even speaking about. Those vertical lights went out of fashion a decade back. And why the hell did they borrow the hatch door from their previous indica. Maybe the designer went out of ideas again !!

Nano : A car that the whole world was proud of. I still remember the expo launch of the nano. Today its selling 1/10th of what it deserves. Shame on you Tata Motors

Safari : A great vehicle bogged down by equally great problems. Flimsy build, kaput electricals, boring interiors, poor engines (2.0 & 3.0) lifted straight from goods carriers killed a product that could have outsold the Scorpio.

Aria : Hope of hopes, a car true Tata fans were eagerly waiting for. Tata's thought since they borrowed the interior design fro Land rover, they could borrow the premium pricing too . The result : poor sales and rebadged cheaper variants.

BTW : I had a Safari 2.0 for 4 years, a indica turbo for 1 year and a indica vista quadrajet for 6 months before I gave up on Tata motor products

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Last edited by n_aditya : 16th September 2011 at 15:00.
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Old 16th September 2011, 09:29   #36
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Default Re: Forster resigns from Tata Motors

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Originally Posted by sridhar-v View Post
It is mainly a matter of company culture that determines the product quality.
....

All manufacturer's go through these phases. Some learn from their mistake & rectify.
Enlightening.
Frightening.
Sad.

But the saddest, most frightening part is that this is (half) expected, and accepted.

Regards
Sutripta
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Old 16th September 2011, 10:46   #37
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Default Re: Forster resigns from Tata Motors

That was beautifully articulated post. Very enlightening on how companies work.

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Originally Posted by sridhar-v View Post
Ratan Tata had a tough time gaining control and sidelining these assorted elements. Now he again seems to have relinquished control to a smoother set of operators.
I would say that the Ratan Tata or the rest of the board are directly responsible for the state of affairs. The culture of the company depends on the long term vision of the company and that comes from the very top.

When they thought about the Nano, did they think about just launching a cheap barely acceptable product and sweep the lower end of the market or did they think that they are going to be at the cutting edge of both technology and low cost manufacturing process in future? I think the former and that's what has cost them the market - a very short term view of just gaining market share

It would be interesting to compare the attitude at Tata Motors with group company, Titan, which doesn't seem to face such gripes (even though personally I do have a few), and is at the forefront in terms of technology and manufacturing process in their field. If anyone has more inside details, it would be great, if they can share
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Old 16th September 2011, 11:04   #38
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Default Re: Forster resigns from Tata Motors

This whole Incentive thing I feel ends up hurting more than helping.
Make more cars get more incentive is a bad idea.

Inside story of TML is kind of sad. But I guess it will be true in most of the companies. As said, some learn while some repeat the mistakes again.
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Old 16th September 2011, 11:08   #39
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Learnt from reliable internal source that, the resignation of Forster is actually being pushed by TML top mgmt since he was not able to get along well / comfortable ( both ways) with the India counterpart and was in favour of closing down the India operations after some time. That was not well taken by the Tata Group seniors of Bombay House ....

Also, what is being felt that his exit is not going to have any impact on the car business at all in near/long term, since he was perceived as a 'slow-reformer' which is not needed by TML at this juncture.


The Refreshed Vista is all set to do 'better than expected' as per sales feedback / bookings in next 2-3 months atleast ..plus yesterdays hike in petrol is going to give a small additional push to diesel car sales of Tata.

So as a share holder of TML , I am happy at the moment :-)
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Old 16th September 2011, 11:18   #40
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but reading Sridhar's mail, now I guess, no wonder the FIAT quality is also hampering. With such lousy suppliers and more so practices, may be even FIAT is going to dogs with QC. Even though the manufacturing is with FIAT, it seems TATA QC could be an influencing factor at the plant as even TATA cars are also produced in RJ plant.
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Old 16th September 2011, 11:31   #41
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well, to me it looks like a grapes turn sour case. every manufacturer is into these business practices. i am unable to understand why we are ranting about TATA' s only . is Maruti / Hyundai / Mahindra and all are different . NO. Every body does that. at the end of day nobody is bothered about customer . it;s profits to the share holder which matters. nothing else.

this thread is just a pointless discussion IMO. i am unable to understand why we are discussing a dead horse called TATA;s quality here when thread title is about a CEO;s resign.
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Old 16th September 2011, 11:32   #42
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Wonderful, insightful post, Sridhar. Would have rated it five stars if it was possible to rate individual posts.

Just thinking aloud, what would happen if TML switched the incentive strategy from being based on units produced to being based on defects reported (inversely of course)? Mayhem??
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Old 16th September 2011, 14:52   #43
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Wonderful, insightful post, Sridhar. Would have rated it five stars if it was possible to rate individual posts.

Just thinking aloud, what would happen if TML switched the incentive strategy from being based on units produced to being based on defects reported (inversely of course)? Mayhem??
If they changed the incentive structure everybody would have to work hard or face the music. That is why they compromise/emansculate the QC dept. first. There is an subsidiary which produces Machine Tools. ( the original m/c's are 25 years old & still going strong. Chaps buy any scrapped units and convert them into SPMs that they require.) When they decided to spin it off as a wholly owned subsidiary the first thing that happened was that all (I mean all - only 1 man out of about 50-60 was retained as a nominal QC dept.) the QC people were dismissed. Quality went for a tailspin & the department is on life-support ever since. With an Investment Gross Block of over 200Cr. they barely manage 35 Cr. turnover.

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but reading Sridhar's mail, now I guess, no wonder the FIAT quality is also hampering. With such lousy suppliers and more so practices, may be even FIAT is going to dogs with QC. Even though the manufacturing is with FIAT, it seems TATA QC could be an influencing factor at the plant as even TATA cars are also produced in RJ plant.
Actually Fiat, at least in their Ranjangaon Engines plant, is managing to maintain top-notch quality. This is basically because the plant was setup to Fiat's specs and is run by the Italians at the top to their overall standards.

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well, to me it looks like a grapes turn sour case. every manufacturer is into these business practices. i am unable to understand why we are ranting about TATA' s only . is Maruti / Hyundai / Mahindra and all are different . NO. Every body does that. at the end of day nobody is bothered about customer . it;s profits to the share holder which matters. nothing else.

this thread is just a pointless discussion IMO. i am unable to understand why we are discussing a dead horse called TATA;s quality here when thread title is about a CEO;s resign.
No sour grapes at all. I am actually very impressed with the basic design of all the TATA cars. The Nano is actually a packaging marvel.
If quality levels had been maintained TML would have been market leader today.

And we need to understand why CEO's resign.

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Old 16th September 2011, 15:16   #44
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Default Re: Forster resigns from Tata Motors

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Originally Posted by .sushilkumar View Post
well, to me it looks like a grapes turn sour case. every manufacturer is into these business practices. i am unable to understand why we are ranting about TATA' s only . is Maruti / Hyundai / Mahindra and all are different . NO. Every body does that. at the end of day nobody is bothered about customer . it;s profits to the share holder which matters. nothing else.

this thread is just a pointless discussion IMO. i am unable to understand why we are discussing a dead horse called TATA;s quality here when thread title is about a CEO;s resign.
Everybody tries to bring down the cost - but not at the cost of company's reputation. Shareholders get profit only if the company grows. Tatas are not doing too badly currently - but it is the future which looks not so rosy, with all the recent launches getting lesser than expected reception in the market and their image none the better

Since the discussion here is of good quality, wouldn't it be better if the mods change the title suitably? Or merge this portion of the thread with the other one on Tata passenger cars
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Old 16th September 2011, 15:50   #45
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Everybody tries to bring down the cost - but not at the cost of company's reputation. Shareholders get profit only if the company grows. Tatas are not doing too badly currently - but it is the future which looks not so rosy, with all the recent launches getting lesser than expected reception in the market and their image none the better
Understand your point here. TATA;s are not a over night sprung company. with their ever increasing product base, i am sure their future is bright . Unlike others , they are new entrants in the passenger car market and they have done wonderfully well for themselves and Indian customer so far. with experience , they will only improve. there is a reason why they are most respected business house in India and with Nano they have earned that respect in world market as well.

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Since the discussion here is of good quality, wouldn't it be better if the mods change the title suitably? Or merge this portion of the thread with the other one on Tata passenger cars
+1 .
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