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Old 15th September 2014, 19:51   #46
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Originally Posted by Latheesh View Post
It was our turn yesterday, and was a wonderful experience.
It was nice meeting you Dry Ice, any other BHPians were there?
Thanks Latheesh, same here!

It was a fun day overall. The best part for me personally was the test drive on the track and back-to-back demos by Mr.Aniruddh and Mr.Rob. The way the car hugged on to the road while these guys were throwing it all around was commendable. The braking was excellent too.

Sure a lot has gone into this product and TML has left no stone unturned to make this a success. The QC process, production lines all seem completely different from the other products.

These visits, I feel, are part of their broader campaign to improve their word-of-mouth image.

The last session with the management was equally interesting. From sales/service advisors with tabs, new uniforms, overhauled dealerships to new apps for employees/customers. It seems they are doing a lot to shed their previous lethargic image.

Personally, I would be happy with just a reliable product, a service center where I don't rub shoulders with only cabbies and my feedback is heard and acted upon if I write/call in. No need for all the fancy stuff. As extreme_torque rightly put it - "under promise and over deliver".

About the product, the car is good inside out, no doubt. Handles and brakes well. There are a few rough spots still present especially around the doorpads.

PS: People booking the Zest, go for a blue one, you might get a faster delivery. Most of the cars rolling out of the line seemed blue.
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Old 16th September 2014, 13:17   #47
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Originally Posted by Dry Ice View Post
Thanks Latheesh, same here!

It was a fun day overall. The best part for me personally was the test drive on the track and back-to-back demos by Mr.Aniruddh and Mr.Rob. The way the car hugged on to the road while these guys were throwing it all around was commendable. The braking was excellent too.

Sure a lot has gone into this product and TML has left no stone unturned to make this a success. The QC process, production lines all seem completely different from the other products.

These visits, I feel, are part of their broader campaign to improve their word-of-mouth image.

The last session with the management was equally interesting. From sales/service advisors with tabs, new uniforms, overhauled dealerships to new apps for employees/customers. It seems they are doing a lot to shed their previous lethargic image.

Personally, I would be happy with just a reliable product, a service center where I don't rub shoulders with only cabbies and my feedback is heard and acted upon if I write/call in. No need for all the fancy stuff. As extreme_torque rightly put it - "under promise and over deliver".

About the product, the car is good inside out, no doubt. Handles and brakes well. There are a few rough spots still present especially around the doorpads.

PS: People booking the Zest, go for a blue one, you might get a faster delivery. Most of the cars rolling out of the line seemed blue.
Thanks Dry_Ice.

Although this was not my first plant visit, what really stood out were the R&D facilities because unlike others Tata also does most of the R&D in house. The assembly lines in most automobile factories are almost the same and Pankaj has already covered the assembly line details rather nicely. The stand out facilities as far as I am concerned were the Design studio, the Anechoic Chamber, the Weather testing lab, the Crash test facility and the test track. I will add to what has already been said in the thread.

Design Studio: Tata is very serious about the Design in their newer generation cars and what re-affirms this is the fact that they now have design studio's in India, UK and even Detroit! As per their own admission, the design facility has had the largest overhaul recently in terms of talented manpower. I had a lengthy, no hold barred discussion on design of the Zest and the future cars from Tata Motors. During the discussion I also told how I do not like the raised stance of the Zest and how wider front and rear track could have been made wider to achieve that perfect wide squat stance. As per them, the design team were working on a template and the template being older but heavily revised Vista/Manza platform. They also did not want to loose the USP of Tata car's, the overall space inside the cabin (legroom and headroom both) and hence no coupe like roofline or any of that stuff. Given the constraints they were working with I think they have done a fabulous job designing the Zest which looks as good as any in the segment. They are also working on two brand new cars which will be announced next year and I am willing to bet that one of them is a small SUV even though they were very tight lipped on the details.
I also asked them if the much celebrated JLR designer, and for good reason, Mr. Ian Callum visits this facility and the answer Yes but only once in a while. I think that is good enough!
We also discussed inputs in engineering and design from JLR trickling down to Tata cars and while we would all want to have cars designed and engineered by JLR at the cost of a Tata, economically its not viable. Jaguar/Land Rover probably has 30 engineers just working on the button placement on the dashboard, Tata cannot afford to do that with their mass market cars. The cost targets are on a different scale altogether. This is not to say that there are no any inputs as we shall see ahead **Cough** E-Cube **Cough**

Anechoic Chamber: An area of absolute calm, the facility is standing inside of an outer skin of a concrete building suspended on a rubber base (to cancel any vibes). The walls are covered in 18,800 acoustic glass wool inside jute wedges which absorb most of the noise, almost 99% of it. They use strategically placed microphones inside and out of the car to pin point the noise source. They then analyse the data on a computer and classify the noise as being either from the structure called structure-borne or air-borne path and work on it accordingly. The structure borne noise and vibes for example can be taken care off either by stiffening the structure so that there is no vibration and hence no noise or making it 'softer' so that it can absorb vibrations and hence reduce/eliminate noise. They even use a dummy human head equipped with super sensitive ears or phase matched microphones inside the car to precisely pin point the noise/vibration paths areas in the cabin. A single directional microphone can only provide you with the noise levels while a dual phase matched microphones can not only measure the noise levels but also pin point the direction from where it is coming from and hence the source making them much more effective. The air borne noises can be reduced by using strategically placed noise absorbing substance in firewall or the doors and wheel wells for example.
The result of all this is that Zest is the quietest car in its class!

Environment Lab: Creating climate on the fly, this lab can simulate temperatures ranging from a sweltering 55 degrees to incredibly cold -40 degrees and humidity levels ranging from very low to a very high of 90 or 100%! The Zest's air conditioning system and engine cooling system have been developed to perform in varying climatic conditions such as these. As an example the air flow from the radiator is measured using small fan like sensors placed behind the radiator which can accurately measure the amount of air flow passing through the radiator. They also had a demonstration for us where the Zest's front and rear glass were deliberately fogged in -5 degrees and then de-fogging systems turned on to assess their effectiveness. We could also see it all working via an infra red camera no less!

Crash Test Lab: India's first crash test facility built by Tata motor engineers where they can not only simulate all types of impact tests but also pedestrian safety tests and roll over tests. The facility is as high tech as it can get and no effort was spared in testing the crash worthiness of the Zest which has been physically crash tested more than 25 times during the course of its development apart from computer models. Each crash test takes around 5 days of preparation time which includes painting the car in bright matt orange shade which cancels surface reflections so that the deformation can be clearly seen in the video, preparing crash test dummies each of which cost a whopping 1 crore and placing various sensors and camera inside and outside of the car. The area where the car hits the deformable barrier is illuminated by 16 high powered lights, each one consuming a whopping 8 kilowatts for the final 5 seconds of the crash test. The lights need to be this bright for the camera's to capture the crash test at 1000 frames per second! Another fact: The lights are powered by DC current and not AC. Go figure! Hint: AC is sine wave.

E-Cube Lab: E-Cube or the engineering cube as they call it is a full scale model of the car, Zest in this case, made entirely of aluminium, bumpers included with tolerances as small as 0.2 mm! The model acts as a reference for all the OEM parts that go into the car for fit and finish and also car's body. The E-Cube also has 3D co-ordinates placed on all strategic parts of the car, which can be tested or checked against the production model to find inconsistencies in build. The way it works is that the area just ahead of the engine in the middle is given the co-ordinates 0-0-0 and all the other co-ordinates are calculated accordingly. Any OEM part that goes on the car is first placed on the E-Cube and then checked by a super accurate Zeiss machine with laser probes for build consistency. The Zeiss machine is capable of measuring in microns if the need be! While we were there, they were checking a bumper which was placed on the E-Cube (the aluminium bumper taken off) for form and fit. Now you know why Zest has consistent panel gaps on its body.

Test Track: It was fun trashing the Zest Revvotron on the 1.2 km long straight where I touched approx 140 kmph with four people in the car and A/C on in Sport mode. The driving modes do work as advertised. We started in Eco mode and while I was accelerating in third gear pedal to metal, the expert sitting with me put the car in Sport mode and I could feel the difference immediately! The engine opened up and revved much freely in the process accelerating a lot faster. The expert then took over and accelerated the car to almost 100 kph and absolutely slammed on the brakes. The car stopped with little drama in a straight line with ABS working perfectly.... highly impressive!
They also had a demonstration where they had a Zest loaded with equipment which measure the lateral acceleration of the car and the amount of roll while taking a sweeping circle at the end of the test track first at a constant speed and the Zest passed it with flying colors. The test driver then moved on to the inner circle (smaller in diameter) and also increased the speed which had the tyres squealing and smoking and the car understeering a bit. At one point I also saw one of the back wheels raise its leg up.

The last leg of the tour was a visit to the Tata Motors Lake View Guest house, which requires a separate write up on its own, and interaction with the higher management at Tata Motors. A bit about the Lake House first, the entire idea was to give back to the environment what you have taken in the form of the factory, a diktat from none other than JRD himself which the company prides itself upon. So 90% of the water that you see in the Lake treated and cleaned water which is used in the factory! The whole area has approx 70,000 trees, (yes you read that right) that's 3 trees every employee (they employ 20,000 people) and even see's yearly bird migrations from as far as Siberia! It is a grand gesture from one of the grandest business house India has seen and inspiring none the less. Hats off!

The interaction with the higher management was informative as well. They briefed us about the initiative being taken to improve not only the products themselves but also the sales and service experience under the umbrella of DESIGNEXT, DRIVENEXT and CONNEXTNEXT. The same will continue with every new product that rolls out of the Tata Motors plant. It was not a monologue by the higher ups but an interactive session where idea's were shared and listened to. The best bit was that they were willing to listen to the feedback we had even when I minced no words in explaining their past efforts, such as interiors on the 3.0 liter Dicor Safari as "horrible and pathetic". One concern that I have is that Tata Motors is trying to do too many things at the same time and in the process there is a chance that they may loose focus. They have a good base product in Zest and the upcoming Bolt and all that they need to do right now is to make sure that they focus on product quality and service, that is under-promise and over deliver. The other improvements can wait.


Other things:

- Tata Motors have promised to launch 2 new products every year, ambitious but given their 'Zest', it is not impossible.
- A lot of people that we interacted with in the facility were with Tata Motors for more than a decade. Some even went as far back as 30+ years!
- Saw a lot of test mules (obviously do not have pictures of the same) Safari with a camouflaged front, a brand new small car (smaller than Vista/Bolt) perhaps an Alto competitor they were talking about earlier, a nicely done up Safari Storme with raised suspension, big off road tyres and metal bumpers, lots of Bolt mules, various commercial vehicles and even an Aria on test which had "Different Refrigeration Gas" written on its sides!
- The name Zest and Bolt were selected after conducting workshops with the young and trendy.
- Some of them admitted that they do miss Karl and most of what you see is his doing

This is all I can remember right now. All in all a day well spent and they told us this is just the start. Looking forward to more such visits in future.
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Old 16th September 2014, 15:14   #48
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Thanks for the write-up, ET. Have always respected Tata for their commitment to the environment and social responsibility.

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The lights are powered by DC current and not AC. Go figure! Hint: AC is sine wave.
DC so that there is no flickering, else the 1000 fps camera will capture several dark and dim photos due to the 50Hz AC signal (Am I right? Do I get a prize??)
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Old 16th September 2014, 15:19   #49
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Thanks for the write-up. Am feeling good to have bought a Zest so far, hope the ownership experience long term will be as good too.
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Old 16th September 2014, 17:37   #50
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This is all I can remember right now. All in all a day well spent and they told us this is just the start. Looking forward to more such visits in future.
Brilliant write-up sir, thanks for sharing!

Kudos to TATA too, while it might still be a work in progress, it looks like they are making the transition to world class finally.
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Old 16th September 2014, 23:01   #51
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.Now you know why Zest has consistent panel gaps on its body.
Nice writeup. Last year when i visited the Ford plant in Detroit, We saw robots taking high resolution pictures of various panel gaps. These pictures were validated against the specs for deviations and faulty ones were identified. They mentioned about 500 pictures of the (almost) finished vehicle were taken during this process. Did you see any such robots or process in TML plant?
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Old 17th September 2014, 06:28   #52
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Thanks for the write-up, ET. Have always respected Tata for their commitment to the environment and social responsibility.



DC so that there is no flickering, else the 1000 fps camera will capture several dark and dim photos due to the 50Hz AC signal (Am I right? Do I get a prize??)
Thanks for the kind words. And yes you are absolutely right!


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Thanks for the write-up. Am feeling good to have bought a Zest so far, hope the ownership experience long term will be as good too.
Thanks. Would love to read the ownership experience? Do you have a thread going?

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Originally Posted by chncar View Post
Brilliant write-up sir, thanks for sharing!

Kudos to TATA too, while it might still be a work in progress, it looks like they are making the transition to world class finally.
Thank you. The plant is as good as it gets but there is still some way to go and as we have been told, they are on it as we speak.

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Originally Posted by teamveevee View Post
Nice writeup. Last year when i visited the Ford plant in Detroit, We saw robots taking high resolution pictures of various panel gaps. These pictures were validated against the specs for deviations and faulty ones were identified. They mentioned about 500 pictures of the (almost) finished vehicle were taken during this process. Did you see any such robots or process in TML plant?
Thanks. No such robot process in TML.
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Old 20th September 2014, 09:17   #53
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Thanks Dry_Ice.

---
Quite a few of us were there it seems. A mini-team-bhp meet on Tata Motors premises
My biggest takeaway from this whole exercise was the intent Tata has to set things right. They know they have been caught napping and they know that its a long hard road to the top. With the kind of changes they have brought in, future Tata products will be worth waiting for. Even the Zest seems like a no-brainer choice in its segment. Coming from a Figo, I didn't expect to enjoy the Zest too much handling wise, but boy was I wrong! The EPS is weighted beautifully and the car was very stable around corners.
Another thing I really loved was the pride people take in working in Tata. From the customer experience people, to the management to the factory shop floor supervisor - each and everyone was excited about the work they did and the pride they had.
Good times ahead!
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Old 20th September 2014, 10:18   #54
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Thanks. Would love to read the ownership experience? Do you have a thread going?
I am going to meet my Revotron XT Pearl White today at the stockyard for a PDI. I should take delivery next week if all goes well. Will start an ownership thread then.
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