How Finolex Pipes removed bottleneck in production using employee activity

The suggested modification not only led to a notable decrease in manpower requirements, but promoted safety and minimised physical fatigue among the workers


Finolex, a company that manufactures PVC pipes is currently undergoing a comprehensive transformation, not only from an HR perspective but as an organisation on the whole. This transformation encompasses its shift towards digitalisation, extending to its manufacturing processes and all functional aspects. 

The core strategy is to ensure more efficiency and visibility in the market, aiming to foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. To instil this culture throughout the organisation, the company adopts a bottom-up approach with its ‘Parivartan’ initiative. 

This initiative allows employees at all levels to submit their ideas for process enhancements, cost-saving measures, product improvements, or any other area where innovation is possible. The programme welcomes all employees to contribute their ideas through suggestion boxes, or even directly to the management.

“When employees submit a suggestion under Parivartan, they are prompted to consider several questions before documenting their ideas. The aim is straightforward — the suggestion should enhance resource utilisation, reduce wastage for cost reduction, improve process efficiency and add value. Additionally, it should decrease delivery times, elevate service standards, minimise repeat work and enhance the first-time-right ratio. Among other aspects, this process also addresses health hazards in the production lines,” points out Sarita Tripathi, CHRO, Finolex Industries.

The company has placed Parivatan boxes at all its plants where employees can deposit their suggestions in writing. While the company is looking to automate the process in the future, the physical boxes will continue to be used, especially by workers who may not have access to laptops or desktops. 

At the end of the month, a Core Committee — consisting of five individuals from different departments, including HR — collects the suggestions from the box. These are then categorised based on their functions, such as quality production, technical services and engineering. The respective functional heads review them, providing initial feedback to filter out suggestions that may not add value. 

“Typically, 70-80 per cent of the suggestions pass this initial review. The remaining ones go to the Central Committee, which comprises representatives from each function. In this committee, decisions are made regarding the feasibility of implementing suggestions at the organisational, plant, or functional level. Some suggestions may also require capital investment, leading to evaluation by the Capital Committee. Once approved, the suggestions are implemented,” reveals Tripathi explaining the process.

The initiative led to a manufacturing employee identifying a bottleneck in the production process. 

The pipe industry operates as a continuous process industry, running 24/7, 365 days a year, ensuring a consistent and frequent production output. In such an industry, halting production is not feasible. Consequently, maintaining a high and steady product output is crucial. One area where manual fatigue was a concern for its employees was in the process of picking up pipes from the extruder, placing them in a trolley and transporting them to the warehouse. 

The worker in the production line had daily production targets. One day, he noticed how the entire shop floor became crowded due to the ongoing process. This congestion arose because despite the involvement of numerous workers, the breaks — for lunch and tea — were not synchronised with the continuous production flow. Consequently, the shop floor became congested, limiting movement and resulting in damages as products had to be stacked on top of each other.

The said individual who worked in the production line independently came up with the potential solution. His solution was documented as part of the Parivartan initiative, and was evaluated by the committee. “Having come across automation examples in a Japanese company on YouTube, he raised the possibility of implementing similar practices in their own context. The organisation then assessed potential partners capable of executing this initiative,” asserts Tripathi. 

The worker suggested automating the process using robots.  The idea was to allow pipes to move directly from the extruder to the trolley without manual intervention. Once filled, the trolley would simply be taken away, and a new trolley positioned for the process to continue.

The committee evaluated the suggestion considering all five primary aspects — How the suggestion would add value, save costs, enhance the process or product quality, and ensure safety for its personnel. After discussions, the company successfully implemented the idea.

“The modification has significantly reduced the time required for the process. It has led to a notable decrease in manpower requirements, promoting safety and minimising physical fatigue among our employees. Furthermore, the efficiency of the entire process has seen improvement, as the shop floor no longer experiences congestion, eliminating any interference,” enunciates Tripathi. 

To track and ensure the sustained impact of this process improvement, the company conducts quarterly reviews as part of the feedback measures or mechanisms. These reviews involve the committee assessing the outcomes of the implementation over the past quarter. “While no formal surveys are conducted, the committee reflects on the last three months of implementation during their meetings. Decisions regarding whether anything needs to be discontinued, sustained, or elevated to the next level are made at these meetings,” points out Tripathi.

Since its launch, the Parivatan scheme has instilled a sense of inclusivity among the people of Finolex, making them feel that there is room to build, innovate and suggest improvements. Additionally, it promotes interplant brainstorming. For instance, if a suggestion is made at the company’s Ratnagiri plant for the initial stage, the committee may decide that it doesn’t need to be implemented at the plant level immediately; instead, it could be tested at Ratnagiri first. Once a decision is reached, there is a platform where all plant heads and functional heads convene monthly for interplant sharing and brainstorming sessions. During these sessions, they discuss the best practices implemented through Parivatan in their respective plants, allowing others to adopt and benefit from them. 

Explaining the benefits of this approach, Tripathi explains how it works in two excellent ways. “One is that individuals eagerly participate in it because it fosters inclusivity and offers rewards. The second aspect is that the organisation doesn’t need to repeatedly experiment and iterate. If a strategy works for one plant, it is likely to work in every plant since they all produce the same product,” she explains.

The overarching aim of the company remains the same — to enhance efficiency, create an optimal working environment, ensure safety and provide a secure workplace for the employees. The suggestions stemming from the Parivartan initiative contribute directly to these objectives. 

Furthermore, to recognise outstanding contributions, the company gives an annual award to individuals whose suggestions have been most beneficial to the organisation. This award is presented by the managing director during the annual conference.

“We deliberately haven’t set a numeric target for each function, because we aim for this to be a pull factor rather than a push factor. Over the past seven to eight months since its full implementation, we’ve received around 200 valuable suggestions that have been implemented organisation wide. Our emphasis is on value addition rather than turning it into a competition of numbers,” concludes Tripathi.

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