The Harley-Davidson X440 goes through a set of comprehensive tests before delivery to make sure everything is in order
The Harley-Davidson X440 goes through a set of comprehensive tests before delivery to make sure everything is in orderevo India

Genesis: A visit to the Harley-Davidson X440 manufacturing plant at Neemrana, Rajasthan

We get backdoor access to the entire manufacturing process of the Harley-Davidson X440 at Hero MotoCorp’s state-of-the-art Neemrana plant

"This is as good as most Harley-Davidson factories across the world.” I'm told as we make our way into Hero MotoCorp’s Neemrana manufacturing facility. From nearly shutting down India operations in 2020 to now having a manufacturing unit in the country, the Harley-Davidson journey in India has been quite the roller coaster ride but the curve certainlyseems to be trending upwards.
India is a volume market. We’re the world’s seventh-largest country in terms of space and the largest in terms of sheer population. Which means for any product aimed at the masses, the manufacturer needs to have the ability and the means to meet the growing demand. Doing so while adhering to the regulations that are becoming more and more restricting by the day is no easy task. Hero MotoCorp is India’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer and as a part of its international collaboration, is also manufacturing the Harley- Davidson X440 at the company’s state-of-the-art Neemrana manufacturing facility. Just a few weeks ago, the folks at the Neemrana facility opened the doors to this plant to the media for the first time ever. For a nerd like myself, this was quite the fascinating experience.

The plant is set up with multiple fully-automated robotic lines that are responsible for the machining and many other aspects. One interesting example of the level of automation that was shown to us was the welding of the fuel tanks. The assembly lines are also automated with separate stations for chassis and engine assembly. The two then finally meet and you see the whole bike coming together, with parts such as the tank, instrument cluster and headlight assembly all being put on to make the finished product. Everything at the plant is IoT- enabled and the RFID system is what helps keep efficiency at its highest. No one does efficiency better than the Japanese and Hero has taken cognizance of that fact and deploys the ‘Poka Yoke’ which helps minimise mistakes. Using the RFID technology, the conveyor belt progresses to the next bay only if the RFID reads that all the necessary parts have been added. The factory has deployed 108 such Poka Yokes in the factory to streamline things as much as possible.

The Harley-Davidson X440 makes 27bhp and 38Nm
The Harley-Davidson X440 makes 27bhp and 38Nmevo India

I’ve visited other plants before, Royal Enfield’s plant in Chennai most recently, so I’m no stranger to the operations of a manufacturing facility. That being said, seeing operations at such a grand scale running like clockwork is quite impressive. 20-30 per cent of the plant’s workers are women and that just goes to show how Hero is taking gender diversity seriously.

After the bikes are completely assembled, there are a series of comprehensive tests ensuring everything is in order, the tests include a rolling road to ensure the engine and drivetrain components are in top shape. There’s an inspection bay with lights that helps the technicians ensure that the paint and panels are devoid of any imperfections. Robots might help with efficiency but nothing beats a trained eye to ensure immaculate quality.

From here, the bikes are sent to what they call the Automatic Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS), which essentially is a loading bay for all the finished motorcycles. We’re told that this giant wall-like trellis structure can hold as many as 4,500 100cc bikes or 1,500 Harley-Davidson X440s. The scale of this is something that you really need to see to believe.

In a bid to keep the carbon footprint to a bare minimum, this is a zero liquid discharge plant that recycles the waste water from any source. Rain water is also harvested and Hero MotoCorp also claims that the plant is certified as a zero waste to landfill factory.

The Neemrana facility is also called the ‘Garden Factory’. To that end as soon as you reach the plant and enter the main building, you’re greeted by a wall of plants – one of nearly 20 such walls scattered around the facility. These walls essentially lend the facility, which would otherwise be a sterile manufacturing unit, with a more organic feeling while also being an active part of the oxygen supply for the many hundred workers that work there. Hero tells us that these walls are made up of more than 60,000 plants. Quite the sight. The hallmark of the entire facility is that it relies heavily on renewable energy. The whole plant is structured and designed diagonally, based on the path of the sun to make full use of the solar PV panels that are placed across the rooftops. Over 1.2MW of solar PV modules occupy the rooftops at the Neemrana facility.

Then there is something called Big Foot technology which is what the plant uses to regulate internal temperatures, a proper balance of O2 and CO2 and also minimises the amount of dust in the air. The structural beams of the building also have an interesting design where they are outside and not inside, thus maximising the space and also with the glass panels overhead, allows enough natural light to come through.

We learned more about the plant and the process that goes on while manufacturing
We learned more about the plant and the process that goes on while manufacturing evo India

One of the most interesting features of the ‘Garden Factory’ is the hydroponic greenhouse that produces seedless cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries and a bunch of other vegetables which actually feeds the employees. During the tour, I snuck out a tomato from here and it certainly was quite tasty.

To make the plant visit seem that much more special, we had a short 100km ride to the plant from our hotel. This reminded us why the Harley-Davidson X440 is such a lovable, no-nonsense machine and the plant reflects exactly that.

You would expect that a manufacturing plant would be loud, messy and smelly. The Neemrana Plant is anything but that. The abundance of greenery inside the plant, access to fresh vegetables, a lot of natural sunlight and a structure to all the processes makes this plant thrive. Looking and talking to the workers, you can clearly see that they enjoy the work they do and the integration of the internet makes everyone’s lives that much smoother. As we were told during our visit to the Neemrana plant, this plant is on par with the manufacturing facilities of the Milwaukee-based company the world over and after spending some time here, I would be really hard pressed to believe otherwise.

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