Yesterday, February 11, 2021, I was part of a group who were invited by Ather Energy for a Factory tour of their new Factory near Hosur, Tamilnadu.
February first week, @abhishek.balaji informed us moderators that there will be a factory tour on February 11 and more details would be given later. This was for the retail partners of Ather across India and we Forum moderators were invited too. Two days before that, we were asked to come to their office in Dairy circle and from there they would take us to the Factory which is around 60kms from there.
However, it is not everyday that we get to go to vehicle factory. When we can get to go there with our own vehicle where it is built, it is just that more special and I decided to ride to the Factory (Agreed, mine wasn’t built in this particular factory).
The Plan they had prepared was that all the retail partners from across the country would fly in to Bengaluru and they’d be taken to the Factory directly. For the Forum Moderators - @rajeshkav @raghav.srinivasan and I from Bengaluru (Missed @AnaghDeshpande), @Rahul and @sbalaji.job from Chennai, @mai.khan and @bharavi.m from Hyderabad, @thakur.ketan and @RPG from Pune, @juzeeweb and @TheHairMonster from Mumbai and two other members with top referrals - @HarshaVardhan and @sadikamir were to reach the IBC office. @tarun would take give us a tour of IBC and from there they’d take us to the Factory near Hosur. I’ve been there some times now and once I had got this tour of IBC from @tarun himself and hence I decided to skip the office tour. Riding was more interesting for me
It was around 60kms from my home. I informed them that I just want a charger at the factory. @abhishek.balaji told me that no public fast chargers are installed yet in the factory but this can easily be taken care of.
The next morning I got up leisurely and by 9:45 I left home. I’d roughly seen the location of the factory and I started out without navigation. One more reason for not starting out without navigation was, After the Vodafone 3G shutdown, the dashboard navigation is very slow. Also pushing location from app is also not working on my scooter. I had not taken the free BSNL SIM swap option as I want to directly go for a 4G dongle solution that Ather is providing.
All the hypermiling experience that I had from my Mysuru trip on my Ather was put to practice here. Although the destination was 60kms, I didn’t want to take a chance. I cruised at around 35kmph throughout the journey.
By 11:00, I had crossed the Attibele toll and I stopped at the Karnataka-Tamilnadu border to take a picture in front of the Vintage Border arch.
Here, I searched for the factory on the dashboard and started the ride. After a Km or so, I saw that it was showing 7kms to destination which was amusing as it should have been around 20kms. Correctly so, when It said that I’ve reached, I was right at the heart of Hosur which has a buzzing market!
I took out my phone and searched for the correct place and it was on Thalli road. I took that road and the rest of the journey was straight forward.
I reached the factory at 12:05 and called @akshita.jain. She gave me directions inside the premises and it was 1km inside the gate. My scooter was taken inside the factory and put to a fast charger immediately. I took a picture of the dashboard and let it go. It was a 148mins and 69kms ride in total!!
Not to forget, the dashboard restarted once while riding and after that the Indicators stopped working. I didn’t restart…I wasn’t willing to take any chances.
I was taken to the event area on the first floor where some people had already arrived. Some others were yet to arrive. I took some refreshments and was casually chatting with some known faces from Ather including @ravneet.phokela . We could see the entire plant from where we were standing. He saw and told me “Wow! what a journey…it’s not the Ather I knew anymore. it was a small startup not so long ago and here we have such a huge plant now!” He was sounding like a father watching his kid all grown up!
Many people still hadn’t come and since the tour would happen in batches, they decided not to wait any more. The team gave us safety do’s and dont’s before proceeding to the tour. After that they asked the 1st 15 members to come forward whose flights back were early. I didn’t go and waited for the other Forum moderators to arrive. After the first batch went to the manufacturing floor, Mr. Anand who heads the operations gave us a presentation about Ather’s the manufacturing journey so far.
From 2018, where they were manufacturing prototypes, the factory in Whitefield, Bengaluru had gone till 1700 vehicles by last year. This new factory is capable of producing 10K vehicles per month with 1 assembly line that they have.
This new plant is 123000sqft big and is part of a new Industrial and Logistics Park. Ather is the First company in this park and the rest is mostly under construction. We were told that some of Ather’s suppliers themselves will be located here.
The factory is an Industry 4.0 Manufacturing plant and a certified Zero effluents plant. E-waste handling is through authorized recycling companies.
They have one Vehicle assembly line and 2 battery manufacturing lines. the cell storage building is in a separate building for safety reasons. We were told that we would be taken to the assembly lines only and not the Battery storage area.
315parts from 70 suppliers come to this plant and 1 vehicle is rolled out every 4 minutes. Each of the two battery lines churn out one battery module every 5.5minutes. They told us that they can go as fast as one vehicle per 2.5minutes
For the battery, robots pick and place cells and these robots are made in India. We were shown a video of this and some Questions were answered. After this, we were requested to take our lunch so that we can go for the tour after the first batch comes back for their lunch.
By the time I finished Lunch, other Forum moderators reached and we spent some time chatting. After their lunch, we were taken to the manufacturing floor.
Starting from the entrance, soon after their basic amenities section (canteen etc.), they have a Metrology lab where they do all the material testing and other tests.
After this, they have a huge Inventory area where all the parts are stored. After this we were taken to the battery assembly area.
Workers pick up the cells without hand contact using vacuum suction handles and load them into a container. In the next station, 2 robots pick and place the cells inside the battery housing. any defective cells are automatically rejected. in the next station people place the PCB and secure it. Later it is soldered by machines. Top cover is placed by a person and Again machine takes over and welds it and secures it. A final check is done and the module is ready to go to the vehicle assembly line. There are two of these battery lines.
After this, we headed to the vehicle assembly line. It starts with couple of sub assembly stations where the front and rear frames are assembled. The front wheel is assembled and then it is loaded onto the moving line using cranes. A third sub assembly station assembles the handle bar. one by one the vehicle moves from station to station gaining one part after the other. After some minutes, what started out as a metal skeleton turns into the beautiful machine that we all know. All together we were told that a scooter takes up 250 man minutes to build.
I’ve made a small layout from what I saw. Photography inside the plant is obviously not allowed. All the other pictures in this post are from Ather’s twitter posts
At the end of the line one person rides off the scooter to the Dyno station. here all the basic tests of the vehicle are done and signed off. he vehicle is then taken to a light booth where they do a final quality check. passed ones go to the parking lot and scooters with complaints and parked aside where the issues are sorted out.
After the tour, we were taken back to the event area and we were given some mementos and some photographs were captured. we then went outside for a photograph with some of the factory staff
It was time to the ride back. I took the fully charged scooter from inside the factory itself and rode out! @rajeshkav had also come in his scooter and hence we both had each other for company. We stopped at the entrance for one last picture in front of the board.
I reset the scooter once and the indicators were back to normal. Midway another Ather was moving in our opposite direction and we waved at him. He turned around and came to us. it was @georgekuruppan and even before I could remove my helmet, he identified with my helmet! While he stays nearby, he was happy to see other Athers around. We chatted for a while and left.
After some while @rajeshkav and I exchanged our scooters for an experience. Later it was the usual Bengaluru roads and I reached home at 8PM
I hadn’t turned on the navigation and was just followed Rajesh. From his house I just had to drive 10kms which I don’t need navigation. The maps tried to take us through narrow rural roads initially but we ignored it and it rerouted properly. Inside Anekal town, it actually directed us to an One-way. That’s why I never completely trust Google navigation.
Later it was the usual Bengaluru roads and I reached home at 8PM, Even with a break, this was a 62kms and 143minutes ride.
When I parked my scooter, I was pleasantly surprised to see another Ather parked beside my parking slot. My neighbor in my apartment had also purchased a new Ather and it had just arrived and the charger was installed.
All in all, it was day well spent.