Royal Enfield Factory Final Draft

Factory visit report
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  Hidden away in a by-lane of Tiruvottiyur high road in Chennai is the birthplace of India’ s iconic retro beauty, the Royal Enfield. On 9 th  August a group of students from our institute took a guided tour of one of the world’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer . Royal Enfield conducts factory tours for all enthusiasts seeking to soak in the ambience of the factory, to see where the magic happens. We reached the reception area of the factory a little ahead of schedule for a few formalities and registrations. After half an hour of waiting for all the visitors to gather (including a handful foreign nationals) we were taken to the board room of the factory for a de-brief on Royal Enfield as well as the factory tour by Mr Ramalingam, the Manager HR at the factory. Taking a walk through the premises we were fascinated with the precision and dedication of the workers assembling everything from the smallest metal to the engine to the main body. The factory is divided in multiple sections including assembling, painting, testing amongst others. Unfortunately you are allowed to photograph only select few areas in order to safeguard the intellectual property of the company. However, on a positive note, you are given as-close-as-it-gets experience into the making of these classic motorbikes. In the engine assembly area, engine blocks are assembled using straight-line production method. The engine components are added in a matter of minutes through hands of Royal Enfield engineers and converted into a powerful 350 cc engines. These engines make the heart of the powerful bikes including the Bullet, the all-time favourite and the longest running motorcycle model of Royal Enfield. The engines coming out of this assembly area are then tested on a dummy chassis by trained Royal Enfield supervisors. They are fuelled up, fired up and tested at various acceleration by listening to the engine beats. After a satisfactory result these engines are certified and transferred further for vehicle assembly. Another section of the factory is the paint shop. Here you notice the skilled craftsmen continuing a century old tradition of hand painting the signature pin stripes on the gas tank. This is done by artists who work in shifts and hand paint the golden strips on the fuel tank and other parts. Mr Jai Kumar is one of the artists (the pic below) Finally you are taken into the vehicle assembly area where the motorcycle begins to truly come together. The engine is mounted on the frame and wheels, silencer, seat and other components are attached here. At the end of this line a complete bike rolls out on its wheels. Once assembled, the bikes are tested on a rolling road facility. Here the horsepower and torque of the bike are tested by measuring the time taken to accelerate a large roller of certain weight from one speed to another. The indicators and other the gauges are also tested. The results are used to determine whether the motorcycle performs to the maintained standard. The final phase is the road test where bikes are ridden on a test tract to ensure that the clutch, brakes suspension and everything else works to perfection. Once the bike returns successfully from the test track it is sent to the dispatch section to be shipped to the showrooms across the world.  After touring the factory we were lead back to the board room again for a Q&A with Mr Ramalingam. The session was lively with the Enfield enthusiasts asking interesting queries. Some of these are as below: Why did the company discontinue the Iron Cast Engine (CI) and shift to the Unit Construction Engine (UCE)? Mr Ramalingam: In the CI system, we used to separate the engine, gearbox and clutch assembly. The design was much more complex and we also used to encounter oil leaks and other issues. This led us to switch over to the UCE while still maintaining the old technology and design. The Unit construction Engine is much easier to assemble and proves to have no more engine problems. The right side gear shifts and the left side brake were unique to Royal Enfield motorcycle. Why were they changed to the conventional left side gear shifts? Mr Ramalingam: We wanted to make our motorcycles more comfortable and user friendly not just for the newer costumers but also for our loyal patrons. We found that it was difficult for regular conventional bike riders to drive our motor cycles. Our older costumers also found it difficult to drive the regular motorcycles. Hence we decided to compromise. Our enthusiastic collectors and purists still believe that we should not have taken this step. Current waiting period for the Royal Enfield motorcycles is about 8-12 months. Why do people have to wait for such a long duration for their motorcycles? Mr Ramalingam: During the tour you must have noticed that most of the assembly and production line still relies on manual labour. We do not use robotic machinery. For e.g. the golden pinstripes in the Bullet 350 & 500 have been handcrafted by Mr Jai Kumar for the past 28 years. This has been an art inherited by him from his father and grandfather. We also test each and every vehicle after assembly which consumes a considerable amount of time. Therefore the waiting period is long. We have built a second factory at Oragadam which will reduce the waiting period considerably. This is a factory tour that shall definitely interest the classic motorcycle fans. A great trip for dedicated Royal Enfield enthusiasts. The factory tour is conducted twice a month on every second and fourth Saturdays subject to prior appointments. Visit the Royal Enfield company website for further details.
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