Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Day at Royal Enfield

11AM. All set to start. Thought was flying so high as I started towards Royal Enfield factory at Tiruvottriyur, Chennai. En route, I picked up one of my friend Muthu Shankar. The meet was planned at 2:30pm. Meanwhile, one of my long time pending task was to check wheel-alignment of my car and now I had enough time to spent before going to RE, so stopped at Ramesh Tyres to finish the job! To my disappointment, there were four cars in queue which, he said, will take an hour to complete. Dropped the plan and continued our journey towards RE.

Another long time pending task was to get an oil seal (timing cover) for my Bullet Machismo. So thought of using the spare time to get it. Drove towards Pudupet hoping to get the oil seal today and stopped at KSR Automobiles. I am not an expert in describing things to the store men, hence I noted down the part number (#500622/A) and asked the men at the store specifying the part number. He was not at all interested to listen me. He asked, "Where, the oil seal that you are asking, would fit into ". I said, while loosing my hope, "its on the timing cover, at the end of crank pin". He lost interest and said, "we don't have stock" and went on to listen at another customer's need. Felt sad and left the place. Even though, I could not get the required oil seal, I have killed a considerable amount of spare time in this process.

The real journey towards the birth place of Royal Enfield Bullet started, then. While navigating through the crowd at Ritchie Street, fuel meter in my car gave an alarm! Gosh! Low fuel. DTE shown 24km. Drove cautiously looking at the side of the road for a decent looking fuel station. Finally found one at Royapuram. After filling petrol there, went straight in the beach road till Ennore and took left and again a left. Yes, we reached almost there.

As it was tummy time, looked at the clock. Ticking at 1:30PM. "Ah.. its your time", I said to my tummy. After some search, found out a small non-veg hotel and went in. The place looked average but the crowd at the place suggested the food should be in better taste. My gut feel was to try it. Asked Muthu and he was also ok with that hotel. Had a nice lunch for Rs 255 (final bill). If in city this could have cost us Rs600. As we finished lunch, we did our part of polluting the atmosphere by filling in nicotine rich smoke into the air. Irresistible ;)

Drove towards the entrance of Royal Enfield, parked the car at the designated place and went up to the security personal and said that we were here for the scheduled tweet up. They asked us to wait in the reception. Went in and found out three other persons already waiting for the tweet up. Had a word with them and started to gaze around. One thing that caught my attention in the reception was the metalic silver Robo. One head lamp, a fuel tank, a pair of swing arm, a pair of silencer and a pair of sprockets, and some welding jobs. Done. The robo came to life. Now two more people joined us.

Waiting continued. Got a tweet from @royalenfield (Praveen) stating "we are waiting for you tweeple". Responded back "7 people have turned up so far. waiting for some more to come".

A person, in royal enfield uniform, came over to us and asked as to get to the second floor of the administrative building. Went up! To our surprise, we were greeted by a nice looking gentle man, Praveen and led into a conference room. Was wondering about the agenda of the meet! As usual there was an introduction session followed up by an informal chat. Praveen talked about Royal Enfield. And to my happiness, he said, we would be walking through the entire plant where the Royal Enfield comes to life from bits of metals and other materials. Long time wish was going to be fulfilled!

Venturing out the of room, we were first introduced the prototypes of various rider utilities to be released soon. It included leather jackets, tool boxes, saddle bags, etc.

Any such visit should not be complete if there are no photo session. Yes, at the entrance of the Factory, beside the "The Trip" board, we were asked to line up! Shot!

While stepping into the engine assembly line, our over excited crowd started clicking photos with an awe filled eye at the re-work area. Praveen explained that this is the place where the bikes gets reworked, if any correction is needed, after the exit of assembly line and dyno and real time riding test.

Moved on to the engine assembly line. It was a life time experience to witness the neatly lined up assembled UCE engines. Praveen commandingly said a strict no-no to photo shoot inside the assembly line. Fine, everybody abide by that!

Before going into the assembly line, crank case, primary drive cover and timing side cover were tested for its flatness of surface, to ensure that the liquid oil seal between them would work well. In old engines, we would be having gasket to make the oil seal. Usage of such gasket would allow us to have some tolerance in the flatness. Now, as they are using liquid gasket (which would build up by its own when oil is introduced into them), tolerance is very minimal. Hence all this parts are going for a flatness testing.

Looking at the assembly line reminded me the subject "Work Study" by ILO which was taught at our college. That's how the line looked. Some 10 people are standing in line next to a conveyer. At the start of the conveyer a crank case is placed and fitted to it. Now the process starts. The man at the next place, equipped with tools and parts to be fitted, starts his work on the crank case fitted to the continuously moving conveyer. He is expected to finish his work before the crank case moves out of his boundary. The man standing next to him will take up further and this continues till last. Thus all the bits and pieces of the engine are stuffed into and a big piece is formed. Awe. We got the final engine.

One would wonder, as there are many parts, how are they ensure that all the necessary parts have gone into the engine! But that is ensured by the well trained staff at the work, said Praveen.

Now came the testing of the assembled engine. Then men at this place fits the assembled engine into a mock bike and gave life to them. After filling oil into the engine, they made all the necessary connection lines (carb) and fire the engine and carefully listened to its rythm, note, noise etc. Most of them makes into the next level. Some go backwards, for rework.

After this, as we walked towards paint shop, two more people joined us. I have special mention about them at the bottom of this blog ;)

All the paint work done here are eco-friendly, said Praveen. We could witness his saying as well. They treat waste before dumping them! Paintings are done inside closed cabin and are allowed to dry.

Once through this, some of the parts which require hand drawing are coming to the next place where a man is doing what we call as a complicated work, with ease. He even demonstrated one for us. Nice job! A point to note here: One of our guy started shooting video while the man was doing his job. Unknowingly, his camera's hanging strip made some mark on the yet-to-dry drawing. The man, not knowing the cause mark, checked a band tied at his hand. Still not clear about the cause, he checked the strip hanging our guy's camera. Guys, please note that they are not doing circus!

Then went on to the chasis assembly line. This is where all the parts of the bike comes into one place and makes a complete Royal Enfield Bullet.

Then to the dyno test. Was wondering the possibility of balancing the bike while standstill. But Praveen explained that it's equivalent to riding in the road. They rode the bike at different speeds and tested different aspects of the bike before giving it green signal. I suspect the safety aspects of this test!

Then came a photo shoot with an export model.

The final process in the making of a Bullet is the real time test on a test track. The test track a lot of intentional rough riding spots which would mimic indian road conditions, said Praveen.

Gathered at a place and had a general chat before saying bye bye to the group. Thanked for the tweet up and congratulated Praveen for his upcoming marriage and his married life and said bye bye.

Thanks to Srini for his photos.


Note on special guys: One guy brought a big camera and a mono pod, as if he was covering the episode for a news channel and wanted space more space at all places wherever we went. The other guy (older) was talking to Praveen in a non-stop manner as if he was on a date with Praveen ;) Others could not talk even a single word with Praveen after this older guy turned up. Grow up guys. Share space without hurting others!