Green building

Benjamin Gracias
Visiting Hero MotoCorp’s Green Factory in Neemrana and the birthplace of the Harley-Davidson X440

Did you know that Harley-Davidson’s smallest motorcycle is manufactured by Hero MotoCorp? And that factory rates high on sustainability, be it water or waste. We visited the factory to see how the Harley-Davidson X440 was built and to make it fun, we rode down to the factory, in a Harley-Davidson X440.

The X440 was envisioned for India and it shows in the way it rides. First off the design and consequently riding position is unlike the larger Harley cruisers we are used to and its roadster format means you sit upright which makes it quite easy to navigate through traffic and narrow roads. Then there is the ride quality that while firm, can soak up anything you throw at it. You can go through a concealed pothole at 80kmph yet not move an inch from your seat. Finally the engine. This 440cc air and oil-cooled engine puts out 27PS and 38Nm at very accessible rpm levels thanks to its long-stroke nature. And despite being long-stroke, the motor is quick to rev and devoid of vibrations. This makes it quite enjoyable on the highway where you can easily ride all day at triple-digit speeds.

The Neemrana plant is one of Hero MotoCorp’s six manufacturing facilities in India (and two overseas). It is called the Garden Factory and is the bikemaker’s crown jewel when it comes to sustainable workplaces. The factory is built like a garden with a lot of green zones within the plant and on the roof. In fact, if you look at it from a distance, you’d mistake it for a garden or a mall. Inside, the factory utilises green walls which consist of saplings planted vertically. Besides creating a soothing environment, these walls create an oxygen-rich atmosphere. Another highlight is the two ‘Big Foot’ air handlers which provide clean air throughout the factory without the use of ducts. This is done via positive pressurisation ensuring a dust-free environment. In fact, the environment is so clean, that the factory is one of the very few to have its welding section, manufacturing and assembly under the same roof. That is quite an achievement as welding is known to emit a lot of dust particles into the air.

The roof employs four large greenhouses where a host of vegetables are farmed using hydroponic farming that uses only two to three percent water compared to conventional farming methods. Once farmed, the vegetables are used in the factory cafeteria. How cool is that!

The factory roof has a clean look thanks to the steel trusses being situated on top of the roof. These trusses also give support to an array of solar panels that collectively generate upto 1.2 megawatts of electricity. Thanks to rainwater harvesting, the factory is already self-sufficient and it also recycles more than 95 percent of the water used. That’s a big step given that the factory is situated in the arid region of Neemrana in Rajasthan. Besides offering employment to the region, the factory also employs a sizeable women’s workforce and that too in non-conventional areas such as the weld shop.

The Harley-Davidson X440 is manufactured on one assembly line and uses the latest technologies to ensure almost error-free assembly. Most of the manufacturing process is automated with advanced robots while there are multiple Poka Yoke stations on the assembly line to prevent defective products from advancing. It starts with the in-house engine assembly room which leads to the main assembly line which starts with the engine and frame being married together. The painted metal parts are covered with a reusable plastic cover to prevent scratching. Once the motorcycle is ready to leave the assembly line, it is meticulously checked before sending it off to storage.

The motorcycles are stored via a unique Automated Storage & Retrieval System (ASRS). It consists of four multi-storey rack systems that automatically stack the motorcycles using a barcode & RFID system ensuring quick and hassle-free storage and retrieval. The Hero Neemnana factory is one of the coolest two-wheeler manufacturing facilities we have visited, not just for its clean and efficient manufacturing processes but also the green focus towards sustainability that helps not just the plant but its surrounding regions.

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