A TANK FACTORY FOR ALL SEASONS
Managing Editor IKRAM SEHGAL
economy is largely based on agriculture and understandably a major section of its industry
is agri-based. While entrepreneurs are increasingly looking to other areas the potential
of expanding the industrial base remains largely untapped for a number of reasons but
mainly because of a heavy reliance on our traditional export items. However, an
encouraging sign recently has been the emergence of various industries other than the
agri-based ones. In order for such industrial units to operate efficiently and profitably
there is a desperate need to adopt certain measures, otherwise the end result could well
be disastrous. As it is, thanks to the avarice of highly unpatriotic and corrupt
individuals who have thrived on commissions, the country is being forced to carry a high
percentage of sick industries because of huge loans taken by these individuals from banks
on pretext of revival of their units and then being grossly misused.
Pakistan has a good number of industrial and manufacturing units controlled by dynamic individuals with sound management skills which can be termed as true Centres of Excellence. These are rightly a source of great pride for all. Among these is a unit which is a cut above the rest, Heavy Industries, Taxila (HIT), a dynamic and progressive organisation where co-operation and cohesion between various sectors has been harnessed to maximise the results. The birth of HIT took place in 1971 when Project-711 was established in Taxila with Chinese assistance mainly to rebuild the T-59 Tank fleet of the Pakistan Army. With the passage of time it came to be known as Heavy Rebuild Factory (HRB) which was instrumental in imparting invaluable know-how and experience that made further expansion possible. Not only the rebuild but gradually the manufacture of all tracked vehicles of the Army commenced in this facility. In the month of September, 1992 reorganisation took place in this industrial complex and it was re-named as Heavy Industries Taxila.
The main activities of HIT are (1) re-build and upgradation of Armoured Vehicles of eastern as well as of western origin, (2) progressive manufacture of tanks and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and (3) progressive manufacture of tank guns.
In order to accomplish its assigned tasks, HIT employs a highly trained and skilled work force of around 6000 of which a high 70% comprises of civilians while 30% are uniformed soldiers. The large civilian population in HIT demonstrates not only the calibre and skill of these workers but it also indicates the trust and confidence that is reposed in them by the Armed Forces. Activities at HIT are controlled, supervised and directed by the Chairman who oversees the various factories and facilities such as Heavy Rebuild Factory T-Series and Heavy Rebuild Factory M-Series (rebuild facilities), APC Factory, Tank Factory and Gun Factory (manufacturing facilities), Development Engineering Support Components Manufacture (DESCOM) and Evaluation, Training and Research Organisation (ETRO) (engineering support facilities) and Project MBT-2000, Al-Khalid (Tank production factory).
The Heavy Rebuild Factory T-Series is, the well from which the spring flows, in essence the technical base from which the knowledge and expertise to raise all the other facilities at HIT has arisen. This factory has the distinct honour of rebuilding the first T-59 tanks in 1980 and at present it also upgrades T-59s to the T-59M version. All tanks are usually called in for rebuild after 10 years of active life after which the tank is taken apart and it is rebuilt with numerous upgraded features being added. Project MBT 2000 which is dedicated to the development of the Al-Khalid Tank is a significant step in the direction of self-attainment. The development of a tank is a complex task, this is initiated by paper design and ends in a long series of tests and trials, which is a time consuming process. Countries like the USA, France and UK which are advanced tank producing nations took more than a decade to field their tanks Abrams MI, Leclerc and Challenger respectively. India took 23 long years to take a decision to equip only two regiments with Arjun tanks but even then they are producing only a limited number of Arjuns because even after its development the prototypes have not been successful. In contrast, the progress made by HIT in the development of Al-Khalid has been very encouraging, this is a true reflection of the dedication of its planners, engineers and technicians.
One of HIT's most impressive units is its Gun Factory which was set up in collaboration with China and went into production in 1992. The factory has the capacity of producing gun barrels ranging from 105 mm to 155mm calibre, in addition a very significant achievement has been its success in manufacturing of 105 mm tank guns which are now being used by various makes of tanks in the country. In addition the factory is also in the process of acquiring technology which will enable it to produce 125 mm gun barrels for its Al-Khalid Tanks.
The extensive scope of HIT activities (or that of any other industrial manufacturing unit for that matter) cannot even begin to achieve its goals unless the back-up of an efficient general engineering support to all its manufacturing and rebuild factories is put in place. Their responsibility falls under the expertise of DESCOM which has been specifically structured to take up this very vital task and its activities include the in-house manufacture of components and assemblies, designing and manufacturing of tools and gauges, repair and maintenance of machinery and services installed in factories and the development and subsequent production of components and assemblies through vendor industries. Indigenisation is high on the list of priorities at HIT and in order to implement HITs deletion programme, DESCOM has successfully produced a number of components indigenously, this is a major step towards self-reliance. This process has helped HIT to absorb technologies for the future and save considerable amount of foreign exchange, today more than 7500 components of differing types are manufactured locally by HIT while another 7500 components of various categories are being produced by numerous vendors associated with HIT. The vendor industry is particularly encouraged in the production of local equipment and DESCOM continues to provide them with technical assistance and guidance at all stages of production and manufacture. These combined dedicated efforts have now resulted in HIT achieving 81% deletion by variety in the components of T-59 Tanks, 56% in T-69 Tanks and 40% in APCs.
The manufacture and rebuild of tanks and APCs would not have been possible without the incorporation of a proper system of co-ordination, control and quality management, this has now been done at HIT. Its Quality Assurance Department adopts a comprehensive testing system which includes road testing, water fording, ditch crossing and obstacle negotiation on the test tracks. A well maintained firing range is used for firing of the main gun and auxiliary weapons while an elaborate quality assurance laboratory adequately supports the quality management system and is actively engaged in carrying out testing for physical as well as chemical properties of production materials.
It goes without saying that a large industrial complex such as HIT cannot progress without an efficient system of training and it is to this end that HIT is deeply committed to an on-going process of training of all its technical and administrative cadre of employees. The services of Margalla Training Institute (MTI), an extremely effective and efficient institute, are utilised by HIT for the training of its workers in various disciplines. HIT is deeply cognisant of the contribution made by all its workers and it is therefore committed to the development of all-round skills of its manpower, this is a continuous process which offers individuals to learn, adopt and utilise the latest techniques and advances in their respective areas of speciality.
There is a lesson to be learnt from the saga of HIT. From a single factory conceived in 1971, it has now progressed to become a multi-factory reality. Their growth from rebuild of T-59 Chinese origin tanks to the progressive manufacture of APCs and tanks has been remarkable. Without HIT Pakistan today would not have an armour component in their order of battle. Their dependence on foreign sources for manufacturing and rebuild activities has been greatly curtailed, this is one of their most notable achievements and they are moving towards greater indigenisation in collaboration with the local industry. HIT has become a very important industrial base and is playing a definite and potent role in national self-reliance.
Under the current political and economic scenario, the attainment of national self-reliance has taken on serious connotations, it is a must for the survival for a nation and people with honour. The HIT example can be effectively utilised as role model by the various industrial units in Pakistan, whereby they can absorb and incorporate their inherent methodology and culture for their own expansion and growth. In order to achieve growth and to prosper it is essential that one is willing to learn from others who have excelled in their fields, HIT is a shining model for others for achieving self-reliance.
(Research carried out by M. Aslam Quadri,