One thing that we're missing here is that the 1A1 aka SLR line was designed, delivered and installed by FN Herstal
of Belgium, one of the world's leading small arms manufacturers, who also supplied the manuals and detailed training for every step of the manufacturing process, including quality standards and processes. All that OFB had to do was to turn on the switch and run the damn thing. On a similar note the standard Indian military/ police sidearm, the Browning Hi-Power
that the OFB calls the "Pistol Auto 9mm 1A", is manufactured from dies and machinery supplied by Inglis of Canada, which is the reason for its longevity. On another note, stories I've heard say that the dies are so worn now that the weapon has a ton of issues.
Unfortunately the INSAS was an indigenous design as is the Excalibur, and the OFB never weaned its way off its dependence on foreign suppliers to build a working internal engineering and quality culture, with the results that are before us. Given the complete lack of accountability at the OFB, I do not see things improving any time soon, and so would not be particularly surprised if the Excaliburs delivered by them exhibit build and quality problems.
We are talking about the same thing. Let me explain below.
This is what is involved to bring out any mass produced item for usage
A. product r&d develops the item with required feature & performance
B. production r&d develops the manufacturing process to produce the same in mass scale with proper quality control *
C. production agency produces the item following the developed manufacturing process
For the sake of simplification, I am omitting the continuous improvement via feedback loop. I am also omitting the product support part.
Now, for indigenous weapon system, DRDO takes care of part A and OFB takes care of part C but no specialized org exists for part B.
Part B is taken care partially by DRDO and partially by OFB/HAL/govt Shipyard/defense PSU and none are expert in the same as none have mandate and necessary resources.
Part B is as important as part A and requires almost equal amount of resource, time and specialized knowledge and decades of experience with access to specialized global supply chain of high end sesnors and machinary. This is not same as production agency experience and Without having expertise in this, no indigenous mass produced weapon will be successful - be in insas, dhruv, arjun or tejas.
The moment OFB or other defense PSUs acquire the part B via via TOT from foreign weapon developer, they churn out mass produced items with required quality be it SLR, Chetak or Reporter radar. However, for indigenous weapon systems (or mother russia supplied incomplete ToT) this vital part remains the weak link and production suffers both in quality as well as quantity.
Blaming OFB (or any defense PSU for that matter) for this is again missing the wood for the trees. Just like DRDO, these production orgs also will develop this expertise but will take time and dedicated support.
Already some orgs like BEL have improved a lot and others are also coming up but the degree varies.
There are various reasons for such variation among Indian production orgs. Not possible to cover everything but missing mandate with money plus govt support is the major reason and org apathy/lal jhanda is the least to blame for that matter. For better orgs, simply check their product portfolio, dev cycle timeline and frequency and the reason for success would be obvious. Also, till date, I have not found many HAL or OFB wala who are not patriot or proud of their service towards nation.
Hopefully, with NaMo govt, the problem with money for modernisaion etc will go away rapidly and once that happens, these orgs will fulfill their truly strategic purpose. Remember, it is still Bhilai, Rourkela and other SAIL plants when the NATION needs it despite having multitudes of private steel plants in desh. **THAT IS WHY I MENTIONED THAT THE BLAME LIES WITH THE PROCESS AND NOT THE ORGS.
The orgs can be blamed for kingdom comes without understanding their problem and nothing fruitful will come up. And for the nations sake, it is not an option. Privatization is not going to solve that problem on its own quickly enough simply because the need to humongous amount of upfront capex, land and man power requirements.
* For items to be mass produced, the production r&D must design the manufacturing process with as much automation as possible - both for production as well as QC. This increases the capex as well as opex and also needs specialized knowledge and access to global supply chain for this niche area but can not be avoided else the production agency will simply turn into sweat shops of China pushing the labour to inhuman conditions to make up for rejections. There is really no other alternative.
** Midhani plays its role there both on product as well as process r&d.