Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) (Hindi: आयुध निर्माणी बोर्ड; IAST: Āyudh nirmāṇī borḍ) consisting of the Indian Ordnance Factories (भारतीय आयुध निर्माणियाँ; Bhāratīya āyudh nirmāṇiyān), is an industrial organisation, functioning under the Department of Defence Production of Ministry of Defence, Government of India. It is engaged in research, development, production, testing, marketing and logistics of a comprehensive product range in the areas of air, land and sea systems. OFB comprises forty-one Ordnance Factories, nine Training Institutes, three Regional Marketing Centres and four Regional Controllerates of Safety, which are spread all across the country.
OFB is the world's largest government operated production organisation, and the oldest organisation run by the Government of India. It has a total workforce of about 164,000. It is often called the "Fourth Arm of Defence", and the "Force Behind the Armed Forces" of India. It is amongst the top fifty defence equipment manufacturers in the world. Its total sales were at $2.7 billion (₹16,246 crores) in 2011–12. Every year, 18 March is celebrated as the Ordnance Factories' Day in India.
The history and development of the Indian Ordnance Factories is directly linked with the British reign in India. The East India Company considered military hardware to be a vital element for securing their economic interest in India and increasing their political power. In 1775, the British East India company accepted the establishment of the Board of Ordnance at Fort William, Calcutta. This marks the official beginning of the Army Ordnance in India.
In 1787, a gunpowder factory was established at Ichapore; it began production in 1791, and the site was later used as a rifle factory, beginning in 1904. In 1801, Gun Carriage Agency (now known as Gun & Shell Factory, Cossipore) was established at Cossipore, Calcutta, and production began on 18 March 1802. This is the oldest ordnance factory in India still in existence.
The growth of the Ordnance Factories Board leading to its present setup has been continuous but sporadic. There were eighteen ordnance factories before India became independent in 1947 and twenty-three factories have been established after independence, mostly in the wake of defence preparedness imperatives brought about by the three major wars fought by the Indian Armed Forces.
1801 – Establishment of Gun Carriage Agency at Cossipore, Kolkata.
1802 – Production begins at Cossipore on 18 March.
1906 – The Administration of Indian Ordnance Factories comes under a separate charge as "IG of Ordnance Factories".
1933 – Charged to "Director of Ordnance Factories".
1948 – Placed under direct control of Ministry of Defence.
1962 – Department of Defence Production was set up at Ministry of Defence.
1979 – Ordnance Factories Board is established on 2 April.
The Apex Board is headed by the Director General of Ordnance Factories (DGOF), who acts as the Chairman of the Board (ex officio Secretary to Government of India) and consists of nine other Members, who each hold the rank of Additional DGOF. Ordnance Factories are divided into 5 operating divisions, depending upon the type of the main products/technologies employed. These are :
Ammunition and Explosives (A&E)
Weapons, Vehicles & Equipment (WV&E)
Materials and Components (M&C)
Armoured Vehicles (AV)
Ordnance Equipment Group of Factories (OEF)
Each of the above group of factories is headed by a Member/Additional DGOF. The four remaining Members are responsible for staff functions, viz Personnel (Per), Finance (Fin), Planning & Material Management (P&MM), Technical Services (TS) and they operate from Kolkata.
Ordnance Factories Institute of Learning Ambajhari, Nagpur (OFILAJ)
Ordnance Factories Institute of Learning Ambernath, Mumbai (OFILAM)
Ordnance Factories Institute of Learning Avadi, Chennai (OFILAV)
Ordnance Factories Institute of Learning Dehradun (OFILDD)
Ordnance Factories Institute of Learning Ishapore, Kolkata (OFILIS)
Ordnance Factories Institute of Learning Khamaria, Jabalpur (OFILKH)
Ordnance Factories Institute of Learning, Kanpur (OFILKN)
Ordnance Factories Institute of Learning, Medak (OFILMK)
Each OFIL is headed by a Principal Director, and NADP by a Senior Principal Director. NADP provides training to Group A officers, whilst the other eight institutes impart training to Group B and Group C employees of the ordnance factories.
The Indian Ordnance Factories Service (IOFS) (Hindi: भारतीय आयुध निर्माणी सेवा) is a civil service of the Government of India. IOFS officers are Gazetted (Group A) defence-civilian officers under the Ministry of Defence. IOFS is a multi-disciplinary composite cadre consisting of technical – engineers (Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, Electronics), technologists (Chemical, Metallurgical, Textile, Leather) and non-technical/administrative (Science, Law, Commerce, Management and Arts graduates). Technical posts comprise about 87% of the total cadre. The doctors (Surgeons and Physicians) serving in OFB belong to a separate service known as the Indian Ordnance Factories Health Service (IOFHS). IOFHS officers are responsible for the maintenance of health of the employees, and the hospitals of OFB. They report directly to the IOFS officers. IOFS and IOFHS are the only two civil services under the Department of Defence Production.
Civilians are required to hold Arms License (issued only for non-prohibited bore category weapons) in order to buy firearms in India. The following products of the Indian Ordnance Factories Board are available for civilians:
In spite of highly skilled manpower, latest technologies and huge investments, the Ordnance Factories and their management have often been criticised for their inefficiency, delay in supplies, obsolete and substandard products of much higher costs than those manufactured by their foreign competitors, corruption at all levels including top management and a small volume of exports. The ministerial and bureaucratic hassles, lack of decision making and accountability of the people concerned are often blamed.
To counter the above, talks were held to privatise the Ordnance Factories after witnessing the turnaround of other Indian companies that were converted into PSUs. The Ministry of Defence has always ruled out such a possibility since the Ordnance Factories are the backbone of the Indian Armed Forces and should be controlled solely by the Government of India.
Efforts are being made by the Ordnance Factories to run them at their full capacities, employ and train skilled manpower, efficient usage of the available resources, update and induct new products, provide more sophisticated products, increase and diversify product categories, supply them to the forces on time, stringent quality assurance, JV with foreign and other domestic manufacturers and to increase their overseas presence and exports.
Dating back to more than two centuries and being a multi-location, manpower intensive organisation spread across India, huge number of people from all parts of the country have been associated with the Indian Ordnance Factories. Some families have a history of up to five generations serving the organisation. Few of the people associated with OFB over the centuries:
Brijmohan Lall Munjal – Worked in the Indian Ordnance Factories, founded Hero Cycles, world's largest cycle manufacturer and Hero MotoCorp, the world's largest two-wheeler manufacturer. Self-made billionaire, was among the 30 richest Indians in the world until his death in November 2015. Awarded Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.
Palle Rama Rao – Instrumental in setting up of Heavy Alloy Penetrator Project for making tungsten-based alloys. Also served at Secretary, Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India and Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. Awarded Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan by the Govt. of India.