EDGE&LINK Linking people to the future with OMRON’s perspective on cutting edge technology

"FROM THE FACTORY OF THE WORLD" --Kusatsu and Ayabe-- (Part I) Made-in-Japan technology aiming at zero product defects

In today's increasingly diversified consumer tastes and preferences, in the manufacturing industry, it is important to deliver fine-tuned product tailored to individual tastes. It is necessary to prepare a wide variety of product variations in accordance with the needs of customers, and the flow of high-mix low-volume production, which produces many products and parts in small quantities, is accelerating.

OMRON's Industrial automation business is produces more than 200,000 kinds of products with annual production volume of several tens of thousands to several pieces, and aims to deliver the optimum quality to customers among such high-mix low-volume production.

In high-mix low-volume production where multiple setup changes are performed several times a day, it is an issue in factory management to improve the operation rate of production lines including efficiency improvement of setup changes and continue to create high quality products specifications without fail. OMRON's factories are trying to solve these problems and aim to realize high-quality manufacturing similar to mass production of small varieties, even in high-mix low-volume production.

The Kusatsu Plant (Shiga Prefecture) and the Ayabe Plant (Kyoto prefecture) is positioned as a core plant in OMRON's industrial automation business, and aim to eliminate defects in products by innovating manufacturing automation for realize the richness of people all over the world.

Koizumi and Benkan who are the top of the two plants, spoke about the positioning and features of the two plants on a global.

198_01.jpgKusatsu Plant (Top) and Ayabe Plant (Bottom), OMRON's core plants

Optimal Manufacturing Formation Utilizing the Characteristics of Each Base

In the global expansion of the manufacturing industry, labor costs, logistics, infrastructure, supplier networks, etc. are completely different depending on the area in which the company has expanded. Furthermore, these are constantly changing according to the growth of each country and the world situation, and manufacturing is also required to have an ability to respond promptly to the change.

"In the factory production system, there are generally "Mother" and " Satellite" words, but this creates a master-slave relationship. On the other hand, OMRON's factory has its own history, customer circumstances, and different circumstances in which workers work. We have evolved each other and utilized the strengths of each base and factory," says Mr. Koizumi.

"For example, currently the main fiber sensor models are manufactured only at the Ayabe plant, but in the future, we will make parallel production with the strength of the global base network to challenge manufacturing with a well-balanced QCD. Instead of making decisions only at our business bases, we will make investment decisions taking into consideration ROI (return on investment) on a global basis, and pursue manufacturing with high asset turnover rates across all production bases," says Mr. Benkan.

198_02.jpgMr. Koizumi, Head of Kusatsu Plant (right), and Mr. Benkan, Head of Ayabe Plant (left)

OMRON sets core factories of industrial automation business Kusatsu Plant, Ayabe Plant, Shanghai Plant and Holland Plant. The heads of these plants discuss and share information to resolve various issues. The Kusatsu Plant is particularly strong with PCB mounting, the Ayabe plant is promoting accumulation of sensor production technology in which in-process manufacturing of product performance is a key and equipment assembly technology that requires optimal alignment of many parts. Shanghai Plant, handling demands from the Chinese market, are particularly strong with low cost, and the Dutch Plant, catching up with the latest advancements in automation technology.

Such a distribution of roles is necessary for a global production strategy. By assigning specific roles, the various strengths that each plant has can be further strengthened. And by having them share information and work together frequently, they establish an optimal production formation.

Refine the strength of "Made in Japan"

What is the place of the Japanese plant when put into a global scheme?

Both Heads say that what Japanese plant should do is to continue the reinforcement of high production engineering skills and quality control, while each of the international bases hone their own strengths.

Furthermore, the features of the Kusatsu and Ayabe plants differ due to the characteristics of the manufactured products.

The Kusatsu plant aims to reduce the defect rate to one billionth (ppb) level of soldering quality by analyzing the cause of defects from process data and inspection data and improving analysis accuracy through continuous data accumulation. The Ayabe plant has accumulated in-process manufacturing technology to realize targeted product performance and quality, for example, automatic assembly technology to adjust the characteristics of optical modules in nano levels, and sealing technology of sensor cases to secure water resistiveness and oil resistiveness even in use under very severe environments.

"The idea of "skills of TAKUMI," or craftsmanship, has been in Japanese culture for a long time. I think that it is a result that people involved in manufacturing have been working with pride in their work of production. The judgment criteria for factory management are not just judgments for rationality, but we thoroughly discuss the causes and prevention of recurrences across divisions regarding manufacturing defects of one returned product in 1 million pieces. Intense attitude and behavior bring out credible products to the world and create manufacturing technical personnel. I believe this is what's good about the "Made in Japan" trademark- there is an attitude to thoroughly pursue a high level of QCD. On the other hand, what we continue to recognize from foreign companies is the need for adaptability to rapidly and proactively introduce cutting edge technology," says Mr. Benkan.

"Inspection and correction of soldering are tasks that wouldn't be necessary if the quality was already good. There also aren't enough skilled workers to complete these tasks. That is why innovative automation of manufacturing floor and the automation of craftsmanship are essential. In addition, from now on, aiming at realization of ultimate "one-piece manufacturing" and significant improvement of the quality level, individual control of products and parts must be carried out also in high-mix low-volume production by establishing the traceability system for generating productivity and quality control innovations continuously to fully utilizing data of production sites. Our ultimate goal of quality is to have zero defective products," says Mr. Koizumi.

While each plant at the global base has its own features, the Kusatsu Plant and the Ayabe Plant further refine the strength of "Made-in-Japan" and continue to try to achieve both high-mix low-volume production and high quality.

In the partⅡ, we will introduce specific examples of efforts by Kusatsu and Ayabe plants that support these manufacturing activities.

Click here for the part II