Site: Komatsu Limited
2-3-6 Akasaka
Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8414
Japan
Date Visited: 27 May 1997
Hosts: Mr. Tetsuya Nakayama, General Manager Electronic Systems & Components Division, Electronics Division
Mr. Hiroshi Higashide, Design Manager, Basic Product Design & Development Dept., Electronic Systems & Components Division, Electronics Division
Mr. Yuichiro Imanishi, Chief Project Manager, Manufacturing Engineering Dept., Technical Division, Construction Equipment Division
Mr. Mitsunori Ozaki, Manager, Corporate Technology Dept. (arranged meeting)
Tel: 81 3 5561 2611 (FAX 3582 8332)
e-mail: mitsunori_ozaki@komatsu.co.jp

BACKGROUND

Founded in 1921, Komatsu, Ltd. is a major Japanese manufacturer of heavy construction equipment, industrial machinery, electronics and other products. It also is expanding in materials engineering, computer software, financial services, and other areas.

Komatsu usually hires its engineers with MS degrees. Some PhDs are hired each year, but the majority (60) are MS students. Komatsu has internships for its staff to spend time at universities such as Stanford University and Imperial College.

Komatsu's research and development effort is carried out in the Research Center, and in the research and development departments in the construction equipment, electronics, engineering, and other divisions, such as:

In total there are about 2,000 engineers and technicians at Komatsu, 7,000 employees non-consolidated, and 27,000 employees consolidated. In philosophy, Komatsu relies on available technology and often buys proven technology for its needs. Table 2.1 reviews the history of manufacturing systems at Komatsu.

Mr. Imanishi in his presentation also outlined the preconditions for Komatsu to apply the Japanese-style manufacturing system, as shown in Table 2.2.

In concluding his presentation, Mr. Imanishi noted that mechatronics made such rapid progress in Japan in part due to lack of competition between the electrical and mechanical engineers. There was no obstruction of ideas or interchanges between the two communities.

Table 2.1
History of Manufacturing Systems at Komatsu

No

Period

Manufacturing System

Main Activities

Main Mfg. Equipment

Trend of Mfg. Equipment

1

1950s

Batch Mfg. System

Statistical Quality Control Process Capability

General Purpose Machine Tool

NC Milling ('52 MIT)

NC Lathe ('56 Japan)

Unimate Robot ('57 USA)

2

1960s

Group Mfg. System

TQC

GT

IE

Special Purpose Machine Tool

System 24 ('67 UK)

DNC ('68 USA)

3

1970s

Line Manufacturing System

Automation

VE

OR

NC Machine Tool

Special Purpose Welding Equipment

Autoloader

NC rate 8% ('70 Japan)

FMS ('73 USA)

SCARA Robot ('78 Japan)

4

1980s

Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS)

Set-up Elimination

4H Unmanned Operation

2D CAD/CAM

CNC Machine Tool

Welding Robot

RGV

NC rate 50% ('80 Japan)

Robot Opr. 90,000 ('85 Japan)

NC rate 67% ('85 Japan)

5

1990s

Factory Automation System

CIM

Mfg. Eng. DB

3D CAD/CAM

High Speed NC Machine Tool

Assembling Robot

AGV

Automatic Warehouse

Robot Opr. 250,000 ('90 Japan)

NC rate 82% ('95 Japan)

6

2000s

Autonomous Manufacturing System (AMS)

Virtual Reality

16H Unmanned Operation

3D CAD/CAM/CAE

Compound NC Machine Tool

Autonomous Machine Tool

Autonomous AGV

Autonomous Jig

 
Table 2.2
Preconditions for Application of Japanese-Style Manufacturing System

CHARACTERISTICS

OBJECTIVE

PRECONDITION

APPLICABILITY

     

non mass production

mass production

     

U.S.

Komatsu

U.S.

Japan

1. Line Mfg. System

Economy of Scale

Standardization of parts & modules

B

B

A

A

2. JIT System

Achieve on-time delivery after reducing inventory

Production volume

Fluctuation £ ± 10%

Workers abandon the right to go on strike for 20 yearsÞ employer guarantees long-term employment

C

 

C

C

 

A

A

 

C

A

 

A

3. Level-loaded Manufacturing System

Efficient Assignment of workers

Multi-skilled workersÞ flexible setting of salary by capability

B

A

B

A

4. Sharing of information

Continuity of knowledge and skills

Employer guarantees long-term employment

C

A

C

A

5. Team of skilled workers

Reduced burden of investment

Long-term training

C

A

C

A

6. Workers take responsibility for quality

Quality assurance in upstream process

Stable relationship between employer and workers

C

A

C

A

7. QC Circle activity

Continuous of work

Flexible work standards

 

C

A

C

A



A: applicable
B: somewhat
C: not applicable
Published: September 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian