SIGNIFICANT FINDINGS FROM THE VISIT TO JAPAN
The Japanese aerospace industry does not possess superior
manufacturing technologies for composite structures. Most, if not all,
of the manufacturing technologies the Japanese possess are the same as,
or are variations of, those possessed by the U.S. aerospace industry.
Yet, using the same manufacturing technologies, the Japanese companies
are capable of making production parts of better quality, on schedule,
and with less cost in many cases. Why? The answer may be found in areas
other than technology:
- Japanese companies develop fabrication techniques and know-how and
then voraciously implement them. For example, one company developed a
bagging technique to conform specifically to a complex part and then
created a detailed procedure for repeatability and producibility.
- People are considered the most important asset in a Japanese
- Production workers are trained, tested (sometimes in writing), and
retrained and retested to increase their skill level and value.
- Higher standards and goals are set. For example, less than one
percent error was not considered good enough and they are now working
toward the goal of zero defects.
- The Japanese have a policy of putting money and effort up front to
prevent problems down stream. They spend time, money, and effort on
tooling, process, procedures, systems, and people to virtually
eliminate production and in-service problems.
- When the Japanese decide to incorporate a certain technology, they
do so with determined thoroughness and voracious detail. That's their
culture and the way of thinking.
- Manufacturing/production gets the highest priority. When a
production problem arises it gets the immediate attention of all the
- Their production area management is superior. One company
incorporates a streamline/batch management system for increased
efficiency and improved morale.
- Long range outlook is considered more important than short range
profit. Unlike in U.S. companies, manufacturing engineers and workers
are allowed sufficient time and budget to perfect fabrication
Although the manufacturing technologies observed in Japan are
similar to those in the U.S., there are a few potentially cost-saving
technologies worth mentioning:
- Large scale co-curing to reduce part count, fasteners, and assembly
- Omega stringer reinforced panel
- Curved pultrusion
- 3-D and 2.5-D weaving, textiles, preforms
- Continuously formed thin-walled tubes
A qualitative evaluation of how each company fits into the composite
picture is shown in Figure 1.14. The three "heavy
industries" companies (MHI, KHI, FHI), which represent the Japanese
aerospace industry, have essentially equal focus but have slightly
different emphases. Because of Japan's small aerospace market there is
little opportunity for domestic production; thus, the Japanese are
dependent on the global aerospace market. Well developed, long term,
focused, applied research will eventually result in lower cost
Figure 1.14. Composite Focus by Institution Extrapolating from Japan's
current status and effort, thermoplastic and RTM/preformed structures
may become cost-effective in Japan before they become cost-effective in
the U.S., where the effort in those areas has slowed down in recent
Automation may take the form of slow, but highly reliable, low man
loaded machines which can be run for 24 hours a day without any human
intervention. This type of slow automated machine is acceptable in
aerospace applications, where production rates are small, and high
quality reliable products are required.
Published: April 1994; WTEC