3. Solutions that come to light through repeated communication
Iwate Murata Manufacturing had been converted into a smart factory with the introduction of the Real-time Priority Task Order System to improve the failure of new workers to achieve their assembly handling number targets. Although results were obtained in that targets were being achieved, the improvements did not end.
Myounai: "The spirit of 'there are limitless improvements to be made'—in other words, improvements never end—is deep-rooted in Murata. There is a tendency to unintentionally become caught up in the task at hand, to be satisfied when results appear, and then stop there. However, I think it is important to continue constantly searching for points of improvement looking ahead six months or one year in the future."
Higashiyama: "Our new workers achieved their assembly handling number targets. However, there was still a considerable gap in the assembly handling numbers between experienced workers and new workers. Why do experienced workers have higher productivity? A new awareness to make improvements sprouted with that question."
Myounai: "I strongly felt that the introduction of the system did not mean that the issues were solved. I decided to look at the manufacturing site from an even broader perspective and to dig deep into our thoughts."
Higashiyama: "We newly prepared an analysis tool by further utilizing the Equipment Information Acquisition Tool to identify the causes. We checked the changes in the assembly handling numbers in chronological order. We then analyzed the time periods when the numbers decreased, the operating situation of equipment, and the observance of the task priorities. At that time, we found that there were many interference stops (multiple pieces of equipment stopping at the same time) while replacing materials."
Myounai: "Accordingly, we immediately incorporated the expertise to prevent interference stops put into practice by experienced workers into the system task plan conditions and reflected that in the priority rankings. That filled the gap between new workers and experienced workers. In addition, we were able to shorten the time it takes to master tasks by about 80%."
The analysis tool initiative born from an awareness to make further improvements taught the importance of visualizing hints to solving issues through communication. As the saying "there are limitless improvements to be made" goes, there may be no end to the conversion of a regular factory into a smart factory.
4. Perspectives and thoughts produced by converting Iwate Murata Manufacturing into a smart factory
The period required until the introduction of the system was approximately eight months. Higashiyama recalls it thusly: "It took time to coordinate information between equipment and to conduct investigations and analysis. We spent every day getting anxious about this project." However, he says that the joy after the introduction of the system was enhanced to that extent.
Higashiyama: "This was something that happened three or four days after the trial introduction. When I came to work in the morning, Myounai ran up to me excitedly. 'We've done it! We've filled the gap between experienced workers and new workers!' I still now clearly remember the excitement I felt at that time."
Iwate Murata Manufacturing has achieved the fruits of its labors from converting into a smart factory. Myounai and Higashiyama both agree that information sharing and communication were the keys to the project.
Higashiyama: "There is an internal site (electronic bulletin board) to share a variety of information within the Iwate Murata Manufacturing Group. You can browse examples relating to smart factories. This allows us to investigate any things we are concerned about or unsure of. We can also contact the relevant person to ask questions."
Myounai: "Such information-sharing sites also exist across the whole of Murata. Accordingly, examples and expertise are being shared proactively. In addition, this Real-time Priority Task Order System uses Murata's internal system. Therefore, we were able to proceed with the project while receiving support and advice from the applicable departments."
In terms of communication, Myounai and Higashiyama say it is important to hold repeated dialogue, as in the example of the analysis tool that derives expertise from interviews with workers.
Higashiyama: "The members of the maintenance staff also conduct predictive maintenance using systems and tools. We share our progress and aims with all workers at a joint meeting once a month. What is the purpose of working to convert into a smart factory? What are the impacts and benefits from converting into a smart factory? I believe it is extremely important to convey such things clearly and to get other workers to accept them."
Myounai: "We set aside time at the joint meetings to discuss what the workers are thinking, the problems they are having on-site, and other issues. Nevertheless, a certain change was produced by the introduction of this system tool. Resolving issues has produced some leeway in the minds of workers and raised their motivation. That has led to active discussions about how to further improve productivity and quality more than now. The idea of improvement in terms of 'let's take on this challenge next time' has been produced from that. Perhaps the greatest results we have gained by converting into a smart factory have been the new perspectives produced in workers and the resulting deepening of their thoughts."
5. Enhance the value of people with the conversion into a smart factory
There tends to be a focus on the use of AI, IoT, robotics, and other cutting-edge technologies when converting into a smart factory. However, Myounai and Higashiyama say that it is important to always think with people as the starting point.
Myounai: "How can we eliminate the gap in the proficiency between new workers and experienced workers? How can we lower the physical and mental burden on workers? I think it is important to have a point of view to solve such concerns and worries of people when converting into a smart factory."
Higashiyama: "When I am personally asked why we continue to make improvements, I answer that it is to eliminate troublesome things. It is tough to make improvements. Nevertheless, if we make improvements, it is possible to reduce daily tasks by half or more. We make improvements because there are troublesome things and because we want to make things easier. I think we must not forget this kind of human perspective."
Myounai: "Going forward, I want us to simplify tasks that can only be done by people as far as possible and then to let machines and tools bear the burden of that. It is people who think about how to achieve that and who consider how to make improvements. I think that thoroughly investigating the roles of machines, tools, and people will elevate the things that can only be done by people and the value that can only be provided by people."
Higashiyama: "No matter the extent to which machines and tools develop, it is people who come up with the ideas and expertise to build systems and it is people who take measures to make improvements. The ideas of people are necessary to promote the conversion of regular factories into smart factories. At the same time, the conversion of regular factories into smart factories creates the leeway to be able to focus on generating ideas. It would be great if we can realize such a future."
- How to Fill the Gap in the Proficiency of Workers? Iwate Murata Manufacturing Edition (Part 1)
- What Is the First Step to Converting a Regular Factory into a Smart Factory? Komoro Murata Manufacturing (Part 2)
- What Is the First Step to Converting a Regular Factory into a Smart Factory? Komoro Murata Manufacturing (Part 1)