japanese art of automation
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With an unmanned forklift flashing orange lights, a faint-sounding speaker issued a John Philip Suza parade warning the unwary, casually set about handling the loading of molded metal plates freshly baked from the stamping machinery and transporting them to about 50 feet kilometers, they will begin to become Honda cars, vans and light trucks.
Auto trucks in Honda\'s vast manufacturing center do the same thing manned cars can do, but it is likely to do it faster and more adaptable.
However, this shows the country\'s attitude towards automation, especially in the automotive industry.
Japanese auto companies are not just using automation as a tool, they are still having a good time.
Engineers at the car factory here are proud to show the engine production line that processes the original castings into finished parts that are not affected by manpower.
Automatically transfer the arm, not the person, standing between the machines of the stamping line, moving the body panel smoothly hour after hour without stumbling forward.
Two highly automated areas Japanese companies have virtually eliminated manual work in two of the most uncomfortable areas of any car assembly plant: body welding areas, where sparks fly when metal panels are discovered, smoke billowing
Welded into the basic structure of the car, in the painting operation, the paint particles and volatile solvents are added to the air.
Industry analysts and their US competitors agree that Japan\'s leadership in automation is more about applying existing technology than about outstanding innovation.
\"All the research we \'ve done shows that Japan\'s use of technology is not bigger than the US,\" said James K . \".
Bakken, vice president of Ford Motor.
\"But the universality of using it in Japan is much greater.
In the 1970s S, industrial robots were considered interesting toys in the United States, while Japanese car companies bought them for hundreds of dollars.
In addition to increasing productivity by reducing the labor force entering the car, robotic welders also improve quality by welding the same position every time, eliminating the inevitable errors when manual work is done.
In addition, the robot will not feel tired at the end of the shift and will not make mistakes.
They also don\'t miss work because they are sick.
Most robots in Japanese car manufacturers are made in Japan, but are based on technology licensed by American companies.
American automakers are rapidly increasing automation, at least in some areas, as they transform their factories into new models.
At Chrysler\'s old Jefferson Avenue factory in Detroit, 98% of body welds are done by large automatic machines or single robotic arms called \"gooseneck\" because of their stretching,
The companies are not too risky in painting, and the workers still apply some paint manually.
General Motors is an exception that is installing a complex 11-
The robot painting system for the new factory is under construction.
Executives at American auto companies acknowledge that there is a gap in automation levels compared to Japan.
They said that the reason is that their roots are short-
The term financial standards in the domestic industry and the different ways in which the two countries treat their employees.
\"According to our standards, the Japanese have invested too much in automation,\" Jerry L said . \"
Mathis, Chrysler\'s vice president of manufacturing.
The main difference is social policy.
We work with people to produce: if demand drops, we use fewer people.
Japanese car companies have 80% job security.
If sales decline, they will run the equipment more slowly and keep employees.
They will speed up if sales go up.
So, over time, they hardly consider the return on investment.
The executive background, compared with the financial orientation of many American managers, Japan\'s acceptance of new technology may also be the result of the technical background of most of the top car company executives here.
For example, two of Toyota\'s three executives, chairman Eiji Toyoda and president Shoichiro Toyoda, are engineers.
In addition, Toyoda has a doctorate in engineering.
As a result, Japanese executives seem to evaluate new technologies from a broader perspective rather than direct financial returns. John T.
Eby is Ford\'s head of business in Japan and a director of Toyo, which is owned by Ford, japanese car companies tend to ignore whether it is cheaper to use one person or one machine in each individual operation, which is a major problem for US factories.
\'I don\'t think they will do this kind of financial analysis,\' he said.
\"They just want men to get rid of dirty, uncomfortable jobs because they know the quality will be unstable if they let a man do such jobs.
Junichi Yoshikawa, manager of Toyota\'s production control department, said: \"advertising\" if robots work in a better working environment, we calculate that robots are a good investment . \".
Toyota says the price of a welding robot is about $40,000, which has depreciated in more than three years.
A person\'s work by cost.
However, robots can fall in two shifts, and the company does not have to pay two salaries, so the robot is actually equivalent to 1.
Toyota says the cost of human workers is reasonable.
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In the end, the Japanese found that this large investment in automation produced a production system that was cheaper in the long run.
High quality products mean less repair in the factory and less warranty work after car sales.
S. Department of Transport estimates that Japan has $1,000to $1,500-a-
Compared with American manufacturers, the cost advantage of cars.
While robots and other automation devices are useful, they are just machines that run through pre-programmed programs. An out-
Unless the problem is found and fixed, the ofadjustment robot will try to weld an empty spot in the air.
To prevent this from happening, Japanese manufacturers have developed machines that check the output of other machines.
\"In Toyota, we only use automation, and then we use automation.
\"Inspection mechanism,\" said Yamamoto, vice chairman of Toyota.
\"In the usual case, for human checkers, the machine will make defective parts in the time it takes to decide.
In our example, the defect automatically feeds back and automatically makes the decision to stop.
\"At the Anjo generator plant of the Toyota group member, Nippon pondenso, a good example of how this system works can be observed.
Moving along the assembly line as part of the power generation unit, the tool drops and inserts two electrical contacts.
Then move the workpiece a few inches so that the two probes can check if the contacts are in place and carry the current.
If not, the work will be rejected.
Because there is a tradition of lifelong employment at the top of the Japanese auto industry, there are few unions boycotting (
Although not in the attention of smaller suppliers)
Trade unions have little resistance to the introduction of labor force --
The huge expansion of Japanese companies has also helped.
From 11,179,962 in 1981 to 481,551 cars and trucks in 1960)
This makes it easy for workers replaced by machines to find other jobs.
However, some Japanese trade union leaders have recently expressed concern that increased automation could threaten employment as sales growth slows.
Some business officials acknowledge that there may be some problems in the future, but they say they will be limited.
\"When we look to the future, the best long term
\"The long-term outlook we can see is to grow by 2% per year,\" said former Teiichi, executive director of Nissan Motor . \".
\"If the equipment we have installed exceeds this growth, the union\'s concerns may arise.
But as far as we can see, what will happen is to reduce the number of new hires.
This is an inevitable trend of technological innovation, he said.
As much of its business has been automated, the Japanese automotive industry is moving towards the next level of development: automation is flexible enough to produce multiple models of cars on the same assembly line, when a new model replaces an existing product, it is easy to re-program the machine for continued use.
For example, in an advertisement at the Suzuka factory, Honda is producing its ultra-small front-wheel-
Driving city cars and afterwheel-
Drive trucks and small trucks on the same assembly line.
In addition, the vehicle has different length and width.
Front line in Americaand rearwheel-
Driving vehicles cannot now be produced on the same assembly line, and Model Changes from rear drive to front drive often involve reprocessing of the entire plant.
\"We have used this combined production system since 1981,\" said Takaya Shimizu, assistant manager of the plant . \".
\"This gives us the flexibility to produce: we can change the mix of cars and trucks based on sales orders.
\"The new factory of Toyo gaogi in Hofu, south of Hiroshima, was designed to produce three separate car production lines of three different versions, or nine different models, although the difference in size is less than the US model.
Officials at Toyo gaogi acknowledged that actually producing many models could be too complicated and pushing up costs, but they said the system would allow them to install tools for new models while continuing to produce old cars, thus eliminating the shutdown of expensive factories.
Similarly, Japanese auto executives say robots are more useful than big cars.
In the past, scale machines and fixed automation were favored by the automotive industry.
Robots can adapt to new tasks by simply \"teaching\" it a new program, avoiding the cost of re-processing.
The automotive industry in the United States has learned about the benefits of automation.
GM has even been involved in the robotics business, and has co-manufactured robots with the company. of Japan.
The \"big three\" may also begin to understand the Japanese attitude that production efficiency is a declining goal: no matter how good a process becomes, there is always a way to improve it.
Sunao Yokota, manager of the sparkling new Hofu factory, was overwhelmed by robots and new machines, and the pose he took was that although the factory was new, it was a waste
It was a very rough operation, he said.
\"There are thousands of ways to rationalize it.
Wednesday: labor practice.
A version of this article appears on page D00001, national edition, March 28, 1983, with the title: Japanese automation art.