Proposal1 "Connected factories"

1. Introduction to “Connected factories” (First published in Japanese in June, 2014)

 This proposal was published in June, 2014 as “Proposal for manufacturing process innovation towards the realization of “Connected factories” in Japan by the volunteers of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers Manufacturing Systems Division and is re-posted here. 

  1. Introduction

 The key concept of the “ Fourth Production Revolution, Industry 4.0 ” that the German government is currently working on as a national policy with industry, academia and government is “Connected factories”. With the rapid spread of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the future, factory facilities and equipment will be connected across the boundaries of factories, and manufacturing sites and consumers will be directly connected. We foresee that suppliers of such equipment and devices, operators who operate them, and engineers who install or repair them will be connected via networks, and that business form of manufacturing industries and life style of working people will change significantly.

 On the other hand, many manufacturing industries in Japan have moved their manufacturing bases overseas by search of less expensive labor cost, and many of jobs have been lost. At the same time the foundation of manufacturing as a world-leading manufacturing country has greatly fluctuated. With the trend of globalization, competition rules in supply chains and engineering chains have changed dramatically, and companies that supply products to final product manufacturers such as parts manufacturers and manufacturing equipment manufacturers have been forced to change their strategies for win. What should be the changes in 10 or 20 years? The keywords are open and close of services of manufacturing and “Connected factories” in Japan by ICT.

 3D printer technology developments and its spread are attracting attentions currently as a manufacturing innovation policy. There are also expectations for expanding uses of industrial robot technology. As factories in local area which supported the post-war high-growth period was very close to the living area, these new innovations will be a major stream that will bring the manufacturing site closer to us. On the other hand, the sense of strategic clogging is still widespread in conventional factories that have been required to change in a situation where large-scale investment does not remain as before.

 This paper clarifies key concepts for factories of the next-generation, including small and medium-sized manufacturers, and proposes issues to be addressed as a basic policy for manufacturing in Japan, and measures to solve them. Needless to say, like the German example, it is no longer possible to avoid ICT, openness, and networking in the manufacturing world. However, the industries in Japan should define and implement “Connected factories” in a Japanese way, taking into account of Japan’s technological capabilities, development capabilities, on-site capabilities, and the Japanese manufacturing culture that has been cultivated from the past.

 Along with the proposals, I would like to add the position of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers production system division, technical and academic themes and issues that can contribute to the realization of innovation, and specific action plans for the future.