• Proposal2 Recommendation of " Initiative"

    4. Japanese factory paradigm shift (First published in Japanese in June, 2014)

      In assembly-type manufacturing, the common use of parts is very important for cost reduction and quality stability. In order to maintain the stable operation in a factory while responding to diversification and individualization of market needs, it need to be oriented that mass customization that can respond to product variations only by combining parts or replacing some parts.

      In addition, standardization of operation is required at individual workplaces (work centers). By standardizing working, quality variations among workers are eliminated, and at the same time, the speed of proficiency for each worker is increased, making multi-skilled operation easier. If individual operations are standardized, it will be possible to balance the capabilities of the entire line, optimize process design, and develop or line up on automated lines.

      Thus, within the manufacturing industry, efforts to standardize parts and standardize operation have been actively carried out as a company-wide activity. The technical capabilities and high productivity of Japanese manufacturing industry can be said to be the result of these efforts. These activities have been promoted as part of in-house KAIZEN activities (Tuning  processes by engineers at the site), with collaboration between different departments such as design, production, and sales.

      However, such commonization and standardization efforts are not progressing at all among companies. Except for the case of cooperation within the so-called Kyrez company (one of a group companies governed a big company), which has a strong influence on the manufacturer side, there are not many questions about standardization and standardization in the supply chain and engineering chain. This is natural in a sense. In other words, if the two organizations are in a relationship of competition rather than cooperation, it is difficult to establish a win-win relationship that seeks to increase the sum of their mutual benefits.

      However, this situation will change if the competitive environment changes and the game rules change. When the market has expanded globally and many of its competitors have become supply chains that include overseas global companies, it has become necessary to fight in a global environment while cooperating with competitors. This is why the word supply chain management has been attracting attention since the late 1990s.

      However, that is not to say that sharing and standardization has progressed between companies. There are a number of reasons, and the biggest factor among them is the overly closed nature of individual companies and factories, and self-sufficiency.

      Basically, a lot of know-how is built into the factory as tacit knowledge. Therefore, it is a natural act to conceal such unique technology from the viewpoint of corporate competition. However, many factories cannot distinguish what is unique know-how and what is common, and as a result hide everything. Coupled with the low liquidity of human resources, the result was that Mini-Galapagos was born everywhere and evolved individually.

      Another is policy of independence. It is valuable from the viewpoint of value making by manufacturing by themselves and not making a black box, but it is disadvantageous from the viewpoint of dynamic supply chain, standardization of parts, and standardization of elemental technology. Even though people who say that it is differentiating that they do not follow external standards and make them with their own internal standards, Isn’t it “additional value-added ” rampant with recreated manufacturing in their own way in many places, even though there are no functional differences?

      In this way, it can be said that the current situation is that Japanese companies that have a very high level of commonization and standardization within their companies, however, they are extremely poor at strengthening collaboration and platform development centered on standardization among companies. And without overcoming this situation and resolving the problems that cause it, it is also true that individual manufacturers cannot survive in global competition.

      The key to solving this is the proper use of strict standards and “loose standards”. Strict standards are standards that are indispensable in terms of product functions and quality, as well as product marketing strategies, including safety standards and standards set by law. On the other hand, a loose standard is a standard that may or may not be followed. Or, within a certain range, it can be said that it is a standard that can be changed independently according to each situation.

  • Proposal2 Recommendation of " Initiative"

    5. Reference model as a loose standard (First published in Japanese in June, 2014)

      Let’s explain about the loose standards with specific examples. Small chef is a master of fried egg. His restaurant’s fried egg set is exquisite and there is always a waiting line. The competing set meal restaurant managed to find out the secret of the delicious fried egg he made and asked for it, but he never told about it. Not only that, but the small chef’s kitchen is inaccessible to anyone.

      One day, the gas stove broke. The small chef disassembled the stove and repaired everything. One day, he realized that the egg shape was different. The small chef went to the poultry farm and checked the chicken’s fertilizer and the breeding situation. The small chef believed that this was natural, and was delighted to do so. In fact, the store was thriving and there was always a waiting line. From a certain time, the small chef became unwell, the store tended to close, and the disease worsened and finally he closed the restaurant.

      Now there are no people in the world who know the recipes for fried eggs by small chefs. The small chef should have told the people around him at the time of his peak. “My fried egg is made with a gas stove using eggs as ingredients.” Or he could go further and say, “The frying pan is special, but it is important to use oil, adjust the firepower, and use the lid.” Because, in a sense, this is common knowledge in making fried eggs.

      In this example, fried egg is made with a gas stove using egg as a material, and in fried egg, how to grind oil, how to adjust the thermal power, how to use the lid determines the quality is not a strict standard but a loose standard. Only chefs who agree with this idea need to follow it, and there is no guarantee that the fried egg will be delicious with the standard. In order to be able to form a line at a fried egg shop, it will be necessary to study the technology to the point where it is further distant from the level disclosed here.

      Strict standards guarantee a certain quality. On the other hand, loose standards do not guarantee quality. If you dare to say, for those who are studying how to make fried eggs from scratch, there is an effect that reduces the labor a little. So what does a loose standard mean? Loose standards do not guarantee quality, but instead have tremendous power. It is the power that forms the ecosystem described below.

      Let’s explain with an example of a small chef. By defining materials and utensils as a loose standard for fried eggs, and further defining one level deep step on how to bake, and an evaluation index there, we have created a model of how to make fried eggs. This is called the fried egg reference model. This has led to the entry into a new fried egg business, and companies that provide equipment such as gas stoves have also improved their technologies, and egg producers have become more careful about quality, resulting in an increase in the fried egg population.

      For small chef, even if there are many competing fried egg shops, customers will not decrease. Since the core technology is not open, its position is not threatened. Conversely, it can be said that the number of visitors will increase as the fried egg population increases. Loose standards play a very important role in building a cooperative relationship in a competitive environment. And as a standard, we can establish a common framework with our competitors, and then add individual technologies to differentiate them.

      Based on the concept of loose standards, it is necessary to define a reference model in order for the ecosystem to function as a concrete mechanism. The reference model is the core of a loose standard that defines the components and structure of the problem in question. The content to be expressed cannot be too detailed, or too rough. The reference model separates the common part that can be said in the subject problem from the part that is individual for each party. The reference model has the power to design the boundary between the competitive area and the cooperative area according to its content, granularity and accuracy, and to guide the whole in a more effective direction.

  • Proposal2 Recommendation of " Initiative"

    6. International standard for reference models (First published in Japanese in June, 2014)

      It seems difficult to tell Monogoto (story) to a third party even if it looks easy. If there is a last resort, such as bringing things up or showing them down, but if there is not such a way, we need to create a model. If it is fashion models, CAD models, and mathematical models, all of models represent some kind of object. The contents are communicated to a third party, and new information and actions are triggered by operations such as analysis and you can take a trigger out of it.

      In this sense, the reference model can be said to show the structure of the problem and the rules of the game to the business parties or various stakeholders. If there are already many players and their categories are known, such as fried eggs, it is possible to determine the reference model inductively. However, if the content is innovative or categorical, you can become a game maker by taking the lead and presenting the reference model as pioneers.

      In Europe and the United States, reference models in the world of manufacturing have already been proposed. ISA-95 defines a model that aims to integrate manufacturing operations management with the entire management system, such as production management, inventory management, quality management, and maintenance management. In this reference model, as shown in Fig. 1, we have a bird’s-eye view of the entire manufacturing in the manufacturing industry, and model it in the form of functional elements that compose it and the information flow that connects them 5).

      In terms of manufacturing, the model becomes complex in this way, and in order to bring it down to the level of activity, it is necessary to examine a huge variety of reality one by one. This is a distracting task.

      In the small chef example, the reference model was relatively easy to define. However, when it comes to the entire manufacturing industry, it is not so easy. What is different? This is because the small chef example is a bottom-up approach, but this time it is top-down. In the Western countries, it is good to decide on a monogoto framework from the top down.

      No matter how effective the bottom-up model is created, it will eventually reach an area where it must follow the rules of the world defined in the top-down, and the top-down will dominate the whole in the sense of total optimization. It is. It is not a denial of the bottom-up approach, but bottom-up lacking a top-down perspective is dangerous.

      How can you successfully incorporate a top-down approach? There are various techniques used to model complex reality. One of them is level division. ISA-95 uses four levels to organize the whole manufacturing process. In other words, the level of business management, the level of the manufacturing floor, and the level of control are clearly separated, and the interface between them is defined to reduce the complexity of the model within each level. Similarly, it is possible to classify from the viewpoint of life cycle such as planning and design level, production preparation level, production execution level, and maintenance and disposal level.

  • Proposal2 Recommendation of " Initiative"

    7.Latest trends around factory models (First published in Japanese in June, 2014)

      Another noteworthy overseas trend is the digital factory standard (IEC 62832). This specification is still in the draft stage and is not an international standard yet, but it is extremely innovative to digitize the whole factory and manage the virtual and real worlds in an integrated manner.

    Table 1 Digital factory layer structure





    Metamodel world

    Conversion rules, authentication methods, identification codes, naming rules, security, etc.


    The world of reference models

    Term dictionary, item list, evaluation model, activity model, object model, etc.


    Digital world

    Data, schema, relations, procedures, contexts, objects, etc.


    Real World

    Things, things, people, money, etc.

      Table 1 summarizes the various mechanisms of factories using the concept of layers. First of all, the layers of the real world correspond to what is happening here and there and the reality that exists. People’s conversations and analog processing are events in this real world layer. On the other hand, computers can handle the digital world. Here, a part of the real world is copied as data or signals (bits), and at the same time, it is integrated with the real world to change the reality itself.

      The aim of the digital factory is to integrate this digital world with the real world as much as possible to create a cyber-physical system. The entire life cycle of a factory, such as design phase and maintenance phase, such as monitoring and control of production equipment and lines, as well as production phase, is the target, and by connecting them in cyberspace, the real world is linked.

      Of course, it is not easy to actually build such a mechanism. This is because the real world is connected everywhere, beyond corporate boundaries. Therefore, in order to enable such efforts, a reference model that goes beyond the framework of a company is required. As shown in Layer 2 in Table 1, in the world of reference models, it is necessary to define an object model that represents the target object and an activity model that corresponds to the activity one by one.

      In the international standard, instead of defining individual reference models, there are cases in which a model that is one layer higher than the reference model itself is defined, such as rules for creating reference models and rules for managing them. These are defined in Table 1 as the metamodel world. This allows each company to create its own reference model.

      There is a PSLX platform specification6) as a reference model for manufacturing in Japan. By associating the object model and activity model defined here with digital data that is actually moving in an actual factory, it will be possible to link ICTs individually implemented on a business unit basis. For example, in the “Plant Whole Collaboration” demo held at Tokyo Big Sight in November, 2014 , software with unique data structures such as production planning systems, inventory management systems, schedulers, and MESs are flexibly linked on the PSLX platform. It has been proven that it can collaborate.

      In addition to ISA-95 and PSLX, manufacturing reference models may exist in various regions and fields. It can be said that there is no single reference model in the world. However, even if there are various reference models in the same field, they are naturally deceived by the digital world that selects them, and as an ecosystem is formed, reference models naturally converge into several mainstreams.

      Therefore, for example, by pouring a large amount of Japanese manufacturing genes into the PSLX reference model, the gene will be inherited by some of the globally winning reference models.

       6) PSLX Platform Specification, APS Promotion Organization ( 2014 )

  • Proposal2 Recommendation of " Initiative"

    8. What are the benefits of collaboration? (First published in Japanese in June, 2014)

      The concept of “Connected factories” does not aim to connect factories to factories. Many of these factories have already taken this common course, regardless of whether ICT is used efficiently or not. In the “Connected factories”, the inside of a factory is flexibly connected between processes and responsible work, and beyond the framework of the factory, each process and responsible work is the process of other factories and other companies and we aim to offer flexible connections.

      In fact, in the case of manufacturing in Japan, it can be said that this kind of process unit linkage has already been realized among some companies. For example, the Kanban method is a great way to connect manufacturers and suppliers directly on a process-by-process basis. There are also many examples where manufacturers and suppliers have worked closely together from the part design stage to optimize the manufacturing process.

      Therefore, “Connected factories” refers to the manufacturing process of Japan as a whole by using the ICT tools to expand the structure seen in these advanced manufacturing in Japan to various fields of manufacturing industries. It can be said that it is an effort to further enhance global competitiveness by improving productivity, flexibility, and robustness.

      However, in any case, I would like to be able to do what I have done so far, not just as it is, but also to make new ones using ICT, including things I couldn’t do. Otherwise, in the near future, it will be completely caught up by Western powers that make full use of ICT, and it may lose its position. So what kinds of new mechanisms are possible?

      First of all, in the supply chain so far, factories and factories, or processes and processes are connected via things. After the parts shipped from a supplier’s factory are delivered to a manufacturer, they are received and inspected, and the accepted products are sent to the manufacturer’s process. However, since inspection takes time, the possibility of missing a defective product cannot be denied.

      Many manufacturers audit their production and management processes to ensure the quality of parts produced by suppliers. Or entrust audits to a certification organization based on international standards such as the ISO 9000 series. The idea is to inspect the quality of the products sent from suppliers one by one and to ensure the quality of the processes that produce those products.

      What happens if IoT (Internet of Things) technology is added here? Even if there is no problem at the time of the audit of the production facility or process, it may happen that something has changed when the part is produced. Such individual situations can be detected by monitoring constantly the data. In other words, even if it is a relationship that transcends companies such as suppliers, it is possible to guarantee the quality with the prescribed process and the goods delivered, and at the same time use the data obtained when carrying out that process to make individual lots and then, you will be able to guarantee quality at the level of lots.

      This is also beneficial for suppliers or small and medium-sized manufacturers. If the customer’s production process at the customer’s destination and the company’s production process are connected directly, for example, in scheduling, it is not necessary to have more stock than necessary. In addition, there will be no uncertainties related to quality, and traceability will be improved, which should lead to stable orders from the ordering side. In addition, when order-made production with small lots, etc., by digitizing process information in advance and managing the results with data, the estimated man-hour and accuracy are greatly improved, resulting in a business model with a higher profit margin and it will be possible to shift there.

      Even if it is possible to connect production processes beyond factories and companies, it is not always necessary to keep all of your production processes open. The person who has each production process decides which part and to whom how much it is open. How to use production data obtained from time to time to strengthen the supply chain, strengthen sales and profitability is just part of a company’s management strategy. Depending on how this data is used, it can be a source of added value that leads to the competitiveness of the company.

  • Proposal2 Recommendation of " Initiative"

    9. From supply chain to engineering chain (First published in Japanese in June, 2014)

      Due to the impact of the weak yen by unprecedented level of monetary easing in Japan, it is said that Japanese manufacturing that once went overseas is gradually returning to Japan. In China and in ASEAN countries, labor costs are not as low as before, and this may help to transfer the domestic production system back to home. However, that doesn’t mean that mass-production of low-selling, high-volume products would not be done again in domestic factories.

      Diversification of consumer behaviors, in response to the flow of individualized, in production lines, high-mix low-volume productions, small-lot more and proceed for variant variable productions, in order to respond to intense demand trends of change, product life cycles are becoming shorter and uncertain. It’s not enough to procure the necessary amount of the necessary supplies when one needs them, by the traditional supply chains. In order to cope with such situations, it is necessary to collaborate across the boundaries of companies, including engineering viewpoints, what is essentially necessary and how to make it.

      In the engineering chains, the optimum production method is determined according to the required product shape and characteristics, and a production system for that purpose is designed and prepared. Information exchanged there is product shape and structure data, material and functional property data, production process specifications, quality inspection parameters, equipment operation requirements, test result data, QC process table and FMEA sheet.

      Compared to supply chains, engineering chains were characterized by a long PDCA cycle. In terms of product model changes, new product development, new factory establishments and expansions, it might be said as cycles about several times a year. However, in the world of production products, tailor-made design production has already progressed, and as described above, the frequency of consumer goods is increasing due to the shortening of a product life cycle. There is a need to speed up the engineering chain and to create a new structure with highly added value that makes full use of the ICT that supports it.

      The contribution to the engineering chain brought about by “Connected factories” will be enormous. First, before discussing between factories and companies, we can fundamentally review the engineering chain within the company. For example, suppose you would use a simulation model to analyze a process design for a new product. The models used there are almost always ad hoc. The reality is that at the time of production preparation, it is actually fine-tuned at the production site and further changed by KAIZEN activities (Tuning processes by engineers at the site) after the start of production, but each department in charge uses each data. Since there is no mutual relationship, it is not possible to cooperate. In other words, even within a company, PDCA related to the engineering chain is not connected as data.

      What happens if this in-house engineering chain is connected in terms of data or models? First, when performing simulations using models in process design, it is possible to use existing equipment data and performance data of the past obtained through production management, etc. The reliability of the product itself is greatly increased. In addition, if the model used in a simulation can be used in production management, more detailed and visual production instructions and monitoring will be possible, and real-time feedback to process design may be possible. Then, in the conservation and management, and operational experience and the future of the operation plan of the facility that will be performed by using the actual equipment inspection and actual data cooperation with the maintenance, preventive maintenance, and accuracy of predictive maintenance should increase in the level.

      In this way, by digitizing the engineering chain within a company, it will be possible to further develop cooperation between companies. First, not only engineering data such as CAD data is exchanged between the order side and the contractor side, but also two-way data exchange such as process history data, quality test data, and chemical substance data will be realized.

      n particular, the exchange of equipment data is attracting attentions in IoT applications. On the manufacturer side, the performance data and shape data of equipment and devices that make up the production line are obtained from the supplier. This data is used when creating equipment management and cost control master data, and can also be used in production line design and simulation. On the other hand, suppliers can obtain operational data of equipment and use it for after-sales services such as remote maintenance of equipment.

  • Proposal2 Recommendation of " Initiative"

    10. Integrated model of production technology and production management (First published in Japanese in June, 2014)

      There is a need for a structural shift in Japanese manufacturing. The manufacturing industry, which initially consisted of simple acts of buying raw materials, processing them into products, and selling them, gradually became functionally differentiated as its mechanism increased in complexity. The manufacturing seems to have been divided into things and making. I feel that production sites that simply pursue cost and efficiency have become a bit boring and dull. To say abstractly, units that are made with things and making has become organically coupled objects, like amoeba, that is, I wonder if dynamic manufacturing organizations are possible to be established. In order to be a cool production site and to continue to be a brilliant production site from the young people’s point of view, it is needed to be not just “making ” but “things and making ” as one set and to stay together without leaving each other.

      One clue to getting there is proper use of standpoint of making final products and standpoint of creating a “structure” for making the products. There should be ways of manufacturing, such as making production machines and devising the production line system by oneself which have similarity with Karakuri (Traditional handmade methods). The functions such as process design, production technology, and production preparation as shown by the JSME-MSD model are established with people at the center, and they are being integrated with production sites to reconstruct a brilliant site.

      Another effective aspect is digitalization of manufacturing sites with ICT. The world of manufacturing is similar to the world of Atoms, and on the contrary, the world of information is said to be the world of Bits. Both worlds are based on different principles. It is the world of Atoms when actual processes on things are being done at the factory. The world of logistics for delivering products from factories to consumers is also the world of Atoms governed by physical laws. On the other hand, the world of bits of information is not governed by physical laws. Information can be replicated indefinitely, and it can move through the space at once. In a cyber-physical world where Bits and Atoms are fused, things that couldn’t be imagined currently may become possible.

      The argument here is who will take the lead in such a world, that is, who will take the initiative. Western companies are completely ahead of ICT currently, and Japanese companies are busy catching up with them. On the other hand, Japanese companies have superiority in the world of manufacturing. In other words, companies who could lead in the ICT and manufacturing integration area could be Japanese companies. That is to say, the Bits side is quicker to understand the world of the atom, or the Atoms side is faster to proceed than the Bits side.

      For the factory side, that is, the Atoms side, the Bits world, that is, the ICT world, is already a familiar area in terms of utilization of information systems. However, the fear of the ICT world is that it works only when it is connected to counterparts. For example, a telephone does not have a conversation unless the other one is using the same protocol. Due to the nature of network externality, the more connected partners, the higher the utility value of the product. In addition, since the replication cost of digital data and programs can approach to zero, it is necessary to understand the relationship between manufacturing costs and sales prices with a completely different idea from the current understandings. Furthermore, intellectual property management is extremely important to manage the asset value of the ICT developed.

      This intellectual property management technique is closely related to building an “ecosystem”. As products are unable to function on their own operation and are positioned as one part of a large system clearly, products will not spread in the market unless publishing some of their internal mechanisms. This trend has become increasingly prominent as the ability of connecting is gradually shifting its weight from hardware to software.

      A factory, as products can, can show its performance only when connected to other factories. If a factory does not connect, expensive equipment and machinery in the factory won’t work well. Much of the connection between connected factories is information and software in a broad sense. In engineering chains such as design process and maintenance process as well as in supply chains, digitalization will continue to develop in the future, and further tactics regarding “Connected factories” will become stronger8).

      In a world dominated by network externalities, the predecessors will gain enormous profits, and the followers no longer have the power to control the market. In the world of manufacturing that drags Atoms by half, even if it is not so remarkable, but in the future, if you focus on the followers in the process of integrating ICT and manufacturing, you will have to fight with significantly disadvantageous game rules.

      Considering this situation, the volunteer members of “Connected factories research subcommittee”, beyond the positions of the companies and the organizations, undertake to establish the framework of cooperation at first. The Industrial Value Chain Initiative (IVI) takes the form of declaration that the advanced engineers who know much about manufacturing in Japan will take the initiative as leaders, not followers, for a new era.

      There are various first steps, such as what kind of issues should be dealt with, and what sort of partners to form alliances with, for companies that agree with “Connected factories”. However, each company does not tackle the issues independently as before, but decides the direction while forming multiple clusters, and at the same time uses elemental technologies and standardization technologies of each cluster that are shared throughout the consortium. By making such activities open to the outside as much as possible and disseminating information overseas, human resources and wisdom from overseas are actively taking into the consortium.

      Rather than with top-down movement in accordance with the national policy, rather than with companies or group of companies’s behavior, with many of Japan’s manufacturing companies, with gentle cooperation in the spirit of Wa (spirit of cooperation), if we can design a framework that takes action and at the same time incorporates a framework of competition and cooperation, it will become a major international trend of frameworks. Industry, academia and government will cooperate in their respective positions, from the beginning, without providing barriers, such as domestic and foreign barriers, advancing in glare both global and local domains, that will expand their activities to the borderless, international of manufacturing proposed in Japan and the presence will be established.

     8) Yasuyuki Nishioka, Autonomous Decentralized Platform for “Connected Factories” in the Borderless Era, System Control Information Society Journal, Vol.28, No.3 , System Control Information Society ( 2015 )   

  • 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.

  • Proposal1 "Connected factories"

    2. What is “Connected factories”? (First published in Japanese in June, 2014)

     Three scenarios are introduced for assumption to explain “Connected factories” in Japan as a new concept. Scenario 1 is a model of a niche top company that manufactures the final product at first.

    Scenario 1

     Hosei Kogyo (tentative name) announced an assistive device for people with disabilities in 2018 which was developed for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The manufacturing process incorporated a 3D printer and some metal parts were very complicated and planned to be produced about 10 units per month. This was introduced in Scandinavian media, and the business was gradually expanded to a production system of 2000 units per month as of 2022. By using the manufacturing community platform, they had a plan of construction of their own factory in Fukushima Prefecture in future with controlling investment costs and risks with a network-type fab method.

     Since so-called 3 D printer is oriented to non-repeating orders of small lots, it is better to go to factory equipment investment in the case of mass production and the corresponding cost of one unit will be less expensive. The problem is in between. It can be said that the niche top companies are always going through this process. “Connected factories” can be used as a manufacturing consignment mechanism for such intermediate production lots.

    On the other hand, Scenario 2 below is an example of a support industry company.

    Scenario 2

     Hosei Seimitsu (tentative name) applied for a joint development program with a major material manufacturer and established difficult processing technology for new composite materials. After getting third-party technology evaluation and intellectual property management, orders of processing were stably obtained, and new inquiries through the manufacturing community platform increased, and orders from overseas also increased dramatically. Although there were mass production or repetitive orders, the company did not expand its scale and licensed the processing, while concentrating management resources constantly on the development of new processing technologies.

     As is well known, the high processing technology of SMEs supports manufacturing process of major manufacturers. A further leap can be expected by guaranteeing the system not only for the matching between companies but also for trade and technology assessment and intellectual property management. In addition, by collaborating in the fields such as logistics and customs clearance, orders from overseas can increase.

    And the last example is the image of a completely new type of manufacturing and service company.

    Scenario 3

     Hosei (tentative name), a major contract manufacturing service company specialized in machining, has the third largest sales in Japan as of 2025. The EMS (contracted electronics manufacturing service) business was significantly reduced in 2014 and the business is shifted to machining and resin products. The process management is thoroughly standardized, and the process is streamlined by combination of relatively inexpensive press + sheet metal processing and welding robots with making from 1 to 5,000 products per month. Mainstay is the interior parts of electric cars. The line is in conjunction with the customer’s production management system and the flight digital signage are delivered 2 times per day through the cloud.

     With the advancement of electronics, mechanical elements have been increasingly replaced by electric and software ones, and these have been made into IC chips and printed circuit boards, which can be outsourced to EMS companies. However, on the other hand, there are still some mechanical elements that require manufacturing by combination technologies, and it cannot be a manufacturing service based on Western ideas. Efficient manufacturing such parts with high quality is the strength of manufacturing industries in Japan, and this is likely to become a killer content for manufacturing business in future.

     The characteristic of “Connected factories” is that the process of making products by linking each other beyond companies. Supply chains were often linked by selling and buying of products as transactions between different companies until now. On the other hand, when manufacturing processes are directly linked, not only transactions in standard units such as materials, parts, module products, and products, but also exchanges and manufacturing in units such as intermediate products and works in progress and a form of partially entrusting processes are realized more flexibly than ever.

     There is a history that SMEs and small-scale enterprises have been getting such manufacturing processes as subcontractors of outsourced manufacturing. The pricing right was on the consignment side, and the consignment side also determined and evaluated manufacturing process there. On the other hand, the supply chains are configured from equal standpoints or, in some cases, from trustees in the applications of “Connected factories”. As a result, companies with advanced processing technologies, detailed production preparations, material technologies and elemental technologies can concentrate on improving their technologies. In addition, in response to the ever-increasing variety of product needs and individual customer demands, it will be possible to realize Monozukuri (Manufacturing in industries) that integrates design and manufacturing across corporate boundaries.

  • Proposal1 "Connected factories"

    3. Manufacturing industry collaboration models and standardization issues (First published in Japanese in June, 2014)

     In order to realize “Connected factories”, it is indispensable to standardize manufacturing beyond the companies. In particular, when conducting business collaboration or manufacturing process collaboration using the Internet , It is necessary to have discussions in advance on what level and what data should be connected as ICT, and what should be connected based on a standard model.

     IEC 62264 is an international standard for models that integrate FA (factory automation), information control systems, and management systems in this field. As shown in FIG. 1, the entire manufacturing system is defined by dividing into level 1 to level 4 here. At what level does “connected factories” connect to other factories or outside ?

     Let’s divide the collaboration into three types: intra-company vertical cooperation, intra-company horizontal cooperation, and inter-companies cooperation at first. Intra-company horizontal collaboration at Level 1 and Level 2 is largely based on ICT at present, and many standards including international standards are being carried out in this area. In addition, in level 4 business management, business linkage is achieved by an information system such as ERP, and data linkage such as EDI is also realized between companies.

     With the above discussion, a new challenge with “Connected factories” will be vertical collaboration of the site management that connects the top and the bottom at level 3, enterprise horizontal cooperation, and business-to-business cooperation in the field management level. The manufacturing sites in the factory, for the manufacturing industry, can be positioned as showcases by eliminating wastes thoroughly through 5S and KAIZEN activities. However, the manufacturing sites are the most difficult objects to be standardized actually, because various information is exchanged there.

     The strengths of manufacturing sites in Japan include engineering skills such as production technology and production preparation. In Europe and the United States, such engineering and manufacturing operations are completely divided by engineers, and so-called balancing technology at the manufacturing site cannot be established. On the other hand, there is a culture in Japan with which process design and production technology are tailored to the characteristics of each site and are built together with the site. It is highly likely that a new leap will be triggered by using ICT effectively on manufacturing sites as functional centers to link processes in the engineering chain such as design, manufacturing, and maintenance.

1 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18