Sumitomo Electric's business portfolio involving more than 20 divisions comprises five business segments: Automotive; Information & Communications; Electronics; Electric Wire & Cable, Energy; and Industrial Materials. As both products and production systems are wide ranging, each division has accumulated knowledge and know-how on production engineering. Against such a historical background, the first Group-wide manufacturing enhancement initiative was launched in October 2003. This is based on the recognition that enhancement of manufacturing competence on the Group and global scale is indispensable for contributing to society by quickly and accurately supplying the products that meet customer needs under the dramatically changing market environment. Five years from the launch, the innovation has started to sprout in concrete forms.
We Needed to Create a “Common Language” across Divisions
Deputy General Manager,
Manufacturing Management & Engineering Unit General Manager,
Plant & Production Systems Engineering Division
When the Plant & Production Systems Engineering Div. established the Manufacturing Innovation Committee and started the Group-wide manufacturing enhancement initiative in 2003, we identified two challenges.
One was to address changes in market needs. Nowadays, manufacturers like SEI need to implement high-mix, low-volume production. On the other hand, products manufactured and marketed by SEI have been suitable for conventional large-sized lot production, so we would carry a vast inventory if we tried high-mix, low-volume production under such circumstances. To solve the inventory issue and achieve flexibility in product type and volume and also achieve quick delivery, it is not enough to just make incremental improvements at manufacturing sites. We therefore had to restructure our production system and solidify its foundation. This needed to be carried out not just by each division but also through Group-wide efforts.
Based on the idea of systematizing a wide range of technologies and know-how accumulated through the 110 years of business operations and establishing them as a more universal and continuous "common language," we have developed the SEIPS (SEI Production System).
SEIPS is an Ever-Evolving Production System
Product and process types of SEI
SEIPS divides our product groups into the three types of A (assembly), B (bulk or materials) and C (cable), and seeks competitive production systems respectively in the three. Even if the final products or markets are different, divisions can share technologies and knowledge for improvement as long as the production systems are common.
We have been working on SEIPS for only the last five years, and the awareness within the Groups is not yet very high. Nevertheless, it was incorporated into the training curriculum of SEI University in 2005, and, by the end of 2008, around 1,700 Group employees had learned the system and communicated it to their respective manufacturing sites.
SEIPS has to evolve continuously. We will not only solve urgent problems but also strengthen the structure continuously for many years to come with the aim of establishing a production system that can always overcome market changes.
Birth of "Faculty of Manufacturing Technology" for Practical Training Using Actual Equipment
Technical Training Center (TTC)
The second challenge is to address Group-wide and global development. SEIPS is also a common language for Group-wide and global development. We have established the “Technical Training Center (TTC)” as an institute to teach this common language to all employees. While SEI University provides an education and training program for all employees throughout the SEI Group, technical training has traditionally been provided through individual programs in each division. Th e TTC was therefore opened on the premises of Itami Works in October 2008 as an educational core for enhancing manufacturing competence.
At this 9,050-m2 center, actual machines such as for electroplating and extrusion lines have been installed, and 97 training courses have been started with emphasis on practical training. The variety of programs includes position-based education to train all employees with a focus on youth, function-based education to provide professional training for different functions such as production technology and equipment technology, and needs-based education to teach the common technologies unique to the Group on a cross-functional basis. We will continuously improve the curriculum through efforts such as creating new courses through collaborative research with universities.
Training of Personnel Who Lead Group-Wide and Global Development
Training session at the Technical Training Center
The establishment of a stronger manufacturing structure through educational rearmament in regard to manufacturing will improve productivity, reduce loss, and facilitate energy saving. Thus, this is a mission for all manufacturers including SEI. Now is the time to provide basic technical education for all employees to solidify the internal structure and for SEI to be reborn as a stronger organization.
In addition to the basic training, we will also educate staff from the standpoint of international development to more actively develop personnel who can play major roles in the global community. Local staff from overseas affiliates have also been invited to Japan to participate in the training and have learned a lot. Furthermore, we plan to open TTC branches in foreign countries in the long term. We should now solidify our foundation through establishment of the manufacturing system and human resource development. The SEI Group will develop its unique manufacturing culture firmly and steadily.
We want to help our employees enhance motivation
Technical Training Center
Plant & Production Systems
Through active provision of information and other efforts, we are trying to create an environment where as many employees as possible are encouraged to participate in training at the TTC, which offers innovative facilities and programs. The effects of long-term training have actually been identified, as revealed by post-training comments from trainees such as "I had a chance to see the manufacturing field from a distance and think about it more objectively." It seems th at the training programs also help establish personnel and technical networks, which facilitate collection of information and creation of ideas.
In January 2009, the TTC started "3KP" training programs: Monozukuri KAKUSHIN Professional (MKP) Training Program to develop engineers who are to drive manufacturing innovation; the Genba Kaizen Professional (GKP) Training Program to develop key personnel who are to promote shop-floor improvement; and the KIBAN KYOHKA training Program (KKP) to reinforce the manufacturing fundamentals. These are hands-on training programs for the purpose of the Group's constitutional reinforcement of SEQCDD, that is, Safety, Environment, Quality, Cost, Delivery and Development. In MKP, for example, about 30 participants are selected from among engineers who have been working in the company for about 15 years and who are considered promising candidates for future positions of plant manager or manufacturing division chief, and they are trained on group-wide themes for up to two years. All themes in the program comprise significant challenges identified from the "inventory of problems" at our manufacturing sites.
Although the programs have been in operation for only six months, there have been positive results such as achievement of specific quantitative targets and elimination of defects. The expectations for the programs are being raised as manufacturing divisions are requesting their own challenges to be included in the programs.