New Model Production: Project Teams in Transition

<< 1. Becoming a World-class Manufacturer
<< 2. Manufacturing Machinery: A Factory Comes to Life
<< 3. Sayama Factory Starts Up: Establishing a System for Car Production
<< 4. The N360 Prepares to Launch
<< 5. The Challenge: New Technologies in Body Production
<< 6. New Model Production: Project Teams in Transition
<< 7. Honda Manufacturing Machinery: A Separate Entity
<< 8. BE:Establishing the Production Preparation System
<< 9. Honda Engineering:Toward the New Era
<< 10. Ensuring Honda'sProduction Competitiveness

Honda’s new N360 mini passenger car was introduced in March 1967. A result of diligent efforts to overcome production-related problems, the N360 was nevertheless well received for its performance and affordable price. In fact, it was an immediate success, topping the list of highest-selling mini cars in registration units just three months after its market launch.

That April, Honda formed the Automotive Special Planning Office, the responsibility of which was to oversee the construction of Suzuka Factory’s automobile plant and prepare for production of the TN360 mini truck. Experts from different fields of engineering were assembled from the production departments and assigned to the Special Planning Office, where preproduction operations promptly got underway. Plant construction moved along at an amazing pace, and in October—just five months after completion of the plant—the TN360 went into production.

The next year, 1968, saw preparations for the production of the H1300 compact passenger car at Suzuka, augmenting the TN line operating at its automobile plant. The H1300 was Honda’s first passenger model in that category of size and displacement. Boasting a world’s-first—Honda’s original “Duo Dyna Air Cooling”(DDAC) technology—the H1300 had been developed under the direct supervision of Mr. Honda. Actually a high-performance sedan, the car’s performance figures of 175 km and output of 96 horsepower were far beyond anything it its class.

Production of the H1300 engine had been planned mainly by the staff in charge of machine processing at Saitama Factory, where other auto engines were being manufactured. The Saitama staff held numerous discussions with the R&D Center concerning productivity and drawing specifications, in order to determine the design of the machine processing line and outline facilities planning for necessary engine parts. Preparations were carried out in coordination with personnel from Suzuka Factory and Sayama Factory’s Second Plant. Production of the H1300 got under way at Suzuka Factory in May 1969.

The H1300, though, because subject to numerous design changes, even after it had entered the production line. Therefore, to assist the factory with the initial startup, the R&D Center stationed a group of personnel at Suzuka. Staying at the factory over a prolonged period, the group worked to implement these changes. The factory operated the line 24 hours a day, through constant changes, in order to meet the production requirements.

Concurrently, a project team consisting of experts from various fields was put together at Suzuka Factory that June, in order to oversee production preparations for the next model, the Z360. From an office inside Sayama Factory that team, known as PG, worked to promote close communication with the R&D Center, as well as Sayama Factory’s pre-production personnel in charge of manufacturing machinery and metal casting. During the process of production preparation, PG conducted reviews of productivity, production-line design, facilities planning, investments, and costs. Soon, mass-production trials got under way to ensure that the Z360 would launch without a problem. However, without warning, when preparations were in their final stage, Honda decided to move the production to Sayama Factory. The reasons for the decision included the types of models then being manufactured at Sayama and Suzuka.

Honda had always approached pre-production by assembling a project team at the factory where its new model was to be built. The company had done so with the Vehicle Body Development Center, N360 Special Planning Office and TN360 Automobile Special Planning Office. However, this made it hard to maintain continuity between projects and accumulate all the expertise needed to ensure smooth model launches. Accordingly, there was a need to establish a management group that could utilize the expertise of engineers from specific fields. PG was formed as a means of addressing such problems.

Honda established production engineering groups, called HTGs (Honda technical groups), at each factory in August 1970.

The purpose of the HTGs was to draw upon the resources of expert engineers whom Honda was fostering under its Certification System (introduced in 1968), and promote their collaborative efforts with the product-development side. This method was intended to create new production systems by introducing advanced production facilities and methods. HTG projects, many of which were promoted under Mr. Honda’s direct supervision, produced results in several fields. However, the HTGs were dissolved in December 1973, subsequent to the establishment of a new engineering division. Their responsibilities were transferred to the new division, and the engineers returned to their original positions.
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