Honda Manufacturing Machinery: A Separate Entity

<< 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 separated Sayama Factory’s Second Plant and established Honda Manufacturing Machinery Co., Ltd., on September 1, 1970.

Manufacturing Machinery was intended to serve as the company’s corporate pre-production division, looking after the needs of every Honda factory. Organized as an autonomous body in charge of engineering development, Honda Manufacturing Machinery worked to create innovative production techniques based on original ideas with the support of acknowledged experts. In fact, Mr. Honda was the company’s first president. As an independent entity Honda Manufacturing Machinery expanded its original function of developing and supplying production facilities for exclusive use by Honda factories. To ensure that these factories had ample supplies of low-cost, high-quality parts, the company also began selling and leasing dedicated production machines and general-purpose machines to its associate suppliers. Moreover, such machines were sold to general customers.

“Honda Manufacturing Machinery was established as an independent company so that it could create new processing methods based on free thinking and develop useful machinery incorporating those methods,” said Kiyoshi Kawashima, then the senior managing director of Honda Motor. “We also wanted the company to become a full-fledged manufacturer of dedicated production machines, which it will sell to customers outside the Honda organization.

“Looking into the future, we didn’t want the company to remain simply a manufacturer of machine tools. The underlying concept was that it would eventually provide ‘engineering services.’ By that I mean the integrated services that combined the processing methods and production technologies it had developed.”

The role of Honda Manufacturing Machinery expanded in keeping with Honda’s growing activities in car production. It developed automatic jig-changing mechanisms for general automotive welding machines in December, following its establishment, and designed general welding (GW) jigs for small-volume production in time for production of the Life stepvan derivative model. Moreover, it assisted with the launch of the Civic van by developing swing-type general welders.

In addition to these innovations, Honda Manufacturing Machinery was a tireless researcher of new production engineering systems. Early in the fall of 1972, the company carried out production engineering surveys targeting key industries in the U.S. and Europe. More than forty companies took part, including car makers, machine-tool manufacturers, makers of measurement devices and makers of fuel-injection systems. Even think tanks and computer companies were involved.

In the U.S., the staff visited one of the country’s leading machine-tool manufacturers in order to study the operation of their large-scale flexible line, which encompassed a number of NC machines. At the new assembly plant of an internationally renowned automobile manufacturer, they studied industrial robots in operation.

In Japan, research into robotics began in 1967 when the U.S. company AMF (American Machine & Foundry) introduced a robot called “Versatran.” Then, within three years robotics had entered the Japanese auto industry. In February 1973, Honda Manufacturing Machinery developed its original HRB600 robot, initiating Honda’s research in that emerging field. With that, Honda Manufacturing Machinery set forth on a quest for new production technologies.
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