BE: Establishing the Production Preparation System

<< 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 debuted its new CVCC engine in February 1971, using an innovative low emissions technology as a springboard into the global spotlight. In those days, growing public concern with regard to safety and air pollution had forced automobile manufacturers to look beyond high performance and quality. To survive, it would be essential to provide a diverse line of cars designed to meet the needs of individual consumers.

Amid all this, Sayama Factory implemented an organizational change in September of the same year. The factory’s Second Plant (the former Third Plant renamed after the Honda Manufacturing Machinery spin-off) transferred to the First Plant its mass-production functions for plastics work such as stamping, molding and casting. It then integrated its pre-production functions—primarily molding, design, and die production—with PG (which had successfully completed the Life launch) and restarted it as the Body Engineering Plant, or BE (Body Engineering).

BE’s numerous responsibilities included the development of original technologies regarding body-contour reproduction, along with the design and production of dies. Moreover, BE was to collaborate with engineering groups specializing in body production as well as with Honda Manufacturing Machinery, which was responsible for the design and production of welding machines and fixtures (jigs with welding functions). Thus, it was believed that all Honda factories would receive assistance with body production. Therefore, in order to enhance Honda's production structure in all areas of body production, and increase the company's competitiveness, BE took an active role in engineering development. The group even established a system whereby Honda factories could prepare for the production launch of a new model concurrently with product development at Honda R&D. lt was a very close relationship with the factories that established BE as a critical force in production quality.

The system of production preparation established by BE targeted the following requirements:

[1]A shorter lead-time from pre-production through production
[2]Assurance of both productivity and product performance
[3]Fewer initial problems at the start of mass production
[4]Minimized startup costs and losses
[5]Lower per-model investment in production facilities

These rather lofty goals meant that BE would have to work with Honda R&D,and that anticipated engineering problems would have to be settled prior to mass production. The creation of prototypes was one such method.Furthermore, BE collaborated with Honda's production departments in resolving issues arising from inappropriate production structures. The group proposed new systems of production, supplied dies, welding jigs, and machine equipment, and verified in detail whether or not the target requirements were being met.

BE also established a miniature line inside the plant to conduct trial mass production using the dies and welding facilities that it had already approved for delivery to the various production departments. These trial runs, with participation by the leaders of actual production processes, were intended to familiarize production personnel with the new facilities and help create the manuals needed for production and maintenance, thereby ensuring mass production without any significant problems.

The production preparation system was now in place, and the factory managers and Honda Motor's director in charge turned their attention to the evaluation meetings. These were held at each stage leading to mass production. Through such efforts, the factories' operational structures regarding body production continued to improve,resulting in progressive quality improvements for each succeeding model. Sometimes the improvement effort even led to drastic reforms.

True to its name, BE came to play a critical role in Honda's activities as a car maker. With its wide-ranging expertise, the Body Engineering group brought new methods into play for the enhancement of overall product quality

While the system of preparations for body production was being established, a similar program was under way with regard to engine production. At Saitama Factory in particular, a number of special engineering groups had been put together. Comprising experts in various aspects of engine design,these group worked on development in areas such as heat-treating, forging/casting, die-casting, machine processing and assembly.

With reagard to the machine processing of engine parts, the Machine Processing Group was responsible for the development of processing methods and design of production lines. Through a series of reviews conducted wiht the R&D Center covering productivity and drawing specifications, and in close coordination with the factory's Manufacturing Machinery Division in charge of equipment design and production, the Machine Proscessing Group took the lead in preparations. In the process of implementing production preparations for new models, the group was sometimes referred to as EE(Engine Engineering), as opposed to BE. Moreover, EE became a collective reference to the Machine Processing Group and Honda Manufacturing Machinery.

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