Ensuring Honda's Production Competitiveness

<< 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

EG's role would be to ensure Honda's production competitiveness by proposing plans for production lines and processing methods based on the results and expretise that it has accumulated through research and development, and demonstrating ther effectiveness by supplying appropriate dies and machining equipment.

EG has also been instrumental in its collaborative effort with Honda R&D. In addition to proposing productivity improvements in the drawing stage, EG has cooperated in the development of product structures and functional parts, when required as part of Honda's production strategies, by applying its expertise in production engineering. Such efforts have been implemented in the various aspects of Honda products, adding to their perfomance.

A quality front wheel-drive system is the key selling feature in Honda automobiles. In earlier days these front wheel-drive systems incorporated as a key component the constant-velocity(CV) joins manufactured by the domestic supplier T, which was doing business with Honda at the time. However, these joints were being produced under a patent license held by a British company. Therefore, as the use of front-wheel drive spread throughout the Honda line of compact cars, production volume and cost were subjected to the limitations of T's production capacity.

Accordingly, Honda was assisting T in producing constant velocity joints by supplying cold-forged parts from the Wako Plant in Saitama. However, that soon proved insufficient, so the company decided to broaden its support from material parts to machine processing and final assembly. Moreover, it assigned EG the task of overseeing production. As a result of its involvement, EG developed Honda's original constant-velocity joints, the SBJ and EGI(straight bell joint and EG inboard joint). Originating from the cold-forging technology EG had accrued over the years through Saitama Factory operations, the new joints proved highly functional. Moreover, they relieved Honda of any concern over a possible patent infringement. Honda was thus able to manufacture constant-velocity joints needed for all of its automobiles at Saitama Factory's Mohka plant (currently the Tochigi Factory's Mohka plant).

Honda's ultragrinding technology, too, was a result of the effort to develop a new constant-velocity joint. This method increased the grinding capacity with regard to shaft components to a level three times that of a conventional device. Therefore, at a time when Honda's overall production was growing, the ultragrinding technology prevented an additional investment. Furthermore, the existing machines could be modified to perform the process, resulting in increased processing volume. This technology produced a dramatic savings in facilities investment and space, particularly with regard to cam grinding and grinding of valve systems, which were made of materials that would otherwise have been difficult to grind.

The Honda Reisshauer Gear Grinding Machines, which were not achieving the necessary productivity, were upgraded to the ultragrinding specification and reintroduced to the mass production lines for drive gears and driven gears alike. Moreover, the expanded use of geargrinding machines in mass production led to the development of Honda's original ultra gear-grinding machine, offering considerably greater production efficiency.
lncorporating the ultragrinding technology, the new gear machine was the first such device to adopt the non-stop automatic synchronous method. This permitted the operator to install and remove workpieces without having to stop the machine. The invention brought forth significant improvements in productivity, providing higher grinding capacity and reducing the cycle time. lt also contributed to higher product performance by reducing the level of noise from the engine gears.

Honda's ultragrinding technology, in addition to engine-part processing for shaft parts and gears, was applied to a wide range of areas. For example, it was adated to the new manufacturing method (new 3P tank method) Honda had developed for motorcycle fuel tanks, and was incorporated in the ultrasanders used in the finishing of in-house production dies. lndeed, the true benefit of this technology was far greater than anyone could have expected originally. Ultimately it led to the establishment of EG's Kawagoe Plant, which was built to meet the growing demand for precision grinding stones employed in this method.

Honda's product develoment in the area of autobodies was deeply influenced by the company's plastic technology, which the comany had nurtured since its days as a dedicated motorcycle manufacturer. The newly developed plastic parts, including bumpers, gave Honda a serious advantage over its competitors in the world of car design. This difference in approach and perspective led the company to develop an innovative manufacturing method-known as "Padded lnstrument Panel Manufacturing" -which was applied to the crush pad of the instrument panel. A panel made through this method was incorporated in the new Prelude, which went into production in November1978. It achieved that essential combination of productivity and performance, eventually becoming the mainstream method for the production of instrument panel crush pads.

Stamping technology is another key Honda innovation,having given birth to the company's original body structure based on large panels. Thus, after introducing automated machines to the production process and shortening the time needed for die changes and setup, Honda dramaticlly improved stamping productivity in the early 1980s by extensively reducing the number of necessary steps. At least one was eliminated for all parts, and in some cases up to four more were cut out. Honda has since become the industry leader in press technology, with a key development being a transfer press capable of exchanging dies with tandem lines and producing parts using multicavity dies.

EG has played a significant role in Honda's various production strategies, helping the company increase its production competitiveness by providing production facilities with the state of the art engineering equipment have brought forth numerous inventions, including an innovative, high-speed module machine. This device achieved both productivity and flexibility in the processing of modular engine components, resulting in the world's smallest welding assembly line. These technologies, having been a driving force behind the company's production competitiveness, have earned praise and recognition throughout the world of auto manufacturing.
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