The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983

The Concept: An OHV + Inclined Cylinder that Changed the World of General Purpose Engines

The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983

The Reality: Learning from Damaged Parts

Traveling upstream on the Menam (Chao Phraya) River past Bangkok reveals many "longtails" floating on Thailand's giant river. Longtails are small boats equipped with general purpose engines instead of outboard marine engines. This type of engine has a long propeller shaft that sticks out of the boat, resembling a dragonfly's tail. The boat is called a "longtail" because of this propeller shaft. Longtails are indispensable to the lives of people in Thailand, as well as to those in other developing nations in Southeast Asia. They are an important means of livelihood, facilitating transportation and fishing.

The Reality: Learning from Damaged Parts

The Honda ZE engine series, featuring OHV+inclined cylinders

"I found one! Let's go after that boat!"

Running ahead in the direction the voice had indicated was a longtail with an engine painted red and white. That particular color combination meant that it was an ME, the engine developed by Honda in 1977. The voice came from Yoshinobu Yamaguchi, who had been involved in the engine's testing. He and his colleagues wanted to verify how their engine was being used, and whether or not there were any problems regarding its real world use. They were chasing the boat ahead of them, searching for the kind of information they could not obtain simply by analyzing data in the cold environs of a distant office. They had managed to make time during their business trip in order to travel up the Menam, all the while hoping they would make contact with users and obtain some feedback.

General purpose engines are used in a number of ways, meaning one cannot develop a truly applicable product unless its conditions of use are understood. Therefore, the ME engine's notable success was largely attributable to the efforts of a development staff that had traveled the world identifying its requirements. They had the ability to see things and analyze them from the standpoint of engineering. For example, during a visit to a retailer the staff would go to the repair area and search the drums and other waste containers filled with damaged engine parts. It was a noisy process going through the parts, but in the process they could usually find worn cylinders and other clues. They would examine the oil deposits and find them to be filled with dust, proving there was a need to improve the air cleaner. In this way, every damaged part would tell its own story, often inferring a great deal about the harshness of use and the environment surrounding it. Ultimately, improvements would be made and ideas for new models proposed. This indeed symbolizes the Honda's principle of "focusing on real-world, on-site operations while facing up to the challenges inherent in reaching a goal."

"It didn't matter that we couldn't speak the language," said Yamaguchi. "As engineers we knew what kinds of data we'd need to apply in our workstations. We simply had to watch the users as they brought their products in for repair. That way we could find out more about the problems they'd been having."

Yamaguchi held firmly to the belief that such a strategy was of paramount importance in the development of reliable, high-performance products. Each time he went abroad, he would make time available in which to study the market. He would journey through the dry cattle lands of Australia, visit busy rental shops in America, and wade into the rice paddies of Thailand. The world market was to Yamaguchi the very soul of research, and knowing something of his customers and their lives kindled in him a sense of ambition. It was the desire to build an engine that would satisfy the needs of each customer who bought it.

The Challenging Spirit of Honda

1990 - 1999
  1. The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997
  2. Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994
  3. Odyssey / 1994Odyssey / 1994
  4. Establishment of Honda Taiyo, Kibo-no-Sato Honda and Honda R&D Taiyo / 1992Establishment of Honda Taiyo, Kibo-no-Sato Honda and Honda R&D Taiyo / 1992
  5. Hosting Hosting "Orei-no-kai" / 1991
  6. The NSX / 1990The NSX / 1990
1980 - 1989
  1. The VTEC Engine / 1989The VTEC Engine / 1989
  2. Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988
  3. An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988
  4. Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987
  5. The Airbag System / 1987The Airbag System / 1987
  6. The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983
  7. Formula One Entry / 1983Formula One Entry / 1983
  8. Development of Honda's Franz System Car / 1982Development of Honda's Franz System Car / 1982
  9. The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982
  10. Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981
  11. The Car Navigation System / 1981The Car Navigation System / 1981
  12. City / 1981City / 1981
  13. The F200 The F200 "Komame" Mini-Tiller / 1980
  14. Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980
1970 - 1979
  1. The Oval Piston Engine / 1979The Oval Piston Engine / 1979
  2. Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979
  3. The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978
  4. Creating Hometown Forests / 1977Creating Hometown Forests / 1977
  5. The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977
  6. Introducing the Accord / 1976Introducing the Accord / 1976
  7. CG125 / 1975CG125 / 1975
  8. Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974
  9. Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973
  10. Announcing the Civic / 1972Announcing the Civic / 1972
  11. Introducing the CVCC / 1972Introducing the CVCC / 1972
  12. Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970
  13. Launching the Office of Safe Driving Promotional Operations / 1970Launching the Office of Safe Driving Promotional Operations / 1970
1960 - 1969
  1. The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969
  2. Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968
  3. The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968
  4. Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966
  5. The E300 Portable Generator / 1965The E300 Portable Generator / 1965
  6. Formula One Entry / 1964Formula One Entry / 1964
  7. Kyoto: Celebrating the Company's 15th Anniversary / 1963Kyoto: Celebrating the Company's 15th Anniversary / 1963
  8. Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963
  9. Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962
  10. Employing the Employing the "My Record" Project and Expert Certification / 1960
  11. The R&D Center Goes Independent / 1960The R&D Center Goes Independent / 1960
1950 - 1959
  1. Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959

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