Marketing of technology.
Our report last month on the remarkable results of our June survey of manufacturing engineers, shows a lot of you are excited about the challenge of applying technically advanced methods to your shop operations. Many of you have a good understanding of how competitive pressures in the marketplace must be met by innovative production processes in the factory. But this assumes that management will agree that new approaches are needed and will be willing to pay for implementing them.
On the downside, some of your comments reflected management's reluctance to use manufacturing engineers' talents to upgrade operations. Many managers lack the foresight to make such investments, preferring instead to waste ME's training on putting out production fires and patching up old machines. In spite of what's been said on the subject of computerization to achieve production efficiencies, it's amazing that this struggle continues in so many shops.
I recall a conversation I had some time ago with Teruyuki Yamazaki, Chairman and President of Yamazaki Mazak Corp, gaining some insight into a philosophy that combines technology and marketing into a successful approach to the business of manufacturing. This philosophy might be considered selfserving because the company makes and sells machine tools. However, it is significant that the company has invested heavily over the years in upgrading its machine-tool building operations.
Mazak was an early advocate and practitioner of factory automation. You might say they practice what they preach, when you consider that their Florence, KY plant alone has been expanded seven times since it was built in 1974, growing from 16,900 sq ft to 368,000 sq ft by mid-1988. Plans for an eighth expansion are underway, and will reportedly include more advanced technology than do highly automated sister plants in Japan and England.
What Mr Yamazaki says, basically, is to pay careful attention to what customers want; what the market will demand in the future. Then apply technological resources to designing products to fill those needs. That could be taken as a good universal philosophy to follow when making and selling any manufactured product. Technological developments are used as a part of marketing strategy to create demand, instead of being forced into product design changes as result of new customer demands.
Yamazaki points out that a manufacturer must look upon his investment in capital equipment as a primary way to make money. Profit must be the motive behind buying machine tools (or any production equipment). The user should ask himself whether an investment in new technology will improve productive output he is getting with present technology. There has to be a payback.
It is his contention that an investment in capital equipment should be depreciated in five years, based on a three-shift operation. After that, old equipment should be sold and new, more technologically advanced machines that will offer a productivity advantage over the old should be considered.
It sounds so simple. Who could object? Yet, the comments that we received from many of you through our survey say that this reluctance to invest in advanced technologies is a problem holding many companies back from realizing their full potential while losing market share. It seems to us that manufacturing engineering has to convince management to make a commitment to invest in production equipment on the basis of profits to be made. That's the challenge of manufacturing engineering.
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|Title Annotation:||profitable application of automation in manufacturing|
|Publication:||Tooling & Production|
|Date:||Oct 1, 1989|
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