Creating parts from scratch to gain insights into factory automation

In the age of automation, manufacturers are getting further and further away from the manufacturing process and relying on machines and computers to produce their products. Toyota is trying to bring itself closer to the production process in order to better understand their production needs.

Inside Toyota Motor Corp.’s oldest plant, there’s a corner where humans have taken over from robots in thwacking glowing lumps of metal into crankshafts. This is Mitsuru Kawai’s vision of the future.

Toyota’s next step forward is counterintuitive in an age of automation: Humans are taking the place of machines in plants across Japan so workers can develop new skills and figure out ways to improve production lines and the car-building process.

The idea is that by using machines to automate production tasks, there is separation from the manufacturing process which can keep it from changing or evolving as needs or technologies change.

“Fully automated machines don’t evolve on their own,” said Takahiro Fujimoto, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Manufacturing Management Research Center. “Mechanization itself doesn’t harm, but sticking to a specific mechanization may lead to omission of kaizen and improvement.”

By becoming more familiar with the manual processes of production, Toyota believes their overall manufacturing process can become more efficient and create higher quality products. Going back to basics could be the key to a better automation process.

Read more about going back to basics in manufacturing.

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