A Growing Mission To Teach

Dec. 21, 2004
Teruyuki (Terry) Yamazaki believes today's machine tool buyers expect -- and get -- accuracy and outstanding performance. The challenge, he says, is to demonstrate the additional benefits available from the latest metal-cutting technology.

For more than a half century the machine tool and architectural passions of Teruyuki (Terry) Yamazaki coexisted separately -- neatly compartmentalized. During the business day he managed the family business -- the billion dollar global Yamazaki Mazak Corp., a world leader in machine tools. But in spare moments his attention was (and is) always drawn to other painstaking examples of craftsmanship, traditional Japanese architecture. Today machine tool technology is connecting those passions, not only for Yamazaki, who is now chairman and CEO, but for his customers as well. Buyers of machine tools are discovering how their efficiency, productivity and capability can shrink the architectural floor plan of a manufacturing facility. Evolving multitasking capabilities enable one machine to perform tasks that conventionally would require two, three or more. In addition, information technology is literally transforming machine tools into part-making computer terminals. Visitors to Japan can see Yamazaki's dedication to classical architecture at the Yamazaki Mazak Tearoom and Rest House located in a national park close to the city of Inuyama and the Kiso River in the Aichi prefecture. Yamazaki says his five-year restoration was inspired by a reading of "A Collection of Sukiya Houses," by professor Masao Nakamura. The classically styled Sukiya structures exemplify the principles of "wabi," an aesthetic value that has been a part of Japanese culture since the medieval period. The many rooms are rich in variety, and the combination of crafts and materials exhibit many of the elements of traditional Japanese architecture. Visitors don't have to go to Japan to view the implications of Mazak's evolving machine tool technology. The latest concepts can be seen on its production floors in the U.S. and England as well as Asia. Yamazaki continuously updates each of the company's production facilities to serve as demonstration sites. The idea is to show the strategic benefits of the latest technologies and tools at work, he says. "Our vision is to lead the way in proposing new ideas and approaches to customers." In addition to three manufacturing sites in Japan, the company has plants in the U.S., Europe, Singapore and China. More than 70% of its revenue comes from outside of Japan. Yamazaki calls his upgraded facilities Cyber Factories. Whether at the Oguchi headquarters plant near Nagoya, Japan, or at the Florence, Ky., facility, the technology emphasis is the same: a melding of the latest and best of the digital world with machine tools that have grown in functionality to perform multiple tasks that once required separate, dedicated machines. The Oguchi Cyber Factory in Japan opened in 1999 at a cost of $60 million. Then in the fall of 2000 the Florence, Ky., facility was transformed into a Cyber Factory during a $20 million renovation. That plant, opened in 1974, manufactures 29 models of machine tools belonging to four Mazak product groups. That line-up includes turning centers, horizontal and vertical machining centers, multi-tasking equipment and CNC lathes. The Cyber Factory transformation marks the 11th major update of the Florence, Ky., plant. The Florence facility serves as an example of how available technology can consolidate more productive capability and capacity into fewer machines. For example, one 52-pallet Mazak Palletech Cell with three Mazak FH-6800 horizontal machining centers replaced six machining centers. The task: producing small to medium-sized prismatic parts. Also an eight-machine flexible manufacturing system (FMS) has been replaced with four Mazak FH-8600 machining centers installed in a 144-pallet FMS. Last summer Mazak added six new Integrex multi-tasking machines that start with the raw material and produce the finished part in one step. The machining cells and FMS are able to run 24 hours a day with one shift unattended. All production machines are wirelessly networked. An intranet links the engineering, sales, production and administration departments. Off-site access to information is possible via a secure Internet connection. In addition to customer visits, the Kentucky plant continues to be benchmarked by engineering organizations says Florence-based Brian Papke, president, Mazak Corp., the North American subsidiary. Accumulated awards include the SME Award of Excellence, the Agility Forum Citation for Best Agile Practices and the Philip B. Crosby Global Competition Award from the American Society for Competitiveness. Papke believes that the continual updating of the Florence facility has strategic payoffs that go beyond monitoring, improving and demonstrating products for customers. "Our own growth is directly tied to our involvement with the latest manufacturing concepts." Founding Father Yamazaki's drive to demonstrate the broadening strategic implications of machine tool technology derives from an inherited vision. His father, Sadakichi Yamazaki, started the Yamazaki Works in 1919. The first machines were Tatami (straw mat) weaving machines followed by woodworking equipment. Limited production of machine tools for internal use started in 1927. By the time Terry was born in 1928, the company produced virtually all the machine tools it used internally and began to market them. Terry began working at the company in 1947 after leaving university life. "My [first] job was producing woodworking machinery parts on a lathe." He also repaired machine tools made by European and American manufacturers. Impressed by the quality he observed, a goal was set -- "a dream to produce equipment of similar high standards." The company entered the U.S. market in 1968; six years after Terry became president following his father's death in 1962. TRW became the recipient of the first numerically controlled machine tool (a turning center) made in Japan and exported to the U.S. Terry notes that the company's initial innovation was a price advantage, but that quickly transitioned to technology advancements in hardware and software. He contends that advancements in production equipment need to be considered before making decisions to site manufacturing operations based on labor rates. "With modern production equipment, it is possible to compete with China." He notes that if labor rates were so significant an issue, the company would not have established plants in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. In both instances, he says modern manufacturing technology was able to compensate. "The labor issue can be a trap for managements. As equipment makers, our duty is to get people to understand that the technology is available." To leverage technology's potential, Mazak is widening its product scope and pursuing system integration activities. The goal: becoming a universal supplier of manufacturing technology.

A History Of Yamazaki Mazak
1919 Nagoya, Japan, is selected by Teruyuki's father, Sadakichi Yamazaki, as the site for the Yamazaki Works startup.
1928 Teruyuki (Terry) Yamazaki is born.
1947 Terry leaves the university to work at Yamazaki Works.
1962 Terry becomes president following the death of Sadakichi Yamazaki.
1963 Yamazaki Works begins exporting general-purpose lathes to the U.S.
1968 The company makes its first numerically controlled (NC) lathe.
1969 NC lathe exports to the U.S begin.
1974 The Florence, Ky., plant is completed.
1981 A "lights out" (unmanned) manufacturing system is installed at the Oguchi plant in Japan. Mazatrol CNC is introduced.
1982 The facility at Minokamo, Japan, starts operation.
1985 Legal name changed to Yamazaki Mazak Corp.
1986 Plant at Worcester, UK, completed.
1992 Singapore plant completed.
1998 Cyber Factory is implemented at Oguchi.
1999 Plant opened at joint venture in China.
2001 Terry becomes chairman and CEO and eldest son Tomohisa (Tom) Yamazaki is named COO and president.
2002 The next generation multi-tasking machine, the INTEGREX e series, is shown at IMTS.

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