Case Studies

Komatsu’s “Mother Factory” Mission – The Pursuit of Quality with FARO 3D Measurement Instruments

Komatsu’s “Mother Factory” Mission – The Pursuit of Quality with FARO 3D Measurement Instruments

A first-generation bulldozer at Komatsu’s plant in Osaka

In the city of Hirakata, Osaka sits a large factory compound that is owned and operated by Komatsu. This is the manufacturing base of Komatsu Ltd. — Japan’s largest, and the world’s second largest integrated manufacturer of construction and mining equipment. It is in this particular plant in Osaka that Komatsu produces its large bulldozers, medium- and large-sized hydraulic excavators, and resource recycling machinery.

In recent years, Komatsu started to really focus on marketing its hybrid hydraulic excavators. This product line has made significant contributions towards environmental conservation in the community. In addition, Komatsu constantly strives to deliver the best quality in its products, truly living up to the company’s philosophy of “Quality and Reliability”.

Mr Toda Tetsuo, Inspection Planning Manager from the Quality Assurance Department, explained, “Our plant in Osaka is what we term Komatsu’s ‘Mother Factory’, and it is committed in delivering quality products through a rigorous standardization process.”

Role of Osaka factory

Komatsu’s plant in Osaka is referred to as the “mother factory” as it consolidates the numerous overseas subsidiaries and domestic partner companies. More specifically, the mother factory is responsible for the design and build of Komatsu products, standardizing the specifications and manufacturing conditions at the point of origin.

This enables each Komatsu plant the ability to manufacture all the company’s products in the same exact manner, regardless of where the plant is geographically located. So while Komatsu parts and products have been carefully crafted in Japan, they can be manufactured anywhere else in the world, and this is made possible by replicating the exact specifications, manufacturing conditions, and maintaining the same high quality levels that are set out in the mother factory in Japan.

With standardized inspection criteria of such a high demand put in place, it was necessary to ensure that measurements across the various plants were also consistent. Komatsu needed a highly precise and dependable instrument that would help uphold its promise of “Quality and Reliability” to its customers.

Komatsu Osaka 2

Two FARO Laser Trackers and a FaroArm ready to take measurements in tandem, directly on the shop floor

Introduction of a sophisticated metrology system

When asked about the qualities Komatsu looked for in a measurement tool, Mr Toda noted, “Portability, high accuracy and user friendliness ranked high on our list.” The company was initially introduced to a portable three-dimensional (3D) measuring equipment from another manufacturer. However, the instrument’s features and functions fell short of Komatsu’s expectations in measuring certain components and products. The inability to give satisfactory results prompted a more thorough search.

Komatsu Osaka 3

Taking precise measurements of small components with the FaroArm

In a chance encounter at a vendor’s factory, Mr Toda saw the FARO Laser Tracker in action. He recalled exclaiming, “This is the ideal instrument I’ve been searching for! The Laser Tracker was capable of measuring complex and large-sized components, which the previous device could not deal with.”

In addition, it was possible to combine the Laser Tracker with another FARO product – the FaroArm – to take more detailed measurements in the same seating. “Perfect measurement was now possible with FARO’s systems, as the Laser Tracker measured large components while the FaroArm measured the more refined areas,” described Mr Toda.

At the moment, Komatsu owns four units of FARO Laser Tracker and three units of FaroArm, all of which are in near 100% capacity operation every day.

Convenience & data reliability

According to Mr Toda, one of the key reasons to why Komatsu chose FARO is its widespread acceptance in the global market. As such, FARO systems have also been well-deployed in China and America. This offers great convenience to Komatsu staff, especially for those who travel with their laptops, as they can now measure parts and components from one location to another with confidence of receiving reliable data every time.

Furthermore, numerous domestic partner companies in Japan have actively adopted FARO’s 3D systems under Komatsu’s influence and leadership. In fact, a marked improvement in data reliability has already been noted as different companies use the same equipment with the same calibration and accuracy. This gives rise to a greater willingness to trust each other’s measurement results. Overall, the wide adoption of FARO’s systems has truly contributed along Komatsu’s supply chain to the achievement of better quality products.

Komatsu Osaka 4

Inspecting a large component with a FARO Laser Tracker

Measuring with the future in mind

At Komatsu’s Osaka plant, the FaroArm is placed in a training facility known as “Takumi Kobo, the workshop”. This allows every one of Komatsu’s staff the access to learn how to use the measurement equipment, regardless of one’s portfolio at work. The purpose is to instil an interest in staff members to pick up an additional skill, in line with Komatsu’s human resource philosophy that it doesn’t harm to learn something outside of their job scope. By encouraging its entire staff to pick up the skill, regardless of gender or age, Komatsu hopes to guarantee knowledge continuity and succession to future generations of employees.

However, accurate measurement is just a means to an end. It is more important to understand the preparation to effectively measure objects, how objects should be positioned and measured to gather the required data, as well as how to analyze the results to improve quality.

Mr Toda revealed, “Now, the overall measurement time has been reduced by almost half. To further shorten the time required in future, we will have to put more effort into training our staff, aside from improving on measurement methods and preparation.”

It is evident that Komatsu Osaka’s efforts to function as the “mother factory” has paid off. The Komatsu group managed to strengthen bonds with its partners locally and globally under its guiding spirit, and also uphold its quality and reliability. This is yet another example of Komatsu’s relentless pursuit of ‘Quality’.

About Komatsu Osaka

Established in 1921, Komatsu Ltd. is the world’s second largest, and Japan’s largest integrated manufacturer of construction and mining equipment.

The Osaka plant is where Komatsu’s large bulldozers, medium and large sized hydraulic excavators and resource recycling machinery are produced.

For more information, please visit www.komatsu.com

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