Training Lean Automation System Integrators through Collaboration between Japan and Thailand
DENSO has introduced lean automation in its conventional production processes. Lean automation is a highly efficient, automated production system that works to thoroughly eliminate waste within the production process. Leveraging our know-how on lean automation, we have commenced a demonstration project to train system integrators*1 in Thailand that will handle production equipment and FA devices.
Industry in Thailand
The industrial structure in Thailand is facing a crisis due to the declining workforce and soaring labor costs. As a result of these circumstances, it is essential for Japanese companies in Thailand, which have led the nation’s manufacturing industry, to improve productivity if they wish to survive. The key to doing so is transitioning from manufacturing performed by hand to manufacturing performed via highly sophisticated automated machinery.
In addition, efforts to transition to automated manufacturing have thus far been carried out by Japanese technicians, and the training of local technicians who can perform these tasks has become a major issue. The number of automated system integrators in Thailand that can plan, design, manufacture, introduce, and maintain automated systems (equipment, production lines, etc.) is extremely limited. It is therefore important to consider how to train and increase these integrators going forward.
By developing and strengthening lean automation system integrators (hereinafter, LASI), we will popularize Japanese-style lean automation in Thailand and enhance the competitiveness of Thai companies. Through these efforts, we will boost the quality of automated engineering in Thailand.
Additionally, for the demonstration project we are currently undertaking, we have established a consortium under the support of the Ministry of Industry in Thailand that includes the National Innovation Agency of the Ministry of Science and Technology of Thailand, five universities and one education facility in Thailand, seven local system integration companies, Nomura Research Institute, Ltd., and LEXER RESEARCH Inc. This consortium allows us to realize industry–government–academia collaboration, which provides us with a strong driving force as we push forward with our aim to promote and establish LASI over the medium to long term.
Establishing an Open Training Center
DENSO has established an open training center in the Thai Ministry of Industry Building, where aspiring engineers can systematically study lean automation. The center is equipped with classrooms for lectures and production equipment for hands-on learning, offering students a practical learning experience. Also, the latest automated devices and information systems have been installed as part of the center’s production equipment. This allows students to not only gain an understanding about past approaches to lean automation, it also allows them to observe and study the latest automated and information technologies. Additionally, the center works to spread knowledge on lean automation technologies among relevant parties in the Thai manufacturing industry and improve convenience levels for users of these technologies. At the same time, the center aims to provide benefits to the many Japanese industrial equipment manufacturers in Thailand. To this end, the center maintains an open approach and refrains from using equipment and devices of only one specific company.
Developing LASI Educational Programs and Curriculum
To give students an opportunity to learn everything from the basic approach to lean automation, as well as the specific processes involved in lean automation, we have developed educational programs comprising 11 courses that involve a combined 120 hours of classroom and practical learning. To develop these programs, in addition to systematically organizing our long-cultivated expertise, we collaborated with educational institutions and universities in Thailand over the course of six months. By not only introducing educational materials from Japan but also offering educational processes created together with Thai citizens, these programs work to smoothly carry out the transfer of technologies and expand the activities of engineers. The programs’ curriculum content comprises courses on the basic approach to lean automation as well as hands-on courses to gain practical skill using actual automation equipment, thereby deepening student understanding. In this curriculum, students engage in comprehensive improvement activities, which involve analyzing equipment and discovering issues on their own and giving consideration on how to apply design to address issues. In this way, these programs enable systematic study of lean automation.
Overview of Curriculum
Manufacturing system introduction
Lean Manufacturing Lecture
Lean Manufacturing practice
System design for Lean Automation
TPM Lecture (Total Productive Maintenance)
Robot operation practice for Lean Automation
Automation electric circuit design practice (PLC)
Production system simulator practice
Machine simulator practice
Conducting LASI Educational Activities
We conduct LASI educational activities in an open atmosphere with a focus on actively developing and promoting lean automation in Thailand in the future. From the period between April and December 2018, we will have conducted three educational courses that span over approximately three months. Furthermore, upon completing the demonstration project, we will smoothly transfer the authority over LASI education to local staff in Thailand who will continue these activities. To ensure the successful transition of this authority, we are collaborating closely with relevant government agencies in Thailand in the implementation and management of these educational activities.
Cultivating Educational Trainers
With the aim of achieving autonomous LASI development in Thailand over the medium to long term, we are actively cultivating Thai educational trainers. A total of 14 trainers are necessary to properly implement LASI educational activities. As of this year, seven Japanese staff and seven Thai staff have been managing these activities. However, by 2019, we aim to raise the number of Thai staff to 10 and will continue to cultivate local trainers as we gradually transfer the authority over these activities to those in Thailand.
Response to Our Activities in Thailand
The educational efforts we have been pursuing in Thailand have garnered a high level of local interest and praise.
At the request of the Ministry of Industry in Thailand, we held an exhibition at Thailand Industry Expo 2018, hosted by the Ministry of Industry. At the event, the cabinet minister of the Ministry of Industry explained to the Thai prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha , how DENSO’s approach to lean automation will provide the pillar for automation.
Also, in July 2018 the Thai deputy prime minister, Somkid Jatusripitak, visited our Nishio Plant. A Thai newspaper introduced the deputy prime minister’s visit as “Denso preaches appreciation of robots,” reflecting the rising expectations that Thailand has of DENSO.
Through this demonstration project, we will cultivate local system integrators with practical skills. By doing so, we will strengthen the competitiveness of the automated domain in Thailand and contribute to the accelerated promotion of automation in the Thai manufacturing industry. In addition, by promoting the widespread use of Japanese-style lean automation, we will aim to establish Japanese-style manufacturing as a brand and expand the businesses of Japanese industrial equipment manufacturers, including small to medium-sized manufacturers.