Yamazaki Mazak vice president on the future of manufacturing

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has had a profound impact on tech companies worldwide so far; Mr Takaishi Yamazaki explains what new technology change he expects to have the biggest impact on manufacturing in the future.


Takaishi Yamazaki (second from left) at the EMO in Hanover in 2017.

Yamazaki Mazak was established in Japan in 1919 and has been contributing to the development of the machine tool industry as a leading global company.

The corporation manufactures not only advanced machine tools such as multi-tasking centres, CNC turning centres, machining centres and laser processing machines but also automation systems with the concept of ‘Done in One’ to support global manufacturing by providing exceptional productivity and versatility.

Yamazaki Mazak’s only European manufacturing plant in Worcester, UK, is not just a machine tool assembly plant. The factory manages complete operations, from machining castings to making spindles, turrets, tool magazines and sheet metal covers.

With the Worcester factory, Yamazaki Mazak has committed to manufacturing in Europe, and has continually invested in new machinery and equipment since its opening in 1987.

In a UK exclusive, The Manufacturer spoke with Mr Takaishi Yamazaki, vice president at Yamazaki Mazak Corporation, about how the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are affecting his company.

Manufacturing is changing (Fourth Industrial Revolution) – how is your company changing?

We have enjoyed a strong reputation in the industry for being at the forefront of manufacturing systems development.

Initially, we were a pioneer in the design of Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS) and when we invested in UK manufacturing in 1987, we implemented the first real FMS system for machining components.Then, we went on to employ advanced monitoring of the production system using our Cyber Factory concepts.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is allowing us to take these concepts to another level, by utilising additional sensor technology we can capture large amounts of data. Yamazaki Mazak has developed interfaces and the Mazak iSmart Box to ensure that the data is secure and protects other data systems in the factory from virus or attack. We also use the iSmart Box to manage data so that we only sample data at the frequency we need for our analysis.

Now, we have two iSmart Factories in operation, one in Japan and one in the United States, and we are starting to implement the new concepts in our UK factory.

We expect to achieve higher levels of utilisation and productivity than we achieved in our original “Cyber Factories” plus we will have additional benefits of predictive and preventive maintenance intelligence built in through the analysis of big data trends.

So, this is what we are doing in our own organisation, however the good news for SME’s is that these systems are developed commercially for our customers.

They can see for real what we are achieving in our own factories and we can support them with the systems, software and hardware they need to set up their own Smart factories.

What advice would you give managers looking to build high-performance manufacturing teams?

More than ever we have to break down the barriers and silos that often build up between departments such as Production, Engineering and Sales. We now have to think about complete Manufacturing systems that are set up to satisfy the market and customer requirements in terms of variety, lead time and quality.

This requires a holistic approach and optimisation of the whole business system including supply chains. Production can no longer compromise commercial benefits in order to achieve higher productivity. This requires multidisciplinary teams that understand more than just process economics.

Special attention has to be paid to the balance of skills within the team together with a commitment to retraining and re-skilling. These efforts should be backed by a long-term vision.

What technology change do you expect to have the biggest impact on manufacturing in the future?

It is difficult to pick one technology for the biggest impact because these technologies are complimentary. It would be hard to envisage the impact of additive manufacturing without the support of the digital revolution and 3D modelling.

These technologies will be further developed and become more accessible to smaller companies by cloud computing. At Mazak we have embraced IoT in our iSmart factories because we see this as a necessity to maintain competitiveness. Data analytics will certainly bring opportunities for us to develop new business models including opportunities for servitization.

We see definite disruption from additive manufacturing although we believe there will be a bigger impact with new components that are designed with additive in mind rather than simple substitution of conventional components.

We have embraced the additive opportunities by developing a range of hybrid machines using powder or wire as source material to deposit layers that can be subsequently machined for higher accuracy.

This is a niche area where we can combine the unique opportunities of additive manufacturing with conventional machining in one set up. I suppose this is the logical extension of MAZAK’s “Done in One” multitasking concept.