Aishin AW Co., Ltd. developed a non-powered delivery cargo carrier inspired by the “tea delivery doll,” a traditional Japanese wind-up doll driven by the power provided by a wind-up spring. This product requires no source of energy such as oil or electricity, or such actuators as motors; instead, its movement is powered solely by a spring mechanism that winds back in response to the weight of an object placed upon the cargo carrier. Consequently, it is attracting growing attention from an ecological standpoint.
Full-fledge development began under the lead taken by Mr. Ikeda at the “Monodzukuri Center” built in 2003. Currently, his team is working on the design of production facilities or assembly lines that will utilize this spring mechanism. Mr. Ikeda is also cultivating possible successors among the young staff to continue the path set by his “monodzukuri” spirit. “When you really have to use an actuator or motor, you must design it to make at least three movements.” That is the basic principle of Aishin’s monodzukuri.
Aishin AW Co., Ltd. http://www.aisin-aw.co.jp/
Established in 1969. Their main products are automotive drive trains such as transmissions, information devices such as car navigation systems, and air purifiers for automotive and home use. Their products are supplied to domestic and overseas carmakers including Toyota, as well as to the manufacturers of car navigation systems. There is a monument standing at the entrance of the “Monodzukuri Center” engraved with two slogans: “Research and Creation” by Sakichi Toyota (the founder of Toyota Motor Corporation) and “Dreams and Excitement” by the incumbent president of the company.
“I want to ease the hard work of mothers.” Such a desire may give impetus to a revolutionary invention. That was the case with the founder of Toyota, Mr. Sakichi Toyota, who invented a circular weaving machine for his mother. Another case is the “non-powered delivery cargo carrier, Dream Carry” developed by Mr. Ikeda of Aishin AW.
“Since my father was sick in bed, my mother had to do everything from farmwork to the household chores. We didn’t have the money to purchase agricultural machinery. Then I wondered if I could make something that could reduce the hard labor of farming or household work by using a “spring mechanism.”
He regrettably recalls that he could not achieve this goal after all. However, he eventually realized his wish in the 21st century through his “monodzukuri” creation. The clockwork mechanism that captivated young Shigeharu was a tea delivery doll that carried a teacup on a plate while making a cute clattery sound.
“It was originally made during the Edo Period, and is said to be the basis for developing machinery. Of course, they didn’t have electric motors back then, so the idea was non-powered movement. Another factor is Nagara (“multi-tasking operation with power enough to do only one thing,” and the expression also conveys the idea of laziness).
The weaving machine developed by Mr. Sakichi Toyota, the founder of Toyota, is a good example.
Utilizing the power provided by a motor, several shuttles combined with a cam are used to weave fabric. More than two things are accomplished at the same time: one movement leads to another, which in turn leads to another movement, and then still another. The greater the number of movements, the higher the efficiency.”
However, such an idea of a “non-powered, lazily multi-tasking product” as proposed by Mr. Ikeda was initially not endorsed by the company. For 25 years, he worked on the production line while continuing to study about making improvements in the work environment.
“When the line shuts down, you just have to wait. In the meantime, you cannot do anything. That is quite frustrating to me. So, we thought that by making our own production line, we could manage it ourselves. After all, you must protect your own castle.”
It was in 2003 when the president took note of Mr. Ikeda’s efforts and decided to build the “Monodzukuri Center” with the company goal of curtailing capital investments and cutting the costs for space by half.
Pulling the lever, the “Dream Carry” starts moving. No electric power is used.
The project members handcrafted the tea delivery dolls displayed at the center as part of the training program conducted at the Monodzukuri Center as drawn up by Mr. Ikeda to acquire certain skills.
“The top management of the company took the initiative in acknowledging and realizing the potential of my “non-powered, lazily multi-tasking” idea. They offered to provide me with the physical means to promote my development project, thus encouraging me to thoroughly conduct R&D. That’s how the Monodzukuri Center originated. Our team is an all-around group of engineers who can upgrade a skill to a technology. You come up with your own ideas, materialize it into a form, assemble it, and then make a product. I think that such product development is only done at this R&D facility.”
Now that it is a company project, they are under the pressure of producing “results.”
“I think man needs to be under constant pressure or tension at all times in order to move forward. This is like always standing at the edge of a very stiff cliff, as it were. Then, you can create some good stuff (laughingly). Creativity wells up inside you. And if you are a target of attention, you have more zeal.”
He laughingly says he has “tried to accept positively as encouragement” the negative remarks made by some around him ever since he joined the company. Currently, the research and development of his non-powered, lazily multi-tasking idea has been applied to an entire assembly line of their plant.
“The Dream Carry has realized about half of my dream. My ultimate goal is to achieve movement like a car.”
Once this dream is realized, Mr. Ikeda’s next dream will escalate to something like “getting it to fly in the air.” Having ideas freely and flexibly one after another, Mr. Ikeda continues to draw pictures of his ideas and what originates from his insightful dreams. This is his way of “monodzukuri.”
“I have never been a super player in this game, but strongly wish to leave my ideas to succeeding generations through the sharing and appreciation of the monodzukuri spirit.
All of us have the potential for something, and many young people have demonstrated excellence in various fields. I think we all need to utilize a new way of thinking provided by our young people, something that cannot be devised by older generations, and incorporate this new thinking into monodzukuri in harmony with our ever-changing times. It is important to find the right human resources and provide them the means of developing their talent.”
The incumbent president meeting with the project team was intended solely for developing the Dream Carry. This is how Mr. Ikeda honestly feels.