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Overseas operation of 'Non-powered automatic transmission assembling production line' inspired by 'Tsurube otoshi (dropping a bucket)'

Anjo-City, Aichi Prefecture
Other award winners
AISIN AW CO., LTD. / Masato Kameyama, Nobumitsu Kondo, Kazutoshi Takasugi, Takeshi Tomita, Hiroshi Osada, Kenji Mizoguchi
Recommended by

Hashimoto, Kuniyuki  (44)
Group Manager, Creation Group, Machinery Department, Production Engineering Headquarters

We were reminded of the hidden strength of "karakuri" when the non-powered automatic transmission, which we did not think it was possible, was successful.

When the company constructed an assembly plant of AT (automatic transmission) in China, it developed a line utilizing "human power" considering the situation of the site that it was difficult to maintain and control an automatic assembly line. The operation of the line was started in October 2007. In the development, they stuck with "non-powered / nagara (performing a work while performing other works) method" originated from "karakuri (mechanism)" that the "Monozukuri Center" of the company, a center of technical research and development, was good at, so that it made all 34 core processes non-powered. The workload is 5 kg or less so even people who have weak arms can perform the works. Additionally, because the number of the electric actuators such as cylinders as well as sensors were significantly reduced, various advantages were obtained, for example, the amount of CO2 emissions were reduced by 95% compared to that in the automatic assembly lines in Japan.


Production line with the "Tsurube otoshi method" came from an idea of utilizing "human power"

In the past, Japanese obtained ground water for daily life by putting a "tsurube," which was like a bucket, in a deep well and pulling it up. A long rope was attached to the tsurube and people could pull up the bucket full of water by pulling the rope on a pulley right above the well.
This mechanism applied to the "non-powered automatic transmission assembling production line" of the company operated in China. That is, "a tsurube full of water" was substituted with weights and the line was made up of human power.
"The primary motivation for developing the line was to hold down the investment amount. The secondary one was the fact that even if we transported an automated line used in Japan to China, we could not repair it because final assembly of AT had never been performed there. That was inconvenient since we had a policy that we would entrust all the processes to the site. So we decided to make a system taking advantage of human power instead of machinery."
In the line of the AT for FR (Front-engine, Rear-wheel drive) vehicles manufactured on the site, parts are assembled in layers in a cylindrical case in order. The basic motion of manufacturing equipment is "up-and-down movement." The idea of applying "tsurube otoshi" occurred to them when they paid attention to the characteristics of such process. In this mechanism, a part is attached to the case by pressing down the handle of the assembly head that is clutching the part. When it is released after the completion of the operation, the head automatically returns to the original position due to the weight attached to the wire.
"One of the development concepts was 'a line in which women can assemble parts.' The workload, which is a force required for operations such as pressing down is 5 kg or less."
In an automated assembly line in Japan in which the same products are manufactured, a total of 158 electric actuators such as cylinders and servomotors are used. On the other hand, only 9 pneumatic cylinders are used in the plant in China. The number of sensors was reduced from 463 to 94. Accordingly, the amount of required energy is reduced so the CO2 emissions were reduced by 95% compared to those in the automatic assembly lines in Japan.
"The investment amount was reduced by 50% and the area for the plant is half that in Japan. Because the design of smaller facilities could be achieved, the supervisor can overlook the entire plant. By using machinery as "instruments" handled by humans, we obtained a variety of advantages including ones we did not expect."

Achieved non-powered innovation techniques originated from karakuri in the Edo Period, contrary to the mechanization

The production facilities in which "human hand" is mainly used, as if consciously going against the general trend of mechanization and automation of production lines. Of course they were not introduced by chance.
The "Monozukuri Center" is a center of technical research and development of the company. A distinct difference between the center and the research facilities of other companies is that it adheres to and implements the "non-powered / nagara method" originated from the traditional "karakuri." The "nagara method" is a coined term that means "Perform a work that achieves more than one other work concurrently." In the production line in China, right after a woman worker presses down a handle, more than one action engage with each other, easily pulling up a thing of tens of kilograms.
However, not that the line was completed without difficulty. For the start of the operation in October 2007, the development started at the beginning of the previous year.
"We did not have the idea of the 'tsurube otoshi' at the start. We fully discussed the line with a person in charge of the design to make a trial model. And it was rejected and we tried it again and again.... When I said 'We should use a cylinder for this process,' my superior even said 'I won't let you develop the line if you don't achieve a non-powered one' (laugh)."
Responding to the encouragement, they advanced the development sticking to the "DNA of karakuri" and finally succeeded in the non-powered line of a total of 34 processes. They say "We were reminded of the hidden strength of "karakuri" when the development was successful."
However, this was not the goal.
"The current line requires a maximum of eight actions to achieve one work. Our objective is to make the line in which one work is completed with one action. If we accomplish this, one work can also be done with one actuator in automated instruments."
Improving the technique developed for the "human-powered line" and utilizing it for the automated lines. Reducing the number of the actuators leads to miniaturization of the equipment and also significantly reduces the amount of CO2 emissions.
"If we are just satisfied with the achievement comparing it with the time before we succeeded, we cannot make progress. We are still working while pursuing our big 'dream'."


May. 1969
26 4.8 billion yen
12,800 (as of Dec. 2009)
Brief information:
Specializing in automatic transmission and having the largest share in the world, and also being one of the leaders in the car navigation field.

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Even complicated works can be done with "power" of human hands.