The Art of Making Things Better
As the CNC machining world continues to evolve with technological advancements, at Okuma the basis for all this innovation can be summed up in one word: monozukuri. Loosely translated from Japanese, monozukuri means “the art of making things better.” This is the heart of our culture and drives us to achieve the high volume of innovations we deliver to our users. While the innovations themselves are impressive, it’s also critical that we train our front-lines personnel, so they can help users take advantage of advanced technology in their shops.
Monozukuri: The Art of Making Things Better
Monozukuri is a way of life. With each day’s work we constantly ask ourselves: “how can we do this better?” Even if we achieve 99% success with something, the only thing we focus on is, how do we get to 100%? It’s a mindset. This commitment to continuous improvement for CNC machining can be seen in the numerous technology awards Okuma has won in Japan. As an example, the person you see in the photo above is Okuma’s Shuji Ogawa, who was recognized with the 2013 Contemporary Master Craftsman award in the General Machinery and Equipment Assembly and Repair Section. This award is very, very difficult to achieve – it’s a big deal. In six out of 10 years, someone from Okuma has won that award.
Okuma’s MULTUS U Series of intelligent multitasking machines received the Monozukuri Prize at the Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun’s (Business & Technology Daily News) Best 10 New Product Awards (2013). This is Okuma’s tenth product to receive the Monozukuri Prize. And recently, Okuma’s R&D Department General Manager Harumitsu Senda and four others received the 2014 Prize for Science and Technology in the Development Category, Commendation for Science and Technology. These Okuma employees were recognized for development of intelligent machine tool technology that improves CNC machining efficiency and accuracy. The above are only a few examples of achievements that are a result of the monozukuri mindset.
Taking Innovation to the Streets
Clearly “the art of making things better” is our passion and inspiration, and this also allows us to bring the industry’s top talent to Okuma. So what happens when you combine the best talent with a mandate for continuous improvement? This creates a very high volume of innovation. Then, we must take these technology innovations to the streets, and that’s where our training programs kick in.
I personally play a role in mentoring, coaching and training our own employees and also the members of our extensive distribution network. This begins with creating and disseminating documentation, and often we travel to conduct face-to-face training sessions, like Demo Days and Lunch and Learns. In 2014 alone, Okuma and our distributors will conduct 47 live training events. This is key to putting new technology in the hands of our customers and helping them get the most out of it.
It’s very rewarding to be a part of our monozukuri culture. It’s a good challenge and it’s exciting to know there’s always something in the background, in Japan, that’s being developed. Part of our job here at Okuma America is to take these new capabilities and define how they can be used in our markets. As we do this, we apply monozukuri to determine how can we “make CNC machining technology better” for our users.
Do you have a culture of continuous innovation in your own shop? Please feel free to comment below and share your experiences.
Richard Turner is Senior Principal Engineer, Okuma America Corporation.