“Better efficiency, same passion”
In manufacturing, building a good and efficient production system is just as important as the production equipment and other hardware. In her second year with Kito, Miku Wakabayashi is in the thick of this. As a member of the Manufacturing Control Group, which organizes and manages production systems support to manufacturing at the Yamanashi Plant, she works to improve the efficiency of production-related jobs.
"The new IT system for production management introduced last year changed the plant's manufacturing work flow in important ways. My job is to improve the efficiency of the back-office work, from order-projection to instructions to the production floor. With the system change we see opportunities to organize the huge fund of expertise Kito has built, and make it visually accessible for higher efficiency. I did my on-the-job training as the company was going through major changes due to the IT system renewal. So I think I can make good use of what I've heard from floor personnel in my job."
The manufacturing floor has been changing every day along with technological progress in many forms, and Wakabayashi hopes to become an engineer recognized by all, including herself.
"Thanks to new technology every day, various manufacturing tasks are faster and more efficient, and techniques and methods that once seemed like fantasy are daily reality. But I've noticed that doesn't mean it's now easier to manufacture products. Technological progress, no matter how advanced, can't make manufacturing easy. The amount of tenacious efforts it takes for a person to create something is constant, whether now or a long time ago."
Her "buddy" is a Volkswagen Beetle made in the 1980s that she bought right after she was assigned to the current job.
"The first Beetle was made in 1937. The carmaker didn't have the conveniences of today, I know. I've always liked antique cars, because I feel that more time and work went into them. But on joining Kito it came to me that manufacturing doesn't change in terms of the effort accumulated to make a good product. The cars of decades ago and the latest models are the same considering the passion that the engineers put into them," she says.
We asked what she sees in the future for Kito manufacturing.
"Wider use of IoT and AI will reduce the number of production processes involving manual labor. But that won't reduce the number of people involved in manufacturing. More efficiency at work will give engineers time to rise to new challenges. So our mission is to optimize manufacturing across the entire Kito Group."