“Two processes, one laser — that makes for productivity”
Masakatsu Matsuo sees two cornerstones for business success — the right philosophy and efficient machinery. That is why at Marujyu, two machines share a single laser in a network.
What challenges are you encountering on the Japanese market?
The experts are forecasting heavy sailing for the Japanese sheet metal industry. The number of firms machining sheet metal is declining rapidly. Our customers expect short delivery times, enormous value added services, integrated production, and the highest quality. That is why it is indispensable for us always to adopt the latest technology and consistently invest in modern machines.
You’re saying that modern equipment represents a competitive advantage for you?
Absolutely. We are also attempting to establish ourselves as a full-service partner, setting ourselves apart from the field. We receive many inquiries asking whether we couldn’t handle the painting or assembly, too. Responding to that need, we have set up an integrated production system that includes galvanizing, surface finishing, electrical equipment, and assembly. We are also working on building a network centered on Marujyu, one that will let us satisfy every customer’s wish through cooperation with other specialized companies.
You use the LaserNetwork made by TRUMPF. Is this technology also a part of your strategy?
Yes it is, and it has resulted in a real productivity surge. Since 2011 the new TruMatic 3000 fiber and a laser welding cell have shared a common TruDisk solid-state laser delivering three kilowatts of power. We had already reached a high degree of automation for punching, cutting and bending. We were also interested in implementing laser welding but, given the financial commitment, we were uncertain. You see, the number of welding orders was still relatively small at that time. That is why the TRUMPF LaserNetwork presented the ideal solution. Both processes — cutting and welding — can be carried out with a single beam source. That means clear cost savings for us. Since the laser beam can be switched back and forth instantly between the two machines, we can use that laser source more effectively. Now we are in a position both to punch and cut complex components and, at the same time, to make our debut in mass production using laser welding.
Which concrete advantages have you realized by adopting this concept?
In the first place, we have attained startling processing speed — especially when welding. In addition to that, we require less time compared with conventional hand-held welding. Touch-up work is eliminated, too. That reduces the number of manufacturing phases and boosts productivity enormously. In the meantime the number of welding orders is clearly on the rise. While in the past there was a 9 : 1 ratio of cutting to welding jobs, that proportion is now 6 : 4. I am expecting a clear competitive advantage from specializing in laser welding.
What materials do you work using the machines in the laser network?
We machine steel sheet up to 4 millimeters thick and aluminum in gauges of 0.8 to 3 millimeters. And there’s one thing that wasn’t possible before. We can now cut brass using the solid-state laser.
And so you see flexibility as playing a major part?
In the Japanese sheet metal market, too, the trend is now toward smaller batch sizes with many versions and make-and-hold orders in variable quantities. To satisfy customer expectations, we not use only modern equipment in our manufacturing operations; we have also adopted monozukuri. The word monozukuri combines “mono”, the thing that is made, with “zukuri”, the act of making. It is a typical Japanese word that is difficult to translate. Monozukuri stands for the art of industrial production, for the ability to produce carefully and quickly. The goal is the perfect product, matching the customer’s needs exactly, made in the best possible way and without any waste. All the phases in manufacturing — including development, design, production and procurement — are interlinked. We have achieved a lot by employing intelligent software in manufacturing operations. Our workers contribute both craftsmanship and creativity. A wealth of ideas and continuously striving for perfection are the heart and soul of monozukuri. Hidden away in each of our products are vast amounts of know-how and many original approaches.
Traditional craftsmanship and modern machinery belong together?
Yes, we always take pains to enhance our workers’ capabilities and improve our technology base. We see these as inseparable in a great, overriding system. When building our new headquarters, for instance, we included esthetic factors in the offices and conference rooms, hoping to inspire our workers and stimulate creativity. On the other hand, of course, we need the most modern technologies to fulfill our customers’ expectations. That is why we use systems by TRUMPF and have done so for twenty years now. We are thoroughly convinced of their merits — with high machining speeds, top-quality output, low operating expenses, and a superior cost-benefit ratio. Anyone who understands how to combine this high technical standard with monozukuri can be sure of not losing orders to the aspiring nations of Asia.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in autumn 2012.