A glimpse on the Japan’s machine tool industry

As a defeated country in World War II, how did Japan rise from the ruins in just a few decades and establish a world-class industrial power?

Reading history makes people wise. Let us temporarily put aside our dissatisfaction with Japan and see if the development history of Japanese machine tools is beneficial to the development of Chinese machine tools.

Japan is the third country in the world to establish a machine tool industry, manufacturing industry, and industrialization power after the United States and Germany. In 1889, the Japanese Ikegai Iron Factory was established and the production of the first machine tool began, and the machine tool industry entered its embryonic period. At this time, the government vigorously supported the machine tool industry, and clearly regarded the machine tool industry as a manufacturing industry and even the focus of the development of the entire national economy in terms of policies and policies.

In terms of strategy, it has been proposed to establish a country based on science and technology, and a country based on trade; in terms of tactics, develop the steel industry, automobile industry, electric power industry, shipbuilding industry, electronics, nuclear power industry, etc. based on the machine tool industry. Since 1982, the strength of the Japanese machine tool industry has long ranked first in the world.

Since the establishment of Ikegai in 1889, the Japanese machine tool industry has experienced three intersecting stages in technological development for more than 130 years:

The first stage (1889~1955) mainly produced manual ordinary machine tools.

The second stage (1956~1976), mainly combined with the development needs of the manufacturing industry, such as automobiles, bearings, motors, etc., to produce a large number of high-efficiency automatic machine tools and automatic lines. In 1974, the country surpassed the United States with 6,700 automatic lines.

The third stage (1977 to present), mainly produces small and medium-sized automatic CNC machine tools. Due to high flexibility, large automatic lines, and its wide range of applications, the demand for CNC airports worldwide has increased dramatically. Its production surpassed the United States in 1978 (7,342 in Japan and 5,688 in the United States).

As Japan's CNC machine tool production is leading the world, its machine tool output value exceeded West Germany (3.748 billion US dollars) and the United States (3.745 billion US dollars) in 1982 with 3.79 billion U.S. dollars and began to rank first in the world. Subsequently, the output of CNC machine tools in Japan increased rapidly, and the output value of machine tools continued to rise. It remained until 2007, the year before the world economic crisis in 2008, and its machine tool output strength has been ranked first in the world.

In the above stages in Japan, the machine tool industry fluctuated with changes in domestic and foreign situations and experienced many twists and turns. It can be seen that correct guidelines, policies, strategies and tactics are of great importance for accelerating the development of the machine tool industry.

I. The first stage

After Ikegai established a factory to produce machine tools in 1889, the Japanese-Russian war broke out in 1904. A large number of military products are in urgent need of machine tool production and supply, which has greatly stimulated the development of Japan's machine tool industry, manufacturing industry.

Immediately after the outbreak of the First World War (1914~1918), Europe and the United States were busy participating in the war. Japan took the opportunity to develop the machine tool industry. Orders were busy, the number of factories surged, and the strength of the machine tool industry increased. Between 1914 and 1917, the number of Japanese machine tool and parts manufacturing employees doubled (from 2,160 to 4,695). Technically, it has been able to manufacture large-scale machine tools, automatic lathes, and gear machine tools.

In May 1934, the "Japan Machine Tool Industry Association" was established by large companies such as Ikegai, Niigata, Okuma, and Karatsu to realize mutual assistance in technology and put forward some requirements and suggestions to the government. In April 1938, the Japanese government promulgated the "Machine Tool Manufacturing Business Law", which included the machine tool industry within the policy scope and vigorously supported it.

Preferential treatment of funds and taxes, and necessary financial subsidies. The number of machine tool enterprises increased from 397 in 1932 to 1978 in 1938, and the total number of employees increased from 4,100 to 63,000. The annual output of machine tools increased from 5,000 to 67,300. Due to the expansion of machine tool industry and manufacturing power, Japan launched the war of aggression against China (1937~1945). During the war of aggression against China, the machine tool industry produced military products and the number of employees soared to 126,000.

II. The second stage

In 1945, the Japanese war of aggression against China failed. The country had 750,000 machine tools, half of which were used as compensation materials, and the output of machine tools after the war was restricted to no more than 10,000. Due to the shortage of materials, only a few thousand small machine tools were produced every year from 1945 to 1950. There were several turning points afterwards.

Japan signed the surrender agreement, but the Chinese government at that time gave up the war compensation and missed this batch of machine tools.

The Korean War broke out in 1950. Under the strong support of the United States, Japan accepted US military orders. Its machine tool industry took advantage of the opportunity to develop at a double speed. The output of machine tools was 4,000 in 1950, 18,000 in 1955, and soared to 80,000 in 1960. In 1970, it reached 256,000 units. In 1982, the output value of machine tools jumped to the first place in the world.

During this period and later, the Japanese government further strengthened the leadership and organization of the machine tool industry, making it a key point in the development of the machine tool industry. Three laws were successively formulated and issued: "Mechanical Vibration Law", "Mechanical and Electrical Law" and "Mechanical Information Law", which played a major and decisive role in accelerating the development of the machine tool industry, providing machine tool technology and strengthening international competitiveness.

The Japanese government clearly stipulated in 1958 that since then, the national machine tool ownership will be surveyed and analyzed every 5 years, and the service age of the machine tools (0~4,5~9,10~19,20 years or more) will be classified in detail. In this way, it is of great significance to understand the current production capacity of machine tools from top to bottom and the gap with foreign countries, thereby understanding market development needs, optimizing the composition of various types of machine tools, and improving the entire manufacturing and industrial production capacity.

Strengthening "quality" control has laid a good foundation for the second stage of mass production automation and the third stage of medium and small batch production automation CNC machine tools. Before 1937, Japan's reputation for "Japanese goods" was discredited because of the low quality. In view of this, between 1940 and 1944, on the basis of studying the German Industrial Standards (DIN), the Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS) were formulated. Beginning in 1940, the "Machine Tool Inspection Certificate" formulated by Dr. Schlesinger of Germany was gradually adopted. With the development of technology, not only the static accuracy of the machine tool is checked, but also the running accuracy. As the government attaches great importance to quality and pays close attention to everything, factory workers also consciously form quality teams to ensure the quality of each process.

III. The third stage

The foresight of 3C (Communication, Computer, Control) and the selection of talents have greatly promoted the development of machine tool industry, manufacturing industry, and industry. In 1956, the leaders of Fujitsu foresaw the arrival of the 3C era. They selected Inaba as the person in charge of control development and Ikeda as the person in charge of computer development. After that, the two of them worked for the professions they were responsible for their entire lives and established a world-class enterprise. FANUC (Fanuc), led by Inaba, is world-renowned for its CNC systems, occupying 50% of the world market and 70% of the domestic market, and has made outstanding contributions to the development of CNC machine tools worldwide.

FANUC's strategy and tactics for the development of CNC systems are correct, and it has always been a leader in technology, occupying the largest market share in the world. FANUC led by Inaba has its own business philosophy and strategic tactics:

1). The enterprise is strong (scientific research and development and financial strength) yet not big;

2). Focus on the direction and make a decisive decision in time. From 1956 to 1974, for 18 years, Inaba has been leading the technical team to tackle key problems and solve the key technologies in the control of CNC machine tools. After hearing that the American company Gette had newly developed an electric servo motor, it was determined that this was the future of the development of new technologies. The decision was made to introduce American technology within three days and the procedures were completed. Since then, production development and continuous innovation have always been one of the development directions of CNC system technology. FANUC has always maintained the world's leading technology.

3). FANUC has always attached importance to basic theoretical research and applied technology research work, and closely integrated them to give full play to the role of scientific research, development, and innovation, so that its CNC system technology has always been a leader in the world. The company has a basic technology research institute that will gather experts and talents for research and development of new technologies in the next 5 or 10 years, regardless of country, gender, or age. There is also a strong product development research institute. The staff accounts for 30% of the company's total employees. The main tasks were to investigate market demand, accept the scientific research results of the Institute of Basic Technology, and develop new products. Everyone knew the three requirements and strictly enforced them. That is, the new product requires the fewest parts, the lowest cost, and the most reliable work.

In the late 1980s, FANUC established several automated factories, which can use the combination of robots and CNC machine tools to automate the production of CNC systems, robots, spindle motors, servo motors, turret CNC machine tools, electrical machining machines, etc., all of which are in the world First-class level. Due to the automation of production, the quality and productivity are greatly improved, and its CNC system technology is advanced, and it has been leading the direction of world technology development.

Japan's strategy and tactics for the development of CNC machine tools are different from those of the United States and Germany. The United States and Germany focus on the automotive and aerospace industries, as well as first-class high-end advanced CNC machine tools, with advanced technology and relatively expensive prices. Japan, on the other hand, focuses on large-scale, medium- and small-sized enterprises' need for large-scale, wide-ranging, mid-range and high-end CNC machine tools, which can occupy the vast market, make profits first, and the quality is also top-notch.

Japan not only attaches importance to product development and innovation, but also attaches importance to product quality and management quality, surpassing America and Germany, and ranking first in the world. In addition to long-term marketing strategic vision, Japanese companies are also quick to make micro-decisions. In general, in a short period of time, Japan leaped to the world's top alongside the United States and Germany as the world's three major powers in machine tool industry.