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Expanding Manufacturing Possibilities Through Remote Production 2

10/28/2020 Roland DG Corporation

Taking on The Challenge of “Remote Production”

Following on our last blog entry, we now want to go into more detail about how we looked into the potential of remote production. This project was led mainly by Yuya Sunako of the Production Division, who has been involved in making many improvements to D-PICS.

The “Remote Production” Process

The first step of the remote production process begins by sending out a kit containing the parts required for assembling the products, PCs, tools and other accessories, from the production plant to the operator’s (assembly worker’s) home. After taking delivery of the kit, the operator connects the PC to a network and then performs assembly and inspections following the digital instruction form sent from the server. After the product is assembled, the operator returns it to the plant.

Here at Roland DG, we produce a wide variety of digital equipment ranging from compact desktop-type cutting machines to large-size industrial-grade inkjet printers. To see if the project was feasible, we chose the STIKA cutting machine as it is the most compact of Roland DG’s products and has the least number of parts.

In addition to project leader Sunako, we selected a total of 18 operators to participate in the project, ranging in experience from skilled experts to new employees. This was done to determine whether there were any differences in the finished product depending on experience level, so we could receive a wide range of feedback for making future improvements.

Yuya Sunako
Production Quality Control Unit Manager, Production Department, Production Division
He is currently in charge of all aspects of quality control, from receiving parts inspections to product assembly and shipping.

Production Plant

Roland DG
Preliminary Preparation
Parts kit
Long items and circuit board Long items and
circuit board
Exterior parts Packaging box Exterior parts
Packaging box
Small items Small items
Various screws Various screws
Accessories kit
Tool set Tool set
Portable Wi-Fi hotspot Portable Wi-Fi
hotspot
Work mat Work mat
Laptop PC, barcode reader Laptop PC,
barcode reader
Van Sent to home
Van Plant (return to start)

Operator's Home

Assembly Assembly preparation Follow the instructions
and place the kit on a table
Packaging Packaging Package the completed
product and send to plant
Assembly Assembly Follow the instructions
and assemble the STIKA
Inspection Inspection Inspect the operation and quality
of the assembled product

Ideas Tailored to Remote Production

The PC and portable Wi-Fi hotspot play a vital role during the remote production process. While production plants are arranged with the required equipment and sufficient space, workers’ homes differ from the plants that they normally work at in that not all homes have internet available, and all steps of the assembly process need to be performed by the worker alone. These devices are essential tools that are not only used for sending work instructions from the production plant to the PC at the workers’ home, or for receiving work logs, but also for assisting workers by using video-conferencing with staff who are standing by at the plant to respond to any problems or questions raised during the assembly process.

Parts used during assembly are delivered in a special box with foam cutouts in the shape of each part to prevent parts going missing or sustaining damage during transport.

Laptop PC Special parts box

Project Results

So, what were the results like? While there were some differences in the time taken for assembly depending on the worker’s level of experience, 15 of them were able to fully assemble the products within the set time. The quality of the finished products was identical to when they were assembled at the production plant, despite each person working under different conditions. Some participants had questions related to network connectivity issues or needed information on how to fix mistakes made during the assembly process, and these were dealt with smoothly by utilizing the voice calls and video camera functions of the video-conferencing system.

“This is entirely possible.” Based on these results, project leader Sunako says that he is confident that this method could form a viable approach to respond to any unexpected events like COVID-19.

We were always under the impression that manufacturing could be successfully achieved in places outside of the production plant by simply following the instructions shown on a networked PC, and this project demonstrated that this theory could be put into practice.

The issues were identified during the project that will need to be addressed for future improvements, such as the operators not being able to find enough space in their homes for assembly which made the assembly process more complex. Workers also needed to have the PC constantly connected to the internet during assembly, and the project reaffirmed the need to maintain and improve network connectivity.

I worked in a room where I live alone and the noise from the electric screwdriver was louder than I expected, so I worried that it would disturb the neighbors. I used a low table and had to change positions for each job, which was a bit of a challenge.

Worker's house 1
Worker's house 2

I was able to use a larger table at my parents’ house, which made the work go smoothly, but if I only had a small table, it would have been difficult to work on.​

Worker's house 3

It was a valuable experience as I had a lot of fun assembling the product. It would be nice to have a larger workspace.​

Worker's house 4

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