Panasonic: 10th International Study Mission to Japan

On the 22nd October 2018, as part of the 10th International Study Mission to Japan, we visited Panasonic Switching Technologies (Relays for automobiles).

Panasonic Switching Technologies manufactures switches and relays for the automotive industry as well as industrial equipment. There are probably some of their products in your car, and from what we have seen during the visit you can rest assure that it will not fail.

For Panasonic “it is all about customer satisfaction and quick response to changes in demand”. Most companies in the world will of course state something to that effect in their mission statements, but the really best practice, world class, organisations take that short statement to a different level. During the visit the tour group heard, saw and sensed the total commitment to quality products that satisfy customers. At Panasonic they follow a five-in-one concurrent engineering process: Market development, Product development, Products process engineering, Die and mould equipment engineering and Quality control.

Learning points from the visit include the following:

  • Best practice maintenance management system, with visual management indicating issues for improvement and efficiencies
  • World class level with Key 1 (safe, clean, organised and efficient workplace organisation). Many organisations are still considering this as an add-on to the “real activity of manufacturing.” At Panasonic, and the other companies visited during the tour, it was clear that this is seen as a fundamental issue, maintained at best practice levels.
  • A safety “mock-up” room is used for training purposes
  • Skills matrices are effectively used (“we drive productivity improvements through know-how and skills”)
  • Effective Kaizen suggestion system (keep people thinking)
  • Recycling of metal material 100% , moulding materials 99,9%  and also plastic 100%
  • Manufacture their own dies and moulds as it is seen as a core, competitive, technology
  • Has been implementing Quality Circles for many years, an example of sticking to a principle and making it work for you, rather than following the latest magical 3-step recipe, fad or buzzword

Visits by the community to the plant

  • Participating in local events and festivals (they were very proud that for the last 6 years they won the 1st prize in the local ice sculpturing competition)
  • Involvement with and sponsoring community sport clubs
  • Events for families of workers to visit the plant
  • Hosting of sport days

Also seen at all the other company visits  during the tour is the very high level of the yards and outside areas in terms of upkeep, gardening and friendliness to the environment, “in harmony with nature”. This is in sharp contrast to a mindset of it being a cost, not adding to the bottom line, etc. Do we have something to think about here? A very worthwhile visit, leaving the tour group with the impression that the people of Panasonic manufacture high quality products which you can trust.

To read more about ODI’s Continuous Operations Improvement Systems, click here.

Author: Johan Benadie

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