The Inner Workings of Yanmar Vol.2
Hiroko Kiba Reports on the Research & Development Center
HIROKO KIBA: Product development from the perspective of the user is essential.
OSAMU KAWATATE: We are working closely with our customers to strengthen our understanding of the hard attributes and soft attributes that deliver customer delight.
In the second part of this three part report series, freelance news presenter, Hiroko Kiba, delves deeper into the inner workings of Yanmar.
Marking 100 years of wide-reaching business expansions under your founding vision “to conserve fuel is to serve mankind,” in 2012 Yanmar announced a new direction with your Brand Statement A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE.
What technology is Yanmar leveraging towards the achievement of this vision and for sustainability?
Hiroko Kiba visits the Research & Development Center and talks with Group Divisional Manager, Osamu Kawatate, and the rest of the team to find out more.
Solving Global Issues with Energy Efficiency and the Creation of Value
Hiroko Kiba: In volume one we spoke about four clear aspirations for society which are a part of Yanmar’s vision for A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE. These are;
an energy-saving society, a society where people can work and live with peace of mind, a society where people can enjoy safe and plentiful food, and a society that offers an exciting life filled with rich and fulfilling experiences.
Can you please tell us about the background of these aspirations.
Osamu Kawatate: A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE was introduced in response to pressing global issues.
We face an increasing global population and shifts towards localization, alongside an imbalance in the food supply and demand which cannot keep up with these changes.
And, if we continue as we are now, our energy sources will soon be depleted and our natural environment will be destroyed.
At Yanmar, we are pursuing advancements in our business areas which are inextricably linked to these issues.
For this reason, we have thoroughly questioned what we can do and what we must do, and made it our mission to create a society where these four aspirations are realized, as we make headway into the next 100 years.
The word ‘sustainability’ carries with it quite stoic ideals for a minimalist society.
However, having enjoyed life’s luxuries and comforts, returning to an age where we work to simply feed ourselves and provide roofs over our heads is not realistic.
In 1933, when Yanmar pioneered the world’s first compact diesel engine, agriculture was a relatively sustainable energy production industry.
With moves to increase labor productivity, the amount of energy input into harvesting rice began to exceed the energy output levels. Consequently agriculture shifted from an energy production industry to an energy consumption industry.
One aspect of A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE is to realize a future where farmers can lead enriched livelihoods, and grow safe and plentiful food with stable and efficient energy.
A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE is a future which offers both improved quality of life and energy efficiency.
Yanmar’s Uncompromising Pursuit for New and Reliable Solutions
Hiroko Kiba: Energy efficiency and creating value are often seen as opposing goals. Technological advancements are therefore essential to achieving these goals together.
What is everyone’s daily approach to technological developments at Research & Development Center?
Takashi Miyamoto: I’m working on developing controllers for diesel engines.
The controller is only one component of the engine, however it is essential to determining the engine’s performance.
In addition to self-sufficiency, because our development is based on a thorough understanding of how our engines operate; we are able to fully optimize the value of the product.
Yanmar’s strengths lie in our ability to develop controllers based on our careful consideration of the way the machine actually moves and operates in practice. This approach is not limited to our engines, but is also applied to our tractors, combines and other products.
Tatsuya Suezaki: I’ve been researching noise and vibration for 15 years since entering Yanmar.
Not just myself but everyone here is conducting ongoing and continuous testing, leaving no stone unturned, in order to deliver even better technology and even better products.
Why is it faltering? Why isn’t fuel consumption improving?
Here at Yanmar, there is a strong spirit to persevere until we find the solution without compromise.
Kenichi Minami: I used to think that adopting advanced technology; even that which was developed by other companies, was the best approach.
However while researching and developing ways to leverage the efficiency performance of our gas heat pump’s (GHP), I realized that reaching a level that I could be satisfied with, required a first hand understanding of the underlying principles and surrounding circumstances. This could only be achieved through R&D using my own hands and my own thinking.
Osamu Kawatate: Like the R&D team, most Yanmar Group employees believe that we cannot take responsibility for technology without having a first hand understanding of it.
To the point of almost being too serious at times, Yanmar has a corporate culture of always pursuing higher levels and not accepting less.
The fact that our founder’s philosophy “to conserve fuel is to serve mankind” continues to have such a strong influence on our pursuit for energy efficiency is quite impressive and will be a big strength for us in our mission for A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE.
However, in addition to having a strong passion, achieving our goals with speed is also essential.
Maintaining our spirit and conserving the environment with added speed is at the forefront of our work here at the research center.
Leveraging Robotics and Biotechnology for Food Productivity
Hiroko Kiba: The founding spirit “to conserve fuel is to serve mankind” connects with your current technology concept — “realizing the maximum prosperity using the minimum resources”.
What technologies are you developing in order to solve today’s global issues?
Osamu Kawatate: Of course, the backbone of our technology is the diesel engine.
Currently we rely heavily on fossil fuels, particularly coal, in our daily living.
This will likely continue for some time.
The advancement of diesel engines which can utilize almost any crude oil which we extract for fuel; from high quality oils like diesel oil to extremely low quality oils known as bunker oils, is the key to creating an energy efficient society.
Hiroko Kiba: Outside of Japan diesel engines with low environmental impact are being reconsidered as a viable option.
In Japan also, we need to enhance recognition of the diesel engine.
Currently, Japan imports one third of the world’s liquefied natural gas (LNG).
This serves well while we can still buy LNG and coal, however what happens if these countries stop selling to Japan.
Japan should be trying to stand on its own feet rather than relying on overseas countries.
Osamu Kawatate: Energy diversification and local energy networks, are two key topics for the medium-long term.
The proactive use of bio fuels, research into the effective use of waste heat, and research into Japan’s proposed ‘hydrogen society,’ are areas where we will be leveraging our efforts.
With our diesel engines and gas engines as our base, we are determined to establish “local energy networks” comprising of various energy efficient machines including our cogeneration systems and combined heat and power machines.
Hiroko Kiba: The utilization and transferral of energies, which would normally be wasted, is effectively using our earth’s natural gifts with care.
What technologies are in the pipeline in terms of solving food issues?
This is an area where there are big expectations.
Osamu Kawatate: One technology is robotics.
Right now we are advancing developments in automating the operations of agricultural machines. This technology alone can drastically minimize the labor input and maximize productivity.
Farm machines, which up until now have simply been tools for farmers, will act as both a farm machine and a robot work partner; serving as their hands, their legs, their eyes, nose and ears when out in the fields. This is what we are aiming towards.
The second technology is biotechnology.
Biotechnology is the key to producing delicious, safe and stable production of grains and cereals, vegetables, fruit and livestock and marine related produce with energy efficiency.
There are a diverse range of factors which determine the growth of these organisms, including hours of daylight, temperature, humidity, nutrients and pests.
We are leveraging the experiences of personnel who are involved in the food production industry as a base to grow more delicious produce in even larger quantities.
In other words, we are using our know-how.
However, in rice farming for example, a farmer who has cultivated rice for 50 years will have harvested rice 50 times.
If we are to compare the multitude of factors which influence crop growth, then 50 times is not a large number.
For this reason, we are integrating biotechnology with IoT technology to develop optimized, efficient environment control technologies for crop, livestock and fish farming.
In the long term, it may be necessary to develop varieties which have even higher production efficiency.
Analog Technology Which Cannot be Replicated
Hiroko Kiba: Shortages of labor due to an aging population and declining birthrates is a critical issue we face today.
With technology both the young and the elderly, both men and women, have an equal advantage when it comes to producing produce; leading to the overall improvement of farming conditions.
By continuously innovating and progressing your technology, Yanmar is staying ahead of the times and contributing to making a better society.
The role of the research center will become even more pivotal in the future.
Osamu Kawatate: Yanmar's A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE cannot be achieved with our strengths alone.
However, for us at Yanmar it is our mission.
One of the roles of the research center is to be the epicenter from which concrete proposals for achieving A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE are created and then communicated to the Yanmar Group and the rest of the world.
After receiving proposals, we then discuss these ideas with people from a diverse range of disciplines and backgrounds.
And another one of our roles is to join with people, both within and outside of the company, who share the same vision and to collaborate with these people in order to develop the technology which will deliver the fruits of these discussions to our customers.
I am determined to make A Sustainable Future a reality.
Hiroko Kiba: I was impressed by the story behind the YT series concept tractor which was developed in 2013 to symbolize the new age of farming.
Even the design of the operator's seat was like that of a plush and spacious office room.
Yanmar’s product development places a lot of importance on creating a product to fit the user.
Osamu Kawatate: Our industrial engines, agricultural machines, construction equipment and other products, are all the tools of the trade to our customers.
Yet, for many of us these are things that we rarely come into contact with in our everyday lives.
This is one of the main difficulties we face in research and development.
One of the recently coined phrases is to “shift from simply manufacturing products to creating value added products.” The meaning behind these words holds a great deal of weight for us.
Is it tractors that our customers really need?
For us who have little chance to come in contact with the products we develop, this question is extremely important. We are determined to work closer with our customers to strengthen our understanding of both the hard attributes and the soft attributes that provide added value to our customers, so that we can continue to exceed their expectations.
Of course, without tools we cannot harvest the fields.
The analogue technology forms the basis for our value added products.
Our predecessors here in Yanmar, created advanced leading edge analogue technology. This technology gives Yanmar a unique competitive advantage over other companies who have not been able to imitate it.
We are committed to pushing the boundaries further in analog technology, while ensuring that we deliver value added products to our customers.
Hiroko Kiba: I can truly see the uniqueness of Yanmar as well as the pride and confidence that you have in your manufacturing.
I’m looking forward to the new technological innovations that arise through Yanmar’s pursuit for A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE.
Hiroko Kiba Visits Yanmar’s Research & Development Center
“Seeing all the latest technology which filled the Research & Development Center was a stimulating experience.
Standing next to the tractor and staring at the data being displayed on the monitor is proof of the passion, day-to-day hard work, and sweat that Yanmar’s research and development team has poured into coming up with new solutions.”
Next, read the final chapter to this three part series delving deeper into the inner workings of Yanmar.
Hiroko Kiba joined the Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Inc. (TBS) in 1987 where she served as the first female sports presenter for various programs including Tetsuya Chikushi News 23.
In 1992, Hiroko moved to freelance reporting following her marriage to professional baseball player, Tsuyoshi Yoda (current pitching coach for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, a baseball team in Japan).
Hiroko currently participates in councils and commissions for eight different ministries and agencies in Japan including the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT).
During her time she has gathered extensive knowledge on energy facilities.
Alongside having conducted over 300 world-leading interviews, Hiroko also works as a visiting professor at Chiba University in Japan.
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