Our Stories 08 Supporting Product Quality with Measurement Technology
Story 08Measurement Technology : Where Manufacturing Starts. Maintaining The Standards Which Lead The Global Market.
In order to guarantee the quality of products, systems and technology for maintaining the high quality of these products, along with extremely precise measuring instruments and the ability to use them, are all required.
The products which NGK SPARK PLUG CO., LTD. delivers to the world, are made with the use of hundreds and thousands of measuring instruments.
The accuracy of these measuring instruments is maintained in all our plants across the world and we work to ensure that everyone who uses them can do so effectively.
It is the Measurement & Instrument Engineering Section which devotes its energy to these tasks.
As the globalization of business continues, the company continues to work on the standardization of both hardware and software, with a view to continually improving quality, while also ensuring that their staff continue to grow professionally.
Yumoto：Responsible for promoting, on a global level, the standardization and improvement of measurement technology in order to guarantee quality assurance from the ground up.
Aliff：From Malaysia. Responsible for global expansion of measurement technology training.
Over One Thousand Types of Measuring Instruments, Supporting Manufacture and Maintaining High Quality.
In the plants of NGK SPARK PLUG CO., LTD., various kinds of measuring instruments are used, ranging from vernier calipers and micrometers, which are familiar to the staff of NGK SPARK PLUG CO., LTD., to heat indicators, barometers, ammeters, voltmeters and gauges.
The single most important requirement for these devices is accuracy. So wherever manufacturing takes place, calibration is critical.
Measurement & Instrument Engineering Section carries out the calibration and monitors it to allow NGK SPARK PLUG GROUP to maintain the same level worldwide.
“The number of different measuring instruments which our company uses is more than one thousand. In our domestic plants alone there are around fifty thousand instruments, and if we include the instruments in overseas plants, the total number will be enormous. However, we can not overlook even one single instrument. We are responsible for the calibration.” said Yumoto from the Measurement & Instrument Engineering Section.
The responsibilities of Yumoto and his colleagues go further than this. As well as directly training calibrators, they also train calibrators and leaders (called "Ginou master", literally "technical master") in each plant. Being certified as a "technical master" allows an employee to train other people as calibrators and also set up a calibration system in their plant. Another important responsibility involves teaching employees from various areas relating to manufacturing how to correctly use measuring instruments.
Measurement Technology and Calibration, in Global Demand
In recent years, with the global expansion of business and the increasing sophistication of products, the work of calibrators has become more and more important.
“In order to guarantee high quality for our customers around the world, we review measurement technology from a global perspective and undertake projects to reconstruct it. Starting with our headquarters and extending to our domestic and foreign companies, the importance of our work in standardizing measurement levels is greater than before, I feel." said Yumoto.
In order to align the measurement level in plants all over the world, the need to standardize measurement technology and train calibrators is constantly increasing. We have boosted support for measurement control in overseas plants and increased the frequency of business trips from our headquarters.
"To correctly manage measurement, we must look not only at the measurement levels, but also the need to maintain a satisfactory level of management at the plants. In Japan, we have set out a process to confirm management standards and provide explanations and training to the people responsible, and now we are planning on doing the same in our overseas plants, to improve the staff's skills in managing measurement."
The Challenges of Re-training Technicians in Measurement Technolgy
“In order to train local staff overseas, we have to take into account not only the language barrier but also cultural differences and other such factors. In particular, I’ll never forget the training process in India.”, said Aliff from Malaysia. who is in charge of worldwide training, with an emphasis on supporting overseas plants.
In the summer, 2016, Yumoto and Aliff traveled to Haryana, in northern India, to visit a plant which produces plugs.
The purpose of their visit was to check whether or not there was a "gap" between the longstanding system of calibration and measurement used overseas and that used at company headquarters, and to train the calibrators to master level so that they can in turn train the next generation.
They have visited India several times to train local staff. In overseas plants, labor turnover often occurs, so it is not unusual for certified staff to leave their jobs.
“Among the local staff, there was an employee who had worked there for a long time and was very confident in his abilities, who used a micrometer in his own personal way. He had used it this way for a long time. Training people like this is not easy, but using my experience, I was able to show him how to use it correctly and get him to understand the reason behind it. In the end, we certificated one employee as a ‘technical master’ and four others as calibrators.”, said Aliff. “Interestingly, people from Japan or south-east Asia nod to show that they understand something, while Indians shake their heads. At first, I thought they didn’t understand what I said, but later I came to realize that this gesture means ‘I understand.’. This is a simple difference in signs, but I realized the difference between ‘telling someone something’ and ‘getting your point across’”, he recalled. “Now the total number of ‘technical masters’ in overseas plants is eight, and we hope that this number will increase.”, said Yumoto.
Towards An Even Greater Worldwide Increase in Skills
Initiatives such as that carried out in India demonstrate that there will be a rapidly increasing global demand for a higher standard of measurement technology.
However, this can not be carried out with a one-size-fits-all approach, but must be tailored to the characteristics of the area in question.
For example, in the case of calibration, specialized rooms are needed and we train staff in how to standardize and control the room. However, although strict temperature regulation is required because Japan has four seasons, the climate varies from country to country.
“We don’t force local staff to implement "the Japanese way". Instead, we take local conditions into account and train the staff accordingly, while making sure that they understand how to avoid problems with measurement." explained Yumoto.
“I feel that, in order to balance global standardization with local issues, close communication with overseas plants is important. We are laying out the support system to allow prompt communication with us in the event of a problem. As well as this, in terms of training people how to think about things and how to handle the machines, direct communication is just as valuable as using manuals.”
“Today, in 13 major overseas operation sites, the certification of calibrators has been completed. The next challenges are to increase the number of ‘technical masters’ and to enhance the training systems for local areas. I feel that staff in overseas plants do not yet have the same level of understanding as the staff in Japan in relation to standardization, visualization and prevention. I hope to show the Japanese philosophy of manufacturing to the world. Measurement is an indicator of quality.” said Aliff, with conviction.
Their field of expertise will continue to expand.