Today we are on a relaxed schedule with only one factory visit in the morning before heading back to the hotel in preparation for our cultural performance at the Gala dinner tonight.
Munjal Showa is the world largest producer of shock absorbers fitted in leading brand vehicles such as Honda and Yamaha etc. It is one of the oldest company with established partnership between India and Japan that is still thriving till today.
Here's a view of outside the assembly line. We are not allowed to take pictures inside the assembly line but it was an up close and personal tour where we get to stand right beside the production workers and closely observe what everyone was doing.
The assistant VP shared with us the concept of Lean manufacturing and it struck my mind that the Maker movement that I am familiar with, has close similarities in terms of the methodology and approach.
You first study the machine, remove the unnecessary features to reduce the space that the machine takes up.
The other improvement is to see if multiple processes can be combined together. One good example is the customized drillbit that creates a small diameter cut at the bottom half and a larger diameter cut at the top. This allows you to complete the drilling in one step without having to perform a tool change. This allows a reduction of energy used and increases productivity for the assembly line.
This is similar to the Maker movement where people redesigned existing machines like 3D printing and CNC to become a table-top size with reduced resolution but sufficient for rapid prototyping purposes. Off the shelf parts are also used whenever possible for easy replication of the design and reducing barrier reqiured to create a replica. Cost is significantly reduced as well since most Maker are doing this as a hobby and budget restrains motivates the use of as little parts as possible to get the job done.
However, there are some practices that i disagree with towards their productivity increasing approach. On one machine, the heavy door was removed the new design as 5 seconds was required to open/close the door and it was heavy, causing fatigue on the workers. Doing this does reduce the time taken for parts swapping but exposes the operator to a higher possible risk of injury should the part dislodge and spin out from the machine during operation. You can say that the machine is safe to operate with the use of sensors etc but this history of workplace injury and the cause of them tells us the importance of a shielded chamber that encloses the part within the machine during operation.
Putting that aside, the idea of in-house manufacturing is extremely interesting and reminds me of the point mentioned by my professor about China's manufacturing industry. All the years, China has been purchasing assembly line equipment from overseas and allowed them to rapidly earn its name as a manufacturing powerhouse. This indirect reliance puts them in a position where they are only as capable as the availability of machines in the market. Being able to design machines in house brings immense amount of capabilities and agility in terms of handling new product requirements and constantly upgrading their machines at a fraction of the cost.
There was a period where I had this thought of creating in-house machines that allows students to have easily accessible and constructable ones for their personal use even after graduation. However, it seemed like it was too much work and effort to get it done so buying off the shelf seemed like a more sensible decision. This short trip to Munjal Showa sets me thinking and who knows this might be a New Year resolution for 2016.
The gala dinner was plain awesome! Each country is invited to put up a cultural performance and we as a Singapore contingent presented 2 Singapore songs that are close to our hearts. I believe there is no other country that has a new song written to celebrate the Nation's birthday every year. We are really delighted about how the performance turned out but I shall let the video do the talking instead.
A representative from the High Commission popped by as well and we were extremely stoked hearing our familiar Singlish.
Friends from Philippines wearing their National costume.
I also learnt that the National costume for the filipino male is known as Barong Tagalog and is it made from pineapple fibre!