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Suzuka Factory, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

 

Sustained Environmental Awareness Bears Fruit: Development of an Automatic Monitor ON/OFF App Three Years in the Waiting

Vehicle quality associates at Honda’s Suzuka Factory have developed their own application that automatically turns computer monitors on and off. But this is no ordinary energy-saving app. This app, conceived three years prior to its development, not only contributes to the quality of the Honda N Series, the best-selling mini-vehicle brand in Japan, but could also lead to major reductions in electricity use as it spreads from its home division in Japan to Honda factories around the world.

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Suzuka Factory produces Japan’s best-selling mini-vehicle

The N Series has become a symbol of the Japanese mini-vehicle, topping the list of best-selling vehicles in this category in fiscal 2017 for the third year running.

The N Series currently includes the N-BOX, N-BOX +, N-BOX SLASH, N-WGN, and N-ONE. Known for their exceptional fuel and driving performance, popular designs, and safety, these mini-vehicles have gathered a broad fanbase.

N-Box (left) and N-Box Custom

N-Box (left) and N-Box Custom

The birthplace of the N Series is the Honda Suzuka Factory, located in the racing town of Suzuka, Mie Prefecture, in central Japan. The entire production process happens right here, from press-molding of the vehicle’s body, and fabrication of its engine and transmission, to final vehicle assembly.

Once assembled, vehicles are carefully examined for any quality issues prior to shipment. Called the finished vehicle inspection, this step is the very last on the automobile production line.

The VQ Department’s contributions to N Series quality

Koichi Umemoto, Manager, Vehicle Quality Dept., Vehicle Assurance Division, Suzuka Factory, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

Koichi Umemoto, Manager, Vehicle Quality Dept., Vehicle Assurance Division, Suzuka Factory, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

Suzuka Factory

Suzuka Factory

A finished vehicle inspection in the Vehicle Quality Dept.

A finished vehicle inspection in the Vehicle Quality Dept.

“Suzuka Factory currently has two automobile assembly lines which together produce about 1,300 N Series vehicles every day. My team checks the quality of all 1,300 of those vehicles.”

Meet Koichi Umemoto, manager of Suzuka Factory’s Vehicle Quality Department.

The Vehicle Quality Department, called “VQ” by its members, protects customers’ trust in the Honda brand by managing the quality of this popular car model day after day. It does this by a process of inspecting all finished vehicles.

The finished vehicle inspection serves a dual purpose: to ensure that the vehicles produced are compliant with legal standards, and to control for quality (uniformity).
While the finished vehicle inspection is supposed to be conducted by Japan’s Transport Minister, the “type designation system” exempts automakers from having to present actual vehicles for the initial inspection, if such vehicles are inspected by a designated person, by the designated method, and using designated facilities. Only vehicles that pass the inspection are issued a completion inspection certificate and allowed to drive on public roads.

At Honda, inspections for legal compliance and uniformity are done daily and cover some 600 items, including exterior and interior checks, test driving to confirm straightness of travel, and measuring braking force using special instruments. Only vehicles given a passing grade are approved for shipment.

“Our responsibility is to ship only the vehicles that will make our customers happy. To do that, we perform inspections not only to obey the law, but also to ensure that we meet certain standards of product quality, such as the proper functioning of interior features and other installed parts. That’s why our finished vehicle inspection is so detailed.”

Umemoto continues.

“The inspector’s job is to run through these roughly 600 checks and give a final pass or fail grade to each finished vehicle. Only associates who have gone through our division’s training program and are recognized as capable of performing the designated inspections are qualified as an inspector and given, as proof, a yellow armband. We have almost 300 people in our division involved in these inspections and making sure our vehicles are legally compliant and meet quality standards. This system ensures that only vehicles that have passed the test for comfort and convenience when our customers use them are sent out into the world.”

As he speaks, Umemoto’s focused gaze reveals his sense of responsibility as manager of this “last line of defense” in protecting Honda quality.