Touring Kobelco’s Factories in Japan

Earlier this year marked the annual Kobelco Australia Parts Meeting held in Japan. Managers of different Kobelco dealerships throughout Australia and New Zealand travelled to Japan to three of the Kobelco factories; Okubo Factory in Akashi City, Numata Factory in Hiroshima City and the Itsukaichi Factory in Hiroshima City.

Our Parts Managers from Brisvegas Machinery (Trevor Moffitt) and Dandenong Tractors (Jamie Galea) went over for the 4 day meeting and shared their experiences and learnings during the tours.

The conference started at Kobelco’s Okubo Factory in Akashi City, where the group discussed new parts releases for 2017, product updates and the new range of Kobelco’s KGSP endorsed parts which will hit the market in the coming months.The group then toured the factory. Okubo is the largest of the parts warehouses and where parts sourced from local manufacturers and suppliers are sent for inspection, packaging and storage or another of the many warehouses around the country. Okubo has 20 automated storage bays for compact storage (see right images below) and with the addition of a new warehouse, Kobelco have introduced a mobile compact pallet racking system.

The second day the group caught the Shinkansen bullet train (which travels at a staggering 280km/h) to Hiroshima for a tour of the Numata Factory. This factory is where Kobelco assemble the machines boom components. The most part is done by robots, which weld majority of the excavator arms. The welds are then checked and tested by engineers to ensure the quality and then moved onto their respective areas for final prep and paint. The Numata Factory also manufactures all components and assembles 13 and 20 tonne rotary joints, top rollers, front idlers, drive motors and slew bearings. The top rollers and idlers are assembled by robots but the slew bearings are assembled by hand.

Trevor said, “It was fascinating to see the robots in action. There was a robot specifically designed to assemble upper rollers and would assemble up to 200 per day. All of the parts needed were made in house and then assembled by the robot.” Rotary joints are assembled by hand then bench tested for any faults or leaks. Drive motors are assembled in enclosed dust controlled rooms. These clean rooms have a double door system to ensure all elements are kept out and don’t effect the build in any way. There is also an entire room dedicated to the Kobelco tool program, to ensure all machining and measuring tools are maintained at their optimum performance and tolerance.

On the third day, the group were taken over to Kobelco’s Itsukaichi Factory. This is the main assembly plant for 7.5 tonne excavators up to 220 tonne excavators. Here they finish preparing the lower chassis, complete final welding, prep and paint all remaining components.

The factory consisted of 3 main assembly lines. “The way they run things in Japan is very different to Australia, each employee has a specific job and work in 12 minute intervals. One side of the factory is undercarriage assembly and the other side is the chassis/machine build with 5 -6 workers per station. The assembly line will do several machines at a time.” Trevor explained

Once the assembly is complete, the machines are then moved into pre-delivery where final testing is carried out, stickers are fitted and machines are cleaned ready for release to local market or shipment.

The group were lucky enough to inspect one of the first SK300LC-10 Excavators announced earlier this year for release in Australia. Brisvegas Machinery sold the first SK300LC-10 in Australia which has already been delivered and onsite being put to work.

The group then travelled to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome). A stark and powerful symbol of the 1945 atomic bomb on Japan. The group spent the rest of the afternoon at the Genbaku Dome and museum.

Day 4 of the conference, the group visited the Mazda Factory and Museum in Ujina, Hiroshima. The factory covers 1.69 square kms (420 acres), and is one of the largest car manufacturing plants in the world. This factory opened in November 1966 and now incorporates a Museum showcasing Mazda’s humble beginnings to the current range of vehicles.

To see more photos of their time in Japan head over to our Facebook page