As a global supplier of wiring harnesses, we have two core beliefs in developmental engineering, product engineering and manufacturing engineering, in order to correctly meet the needs of our customers around the world. We’ll describe in detail Sumitomo Wiring Systems’ structure and training systems that aim to realize two missions: achieving globally common design and flexibly satisfying customer needs.
We have technical bases very close to major automakers in Japan and around the world to be able to respond immediately to their requests.
Sumitomo Wiring Systems’ developmental engineering is structured to meet all of the various needs of our customers, both in Japan and overseas. Product engineering and manufacturing engineering are the core of our structure.
First, product engineering means joint developmental engineering with customers by locating technical bases close to customers to immediately respond to their requests. In Japan, we have technical centers in Toyota, Atsugi, Utsunomiya, Hiroshima, and other areas, adjacent to almost all major Japanese automakers. In North America, our technical centers are located in Detroit. We have established technical centers in England, Germany, France, and Italy, close to some of the leading automakers of Europe. In addition to our technical centers, we send engineers to customers’ sites to conduct developmental engineering with them. These guest engineers or partner engineers account for as much as 50 to 70 percent of the employees at all technical centers.
Second, manufacturing engineering is a way to help produce products more easily. Until about 15 years ago, domestic production was a very high percentage of our total production and we had manufacturing engineering departments at manufacturing bases all over the country. But, then we rapidly shifted production overseas. We now have manufacturing engineering bases in the Americas, Asia, China, and Europe that are striving for perfect designs by identifying and meeting needs in various regions.
G-STEP is a career qualification system that consists of training programs and tests to bring up developers and designers.We have a global mechanism to bring up developers and designers who can promptly help our customers at their companies.
We focus on training to enable joint product development with our customers. For example, we have the G-STEP verification and qualification system that is based on training programs and tests and covers different areas, including circuit design, in-vehicle design, manufacturing design, CAD operations, and three-dimensional parts design. G-STEP has four levels and 80% or more of our people strive to attain the highest rank, Level One or Two. Those who fail to rank high are coached by their department managers to improve the skills of all members. We’re developing human resources who can immediately help our customers at their companies by enhancing their abilities in this steady way.
As another method of improving our capabilities, we’re continually advancing benchmarking activities. This is an effort to identify our real ability by comparing our strengths and weaknesses against objective criteria. We also have a Benchmarking Room that displays various wiring harnesses used by automakers at home and abroad, to learn from the entire industry for future progress. It’s important to do our best to win over our competitors. But, we’re also applying the principle of competition in-house to recognize our status quo for further improvements and strengthen our technical capabilities and motivations.
Moreover, we believe the benchmarking activities must not be passive, and we’ve started new actions. We’ve asked each design department a question: “What do current technology trends require you to do?” Now, they’re trying to find the answer. We’ll present the facts and findings obtained in this process to the world, instead of keeping them in Japan only. The active benchmarking activities are just beginning.
In the manufacturing process, we minimize losses by promoting virtual examinations that allow for various computer simulations.We continue to build mechanisms to enable developmental engineering that satisfies our customers by globally sharing accumulated knowledge and ideas.
We have set the challenge “reduction in lead time” in all processes from development to manufacturing to support customers in the rapidly changing and advancing 21st century. To fulfill this challenge, we are promoting SWS Innovation by Digital Engineering Linkage (SIDEL), a design front loading process via virtual reviewing where a variety of simulations are possible using a computer to eliminate checks other than the final check in the manufacturing process. We are also preparing a knowledge database. This is the so-called “Shelf of Technology” where data can be retrieved by authorized personnel at anytime from anywhere. Screening this data in advance leads to reduction in waste.
Globally sharing our accumulated knowledge allows personnel involved to check the same level of technology in spite of geographical distance. We are striving to establish a system where development and design are possible to satisfy customers while maintaining knowledge and technology higher than the specified level even in a business environment where people are moving globally.
We want to reduce lead times and ensure the same design and quality quickly wherever in the world design occurs. This desire has led to Sumitomo Wiring Systems’ own system that has helped achieve our globally common design.
Customers have their own culture and methodology. As their system also differs, data conversion or response to individual cases is required when we manufacture a product. Even if the system differs according to the customer, however, we are committed to reduce lead time and speedily secure the same design and quality wherever in the world design work is performed. “Worldwide uniform design” is our solution for these commitments. It has been achieved by converting different customer specific design data to SWS’s original system to make the manufacturing design uniform throughout the world.
We have often experienced where multiple designs were submitted even though there was only a single manufacturing plant. To improve this, we have standardized every procedure from the minute data input method to the process and check system. As a result of many twists and turns, we have successfully established a global system where the same design data is submitted to the plant from any design base, enabling the product to be manufactured using the same method. This system allows us to respond to customers’ insistence to supply the same quality products in whatever overseas plant they are produced.
Manufacturing design is always uniform worldwide, and product design is customized according to the customers’ needs.
We believe improving communication in the company will help enhance our “Product Appeal.” We’re cultivating a culture that enables workshops to create new products.
The most important thing we’re searching for is to proactively propose products that meet our customers’ needs—products that make them happy and enhance our “Product Appeal.” We have to identify our customers’ needs in a timely fashion to improve the product appeal. If we fail to uncover their needs, we won’t be able to survive as a company.
To strengthen product appeal, we’re practicing “Product Appeal No. 1 Activities.” We discuss what technology strategies or products we should deliver by watching trends and discussing themes with each other.
Of course, we have to have respect for each and every engineer, from the Development & Engineering Departments who actually works everyday at our customers’ sites. We’re cultivating a culture to enable workshops that create new products by improving communication in the departments and company and organizing the work environment.
We believe we must reinforce developmental engineering, the foundation of manufacturing, to deal with needs that rapidly change with the times.
Situations have changed greatly over the past several years―people and services move across borders easily in our global economy. Automakers have implemented various kinds of reform and reorganization. We believe we must reinforce developmental engineering, the foundation of manufacturing, in this current era. This is because we’ll have to deal with our customers’ needs that change rapidly. We’ll increase design bases to more quickly meet the requirements of the automakers that continue to grow in this era. We’ll strive to provide better products in a timelier manner and discover developmental engineering that is profitable and satisfactory to our customers.
Automobiles are driven in all kinds of environments, from cities to mountain villages, in the tropics as well as in cold areas. This means wiring harnesses must feature superior durability. Sumitomo Wiring Systems has established a research and evaluation system that includes rigorous durability testing conducted to increase product reliability, CAE using computers to analyze experimental data, an anechoic chamber to evaluate electromagnetic noise, and other facilities and equipment.