September 21

2017

EU-Japan Lean Summit

Driving improvement and competitiveness in a digital age

On 21 September 2017, the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation (EUJC) organised the first EU-JAPAN LEAN SUMMIT. The Summit analysed how digital developments (AI / IoT, etc.) can be combined with traditional lean improvement techniques and industry 4.0 / society 5.0 approaches to drive improvement and create new ways of operating, new products / services and existing offerings.

There were three parts to the Summit: short presentations as to what each participant's company is doing; an explanation of the revitalisation of Nissan; and a moderated roundtable discussion. The participants were senior executives from EU and Japanese industry (BMW Group, Bosch Thermotechnology, DHL Supply Chain, Kostwein Maschinenbau GmbH, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Europe, Takaoka Chemical, thyssenkrupp Norte, Toshiba of Europe, Toyota Motor Europe and the Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance) and from the EU and Japanese Authorities. They discussed what European and Japanese firms see as key issues and challenges.

The Summit facilitated a sharing of cutting-edge European and Japanese approaches and experiences in driving improvement and best-practice and addressed issues including:

  • The challenges that new technologies can pose for standardisation;
  • The need to link what firms offer their customers with traditional manufacturing processes;
  • Although people are key, workers have different strengths (older workers have more experience, but younger workers embrace digital technology more easily but must be able to deliver the value to drive companies forward) and opportunities for self-learning are essential;
  • Digitalisation has allowed a company working in the energy sector to overcome challenges posed by the intermittence of renewable energy sources;
  • A lack of IT standards can create blockages in corporate systems;
  • Information can be empowering ('big players' are no longer mechanical engineering companies but companies who use data technologies), but lacks transparency;
  • IoT has transformed product traceability, shortening search times from days to seconds;
  • The importance of not losing sight of the 'gemba' – digital technologies should be used in conjunction with improvement techniques (plan-do-check-act and trusting workers' experience and knowledge) and not used in isolation; and,
  • IT developments have led to a growing gap between technology used in manufacturing and technology used for long-term exploitation.

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