Unmanned Factory Vehicle Joint Venture Makes Headway

In March 2020, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and Tier IV, Inc. established eve autonomy, Inc. in Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture, a joint venture company that aims to provide autonomous transportation solutions inside factories. eve autonomy started operations in April and has been developing autonomous transportation solutions that are easy to use and feature high general versatility and low costs through actual operation of newly developed smart factory vehicles at a production site. 

Smart factory vehicles incorporate autonomous driving technology.

Tier IV has a track record of implementing various trial demonstrations around the world as a company that leads Autoware (open-source autonomous driving software based on Linux and ROS). Using the ecosystem of Autoware, Tier IV develops and provides diverse services relating to autonomous driving. 

Efficient Production System

The venture company eve autonomy has been promoting the development of autonomous transportation solutions by combining technologies of Tier IV’s Autoware and Yamaha Motor’s expertise in developing vehicle bodies. The eve autonomy is envisioned to enable subscription-type services and after-sales support for customers to respond quickly to demand fluctuations and reduce their initial costs of implementation.

With growing needs for high-mix, low-volume production and chronic labor shortages, it has become difficult to maintain efficient production system in accordance with demand using traditional equipment and operation that are based on the arrangement of workers. 

To solve this problem, Yamaha Motor and Tier IV have been jointly working on the pilot development of smart factory vehicles for autonomous transportation solutions. The companies are conducting actual operation of the smart factory vehicles at Yamaha Motor’s Hamakita Plant in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture.  The companies aim at widespread use of the smart factory vehicles, including at Yamaha Motor’s manufacturing plants in Japan and overseas.

Unique Smart Factory Mark

Autonomous transportation solutions provided by eve autonomy differ from a typical smart factory that innovates the production site, such as Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence (AI), and internet of things (IoT), but the solutions still embed Yamaha Motor’s unique smart factory mark.

The differences and variations generated between the theoretical value and the effective value in real time is defined as the purpose of making the factory smart by using theoretical value-based production, which is an improvement method to increase the ratio of value works toward ideal situation (theoretical value) by classifying all works involving production.

Based on the results of analysis, eve autonomy is developing a low-cost compact automated guided vehicle that requires small loads for introduction and operation and can respond to changes by combination of modules like toy blocks. 

At present, as a result of the analyses of output per hour, quality, inventory, maintenance failure, and transfer frequency, a smart factory vehicle that is based on Yamaha Motor-made electric wheelchair is in operation for the transfer of components at the casting site of motorcycle wheels at the Hamakita Plant. 

By addressing and improving identified issues through practical operation, Yamaha Motor aims to complete autonomous transportation solutions with high functionality and reliability to be provided to customers.