New Solutions Innovate Manufacturing Automation Processes

Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions Co., Ltd. has been advancing its clout in the manufacturing industry by pushing froward its two global business units, the circuit forming process, which include electronic components mounters, semiconductor manufacturing equipment, display manufacturing equipment, software, and the thermal processing system, which on the other hand includes welding machines, welding robots, laser processing.

Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions is under Process Automation Business Division of Connected Solutions Company, Panasonic Corporation.  Akihiro Akiyama, President and Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions, doubles as Director, Process Automation Business Division. As facilities related to the process automation business, Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions has eight production bases, 70 services bases, 75 sales bases, and 28 training centers globally.

Akiyama says, “The manufacturing industry continues to face risk factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the trade tensions between United States and China, semiconductor shortages, and some natural disasters. However, there are also many opportunities for growth, including the expansion of demand for semiconductors and devices with the acceleration of digitization; shift to electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous driving; proliferation of 5G; and automobile, construction equipment and shipbuilding fields to which investments can be expected.”

“Innovations of the manufacturing process to grab these opportunities in the growth fields are required at the factory floor of the manufacturing industry. At the same time, requirements for automation to cope with labor shortages and achieve high-quality production have also been increasing.” 

Akihiro Akiyama, President and Chief Executive Officer, Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions Co., Ltd.

Taps Systems, Edge Equipment

Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions targets process innovation of the manufacturing site. The company will use highly competitive equipment and devices that are edge devices as a base and connect them to optimize the production line and the entire factory, thereby providing values such as supply chain planning (SCP) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) that are higher than manufacturing execution system (MES). The company aims to achieve continuous business with customers by attaining optimization in stages with minimum investments on the part of customers rather than optimizing the whole at once.

Akiyama says, “We aim to achieve autonomous factory using systems and edge equipment.  To this end, we would like to provide the world’s number one edge equipment in the six basic fields of mounting process, flat panel display (FPD) process, semiconductor process, welding system, digital data link (DDL), and manufacturing solution.”

To strengthen edge equipment, Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions will incorporate extension functions and fine process, rather than strengthening equipment only. With mounters, the company has strengthened basic performance of the NPM Series, which supports fine mounting of high-density printed circuit boards, and expanded its lineup.

In addition, the company also proposes fine process control using iLNB integrated line management system using internet of things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) with PanaCIM integrated production management software at the base. 

Using the iLNB integrated line management system enables automatic model changeover, quality product manufacturing and predictive quality management, optimization of tact balance and elimination of bottleneck in process, and line key performance indicator (KPI) (product yield, total operation rate) management.  Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions actively promotes collaborations with other companies. At present, it is in collaboration with 102 companies globally, including automated optical inspection (AOI) systems manufacturers.  Through collaborations, the company not only complements equipment and systems, but it also aims to develop new manufacturing processes.

With welding systems, the company released in Aug. 2020 iWNB integrated welding management system, which improves productivity and quality and strengthen traceability by collecting, accumulating, and analyzing information on welding robots. It is like having a welding robot version of iLNB. It collects, accumulates, and analyzes information on the company’s welding robots, thereby achieving improved productivity and efficiency of the welding site.  The company has been promoting digitization and visualization of the entire process by adding Bead Eye, an inspection solution through collaboration with LINKWIZ, Inc., to welding robots. 

An example of process innovation (mounting line at Kobe Factory of Mobile Solutions Business Division, Connected Solutions Company, Panasonic Corporation)

Restructures Business Pitch

Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions has also brought to market Virtual Robot Programming System (VRPS), which reproduces the operation of a welding engineer on a robot using the virtual reality (VR) device specified by the company, the first of its kind in the industry. It simplifies the robot teaching work that previously required specialties and realizes high operation rate and high productivity of robots.

To promote these process innovations of the manufacturing industry, it is important to continue sustainable growth with high profitability as a company. Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions has also been strengthening human resources that support markets and customers, products and services, business process, and information technology (IT) and equipment that are the sources of competitiveness. 

Quoting a line from Panasonic founder Konosuke Matsushita, “Business is to make ‘impressions’,” Akiyama says, adding that “Returning to the starting point of business, we would like to continue providing values with the concept of customer success to provide customers with benefits more than those we attain.” As a slogan for FY2021, Akiyama sets “Provide Impressions.” 

Meanwhile, Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions will become one business division (Process Automation Business Division) under a new company Panasonic Connect Co., Ltd., which will be established through the integration of the four companies of Connected Solutions Company on April 1, 2022, when Panasonic Corporation shifts to a holding company system.