Japan Inc. at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution
From ‘smart’ healthcare and autonomous vehicles, to robotics and factory automation, Japan Inc. is ready to lead the world into this new era that will transform how we live and work.
With the emergence of technologies such as robotics, advanced automation, artificial intelligence and
the Internet of Things, the world is witnessing the dawn of a new era hailed as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0). Simultaneously, Japan is undergoing a period of economic revitalization that is underpinned by technology and innovation.
The consumer electronics and automobile industries played a major role in turning Japan into a global economic powerhouse in the 1970s and 80s, before the onset of what is known as the “lost decade.” But The Land of the Rising Sun is ready to rise again, leveraging on its technology pedigree to put itself at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“The fourth industrial revolution implies robotics and other hardware fields where Japan is
leading,” says Takahiro Hachigo, President of Honda Motor Co.
Honda is behind one of the most iconic figures of Japan’s robotics industry: Asimo, the world’s most advanced humanoid robot. Although in July, Honda announced it was stopping production of the friendly-looking robot in order to focus on using Asimo’s technol
ogy for more practical use cases in nursing and road transport.
This October the company also announced that it was investing $2.8 billion in GM subsidiary Cruise Holdings to develop autonomous vehicles.
Beyond the focus on development for end users, Japan’s manufactur
ers are also adopting Industry 4.0 technologies in their factory lines to help improve efficiency, quality
and safety, as well as to address the problem of the shrinking workforce. But for Sanyo Machinery Works, a company that pioneered automation in factories back in the 1960s, this is nothing new.
“Everyone is talking about how ‘Industry 4.0’ is on the horizon and
that we have to brace ourselves for ground-breaking changes that will shake up industries; but the reality is that we have been doing this for over 30 years,” says president, Keita Horiba.
“We have developed a new state-of-the-art IT system and incorporated it into a number of assembly lines to improve the overall quality and productivity of our manufacturing processes, while also providing quick and detailed
instructions to our employees regarding production materials, methods and schedules assigned to specific assembly lines.
“Thanks to these improvements, our processes are now more efficient and systematic. So IOT
and network integration into manufacturing is nothing new to us. We have been doing this for a long time now and are looking to further develop what we already know.” Hideki Lino, CEO of Office FA, says robotics is the field that
garners the most attention. But more emphasis is now being put into developing system integration technologies.
“Over the last couple of years, the value of system integrators has drastically risen,” he says.
“We are experts in systematic processing, integration and development of technologies. Our core activity is to combine technological devices together. For example, we combine robotic technology with IOT devices to enhance machine operation. We have also linked robot technology to lithium-ion batteries; or robotics with new-era semiconductors. Our objective is to exploit the potential of automation by crossing technologies together.”
Industry 4.0 will revolutionize society, industry and business. And from ‘smart’ healthcare and
autonomous vehicles, to robotics and automation, Japan Inc. is ready to lead this enormous change.
“The fourth industrial revolution implies robotics and other hardware fields where Japan is leading” Takahiro Hachigo, President, Honda Motor Company