Epson’s skills school
Epson’s skills school for the new generation
Ever since Seiko Epson Corporation’s beginnings in 1942, we have been intent on exceeding customer expectations by delivering highly innovative and exceptionally well made products. We believe that, even in today’s highly automated and computerised world, innovation and manufacturing skill cannot be divorced from a fundamental human understanding of the ultra-precision machining and mechatronics that underpin all our products – from sensors and robotics to printers, projectors and wearables.
To maintain and enhance these vital skills within our team, we established an in-house manufacturing school called the Monozukuri Juku at our head office in Nagano, Japan, in 2002. In it we rigorously train our young technicians to maintain the highest standards by passing expert skill directly from one generation to the next. Through this training we disseminate the Epson philosophy symbolised by a spirit of creativity and challenge and in so doing are able to continuously enhance customer value.
Education Leads to Innovation
Innovation and improvement are core principles for Epson. Our ability to develop in the face of unexpected challenges is what keeps us ahead in a fast paced and highly competitive global industry. Our manufacturing school has already played a key role in that.
Over the past decade, rising labour costs (especially outside Japan) have led to many workers opting for non-manufacturing jobs. The labour short-fall was impacting both Epson and other manufacturing businesses. We responded by building production lines that ensure stable production without over-reliance on human labour.
In December 2014 basic mechatronics training in our manufacturing school was expanded to cover essentials for stepping up the pace of automation: material feeding and removal, robots, image processing, mechanics and more. This training is given to mechanical and maintenance engineers in Japan and manufacturing and machinery maintenance leaders in other countries. These skills are leading to significant advances in our own manufacturing processes, as-well-as innovation in our factory automation robotics.
The Art and Science of Manufacturing
Our students gain experience of monozukuri (the art and science of manufacturing) through performing certain manufacturing tasks step by step. We teach the basics of component processing (moulding and pressing) to provide employees with the skills needed to produce a variety of the parts that go into Epson products. We also provide them with the skills and experience necessary to automate and otherwise increase the efficiency of manufacturing lines.
In an environment where cost competition is fierce, we aim to train the young employees at our manufacturing school in an environment that is as close as possible to the shop floor.
Our students start from scratch. For the best part of half a year they concentrate exclusively on machine processing, filing and other manufacturing basics. They then go on to master classic machine tools such as lathes and milling machines. We give them this training despite the fact that in this day and age the practice of filing has all but vanished from the shop floor and lathing is mainly done via computer-controlled CNC turning.
So why do we do it?
You can only improve what you understand
We do it because a human operator with experience of classic machinery adds value. If a computer-controlled machine is programmed to cut one millimetre, for example, it will precisely cut one millimetre. The machine cannot make any decisions beyond that. By contrast, a skilled human can for example adjust the cutting technique if they see smoke or reduce the size of cuts to prevent heat distortion. Placing less of a burden on the machine extends its lifespan and, needless to say, improves precision. So there is a clear difference in the end result depending on whether or not the operator is experienced in classic machinery.
Nor is training limited to manufacturing skills. It covers a wide range of knowledge essential to manufacturing, with students encouraged to think methodically about issues such as how cell phone casings are made. The aim of this is to open up more possibilities when making the next new item.
Community involvement helps us too
Since 2012 the Monozukuri Juku has given practical training and educational guidance training to students and teachers from specialised senior high schools. Our lecturers have an opportunity to outline the strengths students should acquire as seen from the business world. Their teachers report that this helps them to guide their pupils.
Every year at Epson we send 10-15 individuals to compete in the Technical Skills Games. At Monozukuri Juku we identify trainees who quickly acquire essential skills and demonstrate the potential to create innovative technologies and systems. We hone their skills and send them to training camps (which are held three times a year). Participants lodge together, run a 40k road race, join group discussions, and set targets. It helps build as sense of solidarity as Team Epson. We use training for these Games to develop groundbreaking technicians.
We also hold further practical trainings about 100 times a year that are open to all trainees. Sitting alongside the core technical training at Monozukuri Juku, they help raise the overall level of the young employees who are Epson’s future.
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