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Senior Project Manager
MONOZUKURI Technology Division, Hitachi, Ltd.
The Hitachi Group is sustained by highly developed monozukuri capabilities-our accumulated design and manufacturing know-how.
The e-Meister program is a tool for teaching this technical mastery, both in Japan and overseas, that is increasing efficiency of production and assuring high levels of product quality at our production centers.
The techniques carefully cultivated since our founding are the basis of Hitachi's monozukuri-designing, manufacturing, or repairing products-and the technical excellence that underpins the quality of our products.
Today, demographic changes in Japan have created concern that highly skilled technicians and instructors will soon be in short supply, just when a high degree of precision is required and production is shifting overseas.Creating a reliable way to transfer technical know-how has become urgent. At its core, teaching technical skills is about how to efficiently pass on intuitive "feel" and "the tricks of the trade" gained through deep experience.
To meet this need, since 2001, the Hitachi Group has been developing the e-Meister program: using information technologies to accurately record and pass on experienced workers' know-how to the next generation.
(left)Screen shot of instructions for brazing copper pipe
(middle)Screen shot showing a finishing technique called kisage
(right)Training new employees in China
e-Meister organizes the introduction of important skills using familiar media-video, still pictures, and sound-that convey information in an easy-to-understand way, not possible from reading a manual or description of procedures.
For example, brazing metal is divided into units: "Preparing the Tools," "Operating Instructions," "Work Procedures," "Job Know-How," and "Checking Your Work." After trainees select a topic, they see a video showing a skilled operator adjusting a welding-torch flame, the angle of the flame to the materials, etc. Many examples of common mistakes and acceptable results are shown, enabling a deep, practical understanding of the techniques.
By using e-Meister, differences in educational levels are evened out, training time is reduced, and exercise review and repetition is possible. Where e-Meister has been introduced, these benefits are increasing production efficiency and product quality.
English- and Chinese-language versions of e-Meister have been produced or overseas affiliates, not only in North America and China, but in Europe and the rest of Asia.
For example, in China's rapidly growing economy, more than 10 Hitachi Group companies use e-Meister. Because they are constantly hiring new employees, fast acquisition of skills is essential to ensure product quality and to meet deadlines. At the production centers where e-Meister is used, response has been positive: "Skills acquisition is easier, and employee morale has risen."
One important task is to expand the e-Meister program, especially toparts of Asia where other languages are spoken.
We are eager to introduce this program to organizations outside our company, such as government ministries and agencies, the Japan Management Association, the Japan Institute of Industrial Engineering, and other manufacturing groups, to contribute more broadly to disseminating Japanese manufacturing skills, as well as developing our own human resources.
(Published in July 2007)