25 Jul 2024


e-Factory cuts servo manufacturing costs by up to 65%

Mitsubishi Electric is practicing what it preaches. It is using its MES Module launched in the UK a few months ago to monitor the production of servo motors at its factory in Nagoya, Japan, which makes 70,000 motors every month.

The MES Module is designed to sit in a PLC rack and transfer data directly to a company’s IT systems in real time, avoiding the need for the usual intervening gateways or PCs. This data transfer is automatic and does not need any special PLC or SQL database programming. It is also bidirectional, allowing updated production requirements or recipes to be sent from IT systems to the shopfloor.

In Japan, Mitsubishi is marketing the MES Module as part of a larger concept called e-Factory, aimed at optimising production using seamless, real-time communications between IT systems and the factory floor. As well as allowing managers to see what is happening on the production line in real time, the technology also records line inspection and error data and provides traceability.

Mitsubishu servo line

About two years ago, Mitsubishi implemented the e-Factory concept in its plant in Nagoya (shown above and below) that produces small to mid-size servo motors, in ratings from 10W to 55kW. The motors have a unique hinged stator design that allows them to accommodate more windings than usual, thus boosting their performance compared to similarly-sized rival machines.

The e-Factory concept has been applied to the site’s three lines which produce the stators and rotors separately, and then bring them together on an assembly line. It is being used to monitor variables such as winding resistances, dimensional accuracies, bolt-tightening torques, magnetisation conditions and rotor balance.

According to Mitsubishi engineers, the enhanced data capabilities of the e-Factory have helped it to halve its lead times, and to boost productivity by 180%. The number of poor-quality rejects has also been halved. Overall production costs have been cut by up to 65%, Mitsubishi estimates.

servo line closeup

Part of the saving has come through eliminating the need to collect production and test data manually. Another attraction is that alarms and critical messages about the status of the plant are emailed immediately to responsible personnel. If production parameters stray from the ideal, this can be detected in time to make adjustments. Similarly, if preventive maintenance is needed, this will often be picked up before production is disrupted.

Mitsubishi is now planning to apply the e-Factory concept to the production of larger servo motors and inverters at the Nagoya plant.

The idea is also proving popular with other Japanese manufacturers. Since the MES Module was launched in April this year, Mitsubishi says it has supplied more than 600 e-Factory systems to customers in Japan.