TOYOBO’s Way of Manufacturing

The Tsuruga Research and Production Center—the source of diverse products and solutions, and Toyobo’s largest R&D/manufacturing base

Grown to Become Toyobo’s Core Plant, Almost 90 Years After Establishment

Tsuruga Research

The Tsuruga Research and Production Center started life in 1934 with the production of rayon. Since then, it has widened its sphere of operation over many years to include films, biochemicals and high-performance products, meeting the needs of the times. We have developed systems that enable the Tsuruga plant to handle processes from R&D right through to production, and it plays a fundamental role in “TOYOBO’s way of manufacturing.”

In recent years, we have continued to implement process control standardization using ICT/IoT, while investing aggressively to bolster the plant’s production capacity.

History of the Tsuruga Research and Production Center

1934 Toyo Boseki: Start of operations at the Tsuruga Plant (The current Tsuruga Plant No.1)
Start of rayon production
1964 Kureha Boseki: Start of Tsuruga Nylon Plant operations (The current Tsuruga Plant No.2)
  • * 1966: Merger of Toyo Boseki and Kureha Boseki
1978 Establishment of Tsuruga Enzymes Plant (The current Tsuruga Biochemicals Plant)
1984 Start of Nippon Magphane Tsuruga Plant operations (The current Tsuruga Films Plant)
2010 Full-scale start of production reform activities
2014 Begin operating world’s largest polyester lm production facilities
Invested ¥10billion in new production facilities
2018 Establishment of Xenomax - Japan Co., Ltd. for production of high heat-resistant polyimide film
2019 Launch of manufacturing plant for mold releasing films for MLCC
Invested ¥6billion in new production facilities

Production Reform Activities in Support of Manufacturing

In our production reform activities, we seek to resolve issues by boosting the onsite capability throughout the plant, based on an understanding of the “customer’s perspective” and “what is needed the most,” which are the most valued aspects of “TOYOBO’s way of manufacturing.” We have carried out production reform activities at the Tsuruga Research and Production Center continuously for 10 years, and have created a culture in which knowledge is shared across departmental boundaries.

Customer needs are always subject to change. It could be product quality, information and solutions, resilience towards natural disasters and other emergency situations in recent years, onsite capability to respond to customer feedback, and the actual reliability of our onsite operations.

Supplying outstanding products that give our customers joy, providing customers with accurate information, and building systems using ICT/IoT, are also key topics in our activities.

Approach to TOYOBO’s Way of Manufacturing

Approach to TOYOBO’s Way of Manufacturing

Process Control by Artisans, Utilizing ICT/IoT

Production reform activities at the Tsuruga Research and Production Center commenced in fiscal 2011. Since then, we have been standardizing our process control to provide safe and stable onsite working conditions. This has been achieved by tackling issues such as complaint handling, cost competitiveness, and technology & skill transfer, all of which are common among many departments.

After 10 years of constant efforts, we have managed to reduce more than 90% of the problems throughout the plant. This has been achieved by identifying potential problems during daily adjustments to manufacturing processes and voluntary maintenance work, and then making the appropriate improvements. The vast implicit knowledge of the organization, particularly of our most experienced workers, has been useful. Identifying and standardizing their knowledge becomes a major strength. This means that in relation to the elements of process control—monitoring, judgment, and action—the knowledge and expertise gained from past experience can be put into practice by anyone, whether a new employee or an experienced professional. In this sense, our employees become master artisans conducting process control.

Identifying changesMonitoring

The knowledge and experience of artisans

Our artisans can draw on their experience to quickly and flawlessly identify changes in equipment or processes that may result in product abnormalities.

They can do this because the points and standards they need to check are clearly identified.

Workflow for realizing artisans’ process control

Visualizing the artisan’s standards Strengthening the monitoring structure Support provided by ICT/IoT
  • Clarifying points and standards
    The following items are surveyed in detail: What do I see, hear and feel? How is it different from the normal state?
  • Documenting and mechanizing points and standards
    These are reflected in standardization manuals and alarms, onsite notices, etc.
  • Ensuring time for monitoring
    We reduce the time spent on searching and wandering around by reviewing work processes and the placement of people as well as objects
  • Strengthening patrol inspections
    Security and disaster prevention as well as other items are reviewed and adjusted to the artisan level
  • Deploying and developing monitoring tools
    Various tools and systems are used for monitoring: position sensors and image analysis are used for visual monitoring, while vibration sensors are used for auditory and touch-based monitoring
  • Developing analysis systems
    Indications of changes are detected, and workers are notified

Quickly and securely restoring normal operation
Judgment Action

The knowledge and experience of artisans

Our artisans can quickly and securely restore changes in equipment or processes back to normal operation.

They can do this because they have the logic (in thought and procedures) along with the skills to identify the cause and take action quickly and properly.

Workflow for realizing artisans’ process control

Visualizing the artisan’s logic Enhancing knowledge and skills Support provided by ICT/IoT
  • Clarifying logic
    We organize the thought and procedures for identifying causes, and the types of action appropriate to each cause
  • Documenting logic
    Standards and Procedure manuals that describe solutions and techniques are created to enable prompt and accurate action
  • Extending training and drills
    We create systems that facilitate efficient learning of the knowledge, technology and skills required for an understanding of logic and an approach akin to that of an artisan
  • Developing support systems
    We promptly provide documents detailing the information, logic and methods required from cause identification to action

Key results

Security and Disaster Prevention Initiatives

Tsuruga Research

In September 2018, a major fire occurred at the Tsuruga Research and Production Center. In order to learn from this event, we gathered the direct feedback of those who experienced the fire, collated the problems raised and shared these within the plant. Based on this, we carried out a review of the plant’s systems where we conducted inspections and made improvements at each onsite location, installed new equipment for the entire plant, and improved the firefighting system as well as activities.

The system adopted in our production reform activities has been useful here. Meetings were held to make decisions for the Group, but before that, sectional meetings thoroughly discussed the following topics: 3S (Sort, Sweep, and Standardize), problem mitigation, training, quality and smart operations.

Our customers as well as the people from the surrounding area suffered significant damage, and we caused great inconvenience to them. To ensure that such a fire never occurs again, the memories and experiences we have collated will be passed down through our production reform activities.

Moreover, we have incorporated the lessons of the Tsuruga plant fire in our company-wide disaster prevention guidelines and our investments in disaster prevention equipment.

However, on September 27, 2020, a major accident occurred at the Inuyama plant, which cost the lives of our valued employees. We have conducted a thorough investigation into what was lacking and inadequate in our process safety and disaster prevention activities in the past with the Toyobo Group’s top priority on safety and disaster prevention. We will continue to make Toyobo into a safe company where this kind of accident will never happen again.