Fujitsu Peripherals Realizes 40% Increase in Operational Efficiency

Fujitsu Peripherals, Ltd. |

Fujitsu Peripherals, Ltd. (henceforth referred to as “Fujitsu Peripherals”), in cooperation with PTC University, has formulated a set of basic rules to become their in-house design standard. They have analyzed their strengths and weaknesses based on the results of a detailed skill assessment initiative, and established targeted educational programs to enhance their design expertise. Through the application of on-site training and functional on-the-job training programs, they have made major improvements to designer knowledge and skill, and have managed to optimize the time spent modifying designs or examining layouts by 20 to 30%.

Fujitsu Peripherals is a manufacturer whose corporate philosophy is “Making an impression through reliable technology.” With a development process that makes the best of designers’ abilities, Fujitsu builds up its business on the two pillars of ubiquitous projects in design and manufacturing, and in-house ODM (Original Design Manufacturing) projects centered on heavy-duty system printers and automated manufacturing equipment. Ubiquitous projects use modular architecture manufacturing, while in-house / ODM projects use integral architecture manufacturing. Both ways rely on abundant experience and know-how, and boast the ability to internally carry out the entire manufacturing sequence, from development to the finished product. President and Representative Director Toshimasa Okano, who started his career in product design, believes in raising the level of in-house design expertise, and is deeply committed to the introduction and application of CAD. Fujitsu Peripherals has taken this to heart, and has managed to become the first in the Fujitsu Group to implement 3D CAD.

Around the 10th year after full-scale use of 3D CAD had begun, Mr. Okano began to think about a policy that would further enhance the utilization of the PTC 3D CAD that all designers had been working with in-house. While he had already realized many business benefits through the implementation of 3D CAD, he estimated that if 3D CAD software could be more deeply understood, allowing for greater levels of mastery, it could drastically improve operational efficiency.

In the words of Mr. Okano, “It is said that most people use only around 10% of the features in the portable phones and smart phones they carry around. Thinking along the same lines, I began to wonder whether or not our technicians had actually learned to use 100% of the 3D CAD features.”

“Using CAD to draw diagrams” and “designing” are not the same things. And yet, if designers can master the full capabilities of CAD when designing, it will certainly increase their operational efficiency. While Fujitsu Peripherals has started to conduct internal training and is passing down techniques through OJT, those actions alone have not brought about the sense that they will lead to radical improvements. Initially, the introduction of educational programs wasn’t considered at all. In order to implement design that fully uses 3D CAD functionality and promote best practices, Mr. Okano and the members of the Fujitsu Peripherals Development Administration Division held repeated meetings with PTC University. Over ongoing discussion, they began to formulate a program to raise the level of design expertise.

Unexpected results from the initial skill diagnostics

From their undefined concepts, they began by formulating the purpose of the program. Three goals emerged: the functional mastery of 3D CAD as a design tool, the definition of best practices, i.e. of how the 3D design work should proceed, and the establishment of standardized 3D design rules and techniques. But before those could happen, they had to gain a firm understanding of their actual state of affairs. To that end, they conducted the first skill diagnostics. Fujitsu Peripherals took pride in the large number of excellent designers employed by the company. And in fact, their designers were held in high regard throughout the entire Fujitsu Group. They looked forward to seeing their results in comparison to worldwide average values. They speculated that the assessment results would demonstrate a certain degree of competence.

But what they found was not what they expected. Mr. Hidenobu Fujioka from Development Division that oversaw the program, said “The results were shocking. The average score of those who took the tests fell below the worldwide average. As we looked more closely into this, we found that their practical skills exceeded the average, but their knowledge scores were low. We were forced to conclude that their basic education had been insufficient.”

The designers showed that they had the expertise to accurately create 3D models. However, since they had not mastered the tools, they could not create the 3D models efficiently. As it turns out, Mr. Okano’s apprehensions had hit the nail on the head. Based on these results, the company decided on a course of “training reinforcement.” On-the-job training was given to all designers according to their level of skill in the form of short-term, intensive classes. The classes took place over 2 weeks. These difficult on-the-job classes, conducted in parallel with the designers’ normal work, focused in on the features being studied (Figure 1).

The features used by the various designers differed, depending on whether they were using integral design for printers or automatic machines, or modular design for PCs or portable phones. Looking even more closely at the diagnostic results, it was found that designers’ knowledge in their relevant fields and functional skills frequently used in tasks were more than acceptable, but given the company’s culture of offering support to other departments during peak business periods, the results that showed an inability to make significant contributions to those departments did not live up to expectations. Accordingly, the training reinforcement was set up with the intention to improve designers’ knowledge and compensate for any weak spots. Mr. Shigehiro Fujii, Director, Mechanical Design Department, Development Division spoke about this, saying “Even though the tools are evolving on a daily basis, if the designers only know one way of doing things, it’s going to take them a long time to do it. If they are responsible for multiple types of devices, they will be able to learn multiple ways of doing things, as well as things they didn’t know before. Accelerating that became one of our goals.”

Once the training reinforcement was finished, the company implemented its second set of skill diagnostics resulting in improved results for those staff members who had low scores in the first assessment. Still, there was more work to do.

Mr. Fujioka said, “Even though it was faster to use the top ribbon when drawing graphs in Excel, they continued to work in ways they had become accustomed to in older versions, thinking that since they were accustomed to a certain way, it was ‘faster.’ We saw that it was going to be difficult to reach a stage where we could find the most efficient design method if a designer who had been doing one thing for a long time tried to go at it in his own way or through brute force.”

Under the watchful eyes of the “sensei”

Even if proprietary methods are used for design, they may not change the amount of time it takes to do the work. However, the issue of data reliability comes up in cases of later revisions being introduced due to design modifications or correlation to other parts. The Development Administration Division discussed the subsequent plans with the PTC consultant who would be working as an instructor. As a result, it was decided that a program would be formulated that would allow all designers to design using standardized methods that were both optimal and smart, and that a PTC consultant would be permanently stationed in the Development Administration Division. Initially, the consultant would engage with the leaders of the various product groups to extract their opinions about optimal design methods for the various products. While performing careful, by-product scrutiny of the parts that needed to be carved up and the parts that could be shared, the consultant formulated some fundamental rules that would become the standard for Fujitsu Peripherals. These basic rules were documented and published to the internal portal. The rules were put to use in times when designers were getting stuck, or when senior employees were giving OJT guidance to junior employees.

Next, the consultant extracted the CAD features that contributed the most to each of the product categories. Team members associated with each of the features were gathered for workshops, where they received training in the techniques. These workshops gave team members a chance to voice their opinions about what features they would like to learn, so processes were also developed to supplement any gaps in knowledge. Practice exercises were created for each function, and an environment was set up that allowed for iterative learning.

Mr. Okano spoke about this, saying, “Ultimately, this is a setup that welcomes anybody, regardless of what products they support. Our aim was to make this a reality. This wasn’t what you might call testing—by having a PTC University specialist checking the modeling of data we actually created in-house, it allowed us to eliminate disparities in the way things were made.”

This would certainly introduce changes in the design process. The final models constructed would appear as if they were identical, even if the ways they were made were different, but it is preferable to have designs where revisions can be made efficiently. The PTC consultant pointed out issues from a broader viewpoint, for example, that “when designing, if the relationships to reference parts are made more intelligently, the impact of any modifications will be smaller when referencing the same part in the future,” and started to train the team through educational programs.

The resident consultant came to be known as our “sensei.” In the period while the programs were being formulated, the consultant freely interacted with the designers in their work environment, and responded to their concerns. Initially, the designers had a lot of questions about the various features, but once a job site managed to develop its skills, the designers there began to ask questions along the lines of, “In order to make the designs better, why don’t suchand- such features exist?”

Mr. Fujioka commented, saying, “Initially, there were some complaints, since these were people busy with work who had to undergo on-thejob training. But by combining their work with their studies, they were able to experience first-hand how they were ‘able to design better things’, leading to a major change in awareness at the job sites. Under the watchful eyes of the sensei, designers were able to instantly put into practice even the slightest amount of the sensei’s advice, and create their own designs. By skillfully combining the on-thejob training with the on-site support, it gave birth to more proactive approaches where the designers wanted to learn more.”

A 40% increase in operational efficiency at the Development Department

Heightened awareness at the job sites led to increased enthusiasm for the jobs. Furthermore, all of the designers began to design more efficiently based on the standardized rules. Things began to gradually come together as a result, leading to quantifiable achievements being shown in a business review one year later (Figure 2).

In the words of Mr. Okano, “I was surprised to receive the report from the Development Administration Division that such substantial improvements had been made, such as the 30% reduction in design modification times and the 70% reduction in assembly diagram creation times. After all, when attempting to optimize a project, it’s good to see any improvements in excess of 10%.” Visible results were achieved with both modular and integral architectures. It also raised the value of support during peak business periods. Mr. Fumio Usui, Server Peripherals Device Development Department,Development Division (that oversees the development of the integral system printer devices and which has a great deal of interaction outside the company) and ODM Development Department, said, “I feel that there has been a fundamental elevation of our technicians’ skills. While it’s not something that can be expressed numerically, when speaking with customers who have strong design backgrounds about reviews or configurations of our work, I often hear that they are getting the very real sense that we have enhanced our designers’ skills.”

From here on out, Fujitsu Peripherals heads into a second stage, involving programs that will further shorten design times and improve quality. The company will implement an eLearning program that will continually reinforce the revisions made by the company up until this point and further perfect the basic rules, fostering an increase in the skills of its designers. By passing down these techniques, the company’s traditional design expertise will be able to continue without interruptions. 3D CAD skill is a part of design expertise, but it is not everything. However, by increasing 3D CAD skill, technicians will be able to learn that time spent thinking about a design equals time spent designing, leading to a major impact on design quality as a result.

In the words of Mr. Okano, “CAD is a tool, and tools evolve rapidly. For a designer, using a new feature and getting into the mindset to try new things is a major accomplishment. The future will be an age of global competition. In order to promote craftsmanship with a global perspective, we are considering approaches we have never used before that will link our enhanced 3D CAD skills to improvements in design expertise. To that end, we welcome the assistance that PTC University can provide.”

Corporate Profile

Company: Fujitsu Peripherals, Ltd.

Established: 20 April 1984

Address: 673-1447 Hyogo-ken, Kato-shi, Saho 35

Representative: President and Representative Director

Capital: 100 million yen (as of the end of June 2014)

Number of employees: 907 (as of1 April 2014) 

Download the Strengthening Traditional Design Expertise by Improvements in 3D CAD Skill Case Study (.PDF).