Tradition and modernity

11 December 2019

On the year of its 100th anniversary, Tadano opened its Kozai Plant, designed to take it to the next generation of smart manufacturing. Sotiris Kanaris visits the brand-new facility in Takamatsu.

The Kozai Plant, the company’s fifth plant, began full operation in August. Situated at the western Kozai district of the port of Takamatsu, this is the most technologically advanced Tadano manufacturing plant.

Over ¥20bn was invested in the new plant, which is equipped with advanced technology to boost the productivity and comfort of its 160 workers.

Touring around the 47,000sqm building area, one instantly notices the spacious production lines and high ceilings, from where, at points, natural light streams in.

Automated guided vehicles for the parts supply, welding and painting robots, oil/water separators with automatic monitoring systems, and data collection technologies, constitute a modern and smart manufacturing facility.

Tadano paid particular attention to data collection, storage and analysis. There is a logger installed to each electric cubicle to obtain data in real time from distribution boards. The data are stored on a server located on the second floor of the parts depot and can be viewed on a computer browser connected to the company network through the central monitoring system.

“This will help us consider and implement energy-saving measures,” says Daichi Wada from Tadano’s marketing department. Norio Shirai, plant manager at Kozai plant, says this kind of information is usually limited to managers, but they wanted workers to have access to some information in real time, in line with the Kaizen concept. Kaizen is a Japanese business concept through which all functions are continuously improved and involves every employee, from the CEO to assembly line workers. “We wanted to look at how we can change our production process and how the information from these devices can support Kaizen activity,” Shirai explains.

Shirai says that the plant was constructed based on the harmonious fusion of four segments. “‘Simple & Clean’ incorporates the simplification of production lines and significantly greater control of issues such as contamination. The ‘Ecology’ segment includes factory-wide LED lighting, minimised environmental risks and, before too long, even solar systems. ‘Human friendly’ factors in elements such as air conditioning systems, consistently flat floors, robots for welding and more. The ‘Synchronism’ segment leads to reduced process costs and improved productivity with the digitisation of information relating to plant operation.”

At Kozai Plant, rough terrain cranes and truck cranes for the markets outside Japan are produced, helping the company achieve its long-term goal of becoming the top manufacturer of lifting equipment industry globally.

Talking about the choice of location for the new plant, Shirai says: “Since cranes that exceed the maximum allowable weight cannot be transported on public roads in Japan, the plant was constructed near the port, where our finished products will be transported by barges to Kobe Port for shipment outside of Japan.” The site area of 200,000sqm offers the opportunity for further expansion of building areas in the future.

Boom cylinders are now manufactured at both the Kozai and Shido plants. At Shido the company customises all terrain cranes that come from Tadano Faun’s factory in Germany for the Japanese market. The main production lines are for truck cranes and rough terrains destined for the domestic and international markets.

In Japan, Tadano has been a pioneer in a number of crane types. “In 1955, we introduced Japan's first hydraulic truck crane, the OC-2, with a 2t lifting capacity and expanded the line-up of truck cranes. We gained a firm footing in the lifting equipment industry in Japan,” says Wada.

“However, the country size is limited and the jobsite always requires manoeuvrability and compactness for cranes. We developed the first Japanese rough terrain cranes, the TR-150 series, with a 15t lifting capacity in 1970.

Since then we have introduced new models of rough terrain cranes and improved our technologies continuously in order to meet requirements from customers.”

Rough terrain cranes are the most popular models in the Japanese domestic market. “The Japanese market is still in a comparatively good condition but we continue to hold the view that it is in a warning zone. Our current policy is to maintain and expand our sales in the Japanese market while increasing the ratio of sales outside of Japan.”

Outside Japan, the best selling Tadano crane models across the different lines are the GR-800EX and GR-1000XL rough terrains.

The GR-800EX has a maximum boom length of 47m and maximum lifting capacity of 80t. The GR-1000XL, tailored for the US market, has the same maximum boom length, but with a maximum lifting capacity of 100USt (90t). Historically, the North American market has been a significant one for Tadano. In recent quarters the manufacturer has experienced a considerable increase in sales revenue from this region. Tadano says the rise is due to an increase in US customers as well as one of its biggest US customers replacing its fleet.

With 100 years of history, and decades exporting cranes around the world, the manufacturer has in recent years focused on increasing its global market share and aims to achieve a target of 80% of unit sales originating from outside Japan.

In the fiscal year 2018, mobile crane sales outside Japan stood at ¥75.3bn ($690m), marking a significant increase compared to the ¥60.8bn reported the year before. In the six months ended September 30 (first half of FY2019), mobile crane sales outside Japan stood at ¥39.2bn, up 28.2% year-on-year.

Shirai says: “Tadano is working to bolster its presence in Japan, Europe, and North America, which we consider to be our key markets.

We have positioned all other markets as strategic markets, where we are building on our sales and service. In order to achieve the goal, we must find the optimal balance in two tactics, organic growth and M&As, and two viable strategies, namely expansion of regional presence and product lineup.

“With the acquisition of Demag, the establishment of the Kozai plant, and our various measures and activities, we would like to elevate our position in the international market more, as well as maintain our current position in Japan.”

An aerial view of the Kozai plant, situated at the western Kozai district of the port of Takamatsu. Tadano invested over ¥20bn in this plant.
Two GR- 1600XLs working together to lift up a module for facilities related to oil sand projects in Canada.