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I see the Mazda Plant

 

I don’t have a lot to show for today, as I only really did a couple of things. One was see a Japanese production line, and the other was getting to Nagasaki.

 

 

I woke up a bit late but knew that I didn’t have a lot planned. I ran into an Australian couple and they said they were going to the Mazda Corporation museum. I don’t really care that much about cars, and I care even less about Mazdas, but the opportunity to see a Japanese assembly line was perhaps too good to pass up. The tour was at 1PM so I wasted a bit of time around the hostel. I found a newspaper and read most of it before grabbing a train.

 

It was a short train ride, and finding the Mazda building was not too difficult. It was very close to the train station, but I had to walk through some really small streets to get there. Mazda doesn’t use rail to move their cars, so no need for big roads to the train station. They have their own private port.

 

Once inside the building, I was told that there would be photographic restrictions. I met up with everyone else in the tour group, and a bus rolled up promptly at 1PM. We drove to the museum. There was a history segment, and several segments on the rotary engines that Mazda likes to use. Various assembly stages were also shown, using the RX-8 as an example. It was interesting. The tour guide had good English, but the way she used it was a bit odd. “ On the right, right, can you see white smoke?” rather than, “And on your right, you can see white smoke.” Since the white smoke in question could have been seen by anyone capable of seeing on the bus, a question was not really required. It was just slightly amusing.

 

The best part is that we were all given keys to the latest cars and told to have some fun with them on the test track. Well, not actually. We never did get any keys. We did get to see the final assembly line though. It was interesting to see how men worked among robots, which are really stunning in what they can do. The assembly line can actually build different models at the same time. So you see a minivan, an SUV, a convertible, a couple of minivans, a convertible, etc, all following each other on a slow moving conveyor system. There were men in “zones” along the conveyor. When a car reached their zone, a computer screen would show them which parts they’d need to install. The parts would be there, all set up to become available when the proper car came through. Each man was responsible for about 5 parts, and he had about 1 and a half minutes to install them. Each man had a caddy or two which would move back and forth on a track as well. So the man would follow the car along, installing the parts, and his cart would follow along, giving him access to whatever tools and parts he needed. Then either automatically, or with some sort of switch, the cart would roll back to the start of the zone, and the man would start on the next car, which might be a completely different model.

 

Also interesting was when the robots cooperated with the people. One robot would add glue to windows and basically hand them to a man. The man would put them in place. Another robot would pick up whole dash assemblies and position them; the man would bolt them into place. The museum pointed out that many sub assemblies were put together on separate lines, some by different companies. But remember, since there were multiple models on the assembly lines, each of the sub assemblies had to be put into a queu so that the right dash would at hand when a convertible came along. Also, the plant had both left and right hand drive models coming along. It apparently take some 15 hours to build a car from when they first stamp out the parts to when it rolls out of the plant.

 

I say men, as I didn’t see any women on the assembly lines.

 

After that, I went back to Hiroshima and got on the bullet train. I rode it south to where it terminated, and then got on a much slower train for about 1.5 hours. This made several stops, including one just outside of Nagasaki. Since it was nearly time to arrive at Nagasaki, I figured it was time to get off. . .

 

Thankfully, I realized I had not “landed” yet so I stayed on the train and made it to Nagasaki, only to get on a tram going the wrong way. After realizing this mistake, I made it to the Hostel, which is very nice and located in what appears to be a traditional area of town. I think I’ll enjoy this area. But we’ll see.

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