Vol.4 Special Interview

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Interview with the new chairman of the CLPA

Networks are the keys for innovation Japanese technology enriches the World

Mr. Fumihiko Kimura, a professor of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Hosei University, has taken up the post of the new chairman of the CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA). Prof. Kimura is known as a leading person in production system engineering and CAD/CAM fields in Japan, and his achievements are highly valued in Japan and overseas. We asked him about his ambitions as the chairman of the CLPA and the potential for industrial open networks including CC-Link and CC-Link IE to contribute to the development of manufacturing industry.

—What would you say is the reason you accepted the nomination as chairman of the CLPA? Prof. KimuraI believe that network technologies will play an important role in innovation for manufacturing industry. I was strongly drawn to the potential of the CLPA's activities to promote these important technologies, and I accepted the nomination as chairman of the CLPA to contribute to the promotion. —What do you think is the innovation that network technologies will bring? Prof. KimuraIt is the "Internet of Things", the so-called "IoT". I believe that the "IoT" will have a much larger impact than the Internet itself did. Since the "IoT" connects many more things than the world's population, the scale of the network will become much larger than the Internet connecting people and the data quantity will significantly increase.
First, the spread of the "IoT" will change the way that people use things. Moreover, the information collected from various things will change them. In response to this movement, manufacturing may change. In the future, the industrial open networks including CC-Link and CC-Link IE will play a part in the IoT's platform.
I think that the "IoT" will spread quickly and suddenly when its penetration reaches a certain level, like the Internet. I feel that it is now reaching this level.

Solving the problems that manufacturing industry is facing

—What do you think about how the network technologies will change manufacturing industry? Prof. KimuraNow many companies related to manufacturing are facing a fundamental problem - "what to manufacture?", and this trend is already obvious in developed countries. This is because they cannot understand market needs as clearly as before.
Without constructing a mechanism to understand potential market needs and promptly commercialize them, it is difficult to exploit new markets. I think it is difficult to solve this problem with the extension of conventional ideas. Some innovations are needed here. It is the "IoT" and the network technologies that bring the innovation.
—Would you give us concrete examples? Prof. KimuraFor example, extracting and analyzing a large amount of data about consumer behavior and so on will show new market needs. Then manufacturers can launch products developed based on the needs, and collect data related to the reaction and the usage of customers. Using the data as feedback for the next product development and production will improve the products further. By visualizing the whole life cycle of products and developing the manufacturing this way, the problem of "what to manufacture" will be solved. To create this mechanism, networks in the broad sense are essential.
Japanese companies are good at manufacturing high-quality products by joint efforts. Because of the manufacturing process containing factors that can cause dependency on other people, collecting objective data can be difficult. As for craft products with high value added, the "skill" of technical experts is important. However, "versatility" is required for the manufacturing process of industrial products. A mechanism to collect data from the whole life cycle of products and a cycle to improve the products with the feedback of such data for production processes should be created. I believe that one of the technologies to support this mechanism is FA (Factory Automation) including open industrial networks.

Increase the competitive strength with "Technology Originating from Japan"

—The movement to strengthen manufacturing industry by using FA and ICT (information and communication technology) is well established in Europe and the United States. Prof. KimuraFor manufacturers in developed countries where the employment cost is high, it is getting harder to maintain the competitive strength in the global market. However, I think it is important to maintain the manufacturing industry in their domestic markets as the basis for developing the industry. I think this idea may have supported the large-scale activities in Europe and the United States to strengthen their manufacturing industries, such as various campaigns in the United States called "Manufacturing Renaissance" and Germany's national strategy "Industrie 4.0".
Approaches for maintaining manufacturing industry are also needed in Japan, and CC-Link and CC-Link IE, "the technology originating from Japan", will play a significant role in such approaches, I think. Various new technologies are needed to construct platforms for new manufacturing processes. However, products manufactured outside Japan now dominate CAD/CAM and other markets.
I think, to show the unique strength of Japan's manufacturing industry, technologies to support the new platform should be developed here in Japan. So, I would like to improve the value of CC-Link and CC-Link IE, the industrial open network "originating from Japan", to be one of the technologies supporting the new era of manufacturing in Japan.

The potential of industrial networks is increasing

—We have heard about your many achievements in the production system engineering field and CAD/CAM field. Would you kindly explain how you engaged with industrial open networks for our readers? Prof. KimuraCollecting data is essential to evaluate and analyze manufacturing systems. I had been noticing the technologies of industrial open networks as the means to effectively collect necessary data from production sites.
For example, one of my recent major research themes is "Environmentally-friendly product design". Although the effect of manufacturing processes on the environment must be evaluated to realize the objective, the evaluation method was not established until recently. What must be done first to develop a mechanism of an evaluation method is to collect data. The networking and automation of the data collection system are essential to effectively collect various data from manufacturing processes and their surrounding environments. I already get data collected through CC-Link or CC-Link IE in production sites from some companies, and use the data for verification of the evaluation method.
—Would you give us your view of the future direction of the CLPA? Prof. KimuraThe technologies of industrial open networks should not be kept inside factories. Connecting those networks with various external systems to widely distribute data outside the factories will bring various innovations in a lot of fields. Based on this idea, I will encourage the promotion activities of CC-Link and CC-Link IE, which are global standards for industrial open networks, with respect to a detailed scenario to realize the new era of manufacturing. I would like you to keep an eye on the activities of the CLPA.

Fumihiko Kimura
Professor in the Faculty of Science and Engineering Department of Mechanical Engineering at Hosei University
Emeritus professor at The University of Tokyo
Doctor of Engineering
Member of Science Council of Japan


Prof. Kimura passed through the doctoral course of the graduate school at the University of Tokyo in 1974, and then entered the Electrotechnical Laboratory of the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. In 1979, he started research on "inverse manufacturing", "life-cycle engineering", and "geometric modeling" at the University of Tokyo. In recent years, he expanded his research area to include topics such as environmentally-friendly product design (eco design), product life-cycle design for the sustainability of the earth, and the building method of production systems that can flexibly respond to changes. He then transferred to Hosei University in 2009. There he has been engaged in research focusing on production system engineering, design engineering, and life-cycle engineering.


JSME MEDAL for the Best Papers (1980), IFIP 20th-year Anniversary Best Paper Award (1980), JSPE Best Paper Award (1986 and 1988), JSPE Prize (1993 and 2011), IFIP Silver Core Award (1994), JSME Manufacturing Systems Award (1997), Prize from the Minister of International Trade and Industry (2000), JSME Design & Systems Achievement Award (2003), IMS Achievement Award (2005), JSME Codes and Standards Award for Distinguished Contribution (2008), Medal with Blue Ribbon (2011), JSME Design & Systems Award (2012)

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