Development of a "field basis" that places maximum emphasis on customer value supports the world class usability and fuel economy.
SUMITOMO CONSTRUCTION MACHINERY CO.，LTD. is accelerating global expansion to America, Europe and Southeast Asia. I asked Director of Board, Atsuo Fukushi, head of the Engineering Div. -- which supports this from the aspect of product development -- about technical superiority and human resource development at Sumitomo Construction Machinery.
CONSTRUCTION MACHINERY CO.，LTD.
Director of Board
Corporate Officer,Engineering Div. Atsuo Fukushi
The Engineering Division of Sumitomo Construction Machinery endlessly continues to work on improvement of “energy saving performance,” “workability (usability),” “safety performance,” “comfort performance,” and “durability performance, and there are linked with customer value. In particular, Sumitomo have a world class reputation for “energy saving” and “usability.”
One of the technologies that supports this reputation is electronic controlling technologies. For example, Sumitomo’s unique “SIH:S” hydraulic system used for hydraulic excavators enables fusion of reciprocal performances of speed and power by eliminating all types of losses in the hydraulic circuits. By linking the technology to the engine system, it simultaneously achieves a dramatic reduction in fuel consumption. The “LEGEST” hydraulic excavator of Sumitomo received the “Energy Conservation Prize” for the first time as construction machinery ten years ago.
“Excavators are composed mainly of several different parts, engines, hydraulic pumps, end attachments, and etc. The performance of each component does not, however, directly contribute to the overall performance of the excavators. To improve the overall performance of excavators to a high level, it is essential to adjust the components based on controlling technologies. As some of other excavator brands do, we procure some components from other manufacturers, for example engines and pumps, and we have limitation in improving performance of these components. Because of this limitation, we have been refining our controlling technologies to be our strength.
However, Sumitomo do not focus on only the controlling technologies. Atsuo Fukushi, Corporate Officer of Engineering Div., has continued to “focus on cultivation of specialists” to accelerate improvements of technologies in designing excavators.
“The level of technology demanded for components, engines and hydraulic systems, and etc., has been increasing in recent years in order to cope with exhaust regulations (laws concerning exhaust from certain special vehicles, etc.). It is no longer possible for a single engineer to know everything like it used to be. It is now necessary to enhance specialization of each engineer in order to secure predominance over the competition as well.”
The specialists Sumitomo is trying to foster are not the ones knowing only certain components or models, like engines or small size excavators. The objective is to foster specialists in construction machinery in general, such as one who understands all the technologies related to a single field of specialty or one who has a bird’s eye view of technology in general.
“The ideal would be one who tries to develop the excavators for customers while enthusiastically discussing with other engineers who specialize in different fields. Each engineer must be a specialist in construction machinery, and must share design and development ideas based on the Sumitomo Philosophy to realize the ideal product development. In order to build these foundations, we are holding study sessions in our division, dividing our members into groups by genres as structure designs, hydraulics, and engines, and by excavators’ sizes as small, medium, and large.
In addition to our human resource development, another focus of ours is product development based on what our customers tell us. Enhancement of technology leads to “wider range of possibilities.” However, the finished product does not have any significance if it does not contribute to the customer’s benefit. For this reason, we value the opportunities for our engineers to hear the evaluation results of our customers. They then reflect the feeling of the operators for Sumitomo’s excavators to contribute to benefits for our customers.
“Our Engineers visit our customers at their jobsites, and they attend exhibitions and test drives to talk with our customers. From these talks with our customers, we encourage our engineers to understand the feeling of the operators. I think this provides a way to reproduce the user-friendliness that only operators can feel, which cannot be found in theoretical studies at one’s desk.”
“Comfort you can only know by getting in the driver’s seat” is the feature of Sumitomo’s products; however, it is not easy to describe one’s feeling to another person. Such expertise is a personal matter. To be able to share such vague idea, we began experiments to convert the amount of feeling to usability of machine of usability to numerical values by introducing IoT technology and analyzing data measured by various types of sensors. Once this experiment is accomplished, the feeling can be systematically shared in scores, thus enabling us to make our products easier to operate, more user-friendly.
“What are the best performance and specification for customers? Having engineers investigate this point by listening directly to customers is thought to be a shortcut to making better products for customers. Through this process, we have decided the standard installation of Field View Monitor in Japan. And the FVM will contribute to benefits for our customers by enabling operators to make sure the area around the excavator is safe.”
And development of products from customers’ point of view raises “the awareness about the product quality.”
“We are currently re-investigating problems that have occurred in the past. By determining the cause and converting the solutions to technology standard, we can prevent occurrence of the same problems and maintain and improve the product quality.”
The three pillars of “Customer based development,” “Real field basis,” and “Focus on quality” are the strength of Sumitomo Construction Machinery, and these are Sumitomo’s driving force of further leaps forward in the future.
The world’s first. What is Field View Monitor (FVM) which has significantly enhanced safety of hydraulic excavators?
The FVM monitors the area around the excavator, thereby realizing a new standard of “safety at the construction site.” We asked Hidehiko Katoh of Engineering Dept. of Sumitomo Construction Machinery, the technical innovator in construction machinery development, about the features of FVM.
CONSTRUCTION MACHINERY CO.，LTD.
Electric Control Sect. Engineering Dept.
Engineering Div. Hidehiko Katoh
There has been much praise from those involved in the construction industry for the precise technological abilities of Japanese manufacturers and the delicate consideration they deliver. Sumitomo Construction Machinery has developed the world’s first revolutionary safety device, Field View Monitor (FVM). The primary feature of the device is its ability to provide a maximum range view of 270 degrees -- mostly in the front and rear of construction equipment -- on a full color monitor. The technology that dramatically expands the view of the operator will probably set the standard for construction sites that demand a higher level of safety.
Most of the accidents that occur in construction sites involve people being smashed in construction machinery. The primary cause of such accidents is the inability of the operator to see everything around the machine. This is because the operator’s cab in construction machinery is located on the front left side of the machine, which results in blind spots at the rear and on the right side of the machine, thereby posing a significant problem.
The device displays a bird’s eye view of the area surrounding the machine as seen from above by composite images taken by CCD cameras in three places (left, right and rear) using unique image processing and composition technologies. This provides the operator with direct sensory perception of existence and location of people and obstacles around the machine. “The device allows the operator to see objects approaching from a distance as well as those in the immediate area,” say some operators who have actual experience with the FVM.
According to Hidehiko Katoh, who is in charge of the development of the FVM in the Engineering Dept., this direct sensory perception is what separates the FVM from other devices that monitor surroundings. Conventional systems offered switching to images from cameras mounted at multiple positions in the rear and to the right, but you could not recognize how the positions of people and objects related to one another.
“Because the operator does not have much time to focus on watching the monitor, we thought it would be important for the operator to determine the situation by just glancing.”
We went to great lengths to take account of the needs of the construction industry by developing an easy-to-view 7-inch horizontal full-color monitor especially for the FVM system which is equipped with high-sensitivity CCD cameras to facilitate viewing in dark environments such as night work or in tunnels. There is an increasing demand for safety awareness all over the world. Hidehiko Katoh is confident: “the world-class technical innovation ability of Sumitomo Construction Machinery can easily handle the toughest needs anywhere in the world.”
You can expect innovative technologies and products from Sumitomo Construction Machinery.