When the engineers and the accountants put their heads together

Started 4 months ago | Discussions thread
bobn2 Forum Pro • Posts: 67,475
Re: When the engineers and the accountants put their heads together

There has been a lot of work done on agile manufacturing and concepts like JIT which have been developed and promoted particularly by Japanese industry. Since the major volume manufacturers of cameras are Japanese companies, one would expect them to follow these methodologies, and all the 'inside xxx's camera factory' video that I have seen suggest that they do. The old fashioned production line method that you outline is really based on the necessity of special purpose(and expensive) jigs and tools for a product. The line allows the maximum usage of this specialised equipment.

Modern electronic based products are somewhat different. The precision jigs and tools were required because mechanically complex assemblies required them to be produced to a high reliability. In modern electronic products that mechanical complexity has given way to firmware algorithms operating in circuit boards which are assembled by sub-contractors using robotic pick and place machines. Even the remaining complex assemblies (such as shutters) are generally sourced as parts from specialist suppliers such as Copal-Nidec.

For this reason, the old, inflexible production line is likely unnecessary for camera equipment. Production is much more likely to be organised on a cellular basis, and those cells may well be adaptable to a range of different products and variations. This allows reasonable volume batch manufacture to be done at a similar cost to continuous line production, I would expect that is what the camera companies mainly do.

As for what JIP will do, I would be very surprised if, in the longer term, they maintain their own in-house manufacturing capacity. If they inherit ownership of any manufacturing facilities from Olympus (and this is far from clear) I wouldn't be surprised if at some point they spin it out as a stand-alone contract manufacturing business. I would be very surprised if they didn't opt for third-party contract manufacturing themselves, as, for instance, Apple does. For a company that will have to be agile, the last thing they want is the dead weight of the fixed costs of a large manufacturing organisation.

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