JUKI Sewing Machinery Development Department
Sewing Clothes cannot be done without a mishin – a Japanese word for sewing machine. Its prototype was invented in 1755 in Britain. It was introduced to Japan in 1854, as a gift to the Shogun. But it was not until 1924 that the Japan-made sewing machine was produced. They were all generated by human power until an electric sewing machine was invented in the 60s. JUKI was established in 1938, which was about the time when sewing machines were mainly treadle machine and hand-turned machines. The company produced its first household sewing machine in 1947 and an industrial sewing machine in 1953. The firm has focused mainly on developing industrial sewing machines, and today, it is one of the leading companies of straight-seam sewing machines. Moreover, JUKI is one of the biggest manufacturers of “pick-and-place” machines (places electronic circuits onto the surface of printed circuit boards) which are used for cell phones and computers. Today we are here at the Sewing Machinery Development Department which designs sewing machines for industrial purposes.
Designing and Developing “Straight-seam Sewing Machines”- the Main Machine at Sewing Factories.
The Head Office of JUKI is located in Tama, Tokyo. Its nearest station is Tama Center, about 40 minutes from Shinjuku by Keio Dentetsu or Odakyu Dentetsu. The Head Office of JUKI where the Sewing Machinery Development Department is located is about 12 minutes on foot from Tama Center station. Tama Area is a city which was urbanized with its aim to serve as a commuter’s town. Therefore, you can still feel the nature in its urbanized city.
There are about 800 people working at the Head Office of JUKI with half of them working in the scientific field. This is the center of developing new technologies and is where the Sewing Machinery Development Department operates.
Mr. Takahiro Ogata, a member of First Design Group, guided us through his workplace. The West Tower where the Sewing Machinery Development Department is located consists of two underground floors and three ground stories. The room was filled with a welcoming and bright atmosphere because of the well hole built at the center of the building. In addition, it was spacious with the view of the whole room.
Every employee is provided with two computer monitors so that they can work efficiently. The photo shows a process of designing a component of a product using the 3D CAD.
“We are in charge of many stages of production as our work is to create a final product from the proposal stage. Firstly, we design parts of the product using the 3D CAD. When the design is decided, we manufacture and assemble a prototype to examine it. Then we improve upon the bad parts of the prototype, which will then be produced commercially.”(Mr. Ogata)
Mr. Ogata is in charge of straight-seam sewing machines. 70% of the industrial sewing machines are these straight-seam type. The photo on the left is a “DDL-9000B”, a model for direct-drive, high speed, lockstitch machine that Mr. Ogata was involved in during its production. It stitches 5,000 times per minute whereas most household machines only stitch 700-900 times per minute.
“Our machines are designed for their users to make their work more efficient. For example, we have a machine that enables its users to back stitch, cut thread and sew just by a one foot pedal.”(Mr. Ogata)
At JUKI they also invent sewing robots which have multiple functions – from basic lockstitch to sewing of buttons and edges, attaching pockets to denim and stitching for additional strength.
We cannot immediately move onto production even though the design is finished. Some 20 people in charge of different aspects of the production such as production techniques, material, marketing and product auditing gather for a “review”(assessment) conference. We need an assent from this conference in order to move on to production. The photo on the left is Mr. Ogata explaining about the design sketch in the DR (Design Review) room.
“People in important positions including the heads of each department and the executives attend the conference. They sometimes criticize our design since the conference’s aim is to discuss for a better sewing machine. These comments are crucial for improvements and they motivate us.”(Mr. Ogata)
When the prototype is created, we examine it. In this photo, Mr. Ogata is in a hemi-anechoic room and is setting up a microphone to check the noise level of the machine. As you can see, the room has an acoustic treatment done to it.
““I set the sewing pitch and number of revolutions of the machine to check the noise and vibrancy level of the machine while it sews 30mm of cloth. Of course we do this trial test repeatedly for improvements.” (Mr. Ogata)
Before we put the prototype on commercial production, we put it under a sewing test.
“In our Department, there are professionals of sewing who examine the stitches. We have them use the machine to determine the thread and the interval of the stitches. Needless to say, we also sew by ourselves too.” (Mr. Ogata)
When we find troubles with the stitching such as skipped stitches, we disassemble the machine using a screwdriver. In the photo, the person is fixing the rotary hook. The rotary hook is responsible for hooking the bottom thread into the loop of the upper thread.
“We often disassemble the rotary hook to adjust the timing of its pointed tip and the needle.”(Mr. Ogata)
There is a “Sewing Center” at the 2nd floor of East Tower where customers can take a look and actually touch the sewing machines. Anyone can visit the exhibition with a reservation.
“We sometimes guide the visitors to seek their needs, but the people from the sales department mostly guide them through the exhibition. We ask them to search their needs since they meet more customers than we do.”(Mr. Ogata)
On behalf of workers, we asked Mr. Ogata “what kind of workplace JUKI Department of Developing Sewing Machines is; what kind of people work there and what satisfaction and appeal the work brings.”
Mr. Ogata graduated from the College of Systems Engineering and Science, Electronic Information System at Shibaura Institute of Technology. “I had seen a sewing machine by JUKI at home. So when I saw its booth at a joint briefing session of companies, I stopped by at its booth because I thought, “Oh, it’s the company that made our sewing machine.” When I heard the story of the head of the Development Department, I immediately got interested in them. The deciding vote was given when I saw the machine, sewing at an overwhelming speed at the Sewing Center. That’s when I thought I want to be involved in developing sewing machines.”
Since he started working for the company, Mr. Ogata is engaged in designing sewing machines for industrial purposes. We asked him what attracts him into it.
“Many people consider sewing machines as a complete product. But there are still areas for improvement. A good example is the machine oil. Until recently, a mass amount of machine oil was used to protect rotary hooks from friction. However, recently, we are asked to use as little oil as possible to protect the environment. Not only that but also from the perspective of our customers, we are required to produce better foot pedals to increase efficiency and to reduce vibration and noise level. We are facing new challenges even in designing new sewing machines. And we are only able to confront the challenges by our creativeness. And if you are in charge of producing new machines, then you are in charge of the whole process of designing and introducing of the product to the market. When you produce the machine in a large quantity, you get to go to the factory. That’s the interesting part.
Still there are challenges to working on new things.
“When we ran a trial test of an improved rotary hook, the thread was cut off at a certain interval. Therefore, we took a video using a high-speed video camera. We saw the exact instant the thread was cut off to examine the cause. Like this, when we develop a new machine, our predictions are not always correct. We get different results from our predictions. To analyze it and to actually come to a conclusion requires hard work. But when you find the answer to it, you get a great feeling of achievement. It’s that feeling of “how lucky I am to be a developer of sewing machines”
Many employees who work at the Sewing Machinery Development Department majored in mechanical engineering in university. However, there are people who studied electrical and electronic engineering, while recently, there are more and more people who studied computer software.
“The workforce has a very welcoming atmosphere. We work with people from different departments such as Product Evaluation Group, Production Department, Parts Procurement Group, etc. Everyone is friendly here. You feel like you are at home in this workforce.”
A Relaxing Cafeteria on a Roof Garden
As the photo shows, there is a balcony at the rooftop of West Tower. As it insulates heat, it controls the room temperature during summer and winter. Therefore, we can reduce the use of air-conditioning.
“You can see the balcony from the hallway on the 3rd floor. Looking at the greenery there is very relaxing (says laughingly).”(Mr. Ogata)
This is the cafeteria. GREEN HOUSE FOODS operates here. GREEN HOUSE FOODS is a company that operates Shinjuku Saboten, which is famous for its Tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet).
“Every Friday is the “Day of Saboten”. We can eat meals that are provided at its restaurant with only 500 yen. The most popular here are the ramens (Japanese-style noodles). We get to eat ramens from different parts of Japan every week, for instance Kumamoto Ramen and Asahikawa Ramen from Hokkaido with only 300 yen.” (Mr. Ogata)
The photo on the left is an example of a meal on a Friday.
The West Tower where the development of technology and designing of the machines are done is protected with tight security. The photo shows a security gate that controls the entrance of people and attendance and leaving of workers.
Three numbers related to JUKI Corporation
JUKI Corporation is the leading manufacturer of straight sewing machine which accounts for 70% of the sewing machines for industrial purposes. What do the numbers below represent about JUKI?
- 8,500 rotations/min.
- 170 countries
- 2,000 types