Yesterday, Debbie and I had the pleasure to visit Citizen Machinery Co., Ltd. in Karuizawa, Japan. Citizen is the manufacturer of the 18 Cincom CNC Swiss Automatic Lathes (screw machines) that Horst Engineering operates at our South Windsor, Connecticut plant site. Citizen’s partnership with Marubeni is Marubeni Citizen Cincom (MCC) and we are supported by their office in Agawam, Massachusetts.
Cincom machinery has been an important part of our manufacturing operations since 2003. The 18 Swiss are used to produce hundreds of different products and we recently expanded to our new Burnham Street plant site and moved all of the machines into one building. This will give us much greater efficiency.
The invitation to visit Citizen was welcomed and the plant tour was fantastic. They build very high-end machines. In addition to the production of Swiss type machines (sliding headstock), they manufacture the Miyano brand (fixed headstock) of lathes and multi-tasking machines. As I learned during my visit to Okuma last week, the ability for a country to have a strong machine tool industry is critical to its economic development and strength because these are the machines needed to build all other machines.
We got to see how much craftsmanship and skill go in to the hand scraping of the ways and other critical manufacturing processes. Citizen operates multiple plants in Japan, plus they have factories in Thailand and China. The Karuizawa facility is where they develop many of their products.
We got to tour the Museum of the Automatic Lathe, which chronicles Citizen’s history. The company realized that they couldn’t obtain the necessary equipment to produce their watches to the highest standards, so they built their own, starting in 1936. The equipment line expanded and became a business of its own. Miyano got its start as a file manufacturing company. Both businesses were inspired by machine tool manufacturers in Europe and the USA.
Cincom and Miyano machines are used to produce amazing products. We use our Cincom machines to make a wide range of aerospace components, including pins, bushings, sleeves, and fasteners. We also use the machines for some medical components, including surgical tools. Recently, we have been producing our Horst Spikes product line with the help of Cincom machines.
The Karuizawa headquarters is in Nagano prefecture and is in the shadow of Mount Asama, an active volcano. It’s a beautiful part of Japan, but one that is always under the threat of natural disaster. We could see smoke and steam rising from the summit cone of Asama.
The factory is modern, lean, and very clean. We saw 5S postings and it was obvious that they lived their values.
- Seiri, 整理 (Sort)
- Seiton, 整頓 (Systematic Arrangement)
- Seisou, 清掃 (Shine)
- Seiketsu, 清潔 (Standardize)
- Shitsuke, 躾 (Sustain)
Our hosts were justifiably proud of the skill levels that their employees have attained. It was clear that they are a company built on their engineering strengths. At Horst Engineering, we have always believed that to build the best products, you have to use the best machines, tools, and gaging while training the best the best employees to develop their skills. Cincom machines are the best you can invest in for Swiss type lathes.
Again, I wish I had more time to spend at Citizen. I’m very appreciative of MCC for helping arrange the visit. It would have also been nice to see the Kitakami Works factory, so I’ll just have to return in the future. I was excited to see some of the new products they have developed and I even like the new paint scheme for the Cincom line. I’m motivated to work with our team to win some new work that will allow us to grow and possibly invest in some of the newest Citizen technology. The visit may have been short, but I was still able to learn much more about the company and what makes them tick…literally.