All posts tagged 'Japan'

Satirical post foreshadows industry technology

by Marly Hazen McQuillen
22. March 2013 12:32

Long-time readers of The Link may recall last year's April Fool's Day post: Truck driver shortage officially over. I had a little fun with this prankster holiday, describing how three (non-existent) trucking companies were dealing with the growing shortage of available truck drivers.

One of these (rhetorical) carriers addressed the problem by adopting a system of "Remote Tractor Operation," recruiting users from online video games to operate tractor-trailers from home and incentivizing good driving with digital badges.

The tongue-in-cheek post outlined potential controversies:

As veteran industry commentator Buck Carville noted, "Many of these remote 'drivers' have never been behind the wheel of a rig." Many have expressed concern that the position of vehicle operator will complicate industry regulations, ultimately leading to a revision of CSA rules. Others assert that because no one is driving these trucks, the FMCSA would have no authority to define operator hours of service or whether an operator would be allowed to use multiple monitors to control multiple vehicles.

Since publishing that post, projects such as Google's driverless cars have gained traction in the news, and Florida and California have joined Nevada in passing laws approving driverless cars.

We may wish to describe this passenger transport system as passive driving, as the person in the driver's seat is not relieved of all responsibilities; for example, Nevada stipulates that the person behind the wheel "may not 'drive' drunk." Beyond potential for consumer use, there has been little debate in the US over the commercial potential of driverless or passive-driving vehicles.

In Japan, a prototype of a truly driverless operation of freight trucks is undergoing testing. On February 25, NEDO, Japan's largest public R&D organization, demonstrated a convoy of four tractor-trailers, which was an update of the three-vehicle convoy it unveiled in 2010. These vehicles, which would not be guided remotely by human operators, can communicate with each other within 20 milliseconds. NEDO plans to have a driverless transport system functioning by 2020.

As new transportation models test a shift from active driving (the current system) to passive and even driverless driving, how do you think the supply chain industry will be affected?

Editor's note: Be sure to subscribe now to be sure to get our 2013 April Fool's Day post on time!

Resin shortage puts brakes on auto supply chain

by Marly Hazen McQuillen
20. April 2012 16:24

Automotive Industry

Recently, a fatal explosion at an Evonik Industries factory caused tremors across the global supply chains for cars, light trucks and heavy-duty (Class 8) trucks, among other products. The Nylon-12 production plant in Marl, Germany, was severely damaged in the explosion and hopes to reopen by winter.

The lack of supply is causing alarm because the chemical resin, PA-12 (a.k.a. Polyamide 12 or Nylon-12), is used to make brake lines and fuel systems. As such a critical component, it cannot be easily replaced. Few companies worldwide produce PA-12, and no equivalent alternatives are known. Substitutes for Nylon-12 will require rigorous testing before implementation.

Europe expected to be first affected

"European users will be the canary in the coal mine for this problem," said analyst Chris Cesaro, in a Credit Suisse report cited by Bloomberg.

As the automotive production region in closest proximity to the German plant, Europe is expected to be the hardest hit by the supply shortage. Because of greater distance from the supplier, automobile factories in areas such as North America and Japan should still have supply of PA-12 en route.

Despite its location in the fallout zone, Germany is expected to be less affected by the shortage, as it can source from Ems Chemie Holding, a supplier in Switzerland.

Detroit distressed over resin shortage

"The shortage is real and immediate," warned William Kozyra, TI Automotive Chairman and CEO, in a memo to customers. Auto industry heavyweights met this week in Detroit to ruminate and discuss the growing concern.

Location and Lean: Opportunity and challenge in East Asia

Like Germany's use of the Swiss supplier, Japan is expected to supplant its Polyamide 12 supply via Ube Industries, Asia's largest supplier of the resin.

Conversely, Hyundai and Kia Motors, based in South Korea, are vulnerable to the just-in-time crisis due to their Lean manufacturing tactics.

Image by bisgovuk