Panasonic: Unorthodox, yet Visionary Success in the Mid-Market
Panasonic has always been recognized globally for providing innovative, high-quality and high-accuracy electronic products. Celebrating their 100th year as a manufacturer, Panasonic continues to be a leading player in Tier 1—enjoying many long-term, collaborative, mutually beneficial customer relationships and an installation base of over 100,000 solutions.
For the Mid-market, Panasonic took a somewhat unorthodox view of North American manufacturing that’s proven to be truly forward looking. While others were scaling back, Panasonic anticipated, committed to, and invested heavily in their vision of a new manufacturing landscape. The company’s ‘Any Mix Any Volume’ initiative was created to differentiate Panasonic as a solutions provider for the broader market—regardless of company size or product mix.
To address the lack of skilled labor, Panasonic invested organizationally in engineering, field service, and operations resources, and the establishment of a Project Management Office to increase the scope and depth of their technical services portfolio.
The ‘Any Mix Any Volume’ initiative grew in multiple facets. They developed the AM100 placement machine specifically to address North American manufacturers’ needs for broad capabilities at a low investment and introduced software tools far ahead of the curve—long before the competition valued them. Their PanaCIM software was made available as a full-blown MES or an easy-to-install express system for customers with a limited infrastructure footprint. To address the lack of skilled labor, they invested organizationally in engineering, field service, and operations resources, and the establishment of a Project Management Office to increase the scope and depth of their technical services portfolio.
To collaborate with customers in a solutions-centric environment, they opened the cloud9 Innovation Center, a space where customers can try out new applications, speak with experts, and explore both Panasonic products as well as the equipment of their best-in-class complementary technology partners that make up the rest of the line… Before making a purchase. Panasonic’s transformation from a product-based to a solutions-based to a trusted advisor role has made great inroads into US manufacturing. Customers appreciate having only one source to work with, having less pain points, and freeing up their resources… The resulting success continues to increase their reach into new geographies and verticals.
Following are recent exchanges with Faisal Pandit, President, Panasonic Factory Solutions Company of America, capturing his views on the smart factory, PanaCIM version 10, their latest machine introduction, and the market.
The NPM-W2S is a recent example of our continued and long-term commitment to small- and mid-sized US manufacturers.
Supply chain management and machine uptime are also important factors in the ‘smart factory’ environment. How has Panasonic approached this problem?
PanaCIM, our Manufacturing Execution System (MES), optimizes and integrates the supply chain. In a broader sense, it tracks materials throughout a factory or enterprise. As it passes information back and forth across various processes, it not only provides a real-time view of production, it increases machine uptime by assuring that the right materials are in the right place at the right time. Beyond the line, it tracks work-in-process, back-end assembly, factory maintenance, and so on.
Panasonic recently acquired Zetes, a Belgian supply chain and mobility solutions company that employs 1,100 people across 21 countries. Panasonic’s strategy with this acquisition is to become a leading logistics solutions provider globally and to expand the breadth and depth of services we offer.
At Productronica, I noted that Panasonic’s MES software platform was re-launched as version 10 with the introduction of iLNB.
PanaCIM version 10, using iLNB as the back-end controller, takes things to a higher level by providing a line-based solution that allows customers to reach goals set by Industry 4.0. The system reduces points of failure to an individual line.
In the event of a factory network failure, the iLNB uses modern communication technology that allows the line to keep producing and stores production data for an extended period. Once the network becomes available, it then synchronizes data as if the outage never occurred.
In November, Panasonic won a Global Technology Award for the NPM-W2S pick and place machine. This is a versatile machine that can place all component types. How is it helping you open up that small- to mid-volume market?
Introduced at SMTA International, the NPM-W2S is a recent example of our continued and long-term commitment to small- and mid-sized US manufacturers as it was developed in direct response to this market’s requirements. It addresses their need for smaller lot sizes, to tighten control over their work in process and scheduling, adding odd-form capability, and expanding more inputs for an even greater mix. It immediately gained traction upon introduction and interest continues to soar.
The US market is very bullish at the moment. How is that affecting Panasonic?
The bullish economy has been good for us. We will continue our strategy to invest in resources that allow us to deliver additional value to customers. 2018 is viewed as another year of growth in the automotive and broader industry, and we are prepared to address an uptick—especially considering the recent tax reform and capital spending.
Faisal, thank you for joining us today.