Table Speech


Fusion of Craftsmanship and IT

July 18, 2018

Mr. Yukinobu Shibata
Managing Director & CEO,
YAMATO METAL CO., LTD.


 Bearing is an essential part of all types of rotating machinery that has direct impact on its performance. It supports a rotating shaft and ensures its smooth operation by reducing friction, power consumption and heat generation. “Ball bearing” and “slide bearing” are the two main types. As a manufacturer of “slide bearing,” our products are made of “bi-metal” that bonds copper alloy containing tin with steel to ensure high load capacity and high-speed rotating performance (20,000 rotations-per-minute) with superior heat resistance. Slide bearing utilizes a lubricating oil to support a load. An oil film is formed that supports the load with “no contact” between the bearing surfaces. At normal operating conditions, the product life can be virtually infinite. This is why our products are used as “high-precision parts” of 24-hour operating heavy industrial machines including turbines of power plants, large water pumps installed at dams and rivers, compressors used in plants as well as marine vessels and off-shore structures.

 The highest level of craftsmanship is required to manufacture slide bearings. Superior bonding techniques that range from sintering, pressure welding, casting to impregnation are applied to produce “bi-metal” composites that also integrate aluminum alloy and resin materials. In addition, a high-precision processing technique is required at a micron-level. As the majority of slide bearings are used for customized industrial machines, its specification differs in size and material. While an increasing number of factories introduce the latest IT-controlled machine tools for mass production, our business model of producing “diversified products in small lots” requires the “finest level of skills and craftsmanship”. The major challenge facing our industry is how to further upgrade such “skills and craftsmanship” to meet the diversified needs and hand them down to future generations.

 Unfortunately, all the companies in the sector suffer from labor shortage. Not many young people in Japan are attracted to craftsmanship whereas foreign engineers cannot acquire sufficient skills due to limited employment periods. This is why we have started to work on “fusing craftsmanship and IT” by compiling the records and advices accumulated in the mind of our resourceful craftsmen who have extensive experience and careers. We persuaded them to wear an action-cam (camera put on their head while working) to film their manufacturing and processing steps, tips and excellent skills. We hope to create a database and make the superior skills and techniques adapt to the coming age of AI. I am determined to keep making new challenges to improve ourselves as an indispensable player in the manufacturing industry not only in Japan but throughout the world. I will maintain my business for the benefit of society at large.