A group of customers, who went on a recent educational tour to Japan to visit the facilities of Hino Motors and to hold discussions with senior executives of Japan’s leading heavy truck and bus manufacturer, were unanimous in their praise of the new, highly-automated Koga factory, located on a greenfield site, 120km north of Tokyo
The latest range of Hino 500 trucks, which have just gone on sale in South Africa, are made at this plant, as well as all the other models in Hino’s comprehensive product line-up. Local assembly of the SKD (semi-knocked down) Hino 500 kits got under way at Hino SA’s plant in Prospecton near Durban, at the beginning of November and trucks are being shipped to dealers.
Hino’s Koga plant, which replaced a long-established facility in what is becoming a built-up area on the outskirts of Tokyo has an initial capacity of producing 45 000 units a year at a rate of about 100 a day, working two eight-hour shifts. It employs 2 000 team members, many of whom relocated from the old plant alongside Hino’s head office in Tokyo.
“Being able to visit the new Koga plant was a real eye-opener, as one had no idea of the scale of this operation and the way it is run; it is a truly a logistical revelation,” said Fanie Pretorius, the Logistics Executive at SBV.
Andre Steenkamp, the National Technical and EA Distribution Manager at Afrox, said he found the Koga plant “without parallel.” He was particularly impressed by the robotic cab manufacturing operation, as well as the “Just in Time” (JIT) placement of components at the correct work station. “The impressive way the multiple and individual customer order production line integrates seamlessly is something that has to be witnessed. This was certainly not just another visit to a truck assembly plant,” added Andre Steenkamp.
“The tour through the factory was very informative, particularly as it gave us the opportunity to see, at first-hand, the way the latest production technologies are being employed at this new plant,” said Sampie Swanepoel, the CEO of THT.
“The Koga facility is world class,” commented Bruce Fraser, Technical Representative of Unitrans Logistics.
Danie Human, General Manager – Sales and Marketing at Busmark, said: “The highlight was certainly the visit to Hino’s new Koga plant. What impressed particularly was the work ethic, dedication, and the way the Japanese make things work in the most efficient, professional and viable manner.”
The discipline of the Japanese both as a nation and in the work environment impressed the visitors from South Africa, as did the willingness of Hino senior executives to discuss matters of mutual concern.
“I was most impressed by the attitude and dedication of the Hino top management and their willingness to listen to others,” said Deon Conradie, Fleet Operations Manager at Premier FMCG.
“The level of discipline is unbelievable and even though the Japanese are not particularly friendly they are polite and curious in every sense,” added Johnnie Marais General Manager – Operations at Eqstra Flexi Fleet. “Pride in the company and strict discipline is reflected in the build process; no shortcuts are taken, or any process missed.”
“It was amazing experiencing Japan’s rich cultural traditions with a great deal to be learned from the way the Japanese conducted themselves on a business and social level,” added Danie Human.
“We had the opportunity to talk to the Hino powers-that-be in Japan and were able to relay some our local requirements in terms of what we require in a truck and I am sure our comments will be treated positively,” said Rami Barnes, CEO of the Barnes Group of Companies.
“New friends were made, and solid new business networks created, while the benefits of our partnership with Hino was reconfirmed,” added Christo Swarts, Group Chief Executive Officer at Namlog.
The opportunity to learn of the long history of Hino, stretching back more than 100 years, with a visit to the company’s museum in Tokyo was appreciated by many of the customers.
“Our visit to the Hino museum was a revelation,” said Willie van Zyl, Managing Member of Busco Marketing. “It was a real eye-opener to see that Hino once made cars in conjunction with the French company, Renault. I was always under the impression that the Japanese were just copy cats. Today I have a very different opinion and believe Hino should make more use of its long heritage as truck manufacturers.”
Willie van Zyl was one of several in the group who were impressed with Hino’s research and development which has seen them making hybrid diesel-electric buses as far back as 1996.
“Taking a group of people with extensive experience in trucking on a visit to Hino in Japan was a real privilege and it proved a valuable learning experience for all of us,” said tour leader Pieter Klerck, General Manager – Operations, at Hino South Africa.