"We Humanize Automation": How an 80-year-old Company Stays at the Forefront of Industry 4.0

2021 is highly anticipated to be the start of a new era of automation as North American manufacturers make their facilities increasingly agile and adeptly innovative. According to a recent Thomas Industrial Survey, 55% of participants are either likely or very likely to invest in automation within the next 12 months, which means they’re already beginning their search for a reliable, experienced automation partner. 

“All of our work really stems from our promise of humanizing automation,” said Christine Spiegel, the strategic marketing director at Murata Machinery. “A machine that doesn’t require a person standing there to load materials will immediately help with labor challenges. The person can then be placed into a different role, developing new skills and adding more value to the company.” 

“Our presence in the market for over 80 years has given us extensive expertise, great credibility, and trust in the world of supply chain and manufacturing,” Spiegel noted. “For us, we’re successful when we can help our partner companies automate across the board in order to increase productivity and meet market demands so they can maintain their competitive edge.”

Spiegel sat down with Thomas Insights to discuss Murata’s unique approach to making automation as human as possible for its customers through a personalized, customer-focused approach to Industry 4.0. 


What sets Murata Machinery apart from the competition?

Christine Spiegel (CS): Murata Machinery stretches the boundaries of world-class automation across the entire manufacturing and material handling industry. 

One of the great things about Murata is that although our parent business is based in Japan, our U.S.-based company has deep experience in working specifically with industrial businesses in North America. After decades of working in this sector, we understand the challenges American industrial business leaders face and have the solutions to help them. We’ve worked on an incredibly diverse variety of projects, ranging from semi-to-fully automated operations in manufacturing, warehousing and distribution logistics, designing flexible automation systems for material handling and machine tooling, all the way through textiles, as well as clean room environments. 

What really differentiates us is how we stretch world-class automation across the supply chain. In clean factory automation, there are only two major suppliers providing this technology to the semiconductor industry, and we're one of them. In the textile sector, we have the world’s fastest vortex spinning machine, and in CNC machining and fabrication we're known for taking operations to the next level through integrated automation and even flexible systems for lights-out manufacturing. 

Across intralogistics, we have a very extensive line that allows our clients to maximize output while minimizing labor costs, from storage and transport to sorting and picking for order fulfillment.


How do you measure success at Murata? 

CS: We measure success by how we help companies maintain their competitive edge. Our solutions need to consistently deliver value aside from functionality.

Our goal is to work alongside customers to help guide the investment, evaluating the ROI of automation, from machine tooling all the way to storage and transport. We take a personal, solution-minded approach to accelerating productivity to illustrate why it’s so important to choose a system that’s backed up by reliability, longevity, local support, and subsequent ROI.

We aim to bring solid automation to companies through ingenuity, reliability, and innovation. We also consider a project with a client to be a success when we help them achieve current goals and help them plan for future needs. It’s important to keep in mind that no two systems are the same, so our ability to customize automation systems to meet clients’ needs allows us to be long-term partners with them. We place a really high value on trust and longevity — we want to be there for our customers every step of the way. 

Those values really permeate across our entire company. We want to deliver personalized support through custom automation, ROI evaluation, and all the way to the long-term life of the machine. People don't often realize it's the long-term investment that makes the difference.


What's the biggest question that you get from prospects and customers, and how do you respond to it? 

CS: The labor shortage is probably the biggest challenge today, and COVID-19 has made it even more challenging as it relates to social distancing on the production and warehouse floor.

The question we get asked most often is, “How can I meet the market demand with the current labor challenges?” In virtually every conversation we've been having lately, from machine tooling to logistics automation, a client asks, “How can I operate more efficiently and faster, or is lights-out the answer?”

We also commonly hear, “How do I automate this area of the business that has a reduced safety to help improve ergonomics and reduce workers’ compensation claims?”

For many clients, their goal is to improve productivity and efficiency by determining how to reduce manual processes, whether that be by repurposing labor in repetitive tasks or minimizing reliance on labor to keep equipment running, enabling lights-out capabilities in both manufacturing and distribution.

Manufacturers need to have machines that can adapt or be flexible to grow and expand as markets change. For example, the right machine will depend on the specific application, but overall, horizontal CNC lathes have a better ROI compared to vertical machines with added automation. As another example, our machines have built-in gantries, which is a better long-term solution than adding a robot to an existing machine. 

Additionally, we specialize in customizing systems to manufacture parts or components, small to large, that are readily adapted with quick changeover and retooling.  We improve a customer’s response to changing markets, ensuring that quality parts and tools can be manufactured to their customer's engineering drawings and standards.

In the same way, retailers and third-party logistics providers need to operate at peak efficiency to fulfill next-day orders. Proven Muratec goods-to-person technologies have helped alleviate the burden of walking the warehouse to find products. Manual pickers can now wait at designated pick locations for products to be delivered to them, making it an ergonomic solution to fulfill orders with speed and accuracy.

We have the ability to implement automation across the entire supply chain, which allows us to be a really strong differentiated company. If a company manufactures across different areas, we can help them not only make it, but also move it, store it, pick it, transport it, and load it into the shipping truck.


What's something about Murata Machinery that isn't widely known that you'd like to highlight for our readers?

CS: Our brand essence is flexible automation with personalized support. We have the ability to provide a solid ROI on the long-term investments that these companies are looking for. And I think that is pretty amazing. 

Our abilities have given us the opportunity to say we've created the world's fastest vortex spinning machines. We were the first founders of some of our CNC lathe and fabrication machines, and yet we’ve maintained that competitive edge in the years since they hit the market. 

Being in the market for over 80 years has really given us huge credibility and trust in the world of supply chain and manufacturing. We've been here automating with a legacy of bulletproof quality and reliability and we continue to integrate proven solutions, building enduring, strong relationships with our customers.



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