Yaskawa Makes All the Right Moves in Becoming First Manufacturer to Ship 10 Million Drives
Waukegan, Ill. (June 4, 2008) Yaskawa Electric, a world leader in the manufacture of
AC drives, servomotors, motion controllers and robotics, recently became the world's
first to ship 10 million variable frequency drives. In reaching this milestone, the company now claims to have more than 14 percent of the global market for drives rated from 0.1 to 300kW.
For Yaskawa, developing world's firsts has been a common trait, helping numerous
manufacturers contain production costs, which at the same time has contributed to the
drive maker's unprecedented growth for more than 30 years.
"Throughout our history, Yaskawa has been ahead of the curve in developing products
that push the envelope on quality and functionality," said Tom Sasada, director of
development for Yaskawa Electric America. "As a result, we've engineered several new
technologies that directly affect the profitability of our customers."
It took the company 19 years to manufacture its first million drives, a feat it achieved in 1993. Just nine years later, Yaskawa quadrupled this mark, shipping four million more drives. With a new global market strategy behind it, Yaskawa surged into the millennium by adding five million more drive shipments during a five-year period.
The 10-millionth drive was a model from Yaskawa's latest generation of variable
frequency drives, the V1000, which it launched late last year.
Customer focus drives growth
Since day one, Yaskawa's unparalleled customer focus was one of the main reasons for
its growth. The company's philosophy is simple: Ask the customers what they want and
give them what they need to be competitive. "Many of the new products that we've developed over the years have come directly from customers," said Mark Bernicky, director of drive sales for Yaskawa Electric America. "Every industry is unique and therefore requires drives designed for unique applications."
As a result, Yaskawa began innovating and pioneering new and better drive technologies,
creating many "world's firsts" in the process. The transistor inverter is born
One of those world's firsts developed by Yaskawa was the inaugural transistor inverter in 1974, whose roots trace back to the 1960s. Back then, high-speed, high-powered
transistors had yet to appear on the market. Inverters relied on thyristor-based circuitry, which imposed limitations on performance. In realizing these limitations, the company began working with device manufacturers to develop new technology in efforts of producing a better drive.
"We found the key to this next step was to use transistors in our drives," said Nory
Takada, vice president of drives engineering and development for Yaskawa. "At that
time, transistors were commonly used in low-power circuits. We just needed to determine
how to apply that technology to high-power electrical circuits involved in power
In the late 1980s Yaskawa introduced yet another world's first in the insulated gate
bipolar transistor (IGBT) Low Noise Inverter. Not only did this innovation run motors
much quieter, the IGBT also proved to the world that drive technology was dependable.
With such reliability, customers were able to reduce maintenance costs.
The drive for quality Meanwhile, Yaskawa continued to build on its reputation for producing high-quality products, rooted in the Japanese manufacturing tradition known as kaizen, which emphasizes continual improvement. The strive for perfection in production and manufacturing has enabled Yaskawa to maintain one of highest accuracy rates in the industry - an astounding field assembly failure rate of 0.0062%.
"In pursuit of zero manufacturing defects we have created a system that uses man-robot
symbiosis to consistently make inverters of the highest quality," said Craig Espevik, vice president of operations for Yaskawa Electric America.
Segmentation and customization
The 1990s proved to be a pivotal time for Yaskawa. As that is when the company
realized that while the market for adjustable frequency drives was expanding, it needed to differentiate its products to fit the various new industries that were using them. Yaskawa began segmenting its markets and building drives for different applications.
One such drive was the G5, the world's first vector control general-purpose inverter. The G5 was programmable and could run software to specific sequences of operations or be programmed for particular applications that were proprietary for Yaskawa's OEM
customers. "In each segment of the market, customers continued to request additional software features that helped them run specific types of applications," said Mike Massie, director drives product marketing. "This led Yaskawa to increase customization of its products, a trend that continues today."
Think global, act local
To best serve an increasing worldwide demand for its products, Yaskawa realized it had
to expand operations outside of Japan, where the company was founded in 1915. By
1992, Yaskawa opened its first production plant in the United States, followed two years later by a factory in the United Kingdom. To keep up with the steady economic rise of China and India, Yaskawa opened production facilities in Shanghai, China in 1996.
By 1998, Yaskawa had established production and distribution facilities throughout North America. This expansion not only allowed the company to be more responsive to market demand, it also led to a new way of approaching customer needs. While Yaskawa had already expanded its line of products to better fit specific industries, it now had the capability to customize products based on specific applications and deliver on these unique specifications rapidly.
"With our global and local presence, we are now able to modify specifications and
efficiently ship products to customers within hours," said Mike Knapek, senior vice
president of Yaskawa Electric America. "Having engineers and technicians more local
means we also can also provide fast technical support."
The future According to Joe Twohill, director of building automation for Yaskawa Electric America, as the cost of energy continues to rise and environmental concerns grow the combination of energy-saving and eco-friendly adjustable frequency drive sales are expected to rise.
An increase in drive users is also expected. "Only 30 percent of the manufacturing industry uses AC drives in their motors and demand for the technology is forecasted to be strong for the foreseeable future," said Massie. "Yaskawa is already investing in new production techniques that enable us to meet environmental needs and world market demands."
In August 2007, Yaskawa constructed a new landmark factory in Yukuhashi, Japan. This
fully automated facility operates 24 hours per day, seven days a week. The new facility
expands the company's output by 50 percent - enhancing global production and quality
Another trend Yaskawa is already meeting is smart drive technology, meaning userfriendly interfaces that allow drives to be connected to both communication networks and the internet for greater functionality and control. The V1000, Yaskawa's 10-millionth drive is one example of this technology.
"Yaskawa could not have enjoyed such growth and sold 10-million units were it not for
our customers," said Hiroshi Ogasawara, general manager of inverter business division.
"We will continue to find new ways to meet our customers varied needs."
Contact: Neil Koepke